Marty Napoleon, a jazz pianist who was often featured with bandleader and trumpeter Louis Armstrong’s All Stars ensemble, died April 27 near his home in Glen Cove, N.Y. He was 93.
He is best known by many for having replaced Earl Hines in Louis Armstrong’s All Stars in 1952.
In 1946 he worked with Gene Krupa and went on to work with his uncle Phil Napoleon, a trumpeter, in Phil’s Original Memphis Five. In the 1950s he also worked with his brother Teddy Napoleon, a pianist, and from 1966–1971 he was performing with Louis Armstrong again.
He once told the Washington Post that one of his favorite memories involved the exuberant band put together by Chico Marx, the onetime Marx Brother of stage and movie fame. Mr. Napoleon recalled that it was hard for Marx to escape his vaudeville roots.
“When he did ‘Beer Barrel Polka’ he would roll an orange on the keyboard,” the pianist told The Washington Post in 1984. “One time he threw the orange at me, and I threw it to the drummer, George Wettling. The next day everybody in the band had an orange and oranges were flying all over the stage. Chico loved it. ‘Leave it in,’ he said. ‘It’s great.’ ”
Photo Credit: Jazzwax (Marc Myers), Washington Post and Louis Armstrong Musuem