On Saturday, November 12, 2022, we lost one of the greatest woodwind players in our world. Gene Cipriano (Cip) was perhaps the most recorded woodwind player in history having made literally thousands of recordings for movie soundtracks, television shows, commercials, jazz bands, tracks backing instrumentalists & singers, in addition to his live concert performances for over 70 years! He was a most beloved player by his colleagues, composers, arrangers, and conductors. I only met Cip 12 years ago, but we became fast friends. He was endlessly encouraging of my musical and educational efforts which always gave me a tremendous feeling of satisfaction. But I wasn’t unique in that respect. Almost every musician has a similar story testifying to Cip’s unique ability to welcome every musician into his “family.” His wonderful laugh and smile made it a pleasure to be in his company.
Gene was endlessly inquisitive, always wanting to know about the latest “hot” player or new equipment that was available. But most importantly, Gene was always a gentleman who never acted in any way but truthful. He was the first-call lower reed/oboe doubler in Los Angeles for many decades, although he played all the saxophones, clarinets, flutes, and oboes with equal aplomb. A 2nd generation musician hailing from New Haven, Conn, he got his initial start playing with the big bands of Ted Fio Rito, Tony Pastor, Tommy Dorsey, Lenny Lewis, and Tex Beneke. Cip eventually made his home in Los Angeles and acquired his fame in the studio scene. He set a standard of excellence that made him indispensable to composers, arrangers, and contractors. In 2019, he told me that beginning in the 1950s in L.A., he couldn’t get an approved oboe doubler sub for any gig for 7 years and therefore couldn’t take off. His list of credits is too numerous to list here but the fact that he played a record 59 Academy Award shows gives one a pretty good idea of Cip’s musical level, versatility and popularity. At age 78, he finally released his first album as a leader, First Time Out. On this 2-Cd set he is accompanied by a Who’s Who of formidable L.A. studio and jazz artists. Here are 2 tracks from that release that provide a glimpse into Cip’s magic:
First Time Out can be purchased here:
Here’s a wonderful video titled Stardust which contains a variety of pictures of Cip put together by the great Tom Ranier, a dear, devoted friend of his. Tom is not only the arranger of the music but is also the only musician performing on the video. In addition to being a world-class jazz pianist and arranger, Tom is a phenomenal jazz clarinetist, saxophonist, and photographer! The harmonized Artie Shaw solo at 2:55 is dedicated to Cip.
*Thanks to Tom for allowing me to share this wonderful montage. And thank you Cip for making life that much more enjoyable for all of us.