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Eddie Nuccilli, 1923 – 2011


When trumpeter, bandleader, and arranger Eddie Nuccilli passed away at the end of April this year, Detroit lost one of its last great proponents of the modern jazz big band.

Nucilli's first chance at national exposure was when he went on the road with Bobby Sherwood's big band in the late 1940s. In fact, the band was made up of Detroit's own Eddie Marshall band. The Eddie Marshall band was considered the most modern in Detroit in the immediate post-war period. When Metronome's critic Barry Ulanov visited Detroit in 1946 he noted that "Ed Nuccilli, who did a great chunk of the Marshall library...is one of the most intelligent theorists in Detroit."

Nucilli probably developed much of his musical intelligence at home. His father was a trumpeter with the Detroit Symphony for 25 years. He was the first to teach his son solfeggio, a technique for sight singing. By thirteen Eddie was playing and arranging for a neighborhood band and improved on his arranging skills at Cass Technical High School. It was also at Cass Tech that his jazz interest took off after meeting fellow trumpeter and bebopper Don Slaughter.

After graduation from Cass Tech in June, Nucilli joined the service in August 1943. When he got out of the service in 1946, Slaughter introduced him to the recordings of Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker. He was soon writing arrangements for alto saxophonist John Rajeski's band, which was filled with Detroit beboppers. Nuccilli took a pause in playing between 1952 and 1958, and focused on feeding his family after marrying in 1950. He worked as a supervisor of accounting at Ford's Highland Park plant and later with life insurance until 1969. In the late 1950s he started playing with Latin bands and formed his own in 1960 under the name Ed Carlo. (He was born Eduardo Carlo Nuccilli in 1925.) By the late 1960s he also picked up work with the Elmwood Casino house band in Windsor and in 1972 he became its leader. This was a busy time for Nuccilli as he also wrote a few arrangements for Motown before they left in 1972.

Since the seventies, his main focus was his Plural Circle big band. This band performed every year of the Michigan Jazz Festival at Schoolcraft College and at times also at the Detroit Jazz Festival. He was able to draw upon many of top players in the Detroit area since his arrangements were unique and interesting. He kept the bebop big band tradition alive and will be sorely missed.



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