Masso, George P., 92, passed on October 22, 2019 at the Rhode Island Veterans Home. He was the husband of the late Louise (Levesque) Masso and son of the late Thomas and Helen (Thibodeau) Masso.
Mr. Masso was a classical composer and arranger of note with many published works and performances by the Brown University Wind Symphony and the University of Rhode Island Wind Ensemble.
George is survived by his children, David Masso (Jill), Marjorie Veltri (Nicholas), Lisa Orleck (Aaron), and Paula Roy (Thomas), six grandchildren, six great-grandchildren, many nieces and nephews, and his companion, June Flori. He was the grandfather of the late Benjamin Orleck and brother of the late Charles A. Masso, C. Helene Martin, and Thomas J. Masso.
His funeral will be held on Monday, October 28, 2019 at 9 am from the Robbins Funeral Home, 2251 Mineral Spring Ave., North Providence with a Mass of Christian Burial at 10 am in St. Robert Bellarmine Church, 1804 Atwood Ave., Johnston. Burial with military honors will follow in St. Ann Cemetery, Cranston. Calling hours Sunday 5-8 pm. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Rhode Island Veterans Home, 480 Metacom Ave., Bristol, RI 02809.
The following was written for George by Rick Bellaire. Full article can be found at www.ripopmusic.org/muscial-artists/muscians/george-masso
Born in Cranston in 1926, jazz trombonist and pianist George Masso has excelled in just about every area of the music business: performer, composer, recording artist, arranger and educator. In 1945-46, he served as first trombonist and arranger for the 314th Army Special Services band in Europe, then spent a year on the road with Jimmy Dorsey. He later taught music in the Cranston public schools for eleven years and another eight at UConn. He returned to the road in the mid 1970s, touring internationally and/or recording with a host of musical giants including Benny Goodman, Bobby Hackett, The World’s Greatest Jazz Band of Yank Lawson & Bob Haggart, Woody Herman and George Shearing. Along the way, he has recorded more than a dozen albums as a leader and co-leader which are considered classics around the world and is also a classical composer and arranger of note with many published works and orchestral performances.
GEORGE MASSO: THE EARLY YEARS
Like his fellow 2105 Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame inductees Bob Petteruti and Anthony “Duke Belaire” DeCubelliis, both of whose dads were band leaders, it can be said that George Masso was born to follow in his father’s footsteps.
He was born in 1926, in Cranston, Rhode Island. His father was Thomas P. “Tommy” Masso who was very well-known throughout New England as a trumpeter, band leader and musical contractor.
George graduated from LaSalle toward the end of the second world war. He began playing with the Jimmy Palmer Orchestra, but within the year, he was drafted into the U.S. Army. By the time he’d finished basic training, the war had ended and, thanks to his musical background, he was assigned to the 314th Army Special Services Band in Europe. He served as first trombonist and arranger and considers his time with the band one of the highlights of – and a turning point in – his career.
The band was stationed in Weisbaden, Germany and each week broadcast a one hour show before a live audience to the Armed Forces Network. He worked alongside many talented musicians including Jack Elliott and Charles Eakin, both arrangers/composers who went on to long careers on Broadway, Hollywood and television, and began a lifelong friendship and collaboration with the band’s librarian/vocalist, Anthony Benedetto, who would go on to worldwide fame in the 1950s under his stage name, “Tony Bennett.”
His experiences in the service led him to begin to consider a formal, college-level musical eduction, but first, he hit the road after his discharge and spent a year (1948-1949) traveling with the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra followed by several months with the orchestra at the famed Manhattan nightspot, The Latin Quarter (1949-1950). By the time he left New York City, George had married and begun to raise a family and decided to get serious about his education and stick close to home. He furthered his trombone studies with John Coffey in Boston who encouraged George to pursue a career in music education. George enrolled at Boston University and earned his undergraduate degree in 1953 and his master’s in 1959.
While attending BU and during his years as a teacher, George took on a more active role with his father’s band, which was then billed as the Tommy Masso & Sons Orchestra, performing alongside his dad and his brother, Tommy Masso, Jr., who like Tommy Sr., was a trumpet player. He also kept up a busy schedule performing on jazz dates and on general business and society gigs.
In the mid-1970s, he took a one week gig performing in Raleigh, North Carolina, with famed Providence trumpet master Bobby Hackett who was a lifelong friend of the Masso family. Once Bobby realized that the gig had been enough to whet George’s appetite to get back on the road, he arranged for George to join the Benny Goodman Sextet. George resigned his teaching position and moved to New York City which became his headquarters for the next eighteen years.
George spent the next three years, 1973-1976, globe-hopping with the King of Swing in an all-star band which included Glenn Miller alumnus Al Klink on tenor sax, guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli and bassist Slam Stewart. The group recorded an internationally released live album in Germany, The King Swings. The jazz world rapidly took note of his improvisatory skills and there was great demand for his services.
The Goodman gig was followed by another tour with Bobby Hackett and then George joined The World’s Greatest Jazz Band of Yank Lawson & Bob Haggart with whom he remained until 1996 when Yank and Bob retired.
During his tenure with the group, the WGJB recorded a series of LPs focusing on the work of great American composers including Duke Ellington, George Gershwin and Cole Porter as well as several live albums.
In between tours and recording sessions with the WGJB and with many other jazz masters, George kept busy working as a trombonist, composer and arranger in radio, television, movies and advertising and can be found on the soundtracks of several of Woody Allens films including Bullets Over Broadway and Crimes And Misdemeanors.
He also recorded another dozen or so albums and/or toured as a sideman or band member with a who’s who of jazz greats including collaborations with Charlie Ventura, Ralph Sutton, Woody Herman, George Shearing and Peggy Lee, just to name a few. In 1988, he participated in Bob Wilber’s 50th anniversary recreation of Benny Goodman’s legendary 1938 Carnegie Hall concert.
One wonders when he found the time, but Mr. Masso is also a classical composer and arranger of note with many published works and performances by the Brown University Wind Symphony and the University of Rhode Island Wind Ensemble and other southern New England ensembles. He has also composed third stream music (a synthesis of classical music and jazz) and has enjoyed performances of several works including “Themes and Variations,” a jazz suite in three movements, “Serenade,” a piece for trombone octet, and a jazz Mass.
In 2012, at age 85, George Masso retired his trombone. In an interview with Rick Massimo of The Providence Journal, he cited his age and lack of gigs as the reasons: “I’m sick and tired of playing long tones every day (in practice), and having work be so sparse. It’s time for me to concentrate on other areas because i don’t enjoy playing the trombone that much now. I’m not playing the way I’d like to.” But although his horns have gone into their cases, possibly for good, George has remained active as a pianist and as a composer with no end in sight.
On April 20, 2015, George Masso was inducted into the Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame in a ceremony held at Bovi’s Tavern in East Providence, Rhode Island.
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Rhode Island Veterans Home
480 Metacom Ave., Bristol RI 02809