Al GallodoroOne of American music's last links to its glorious, pre-rock past has dropped from the chain with the passing on October 4 at age 95 of reedman Al Gallodoro. Once billed as "The King of the Saxophone," Gallodoro had one of the longest ever-professional careers in music, which began in a Birmingham, Alabama, vaudeville house in 1926 and ended with Gallodoro's last gig at the Corning Jazz and Harvest Festival on September 20. Gallodoro played alto saxophone, clarinet and bass clarinet, leading to another nickname, "triple threat." Gallodoro first came to prominence in 1936 when he joined the Paul Whiteman Orchestra as first chair alto, and though Whiteman kept his orchestra going only intermittently after 1940, Gallodoro stayed in that job until Whiteman died in 1967. In 1942 Gallodoro was also named to the handpicked NBC Symphony led by Arturo Toscanini; Gallodoro claimed to hold the world's record for playing the opening glissando to Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, having performed it more than 10,000 times. Gallodoro favored a lithe, "classical" tone though he moved easily between the worlds of classical, jazz, and pop music.

In his later years, Gallodoro free-lanced, taught, and contributed to countless recordings, radio broadcasts, and TV commercials, work for which he was always paid, but seldom awarded credit; only at the end of his long life did Gallodoro begin to make recordings under his own name. At age 91, Gallodoro recorded the concerted work Ferde Grofé composed for him, Gallodoro's Serenade (1958), with the Harmonie Ensemble of New York under Steven Richman, sounding as good at 91 as he did at 41, the payoff for practicing a lot and keeping one's embouchure in a state of integrity. Although he was a capable improviser, mainstream jazz critics never embraced Al Gallodoro much owing to a variety of reasons, but saxophone players of all kinds will long remember his clean, effortless playing, the graciousness and beauty of his tone and of Gallodoro's consummate professionalism.

Al Gallodoro Daybreak
Al Gallodoro, with Arturo Toscanini & the NBC Symphony - Mussorgsky-Ravel: Pictures at an Exhibition: The Old Castle (recorded 1948)

Al Gallodoro & Lincoln Mayorga - Grofé: Gallodoro's Serenade (recorded 2004)