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Edwin Swanston Dies

Edwin Swanston, a pianist who played in the Louis Armstrong Big Band in the 1940s and later in life worked as a vocal coach, died June 13 in New York City. No cause of death was specified. He was 80.

Swanston was born in New York City in 1922 and began studying music at six. Before he was 16 Swanston had learned how to maneuver on piano, organ, pipe organ, violin, viola and bass. When Swanston was 19 he began playing in a band from which Louis Armstrong plucked six members, including Swanston, to fill out his big band.

Swanston toured and recorded with Armstrong for three years and then returned to New York and got married. Among many imported Armstrong collections, Swanston’s piano playing can be heard on select tracks throughout the Armstrong box set The Complete RCA Victor Recordings. He also played with such notable jazz artists as Gene Krupa, Lucky Millinder and Art Blakey and recorded with Dexter Gordon.

In 1949 Swanston partnered with friends and musical cohorts Luther Henderson and Buster Newman to open a voice studio in New York called Vamp Studio. Eartha Kitt, Shirley Jones and Beas Arthur were among Vamp’s clients. Swanston stayed at Vamp for ten years and all the while continued playing piano and writing music. A few of Swanston’s compositions have been record, most notably “Love’s Melody,” which George Shearing recorded for Capitol 1959 and “Nightstick,” recorded by the Duke Ellington Orchestra in 1960.

Swanston is survived by his wife, five children, 10 grandchildren and two great grandchildren.

Originally Published