Dr. Joesph Baudo
Dr. Joe Baudo, bandleader, keyboardist, educator - Lifetime Achievement
BMHOF Class of 2014
When it comes to big band jazz in Buffalo, Dr. Joe Baudo has had as big an impact as anybody in keeping that classic American style alive.
Since completing a 30-year career in the Sweet Home schools, he has been performing essentially full-time with big bands, small combos and across the region.
In particular, he has one of the band leaders who keep the music going, performing for concerts and events, but also playing rehearsal shows that are open to the public.
It all started when trombonist Chuck Lawrence – who Baudo played with – moved south and asked Baudo to take over his band. So Baudo combined some of Lawrence’s members with some of his own band. They started playing every Tuesday night at Sweet Home High School. “It was mostly a camaraderie kind of thing; we’d play from 8 to 10 and then go out for coffee,” Baudo said. “But I had a lot of arrangements I’d written, and ones I’d purchased. We played them for years.”
Then when Baudoretired from Sweet Home in 2002, he decided he wanted to do more.
“I decided I wanted to keep this going, so I started the ‘Tuesday 12-2 Band.’ We started at the Eldredge Bicycle Club on Delaware in North Tonawanda,” he said. “We had guys like Sammy Noto, Sam Scamacca, Ron Gormley … Louie Marino.”
That was its first stop. Since then, the big band has moved to a few places, but seems to have found a home at the Sportsmen’s Tavern on Amherst Street.
The band is a virtual all-star team of professionals and former music educators and currently plays to crowds of a hundred or more – still during the noon-2 slot. More importantly, it serves as one of the most visible showcases for big band music in Western New York. Several of the band regulars lead their own groups as well.
Baudo’s career started in the 1960s, when the West Side native started playing jazz in the clubs when he was still a teenager. He played the U.S. and Canada with a group called the MoJos from 1962-69, thenplayed with the Venturas (1969-70) and Rare Blend (1973-1992). At one point auditioned with Louis Prima and was invited to tour with him.
It was a time when music was everywhere in Buffalo, it seemed, and good musicians were always in demand. He actually started out as a drummer and saxophone player as a child before picking up keyboards. In high school, he played sax and came from a classical background.
“I was playing saxophone with some great people, Bobby Militello, Jim Tudini, Joe Ford – who played with Weather Report,” he said.
“All these great people from Buffalo, and my high school teacher, Sam Scamacca, said, ‘Joe, you have classical training. Why don’t you learn how to play some jazz changes. I’ll send you out on some of the jobs with the guys. …he’d sign us out of high school to play the three-day Polish weddings. We’d play during the day, and then he’d play at night.”
He got a music performance degree from the University at Buffalo (he played with the UB band at Richard Nixon’s inauguration as president in 1969), but also found himself pulled toward teaching. Eventually he got his masters and Ph.D. degrees in music education there as well.
He started teaching at Sweet Home in 1971. In 1978, he became the school’s supervisor of music, but found time to teach a section of jazz ensemble each day.
But jazz wasn’t as accepted in the school or universities as it is now.
“It was looked down upon, as a layman’s music,” Baudo said. “When I started teaching, a lot of the classically trained people said, ‘you’re not supposed to do that.’ I always said, ‘music is what you hear. You have to be creative, not just reproducing what somebody else did. … We always taught people to read a page, not to use their ear.’”
Eventually he would write his doctoral dissertation on merging of those skills.
His bands also became extremely successful, winning awards in Washington, D.C., and Connecticut, playing before presidents Carter, George H.W. Bush and Clinton, and touring the United Kingdom and Europe four times. He was named New York State Teacher of the Year in 1982. Baudo also brought jazz musicians as Count Basie and Buddy Rich to perform at Sweet Home.
He also saw his students become successful after they graduated. Among his alumni are Dave Ratajczak (Woody Herman), Billy Oberacker (drummer for Al Green), Andy Weinzler (Gape Mangione’s band), Regina Zona (Metropolitan Opera), Claude McKnight (Take Six founder and vocalist), Dave Limina (professor at Berkeley School of Music) and 2014 fellow Hall of Fame inductee Jack Prybylski.
Baudohas always kept playing as well. The list of artists he has accompanied includes Della Reese, Frankie Avalon, Bobby Rydell, Mary Wilson, Wayne Newton, Joan Rivers, Bobby Milano, Keely Smith, Joe Ford, Frankie Laine, Jerry Vale, Lou Christie, the Temptations, the Four Tops and Dion & the Belmonts.
He has appeared on recordings by Chuck Harrington and the Pete Ciraolo Big Band as well as on his own various configurations (Cheryl Ferris with the Joe Baudo Trio, the Joe Baudo Big Band, Joe Baudo& Jeff Zavac).
These days, he still plays with several other bands – led by members of his own big band, in many cases, as well as his own big band and small group. He has also been an adjunct lecturer in music at the University at Buffalo and been business agent/secretary for the Buffalo Musicians Association.
And these days you know where you can find him on just about every Tuesday – at noon.
“I grew up in the big band era. … I just hope to keep the music alive,” he said. “We have a good time. We never know what’s going to happen.”
Back - 2014