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Frank Signorelli began his career playing in dance bands in the New York area with his friend, trumpeter Phil Napoleon. In 1917 the pair started a group called the Original Memphis Five -- even though none of the members were from the South. They took the name from W. C. Handy’s popular composition, “Memphis Blues.” The other three members of the group were trombonist Miff Mole, clarinetist Jimmy Lytell, and drummer Jack Roth. They began recording in 1921 as Ladd’s Black Aces, prolifically recording under a variety of names for an assortment of record labels. Although the group was influenced by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, their style was a smoother, more arranged approach, utilizing a repertoire of current pop tunes rather than originals.
In 1921 Signorelli worked briefly with Nick LaRocca’s popular Original Dixieland Jazz Band before returning to the Memphis Five. He played and recorded with many jazz greats of the era such as Joe Venuti, Eddie Lang, Bix Beiderbecke, Frankie Trumbauer and Adrian Rollini’s short-lived New Yorkers ensemble. In 1938 he joined Paul Whiteman’s Orchestra and continued his musical career into the late ‘50s, reviving the Original Memphis Five and recording a well-received album in 1956 with vocalist Connee Boswell.
Signorelli collaborated on “And Then Your Lips Met Mine” with Ozzie Nelson whose band recorded it in 1930. His most famous composition, “Park Avenue Fantasy” was written in 1935 with violinist Matt Malneck, a revised version of which became “Stairway to the Stars” when Mitchell Parish wrote lyrics for it 1939. Parrish wrote lyrics for another of Signorelli’s hit songs, “A Blues Serenade,” written with Vincent Grande and Jimmy Lytell and first recorded by the Original Memphis Five in 1926. Malneck and Signorelli also penned “I’ll Never Be the Same” with lyrics by Gus Kahn, a song immortalized by Billie Holiday in 1937.
- Sandra Burlingame
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Matt Malneck, Frank Signorelli
Park Avenue Fantasy - A Modern Composition for the Piano
Robbins Music Corp.
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