Anne Fadale

Anne Fadale, pianist - Legacy Award

BMHOF Class of 2014

Anne Fadale’s music career spanned five decades in Western New York, but earned her wide-spread respect far beyond Buffalo.

Singer Diane Taber recalled when Fadale accompanied her to an audition for the Merv Griffin Show on network television in the early 1970s:

“As we entered the broadcast studio, Anne was walking a few feet in front of me. All of a sudden I heard applause … and saw that band members were standing and clapping at the same time as one of them was calling out her name. … It wasn’t after a performance, it was clearly for her musical accomplishment.”

Fadale was no stranger to the broadcast studio. A skilled jazz pianist, she was known as “Aunt Annie” to a generation of  Buffalo youngsters who auditioned for “Uncle Jerry’s Club” and other radio and TV shows on WBEN. She was a house musician at the studios for many years when the stations were still co-owned.

Fadale was a native of Lackawanna, although she lived most of her life in West Seneca. After spending a year at the Oberlin Conservatory in Ohio, she went on to graduate from the Fredonia State College in 1944 with a degree in music education.

She told a 1983 radio audience that she didn’t grow up with jazz, but learned more about it after her schooling. 

“It was around, but I wasn’t aware of what was happening until I got out of school,” said said. “Then I started to play with small groups, different groups, club dates.”

She taught for a year in the Lackawanna schools before embarking on a career as a professional musician. Although she could play anything from classical to pop, she was best known for her piano trio performances with bass and drums. She loved the ballads, and her relaxed approach at the keyboard captivated the audience.

Her son, Bud Fadale (himself a jazz bassist) recalled when Anne was a scholarship student of jazz legend Oscar Peterson at his Advanced School of  Contemporary Music in Toronto.  Bud Fadale said that in 1963, for his 16th birthday, she took him to Toronto to hear the Oscar Peterson Trio and meet one of his heroes, bassist Ray Brown – another legend – who also taught there.

“He was absolutely the best,” Bud said of Brown. “As well as teaching bass, Ray taught ear training at the school. He told me the story of Anne’s first day in his ear training class. As always in a class like that, the first order of business was to test everyone’s ability, just to level set. Well, after testing Anne he immediately turned the class over to her to teach for the entire course. Anne had unbelievable ears.”

Anne Fadale was a natural, Bud said. 

“When I think of my mother and music, I picture her sitting at the kitchen table listening to Jazz on WEBR while writing out complex trio and quartet arrangements; and all the while carrying on conversations with the family,” he said. “No keyboard references …Nothing, just her brain. She never even had a piano in the house until I went off to college. Playing was just as natural to her as breathing.”

Anne Fadale spent years playing in a trio with sons Bud (bass) and Charlie (drums). The trio was recorded in 1983 when WBFO-FM did a series of live broadcasts from the Select Sound recording studio. The radio host, the legendary John Hunt, called Fadale“one of the truly great pianists … Someone who is always remembered when the great pianists like Oscar Peterson come into Buffalo or ArtPark.”

She was definitely recognized by her peers. Bud Fadale recalls that he didn’t appreciate how much at the moment, like when his mother took him on short road trip.

“She was my mom. I can recall one summer day driving with my mother and Blossom Dearie (another legendary woman of jazz) out to visit Jack Yellen at his farm in Springville,” Bud wrote in the liner notes to the “That’s All” CD. “There we were, riding in the back of our Chevy station wagon with Anne and Blossom in the front seat with the jazz blasting on the radio. What a memory!”

Pianist Krista Seddon considered Fadale one of her mentors. She said Fadale had “a beautiful touch, impeccable rhythm and a deep knowledge of the music and composers of the Great American  Songbook. … Anne had an expansive repertoire that glided with ease from  Broadway to classical music. I would often ask her about songs that had been requested at my own jobs. She would play the song and create an orchestral arrangement spontaneously.”

In her later years, Anne Fadale built up a devoted following playing several nights a week at EB Greene’s in Buffalo, playing requests for dinner guests. For some of her more regular fans she would play their favorite songs as they walked into the room.

Fadale was also proud of her work with the Jerry Lewis telethons to fight muscular dystrophy over the years and was in demand as an accompanist for musicians touring through Buffalo.

Fadale died in 1990, but in recent years her son has issued three sets of her music on CD (“How the Time Goes By,” “That’s All” and “Silent Night”).

In an interview session on “That’s All,” she describes her form of piano jazz: 

“I think our playing is very genuine and sincere,” she said. “You can tell from the way I play. I wish I could play a lot of fancy things, but it wouldn’t be me. So I just want to say whatever we play is very straight-ahead and honest.”

She was certainly downplaying her abilities there. She was straight-ahead – and good. 

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