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Carmen Cavallaro (May 6, 1913 – October 12, 1989) was an American pianist born in New York. He established himself as one of the most accomplished and admired light music pianists of his generation.

Early life

Known as the “Poet of the Piano”, Carmen Cavallaro showed a gift for music from age three, picking out tunes on a toy piano. His parents were encouraged by a friend to develop the child’s musical talents and he studied classical piano in the United States. As a young pianist, he toured Europe performing in many capitals.

In 1933, Cavallaro joined the jazz band of Al Kavelin, where he quickly became the featured soloist. After four years he switched to a series of other big bands, including Rudy Vallee's in 1937. He also worked briefly with Enrico Madriguera and Abe Lyman.

Starting his own band, a five-piece combo, in St. Louismarker in 1939, his popularity grew and his group expanded into a 14-piece orchestra, releasing some 19 albums for Decca over the years. Although his band traveled the country and played in all the top spots, he made a particular impact at the Mark Hopkins Hotel in San Francisco, which became a favourite venue, and which many years later, was to be re-visited in the same way by George Shearing and Mel Tormé. Other venues where he drew large and devoted audiences included New York’s Waldorf-Astoria, Chicago’s Palmer House and the Los Angeles’ Coconut Grove. In 1963, he had a million seller hit with the song Sukiyaki.

Influences and style

Cavallaro developed a piano style of glittering and rippling arpeggios to augment his melody, which was often arranged in thick and lush triple and quadruple octave chords. His musical interests and arrangements included dance music, particularly Latin rhythms, tangos and strict tempo dancing styles, as well as some pop and jazz arrangements of classical melodies. In this, he is often cited as being influenced by pianist Eddy Duchin. Liberace was greatly influenced by both Cavallaro and Duchin. All three shared a propensity for arranging classical piano themes in a pop idiom.

Here is a piano solo of "Fascination" is a piano solo of "Dancing in the Dark" is a piano solo of "La Vie en Rose" is a piano solo of "I've got you under my skin"

Radio and film

Cavallaro also became famous through the medium of radio and film, firstly with his regular program on NBC during the 1940’s, The Schaeffer Parade, of which he was the host and later in films where he played himself, starting with Hollywood Canteen (1944), then Diamond Horseshoe (1945) and Out of This World (1945). His most celebrated film achievement was playing the piano music for actor Tyrone Power’s hands to mime, in The Eddy Duchin Story (1956).

Carmen Cavallaro died from cancer in 1989 in Columbus, Ohiomarker.


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