A Hidden Treasure – Toots Mondello

As I’ve said before, the big musical stars have all had plenty of stuff written about them, but what about those who were just as talented — maybe even more so — but never got the recognition? Guys like saxophonist Toots Mondello, who was one of the best but remains relatively unknown to most music fans.tootsm

Boston native Nunzio ‘Toots’ Mondello began his musical career much earlier than most, playing — and soloing — in his father’s dance band at age 8. By the late 1920s, by then in his mid-teens, he was an accomplished pro and was a part of Mal Hallett’s well-regarded band, even logging duty as a fill-in leader from time to time.

He continued to find plenty of work into the 1930s, playing with several solid bands before landing a spot as lead alto sax for Benny Goodman in 1934. He became a vital part of Goodman’s band, which was at that time shooting to the top. It was an association that would continue off and on for many years.

By the late 1930s Mondello was growing interested in classical music, and would later become well known for playing and composing it, but over the next several decades (with some time off for military service) he was mostly immersed in jazz. He was a familiar face on bandstands and in recording studios, and even led his own band for a while. Along the way he worked with everybody from Lionel Hampton to Kate Smith, and by the time he died at age 81 in 1992, he could look back on a long and accomplished career.

tootsmcdToots Mondello – “Burning Sticks”

(Video removed at source.)

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