John di Martino

In the early days of his career in 1982, jazz pianist John di Martino was a member of the house trio accompanying such internationally famous vocalists as Billy Daniels and Keely Smith at Steve’s Lounge and Elaine’s Lounge, two of the show rooms at Atlantic City’s Golden Nugget Hotel and Casino.  He also played electric keyboards with Billy Eckstine, filling in orchestral string parts.  “Eckstine was a sweetheart,” Di Martino remembers, “and he and Bobby Tucker, his pianist for many years, took a shine to me and became my mentors.  It was fascinating to hear them spin yarns about Billie Holiday and all the great musicians they worked with like Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie.  One night Mr. B. sat in on my late-night trio set and, after I’d backed him on ‘Lush Life’ and ‘Here’s That Rainy Day,’ he looked over at me and joked, ‘Not bad for an Italian.’  I learned a lot working with him.  And with Billy Daniels, I learned a lot of tunes playing for him.  The first time I did the gig I spent a whole week listening to his sets and writing down the tunes and then I would go back and learn them.  Working with Keely, when one of her West Coast pianists like Johnny Veith couldn’t make it, she wouldn’t do one of her more hip sets, she’d do something more like when she’d worked with Louis Prima, lots of...

Join now to access the full article and gain access to other exclusive features.

Get Started

Already a member? Sign in here