Sunday, April 12, 2009

R.I.P.: Nick Jerret

R.I.P.: Nick Jerret
(born Nick Bertocci on July 29, 1921, Somerville/MA;
died January 30, 2009, Boston/MA, USA))

The obituary at the Boston Globe follows:

Noted jazz clarinetist, bandleader dead at 90

Published: April 11, 2009

BOSTON - As a premed student in his second year at Boston University, Nick Bertocci had a good future in the late 1930s, except for two problems: He wasn't much interested in becoming a doctor, and he had no background in what he really wanted to pursue.

"As he explained to me, he went to talk with a guidance counselor," said his brother, Louis of Medford, Mass. "The guidance counselor said, ‘What do you want to do?' Nick said, ‘I want to get into music, and the counselor said, ‘Well, you ought to do that.'"

Playing first on a borrowed saxophone, then moving to clarinet, Bertocci adopted a stage name and in a few years went from beginner to bandleader, playing jazz clubs in New York City and Boston. Bertocci died of pneumonia Jan. 30 in the Phillips House unit of Massachusetts General Hospital. He was 90.

At 19, Bertocci had never played an instrument when he went home to explain that his calling was music, not medicine. "My father said, ‘You'll be happy, but you'll never make any money,'" Louis said.

At first, a brother-in-law let Bertocci use his saxophone, and he studied harmony and instrumentation to swiftly make up for lost time. Then Bertocci picked up a clarinet, which has some similarities to the saxophone. "The minute he hit the clarinet, that was it," his wife, Marsha, said.

Nicholas D. Bertocci performed as Nick Jerret, though it's unclear why he chose that surname. He put together a sextet and, in his early 20s, headed to New York.

He also helped launch the careers of two musicians he brought with him from Boston. His sister Chiarina used the name Frances Wayne to perform with big bands led by Charlie Barnet and Woody Herman. Pianist Ralph Burns went on to play with Herman and won Academy Awards for adapting music for the movies Cabaret and All That Jazz.

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