The music of the mysterious Dodo Marmarosa finds new life in this recording by jazz pianist, arranger, composer, and educator Craig Davis. Released in July 29, 2022 via Pittsburgh’s own MCG Jazz label, the album features the stellar rhythm section of bassist John Clayton and drummer Jeff Hamilton.
Michael “Dodo” Marmarosa, bebop pianist, composer and arranger who retreated to his childhood home in Pittsburgh after years of touring with several major big bands, including those led by Tommy Dorsey, Gene Krupa, and Artie Shaw and recording with leading bebop and swing musicians, including Howard McGhee, Charlie Parker, and Lester Young. To observers of the jazz scene during the late 1940s, Marmarosa would have seemed a safe bet to join the pantheon of bebop pianists alongside the likes of Bud Powell and Thelonious Monk. But by the end of the decade Marmarosa’s star had already begun to fade. He returned to his native Pittsburgh for health reasons and became a near recluse for much of the rest of his life. Aside from a brief comeback attempt in the early 60s and sporadic performances in his hometown, Marmarosa largely retired from music and was relegated to a footnote in jazz history by the time of his death in 2002.
Pianist Craig Davis is on a mission to raise Dodo’s profile in the jazz consciousness. Part of that stems from hometown pride; a fellow native of Pittsburgh, Davis has spent most of his career as an active and in-demand member of the Steel City jazz scene. He also recognizes parallels to his own approach to the piano in Marmarosa’s, as both men blend classical influences with a taste for progressive jazz and a spirited lyricism. Tone Paintings is a project more than a decade in the making.
“Dodo’s story really resonated with me because he was such an enigmatic figure,” Davis explains. “He never really got the recognition he deserved beyond having a flurry of fame in the forties. I thought maybe I could help bring his music to light.”