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Gene DiNovi: Biography

Gene DiNovi
1928 -
Region: Ontario

Gene DiNovi

Gene DiNovi began his musical life as a jazz pianist On 52 nd Street — New York’s legendary Swing Street” - in 1945 It was a remarkable and life-changing journey for the fifteen-year-old DiNovi from hanging around outside the clubs, listening raptly to the music of Art Tatum, Lester Young and, Billie Holiday, to his being invited to sit in with them. Among the first to recognize DiNovi’s musical potential as the great Dizzy Gillespie who gave the youthful pianist his Be-Bop baptism. “Come up here and Play,” Gillespie said to him one night - and the rest, as they say, is history. To make it a genuine baptism of fire, Charlie Parker sauntered around the corner of the bandstand - already playing - and sat in as well! It wasn’t long after his fantasy-like beginning to his jazz career, that DiNovi was playing and recording With Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, Buddy Rich, Chubby Jackson, and Boyd Raebum.

DiNovi's love for and understanding of the popular song became strongly evident during the 1950s. His playing during these years attracted the attention of singers such as Peggy Lee, Tony Bennett, and Lena Horne. In fact, DiNovi was in demand by just about every great singer of that era, each of them wanting his backing as a musical director it was through these stellar performers that DiNovi came to know and work with the finest songwriters like Harold Arlen, Jimmy Van Husen and Harry Warren DiNovi s interest in writing songs was kindled during this period

The 1960s brought DiNovi to Hollywood where, through mutual friends, he met producer Louis

Eldeman (Who had produced James Cagney’s White Heat, among other memorable films) by whose agency DiNovi was soon involved in television production as an arranger composer. He worked principally on the Sheldon Leonard-Danny Thomas shows, all of which were produced by Desi-Lu studios. It was at Desi-Lu that DiNovi met producer-arranger Harry Ruby who sponsored him into ASCAP, The American Society of Composers and Publishers.

By 1970, DiNovi had worked with all the Hollywood musical greats — including Lennie Hayton, Hugo Friedhofer, Herbert Spencer and John Mandel He had put in a decade in Hollywood as pianist, composer, orchestrator, and songwriter. He wrote his first important song, “Have a Heart”, with the great Johnny Mercer Percy Faith, Nancy Wilson Dons Day, and Dinah Shore have all recorded his songs Maurice Chevalier’ s last TV Special features a song DiNovi wrote with his lyricist Bill Comstock, “Tout Va Bien”.

The 1970s brought DiNovi to Toronto. He immediately began performing innumerable concerts, club dates, and holding recording sessions. With the award winning classical clarinetist, James Campbell he created the popular Jazz in a Classical Key” His easy-going style and engaging warmth made him a great favourite with audiences on CBC radio and television and on TV Ontario where his last program The Music Room explored the music and lives of the great American songwriters. He has recorded innumerable CDs, all well received — including a brilliant new recording of his “The Scandinavian Suite”, composed and first recorded in 1958 and, until 1995, thought to be lost. This reclamation of what is indisputably a DiNovi masterwork has been a source of great and understandable satisfaction to its composer.

Two recent musical events are a tribute to the richness and variation of Gene DiNovi’s musical career. In the winter of I 997, The Smithsonian Institute conducted a life-history interview with Gene for two long days. DiNovi does concerts, seminars and classes at many universities (e.g., Indiana University, Texas A&M and the Orford Art Centre) Mr DiNovi has recently completed the score (with Gary Michael Dault) for Alice in the Orchestra, a musical entertainment for actors and symphony orchestra currently in production with a number of major musical organizations through North America.