Pete Jolly

Jazz pianist/accordionist

The famous definition of a gentleman is "someone who owns an accordion but doesn't play it". It didn't fit Pete Jolly, who learned to play the accordion when he was three and became its most gifted jazz exponent. Acknowledging that most musicians disliked the instrument, Jolly recognised that it was his light, swinging style on piano that had made him known throughout the world and the piano remained his main instrument.

Peter A. Ceragioli (Pete Jolly), pianist and accordionist: born New Haven, Connecticut 5 June 1932; twice married (three sons); died Pasadena, California 6 November 2004.

The famous definition of a gentleman is "someone who owns an accordion but doesn't play it". It didn't fit Pete Jolly, who learned to play the accordion when he was three and became its most gifted jazz exponent. Acknowledging that most musicians disliked the instrument, Jolly recognised that it was his light, swinging style on piano that had made him known throughout the world and the piano remained his main instrument.

Jolly made only one visit to Britain. He was flown there during the Fifties to appear on This is Your Life. The subject was a man who had been injured and spent time recuperating on the West Coast. During this period he had apparently listened often to Jolly, who was appearing at the Lighthouse, a legendary local jazz bar. Jolly was to play live on the programme. However, the Ministry of Labour had a ban on American musicians appearing in Britain. The Musicians' Union got wind of the visit and the ministry enforced the ban. Jolly appeared on the programme but only to mime to his own trio recording of "Younger than Springtime".

The event was made the more futile by the fact that the subject of the programme was bemused and obviously had no idea who Jolly was. Jolly had planned to make the best of it and to stay in Britain for a few days, but his father died during the visit and he had to return to Los Angeles.

Jolly, who had an unusually good sense of rhythm - an invaluable asset to a rhythm section player and soloist - led some of the best rhythm sections ever, often in conjunction with the drummer Shelly Manne. During his 50 years in Los Angeles he accompanied an amazing list of jazz giants and pop singers. He recorded with, amongst others, Art Pepper, Gerry Mulligan, Chet Baker, Mel Tormé, Marty Paich, Red Norvo and Anita O'Day. He led a jazz trio of the same musicians for most of that time, spending his days working as a studio musician in films and television.

Jolly's father, Peter Ceragioli, was a virtuoso accordionist, and he made sure that his son would follow in his footsteps. For six years from 1939 the two made the two-hour train journey to New York City to study with the celebrated teacher Joe Biviano. Afterwards they would go to the Paramount Theatre to see the film and hear the top-line big band (led by Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, Tommy Dorsey) that played live for the audience.

Billed as "The Boy Wonder Accordionist", Jolly appeared on CBS Network radio in 1940. The announcer had difficulty with his name Ceragioli and presented him for the first time as "Pete Jolly". The name stuck.

The guitarist Howard Roberts, a good friend of Jolly's, had moved to Los Angeles in 1950 and he tried to persuade Jolly to follow him. The offer of a job in the city from another guitarist, Barney Kessel, convinced Jolly and he moved in 1954, linking up almost immediately with the trumpeter Shorty Rogers and appearing on three of the classic big-band albums that Rogers made that year. These were the first of innumerable recordings graced by Jolly's playing and Rogers also opened the doors to the Hollywood studios. The pianist was never again short of work.

Steve Voce



Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
Sport
John Terry, Frank Lampard
footballChelsea captain sends signed shirt to fan whose mum had died
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Rita Ora will replace Kylie Minogue as a judge on The Voice 2015
tv
Life and Style
tech
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
life
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Tennis player Andy Murray's mum Judy has been paired with Anton du Beke for Strictly Come Dancing. 'I'm absolutely delighted,' she said.
tvJudy Murray 'struggling' to let Anton Du Beke take control on Strictly
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Primary teaching roles in Ipswich

£21552 - £31588 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad Education re...

Science teachers needed in Norwich

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Science teachers requ...

Semi Senior Accountant - Music

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: A successful, Central London bas...

English teachers required in Lowestoft

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Qualified English tea...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits