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:: DOMENIC CORTESE. A TRIBUTE BY DR. WILLAM SCHIMMEL ::

WHEN I RECEIVED A CALL TO PLAY WOZZECK AT THE METROPOLITAN OPERA LAST SEPTEMEBER I KNEW SOMETHING WAS UP. DOMENICK WAS PLAYING WOZZECK EVER SINCE JOE BIVIANO PASSED AWAY---AS A MATTER OF FACT I RECOMMENDED DOMENIC INITIALLY BECAUSE I HAD SOME SCHEDULING CONFLICTS A FEW YEARS BACK. SURE ENOUGH, THE MET CONTRACTOR TOLD ME THAT DOMENIC HAD DIED IN AUGUST. WHEN I WENT TO THE FIRST REHEARSAL, A FEW OF THE MUSICIANS HAD DOMENIC STORIES TO TELL: A LARGE STRETCH LIMO SHOWING UP IN FRONT OF HIS HOUSE PICKING HIM UP AND BRINGING HIM BACK FOUR DAYS LATER MUCH WEALTHIER. HE PLAYED PRIVATE PARTIES FOR PEOPLE LIKE SINATRA AND SO FORTH. AND THOSE MOVIES---LIKE MOONSTRUCK AND WOODY ALLEN'S BROADWAY DANNY ROSE(MY PERSONAL FAVORITE)----AND THE BILLY JOEL GIG--NO CHARTS, NO ARRANGEMENTS--HE HAD TO WING IT. LUCKILY THE SONG WAS "ITALIAN RESTAURANT"----THEY CALLED THE RIGHT GUY. NOBODY, AND I MEAN IT----NOBODY PLAYED THAT ITALIEN CLUB DATE/RESTAURANT/MUSETTA STYLE BETTER THAN DOMENIC. HE SEEMED TO OWN IT. HE IS A NEW YORK LEGEND. ASK ANYONE IN LOCAL 802.
I FIRST HEARD DOMENIC AS A YOUNGSTER WHEN HE WAS A REGULAR ON "SING ALONG WITH MITCH". HIS SOUND WAS CLEAN AND RICH. I ONLY WORKED WITH HIM ONCE, IN THE FILM: M BUTTERFLY. THERE WERE FIVE ACCORDIONISTS ON THE SESSION AND DOMENIC WAS THE LEADER. WE WERE PLACED FAR APART FROM EACH OTHER TO ASSIMILATE AN OUT OF SYNC ACCORDION BAND DURING THE CULTURAL REVOLUTION IN CHINA. DOMENIC WAS EFFICIENT, PROFESSIONAL IN THE OLD SCHOOL SENSE, AND PATIENT WITH THE DEMANDING PRODUCERS WHO WERE TRYING TO ARTICULATE TO US THE SOUND THEY WERE GOING FOR. WE FINALLY GOT IT AND LEARNED A LOT THAT DAY ABOUT TACTFULNESS AND RESERVE.
DOMENIC IS THE LAST OF THE HARD LINE PROFESSIONAL NEW YORK STUDIO MUSICIANS. HE STUCK TO HIS PARTICULAR TERRITORY OF EXPERTISE AND DID IT BETTER THAN ANYONE. THE MUSIC SCENE IS A LITTLE MORE SPREAD OUT TODAY AND LESS TERRITORIAL, BUT STILL WE HAVE A LOT TO LEARN FROM DOMENIC CORTESE: HIS IMPECCABLE SENSE OF DETAIL, HIS CONCERN FOR THE RIGHT SOUND FOR THE RIGHT SITUATION AND HIS EGOLESSNESS-----IT WAS ALWAYS ABOUT THE MUSIC.
DOMENIC NOW ENTERS THE REALM OF ACCORDION LEGEND. HE IS SURVIVED BY HIS ENERGY, HIS INSPIRATION AND THOSE STORIES.
WHAT STORIES? ASK ANYONE IN LOCAL 802.

William Schimmel

 

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