Ray Pizzi Day

January 19, 1943 to September 2, 2021

A tribute to one of jazz’s few bassoon soloists

Bassoonist, saxophonist and flutist Ray Pizzi passed away on Sept. 20, 2021 at the age of 78.

He was born on Jan. 19, 1943 and started on the clarinet before mastering virtually all of the other reeds including the bassoon.

Pizzi attended the Boston Conservatory and Berklee in the 1960s and was a school teacher in Massachusetts during 1964-69.

However, after moving to Southern California in 1969,he quickly became greatly in demand for jazz and studio dates, working with a very long list of notables including Frank Zappa, Shelly Manne, Willie Bobo, Dizzy Gillespie, Nancy Wilson, Milcho Leviev, Louie Bellson, Horace Silver, Joe Henderson, Henry Mancini, the Bob Florence Orchestra and the American Jazz Orchestra among others.

Pizzi (who was nicknamed “The Pizza Man”), led five albums of his own and was also busy as an educator throughout his life.

In his career Pizzi was skilled on the tenor, soprano, and alto saxophones and on flute and piccolo, but it was his occasional solos on bassoon that gave him his greatest notoriety in the jazz world.

Here is Ray Pizzi displaying his very impressive technique on bassoon in a 2007 version of “All The Things You Are,” mostly solo but also accompanied briefly by a guitarist.

-Scott Yanow


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