Charlie Ventura

Born

  • December 2, 1916
  • Philadelphia, PA

Died

  • January 17, 1992
  • Pleasantville, NJ

Real Name

  • Charles Venturo

Charlie Ventura

Saxophonist Charlie Ventura was working in a shipyard when offered a job by Gene Krupa in 1942. Ventura had cut his teeth on the local Philadelphia jazz scene during the 1930s while working for his family's hat-making business by day. He soon joined the drummer's orchestra, where he became a featured soloist and member of Krupa's trio. When Krupa was forced to disband his group after being arrested on trumped-up drug charges in 1943 Ventura went to work for Teddy Powell, later returning to Krupa when the bandleader was exonerated.

Ventura became one of the first swing musicians to embrace bop when formed his own ''Bop for the People'' orchestra in 1946. Recording a few sides for the National label, Ventura's band played a commercial form of the new jazz music. It failed to find any big success, and he scaled back the group the following year in favor of smaller combos, working with such artists as Charlie Parker, Kai Winding, Bob Carter, Lou Stein, Shelly Manne, Fats Navarro, and Buddy Rich. In the late 1940s he was featured on his own radio program and in 1949 put together a celebrated concert of top jazz musicians at the civic auditorium in Pasadena, California. That same year he also appeared as part of the Metronome All-Stars.

In 1950 Ventura decided to reform his big band but abandoned it again in 1951 when he opened his own jazz club, the Open House, in Lindenwold, New Jersey. He spent the next two decades divided between running his club, putting together various big bands, working with small combos, and leading orchestras in Las Vegas and Atlantic City. Poor health forced him to retire to Las Vegas in 1970, where he worked as a disc jockey. He moved to the East Coast in 1972 and continued performing until the 1990s, though his health began to decline even further. Charlie Ventura passed away in 1992 after losing his battle with lung cancer.

Vocalists who worked with Ventura's big band include Lily Ann Carol, Jackie Cain, and Roy Kral.