Joe Venuti Day

September 16, 1903 – August 14, 1978

A tribute to the pioneering jazz violinist

Violinist Giuseppe Venuti was born September 16, 1903 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania although his birthdate has also been listed as 1894.

A childhood of guitarist Eddie Lang, Venuti teamed up with Lang in Atlantic City as early as 1919.

The first significant jazz violinist, Venuti worked with Bert Estlow (1921), the Hotel Knickerbocker Orchestra, Red Nichols and Jean Goldkette (with whom he made his recording debut in 1924).

After moving to New York in 1925, Venuti was extremely busy for the next decade, appearing on a countless number of record dates including with Goldkette, Roger Wolfe Kahn, Frankie Trumbauer (sessions that included Bix Beiderbecke), the Dorsey Brothers, Hoagy Carmichael, Paul Whiteman, and with Lang in settings ranging from duets and hot jazz dates to commercial dance bands and accompanying singers.

Venuti, who led combos (the Blue Four) and a larger orchestra on records, became famous both as a violinist and a practical joker; he once called up a dozen bass players for an alleged gig, telling them to show up with their instruments at a busy corner which caused a major traffic jam.

Lang’s death in 1933 was a shock for the violinist who continued on, leading a low level big band during the swing era; its four recordings were titled “Flip,” “Flop,” “Something” and “Nothing.”

Although he appeared regularly on Bing Crosby’s radio show in the early 1950s, Venuti was in obscurity during 1937-67 before making a comeback in 1968 that found him recording regularly and appearing in hot swing settings during his decade, being celebrated as a living legend.

Joe Venuti is featured on “China Boy” from 1978 with a group including pianist Marian McPartland, bassist Major Holley and drummer Cliff Leeman.

-Scott Yanow