Remembering Mike Renzi

April 28, 1941 – September 28, 2021

 

A tribute to the jazz pianist and accompanist

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Pianist Mike Renzi passed away on Sept. 28, 2021 at the age of 80 after a brief illness.

He was born on Apr. 28, 1941 in Providence, Rhode Island and made his recording debut in 1962 as part of Berklee College’s big band; he would later graduate from both Berklee and the Boston Conservatory of Music (1973).

Renzi worked with Ben Webster and Carol Sloane in 1963 and spent time playing in Canada, but it was not until he moved to New York in 1976 that he became in great demand, particularly as an accompanist to singers where his tasteful and sensitive playing was a major asset.

Among the many singers that he accompanied (both live and on records) were Sylvia Syms, Ann Burton, Mark Murphy, Jane Harvey, Mel Torme (for decades), Anne Marie Moss, Lena Horne, Jay Leonhart, Blossom Dearie, Maureen McGovern, Daryl Sherman, Peggy Lee (working as her musical director for 25 years), Grady Tate, Ann Hampton Callaway, Etta Jones, Annie Ross, Meredith D’Ambrosio, Gloria Lynne, Jack Jones, Freddy Cole, Shawnn Monteiro, Nancy Marano, Hilary Kole, Marlene VerPlanck, and Rebecca Kilgore.

Renzi also worked with Tony Bennett from 2014 on, was the music director for Sesame Street for ten seasons, and recorded jazz dates with Gerry Mulligan and Harry Allen.

Here is Mike Renzi playing an introduction and then accompanying Mel Torme (along with bassist Jay Leonhart, drummer Donny Osborne and the AVRO Big Band) at the 1981 North Sea Jazz Festival on “New York State Of Mind.”

-Scott Yanow

 

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