Born: May 26, 1928 Primary Instrument: Piano
Gene (Eugene Salvatore Patrick) Dinovi. Pianist, composer, singer, b Brooklyn, 26 May 1928. He began his career as a teenaged bebop pianist in jazz clubs along New York's fabled 52nd Street and played for several bandleaders (Henry Jerome, Joe Marsala, Boyd Raeburn, Stan Hasselgard, and others) in the late 1940s. He recorded as a sideman to Benny Goodman (for Capitol), Brew Moore (Savoy), Aaron Sachs (Manor), Artie Shaw (Columbia), and Lester Young (Alladin) in this period. A popular accompanist with singers, DiNovi played in the early 1950s for Peggy Lee and Tony Bennett, and 1955-63 for Lena Horne, latterly on an intermittent basis.
While in Los Angeles at mid-decade with Lee, and again while working as a pianist and arranger for TV there during the 1960s, he studied composition and orchestration with Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco. He also studied piano with Jacob Gimpel and conducting and composition with Maria di Bonaventura in Los Angeles during the 1960s. After his first visit to Toronto in 1971 as an accompanist to Carmen McRae, DiNovi made the city his home in 1972.
DiNovi has divided his career there between extended solo piano engagements at several of the city's more exclusive rooms (Charles One at La Scala and, later in later years, lounges at the Royal York, Sutton Place, and Four Seasons hotels) and studio work as an arranger and composer of incidental music, jingles, and film scores.
He starred in 1974 with the singer Jodie Drake on CBC (Toronto) TV's 'Gene and Jodie' and has presented programs and series about US popular song and songwriters on CBC radio (including seasons intermittently 1975-81 on 'The Morning Show' and its successor 'Morningside'), TV Ontario ('The Music Room,' 1980), and in concert.
DiNovi's own songs (to lyrics by Spence Maxwell, Bob Comstock, Johnny Mercer, and others) include 'Brand New Day' and 'I Can Hear the Music' and have been recorded by Maurice Chevalier, Doris Day, Percy Faith, Peggy Lee, and Nancy Wilson. DiNovi also has composed The Scandanavian Suite No. 1 (Sweden) (recorded in 1958 for Roulette), a Divertimento in Blue (for Benny Goodman), Hommage à Satie, and several other classical pieces. In 1984 he began touring in Canada with the clarinetist James Campbell, playing mixed programs of jazz and classical music.
DiNovi's recordings during his Canadian years include Softly As I Leave You (1977, PediMega Records # 1) of piano solos, Each Day Is Valentine's Day (1984, PediMega Records #2) and Ruby & Gene Play George & Ira Gershwin (1984, PediMega Records #3) of duets with the US cornetist Ruby Braff, and Precious Moment (1990, Marshmallow 00204) with the Japanese musicians Kohji Toyama (bass) and Yukio Kimura (drums).
The last-named was recorded in Yokohama after DiNovi performed solo at the Canadian Pavilion at Expo 90 in Osaka. In 1991 he returned to a bebop setting with Dave Young (bass) and Memo Acevedo (drums) at George's Jazz Room and elsewhere; with Acevedo and Don (W.) Thompson, he recorded two more albums for eventual release by Marshmallow.