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Trumpeter Conte Candoli Dies at 74

Conte Candoli, a trumpet player and longtime member of the Tonight Show Band, died in Palm Desert, Calif. on Fri., Dec. 14 of cancer. He was 74.

Candoli was born in Mishawaka, Ind. on July 27, 1927. At the behest of his father, a factory worker and amateur musician, Candoli (and his older brother Pete) took up the trumpet. By 16, Candoli was spending his summer vacations playing in Woody Herman’s orchestra.

After moving to California in the mid-1950s, Candoli played in his brother’s band and Howard Rumsey’s Lighthouse All Stars. Leaving Rumsey in 1960, Candoli played with drummer Shelly Manne for the next eight years. In 1968, Candoli began playing with the then New York-based Tonight Show Band on their West Coast visits. When Johnny Carson moved the show to Burbank, Calif. In 1972, Candoli joined the band full-time. He remained a member until Carson retired in 1992.

As a young player, Candoli developed a bebop style influenced by Dizzy Gillespie. Miles Davis and Clifford were other early influences. Candoli said he didn’t come to appreciate Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington until he was older.

Candoli is survived by his wife of 26 years, Kristen, and his brother.

Originally Published