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Joe Puma
Joe Puma
May 31, 2000
Age 72
 Cancer 
 
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OBITUARY 
 
     
           Jazz Guitarist Joe Puma Dies At 72                     
                                            Joe Puma, a jazz guitarist who came
                                            out of the big bands of the 1950s to
                                            become a stylish solo artist, died in
                                            New York Wednesday (May 31) after
                                            a struggle with cancer. He was 72. 

                                            Puma's first solo recording was the
                                            1954 Bethlehem Records album, Joe
                                            Puma Quintet, that featured fellow
                                            guitarist Barry Galbraith and
                                            vibraphonist Don Elliot. (Galbraith and
                         Elliot would again accompany Puma on his 1961 Columbia
                         album Like Tweet, the title track of which was used in the
                         1987 film Good Morning Vietnam.) His most recent album was
                         It's a Blue World, which was released in 1999. Puma
                         performed on about 50 albums by a wide variety of artists. 

                         Puma played in combos ranging from those of
                         traditionally-minded artists like Artie Shaw and Les Elgart, to
                         progressives leaders like Jim Hall and Gary Burton, but he will
                         also be well remembered for his work accompanying jazz
                         singers. Puma skillfully backed such vocalists as Peggy Lee,
                         Billie Holiday, Carmen McRae, Chris Connor, Mark Murphy,
                         Morgana King, Helen Merrill, Carol Sloane, and others. 

                         Joseph J. Puma was born in the Bronx, N.Y. on Aug. 13,
                         1927, into a musical family. His father was a luthier as well
                         as guitarist, and his brothers and sisters played musical
                         instruments. Inspired by Django Reinhardt, Puma taught
                         himself to play guitar. He worked in the 1940s as an army
                         aircraft mechanic and draftsman, but, by the end of the
                         decade, he had chosen music as a career. 

                         In the 1950s, Puma played with such bands as Sammy Kaye,
                         Louis Bellson, and Shaw's Gramercy Five (in which Puma
                         replaced Tal Farlow). Puma also worked with some of the
                         foremost bop and post-bop artists of the day, including Lee
                         Konitz, Herbie Mann, Dick Hyman and Joe Roland. In the early
                         1970s, Puma played in an acclaimed duo with guitarist Chuck
                         Wayne, and continued through the following decades to play
                         with such artists as Warren Vache, Al Cohn, and Jimmy
                         Rainey. Puma also taught briefly at Housatonic College in
                         Bridgeport, Conn. 

                                                              -- Drew Wheeler

    
  
 
NY TIMES
        
         Joe Puma, 72, Jazz Guitarist of Versatility and a Jaunty Air 
                    Joe Puma, a jazz guitarist whose quietly reflective style placed him in 
                    demand as both a soloist and ensemble member, died on May 31 at 
                    Calvary Hospital in the Bronx. He was 72 and lived in Yonkers.  

                The cause was cancer, said his daughter Rosalie.  

                Playing a guitar he designed and built himself, Mr. Puma earned accolades 
                across half a century for his versatility, from his light, restrained sound and 
                jaunty persona as a soloist to his exceptional collaborative technique as an 
                accompanist.  

                Following in the footsteps of his father and brothers, Puma taught himself 
                to play guitar as a teenager, starting a professional career in 1948 after 
                stints as an airline mechanic and a draftsman during World War II.  

                His first major job came in 1949, when he performed with the vibraphonist 
                Joe Roland. Over the next decade he settled into the New York jazz 
                scene, recording with Louie Bellson, Artie Shaw's Gramercy Five, Eddie 
                Bert, Herbie Mann, Mat Mathews, Chris Connor and Paul Quinichette, and 
                later Bobby Hackett, Gary Burton and Carmen McRae.  

                His subtle interaction and fluid responsiveness, often praised in reviews, 
                made him a favorite accompanist of singers like Peggy Lee, Morgana 
                King, Helen Merrill and Tony Bennett.  

                Mr. Puma formed a duo with the guitarist Chuck Wayne in 1972 and 
                appeared at the 1973 Newport Jazz Festival in New York. They were 
                prominent on the downtown club scene for the next five years.  

                After the duo broke up, Mr. Puma led his own trio, remaining musically 
                active into the late 1990's. He recorded on his own for the Bethlehem, 
                Dawn, Jubilee and Columbia labels in the 50's and 60's, and led a later 
                session for Reservoir in 1984.  

                Among his recordings are "Like Tweet," with tunes based on bird calls.  

                Besides his daughter, of Standish, Mich., he is survived by a son, Joseph, of 
                Galveston, Tex.; another daughter, Loris Limiero-Gjelsten of Pelham, 
                N.Y.; a sister, Jean LaFatta of Queens; eight grandchildren; and two 
                great-grandchildren. 

 
       
 

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All-Music Guide
 Born: Aug 13, 1927 in New York, NY
 A superior guitarist for a half-century, Joe Puma has had a steady if low profile career, uplifting many sessions without getting famous himself. Puma came from a musical family (several relatives played guitar) and his first major job was with vibraphonist Joe Roland (1949-50). In the 1950's Puma appeared on many record sessions including with Roland, Louie Bellson, Artie Shaw's Gramercy Five (1954), Eddie Bert, Herbie Mann, Mat Mathews, Chris Connor and Paul Quinichette. Puma was seemingly everywhere during that era. He accompanied Morgana King for two years and in the 1960's recorded with Bobby Hackett, Gary Burton (1964) and Carmen McRae among many others. During 1972-77 he co-led a duo with fellow guitarist Chuck Wayne, later became a teacher and Puma has remained musically active on a part-time basis into the late 1990's. Joe Puma led record dates of his own for Bethlehem (1954), Dawn, Jubilee and Columbia (1961) plus a much later session for Reservoir (1984). -- Scott Yanow, All Music Guide
 
 
  
 
 

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