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Known in his later years for his 20-year tenure with Doc Severinsen's band on Johnny Carson's "Tonight Show", Conte Candoli was a veteran of the west coast jazz scene who was in high demand as a section player and soloist throughout his career.
Born Secondo Candoli in Mishawaka, Indiana, on July 12, 1927, Conte got his first break with Woody Herman's Thundering Herd, with whom his older brother Pete (already a veteran of the Tommy Dorsey and Les Brown bands) had played. Conte filled in while in high school, and after graduating became a full-time member.
He had to go in the Service, then, and joined Chubby Jackson's Fifth Dimensional Jazz Group, which included Denzil Best (drums), Chubby Jackson (bass), Lou Levy (piano), Terry Gibbs (vibes) and Frank Socolow (tenor).
Conte joined Stan Kenton for a year in 1948, then joined Charlie Ventura's "Bop For The People" band in 1949 for a short time before rejoining Kenton in 1951, where he would stay until 1954, when he left to form his own band. After leading some recording dates, he moved to Los Angeles to take session jobs in between gigs with Howard Rumsey's Lighthouse All-Stars.
During this period, Conte was sideman on several recordings, with such players as Stan Getz, Bill Perkins, Bill Holman, Stan Levey , Dexter Gordon, Wardell Gray and Frank Morgan.
In 1960 Conte joined Gerry Mulligan's Concert Jazz Band, with Bob Brookmeyer and Bill Holman and toured for several weeks in Europe. During this time he also worked with drummer Shelly Manne, and with his brother were first-call musicians in the competitive L.A. session community. During the mid-1960s Candoli was part of the historic Terry Gibbs Dream Band.
In 1968, Candoli took a part-time gig with the Tonight Show Band and joined permanently in 1972, when the show officially moved to Burbank. During this period he was also a member of Supersax, among other L.A. all-star outfits, and also continued his periodic collaborations with his brother.
He retired from the Tonight Show along with the rest of Severinsen's band when Johnny Carson left the show in 1992, continuing to tour with Severinsen's group and play session work until cancer slowed his activities.
Conte Candoli died on Friday, December 14th, 2001 of cancer at Monterey Palms Convalescent Home in Palm Desert.
Conte Candoli - Biography