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Dennis Sandole
Dennis Sandole
Age 87
October 7, 2000
Congestive Heart Failure

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Dennis Sandole Dead at 87

Dennis Sandole, a jazz guitarist and mentor to John Coltrane, died Saturday at his home. He was 87.

Beginning in the early 1940s, Sandole played with some of the major swing-era bands of the time, including those led by Charlie Barnet, Boyd Raeburn, Tommy Dorsey and Ray McKinley. He also recorded film soundtracks and played at recording sessions for Frank Sinatra and Billie Holiday. Sandole moved back to Philadelphia from the West Coast in the mid-1940s to teach and write music. He was mentor to jazz giant John Coltrane from 1946 to the early 1950s, teaching him music theory and exposing him to music from other cultures.

Sandole put teaching ahead of his own musical career and taught privately until the end of his life. His students said he boosted their confidence by working to develop their strengths. Sandole published a book, ``Guitar Lore,'' in 1981. He also recorded some of his own music, including ``Modern Music From Philadelphia'' in 1956. In 1999 Cadence Jazz released ``The Dennis Sandole Project,'' which contained parts of a jazz ballet/opera called ``Evenin' Is Cryin''' he wrote in the 1960s and 70s.

He is survived by a son, two daughters, three sisters, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  

 

Dennis Sandole, educator who taught giants of jazz

By Tom Moon INQUIRER MUSIC CRITIC

Dennis Sandole, a jazz guitarist, composer and educator whose students included John Coltrane and Pat Martino, died Saturday at his home in Roxborough of congestive heart failure. He had turned 87 the day before. Although virtually unknown outside the community of musicians, Mr. Sandole (san-DOE-lee) left his fingerprints all over the jazz-history book.

He played in the big bands of Tommy Dorsey, Gene Krupa and Boyd Raeburn. He recorded with trumpeter Art Farmer, saxophonist Charlie Barnet, and others, and put out only a few records of original material, among them a 1956 collaboration with his brother, Adolph, titled Modern Music From Philadelphia. But his greatest influence was as a teacher. After coming off the road in 1948, he began informal teaching and did not stop until January, said one longtime student and friend, guitarist-composer Jim Dragoni: "He recognized that that was his calling. . . . His mission was to find the aesthetic potential in people and develop it." That ability made him one of the most influential mentors in jazz history.

Coltrane, the saxophonist whose contributions to jazz included revolutionary chord sequences, attended Mr. Sandole's clinics as a teenager and stayed in touch with him through much of his life. "When I listen to Coltrane," Dragoni said, "I can hear my lessons. . . . 'Giant Steps' is right out of the Sandole book." The guitarist was respected by several other important voices of the '50s and '60s, including saxophonists Benny Golson and James Moody, both of whom he taught. He later instructed bassist Stanley Clarke.

Unlike many teachers, Mr. Sandole rarely played during lessons. Those studying with him already knew the mechanics and were seeking his insights on matters of concept, his knowledge of exotic scales, and other techniques to broaden an improvisor's range of expression. Mr. Sandole was known for his progressive approach to jazz harmony. But Martino, who studied with him for a few months in the early '60s, remembers the educator as equally adept at nurturing individuality. "He taught by not interfering with the blessings each student was given, by amplifying them in any way he could," the guitarist said.

The teacher's ideas trickled down from one generation to the next. Because his approach to harmony was unconventional, he was embraced by the experimental-jazz elite, including pianist Matthew Shipp, saxophonist Bobby Zankel, and bagpiper Rufus Harley.

Other students were inspired by his lyricism. In the early '60s, Mr. Sandole shaped the sensibility of the brilliant guitar melodist Joe Diorio, who went on to teach Pat Metheny. The master also taught Dale Bruning, whose students included Bill Frisell.

In 1956, just as his collaboration with his saxophonist brother, The Sandole Brothers, was released, Mr. Sandole told a Philadelphia Daily News interviewer that he was not interested in popular acclaim, saying: "None of my music is aimed at commercial markets." In the last year, several students began combing through his master tapes and eventually persuaded the Cadence label to release The Sandole Project, which includes some material from Modern Music as well as the previously unreleased "jazz ballet opera" Evenin' Is Cryin'.   

  NY TIMES

          Dennis Sandole, Jazz Guitarist and an Influential Teacher, 87

          By BEN RATLIFF

               Dennis Sandole, a jazz guitarist and legendary teacher whose students included John Coltrane, died on Saturday at his home in Philadelphia. He was 87.

          Mr. Sandole was 19 when he taught himself to play the guitar; his older brother, Adolph, taught himself the baritone saxophone. They began playing together in a neighborhood band in Philadelphia, and a decade later,  in the early 1940's, Mr. Sandole was playing guitar with some of the major swing-era big bands, including those led by Charlie Barnet, Boyd Raeburn, Tommy Dorsey and Ray McKinley. While on the West Coast in that period, he also recorded film soundtracks and played at studio recording sessions, including several for Frank Sinatra and Billie Holiday.

          In the mid-40's, Mr. Sandole moved back to Philadelphia to write music and to teach at the Granoff Studios. 

          He was John Coltrane's mentor from 1946 until the early 1950's, introducing him to theory beyond chords and scales and exposing him to the music of other cultures. Mr. Sandole taught advanced harmonic techniques that were applicable to any instrument, using exotic scales and creating his own.

          His students said that he helped them develop confidence by focusing on their strengths and abilities. His book "Guitar Lore" was published in 1981 by the Theodore Presser Company.

          Mr. Sandole taught privately until the end of his life, letting his musical career take a back seat to his teaching. His other students over half a century included the saxophonists James Moody, Michael Brecker, Rob Brown and Bobby Zankel; the pianists Matthew Shipp and Sumi Tonooka; and the guitarists Jim Hall, Joe Diorio and Pat Martino.

          But he did record some of his own music, including "Modern Music From Philadelphia," recorded with his brother and released by Fantasy in 1956.  In 1999 Cadence Jazz released another album, "The Dennis Sandole Project," a combination of old trio recordings and parts of "Evenin' Is Cryin'," a jazz ballet- opera he wrote in the 1960's and 70's.

          He is survived by a son, Dennis Jr., of Burke, Va.; two daughters, Denise, of Manhattan, and Stephanie Low of Pleasantville, N.J.; three sisters, Annette Lowe of Plymouth Meeting, Pa.; Marie Volpe of Philadelphia; and Rita Cavanaugh of Broomall, Pa.; three grandchildren; and two  great-grandchildren.

 

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All-Music Guide    

Jazz guitarist/teacher Dennis Sandole's classes have included such luminaries as John Coltrane, James Moody, Pat Martino, Rob Brown, Matthew Shipp, and Michael Brecker. Sandole began playing guitar in his late teens. His older brother Adolph Sandole played sax and the two began playing Philadelphia-area clubs during the '30s. That led to him sharing the stage with such acts as Tommy Dorsey and Charlie Barnet. Moving to California, Sandole broke into the lucrative field of session recording, appearing on numerous film soundtracks and records by Billie Holiday and Frank Sinatra, among others.

Around 1945, he moved back to Philadelphia. Jazz legend John Coltrane became a student of his. Sandole shared his knowledge of music theory and the different music genres from around the world. Some of Sandole's radical musical concepts appeared in Coltrane's music in later years. Sandole had an esteemed reputation of not only opening up musicians' minds to new ways of creating music, but also bolstering their self-confidence. Some of Sandole's knowledge was committed to print in the 1981 book Guitar Love published by the Theodore Presser Company. His brother Adolph self-published a music book, Arranging and Harmony. He also can be heard on numerous recordings, including Charlie Barnet's Swingsation and Drop Me Off in Harlem, Boyd Raeburn's 1944-1945, Tommy Dorsey's The Carnegie Hall V-Disc Session (April 1944), Sandole Trilogy with Wendel Marshall, Modern Music From Philadelphia, Compositions and Arrangements for Guitar (both on Fantasy1956), and The Dennis Sandole Project (adence Jazz1999).

At the age of 87, Dennis Sandole died in his Philadelphia, PA, home on October 7, 2000. — Ed Hogan

      
 

 

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