Tuesday, November 21, 2006

R.I.P. AL TELL

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
November 21, 2006


Al Telcocci, a jazz pianist better known to Santa Fe audiences as Al Tell, has died in Colorado following a long struggle with Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, his wife and musical partner Norma “Tell” Telcocci said Monday. He was 87.

He died Nov. 11 at Shalom Park, an Aurora, Colo. nursing home where he’d lived for several years, his wife said.

The couple, working in a combo called The Al & Norma Tell Quartet entertained at Santa Fe bars and hotels throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s.

Al moved to Santa Fe in the 1970s. According to a 2003 newsletter for Shalom Park, “Al and Norma met in Santa Fe in 1982 — after Norma’s eldest daughter, Nancy, raved about Al Tell, the jazz pianist she had heard the night before: ‘He plays all the songs you always sing around the house. You’re gonna LOVE him!’ ”

“I ‘sat-in’ for three months before getting paid to sing with The Al Tell Trio,” Norma said Monday. She said they worked together over three years before they were married in 1985.

He was born in 1919 in Lodi, N.J. “Al started his musical career at age 14," Norma said. "He had to borrow a pair of long pants from an uncle for his first gig.”

Al served four years in the Army Air Force. After his service he returned to playing the East Coast circuit with a group called the Johnny Kaye Trio. He moved to Oklahoma City in 1950, where in addition to club gigs, he landed his own television show on WKY-TV called Music on Call. “Listeners would call in to request many of over 3,000 songs for which Al had quick recall,” Norma said

“If Al knew the song, he could play it in any key,” she said. “Even today, it's hard to find someone who can transpose as effortlessly as Al did."

In 1968 Al toured Canada and several eastern states as part of Benny Goodman’s band.
In addition to their musical careers, in Santa Fe Al and Norma operated a bed and breakfast called Casa de la Cuma, which is still running.

The couple left Santa Fe in 2001 after Al was diagnosed with Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
Al’s death came six month’s after the death of Norma’s oldest son Daniel Baca in an auto accident in California.

A memorial service is scheduled today in Denver. Norma said she will take Al’s ashes to Santa Fe National Cemetery on Nov. 28, where they will be blessed by Father Frank Pretto, a priest and musician who presided at Al and Norma’s wedding. A reception at La Fonda will follow. The times of these events are pending.

Besides his wife, Al is survived by his sisters Anna Curcio and Marie Pasciolla in New Jersey, his son Jim Telcocci in Oklahoma, daughter Gina Falick in California; stepchildren Nancy Walters of Colorado, Rebecca Benenati of California and David Baca of Madrid, N.M.; nine grandchildren and four great grandchildren. He also is survived by Norma's mother, Olga Stark, who also lives at Shalom Park.

In lieu of flowers, Norma requested donations may be made in the name of Al Tell to The Alzheimer's Research Foundation, to Shalom Park, or to The Santa Fe Jazz Foundation.

For a pretty cool article in the Shalom Park newsletter about Al & Norma Tell, CLICK HERE and scroll diown to page 4.

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