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John H. Armwood Jazz History Lecture Nashville's Cheekwood Arts Center 1989

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Pete Jolly, jazz pianist

Pete Jolly, jazz pianistPete Jolly, jazz pianist and accordion player known for his disciplined work as a studio musician as well as his improvisational skills in live performances, died Saturday. He was 72.

Jolly, whose composition "Little Bird" was nominated for a Grammy in 1963, died in Pasadena, Calif., of complications of bone marrow cancer and an irregular heartbeat.

The Pete Jolly Trio, which for more than 35 years included bassist Chuck Berghofer and drummer Nick Martinis, performed in Southern California clubs until Jolly's hospitalization in August.

Born Peter A. Ceragioli Jr. in New Haven, Conn., he began studying accordion with his father at age 3 and at 7 appeared on the nationwide CBS radio program "Hobby Lobby." Billed as the "Boy Wonder Accordionist," he was mistakenly introduced by the announcer as "Pete Jolly" - and liked the error so much he adopted it as his professional name.

In 1954, playing with Barney Kessel and the Shorty Rogers Giants, he became a fixture in the softer, cooler West Coast jazz movement. In 1955, he recorded his first trio album, "Jolly Jumps In." His talent on piano, organ and accordion bolstered memorable music for many television shows and films, including "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid."

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