Charlie Ventura Biography

2 December 1916, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, d. 17 January 1992, Pleasantville, New Jersey, USA. After playing C-melody and alto saxophones during his childhood, Ventura settled on tenor saxophone and in 1942 joined the Gene Krupa band. He was briefly with Teddy Powell during Krupa’s enforced disbandment before rejoining his old boss, where he was featured with the big band and as a member of the band-within-the-band, the trio.

In 1946 he formed his own big band, cut back to a small group, then increased in size again, this time playing a commercially orientated form of bebop under the banner of ‘Bop For The People’. During this period he also began playing baritone saxophone, but the group eventually disbanded in 1951. He then formed the Big Four with Marty Napoleon, Chubby Jackson and Buddy Rich. For most of the following two decades he alternated between running his own nightclub, the Open House in Philadelphia (which closed in 1954), reunions with Krupa, leading big and small bands at Las Vegas hotels and battles with poor health. Although usually thought of as an exuberant, sometimes exhibitionistic soloist, Ventura was fundamentally a straight ahead, swinging soloist whose coarser side was encouraged for commercial reasons. Similarly in conflict with his natural playing instincts was his apparent predilection for the complexities of bop. Indeed, in his Bop For The People band, which at one time or another included Conte Candoli, Kai Winding, Bennie Green, Boots Mussulli and the singers Jackie Cain and Roy Kral, Ventura’s swing-styled playing was something of an exception to the prevailing musical atmosphere. He continued playing throughout the 70s and into the early 80s, delighting small but approving audiences with his stomping performances. He later died of lung cancer in 1992.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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