Born: June 16, 1919 | Died: February 21, 2007 Primary Instrument: Guitar, electric
Viola studied guitar and followed jazz guitarists Charlie Christian and Oscar Moore before he was drafted in 1941. The Army placed him in a trio with a pianist and bassist, billed as The Three Sergeants. Page Cavanaugh replaced the original pianist and after discharge, the trio won a recording contract with RCA under his name.
In 1946, the Page Cavanaugh Trio accompanied Frank Sinatra to New York where they played nightly behind Sinatra at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. During this same period the Cavanaugh Trio made a couple of recordings with Sinatra That's How Much I Love You and You Can Take My Word For It Baby, both of which enjoyed broad distribution due to Sinatra's popularity. And, like the Cavanaugh Trio recordings the Sinatra recordings included a solo by Al Viola.
Viola settled in the LA area and worked as a studio musician and in an occasional trio with Bobby Troup and Lloyd Pratt. He played with Ray Anthony, Harry James, and Nelson Riddle, and backed Julie London and Frank Sinatra on several tours. Viola was the guitarist in the sextet that accompanied Frank Sinatra on his legendary 1962 tour. His greatest notoriety as a studio musician came from his mandolin work on Nino Rota's great score for The Godfather.
Viola took up the classical guitar in the late 1940's and in the next three decades made the solo guitar recordings for which he was best known; Solo Guitar, Guitar Lament and Alone Again. The solo recordings showed the remarkable versatility and musicianship of Al Viola. And, when taken in the total context of 50 plus years of music making, they completed the picture of a musician who was an early pioneer of the electric guitar, was able to swing with the best of them, check out his comping on Riviera from the 1958 Flute In Hi-Fi, provided backup for the best singers of the day, and could stay in the background providing solid rhythm for other soloists.