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Scott LaFaro: Chronology 1950-1955
(High School and College)

Previous: 1936-1949 -- Next:  1956-1957




1950 (aet. 14)

 September Geneva, NY Began his Freshman year at GHS. Studied clarinet, bass clarinet, and tenor saxophone. Became a member of the band and orchestra under the direction of Godfrey Brown, GHS music director and Scott's mentor. (Conversation, July 1996, with Helene LaFaro-Fernandez.)


1951 (aet. 15)

 June  Geneva, NY Completed his Freshman year. During this time, Brownie, as Mr. Brown was affectionately known by his students, taught Scott theory. When Scott enrolled in the theory class taught by Miss Inez Nease, he was well grounded already in the subject, but had to take her course because of academic requirements. He was bored to tears. He actually taught fellow classmates Bob Umiker, Gail Brown, and Pat Stine. Miss Nease eventually left GHS and teaching to join the U.S. Army.
 July  Geneva, NY Worked as a cook at Camp Babcock Covey, a summer camp run by the Presbyterian Church for Geneva's youth.
 September  Geneva, NY Began his Sophomore year. Served as Vice-president of the sophomore class. Also was a member of the Rifle Club.
 November  Geneva, NY

Selected as a member of New York's 'All-State' high school band, along with fellow Geneva High School band members Sully Acquilano, Lynn Remmel, Floyd Cole, Nancy Lyon, and Olden Bowers (Finger Lakes Times, Geneva, NY, 13 November 2001, C6, "50 Years Ago Today")


01 Dec

 Norristown, PA  John Francis 'Jaco' Pastorius born.  Often billed as "The World's Greatest Bassist" Jaco played with Weather Report, with Paul Bley, Pat Metheny, Ira Sullivan, Joni Mitchell, et al.  He died 21 Sep 87 (aet. 35) after a severe beating by a bouncer at Fort Lauderdale's Midnight Club, which venue Jaco tried to enter. Miles wrote 'Mr. Pastorius' for Jaco. 

1952 (aet. 16)

 January  Geneva, NY Played at a GHS dance held at the Civic Center, as a member of the Rhythm Aires (with Helen Consentino, Roderick Umiker, and Robert Wooley).  (From "Days of Yore -- 50 Years Ago (1952) in the Finger Lakes Times, Geneva, NY, Wednesday 9 January 2002, p. 5B. Courtesy of Jim Ralston.) 
 June  Geneva, NY Finished his Sophomore year.
 September  Geneva, NY Began his Junior year. Scott asked fellow musician Gail Brown to bring her bass violin over near him so he could better hear her playing. Scott then asks Gail to show him the correct fingering positions on the bass. “His interest became an infatuation with the bass during this time.” (Conversation, August 1997, with Gail Brown-Kirk.)

1953 (aet. 17)

 Winter-Spring  Geneva, NY Injured his lip while playing basketball at the local YMCA. Six stitches were required to close the would which resulted in his lip "hanging a bit on the one side" (Helene LaFaro's phrase).  Scott believed this injury changed his embouchure and degraded his saxophone sound. He felt frustrated that he could not sound like Lee Konitz. About the same time he heard bassist Leroy Vinnegar perform in one of the local clubs and was enthralled with his music. (Conversation, June 1996, with Helene LaFaro-Fernandez, and E-mail 14 May 2001 from Helene.)
 Easter Week  Geneva, NY Received the sacrament of Confirmation at Saint Francis de Sales Roman Catholic Church.
 June  Geneva, NY Finished his Junior year. Photos in The Class of 1953 (vol. 29) GHS Seneca Saga yearbook: p. 64 "Band" (holding clarinet, front row last on the right) as 'R. LaFaro'; p. 66 "Band Leaders" as 'S. LaFaro'. Also p. 66 "Orchestra" as 'S. LaFaro' (playing tenor saxophone, back row, 2d from left). Note in the latter photo, his sister, 'H. [Helene] LaFaro' at center of vocal trio.
 Summer  Geneva, NY Played baritone bugle in the Geneva Apple Knockers Drum and Bugle Corps, which performed in a national competition held at Washington, D.C.
 September  Geneva, NY Began his Senior year. During this time LaFaro played some local nightclubs. His father took him to see Stan Kenton perform at nearby Sampson Air Force Base, fifteen miles south of Geneva near Romulus, NY. He was impressed with Duke Ellington, Zoot Sims, and others who played in the area. (Conversation, July 1996, with Helene LaFaro-Fernandez.)

1954 (aet. 18)

 June  Geneva, NY Graduated from GHS. Senior photo in The Class of 1954 (vol. 30) GHS Seneca Saga yearbook, p. 28, has entry"

"LaFaro, Scott Rocco [sic, in recté R. Scott] -- Scotty -- Music is the spice of life."; p. 39 "Senior notes" includes the following entry: 'LaFaro, Scott Rocco [sic, in recté R. Scott] -- Class Officer 2, Vice-president; Orchestra 1,2,3; Varsity Chorus 3; Boys Chorus 3; Band 1,2,3,4; All State 1,2,3; Stunt Night 3,4; Rifle Club 2; Junior Prom Committee; Senior Ball Committee. Future: College'; p. 97 "Passengers on the cruise of the Class of 1954" identifies LaFaro as one to be remembered as 'music maestro' who will miss mostly 'theory class.'

Note: This inaccurate, inverted display of Scott Rocco LaFaro above the photo has caused some confusion as to Scott's legal, given name, which is Rocco Scott LaFaro.  Helene, Scott's older sister, assures me that neither Scott nor their father ever used the name 'Rocco' when referring to themselves.  It was always either Scott LaFaro (for Scott himself) or Joseph or Joe LaFaro (for his father).

 Summer  Geneva, NY Continued to play with the Geneva Apple Knockers Drum and Bugle Corps. Also played tenor saxophone and bass with Geneva-area musicians: Charles F. "Charlie" Ralston, drums; George Telarico, guitar; Ray DeSio, trombone, Dick Hunt, piano; Sam Venuti, piano; Frank Alvaro, piano; Ray Helmer, drums; and others, to wit: Jack Bullock; Jack Kenyon, Frankie Farr; Eddie DeWitt.

Note: Geneva nightclubs that LaFaro played included Club 86, Pronti's Restaurant, Deluxe Grill, Club 5 & 20, among others. (Recollection of a conversation about LaFaro with my father, Charles F[rancis]. (Charlie) Ralston, in 1961 shortly after LaFaro's death. Ralston served as Secretary, Local 570, American Federation of Musicians, for most of the 1950s, and knew most musicians working in and around Geneva at the time.)

 Fall  Ithaca, NY Attended Ithaca College (formerly the Ithaca Conservatory of Music) in Ithaca, NY, to end of Spring 1955

Note: According to fellow student, Tony Mele, courses that LaFaro might have taken included: Harmony I, Ear Training I, Sight-Singing I, Introduction to Music, English Composition, European History, one or two ensembles, and applied music (i.e., bass lessons).

Some of LaFaro's instructors would have included: George Driscoll, piano and harmony, and Warren Benson, ear training and sight singing, composition, music history. LaFaro may have studied bass with Forrest Sanders, then the 'cello instructor.

Any jazz playing would have been with ensembles that played in and around Ithaca. LaFaro played at the College Spa, a local Ithaca restaurant, with Suzanne Stewart and Edie Stewart, sisters and vocalists from Ithaca, and a drummer and pianist. LaFaro was a friend of Elwood Peters, jazz trumpet player. (Letter, 3 March 1996, from Tony Mele.)

 Fall  Ithaca, NY Note: Gail Brown, a music student at Ithaca College the year following LaFaro's departure from the college, recalls during a visit to the college, Scott practicing the bass in one of many Quonset huts which served as music practice rooms (these military structures may have been acquired by the College from the recently closed Sampson Air Force Base).

Scott would practice 6 to 12 hours a day and often neglected to take a lunch or dinner break. He was serious, responsible, but quick to smile. His instructor in the history of music was Dean Rawski and one Ms. Pulaski taught him sight-reading. Forrest 'Sandy' Sanders was bass violin instructor.

 Fall  Ithaca, NY Note: According to fellow musician, Suzanne Stewart, LaFaro played bass in a group led by pianist Charlie Delgado, that included also, Elwood Peters, trumpet; Jesse Avery, sax; Paul Dale, trumpet and vocals; and an unidentified drummer. The group performed at Joe's Restaurant, West Buffalo St., Ithaca, NY.

LaFaro liked such tunes as 'You Don't Know What Love Is', 'Don't Explain', 'Detour', 'Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most', 'Lush Life', 'Let's Get Lost', to name a few. (Letter, 1 November 1996, from Suzanne Stewart-Knight.)

1955 (aet. 19)

 Winter  Ithaca, NY Gail Brown last saw LaFaro during the early winter of 1955 when both bumped into each other in a record store in Ithaca -- they were looking for recordings of Ted Heath, big band leader from England. They went to a local deli for pecan pie and root beer for old time's sake as they used to do in their hometown Geneva.
 Spring  Ithaca, NY LaFaro told fellow student Tony Mele over dinner that he (LaFaro) was leaving college to try his luck in music in California. "He had had it with a lot of the course work and wanted to concentrate solely on playing and perfecting his bass playing." (Letter, 3 March 1996, from Tony Mele.)
 Sat 12 Mar  New York Charlie Parker (born 29 August 1920, Kansas City, MO) died, aet. 34
 Summer  Syracuse, NY "Il joue a Syracuse, a l'Embassy Club, et alentour. Il n'a pas de passe, il connait peu de contrebassistes. Dans le juke-box de L'Embassy, il a ecoute Percy Heath, Paul Chambers, et puis Lee Konitz avec Stan Kenton. Il n'en connait guere davantage, mais le jazz est la et la basse le seduit." (Jean-Pierre Binchet, "Le Phare LaFaro," Jazz Magazine 153 (Apr 68) p. 20.)


LaFaro also listened to a juke box recording (or song?) by Stan Kenton entitled, 'Prologue' with Miles Davis; Heath and/or Chambers; Kenton and/or Konitz (Williams, "Introducing" p. 16.)

Note: The Embassy Club was in Syracuse's 15th Ward, principally east and south of the downtown area, known locally as 'The Ward'. It was an African-American neighborhood with many jazz clubs in the 1940s and '50s. Other clubs included The English Club, Satellite Club, The Clef, The Coda, The Penguin, Clover Club, Club 800, Jazz Corner. Some local greats include Peanuts Hucko, Sal Nistico, Chris Powell. (Conversation with Frank Malfitano; Syracuse, NY, 23 May 96.)

 Fall  New York? "That fall [1955] he joined [the] Buddy Morrow [Orchestra], having been hired without an audition, and remained until September 1956. Scott joined Chet Baker a few weeks later, and stayed with him until May 1957 when he [?Baker] came to Los Angeles." (Nat Hentoff, program notes, The Arrival of Victor Feldman.)

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 Bibliography -- Mags L-R  Chronology -- 1960  Discography -- 1961--1979  
 Bibliography -- Mags S-Z  Chronology -- 1961  Discography -- 1980--1989  Sunday Vanguard Matrix
 Bibliography -- Miscellany  Discography -- 1990--1999
 Bibliography -- Web Sources    Discography -- 2000--  2001 ISB LaFaro Tribute


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Last revised:  2005-10-06