30-08-06

Andy Fraga RIP

Special to The Desert Sun
Pianist Andy Fraga died
Bruce Fessier
The Desert Sun
August 28, 2006


Andy Fraga was a master bridge builder.
Fraga, a jazz pianist who died Saturday, connected complex solos with engaging vocals on the local nightclub scene for two decades.
As a businessman he translated the language of music to creators of nonprofit events and advertising campaigns.
Right up to his last scheduled performance Saturday, his accompanying singer and close friend credited Fraga with building one final bridge - this one spiritual.
Fraga, who would have been 64 in October, died in his sleep just hours before his scheduled set at an Idyllwild Jazz in the Pines festival he helped launch.
Instead of playing with Fraga at the festival, Pat Tuzzolino wound up sharing a vision of the piano man he had en route to the performance.
"I'm really grateful I was there when this happened," Tuzzolino said of the moment, "because Andy and I had a connection. We were like brothers."
It was perhaps the last in a lifetime of connections for Fraga.
Collette Wood, a former Motown Records employee and Hollywood Reporter writer who worked with Fraga on projects, called him "one of the most important musicians in the valley.
"When I first came to this town and knew nothing about the town, someone told me to go to the Ocotillo (Lodge). I went there and found my people. Andy and Pat Rizzo had the place jumping.
"It was like Andy was the musician in town that all the musicians followed. He was like the godfather. He was the musician's musician."
Fraga received a Coachella Valley Music Award last season for best jazz trio. He was nominated for an ACE Award for a public service announcement he produced with Wood about women with AIDS. He also won Addie and Mona awards for music he wrote for commercials.
He received a star on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars in front of Cafe St. James in 2001.
He and Rizzo formed their first band in Astoria, N.Y., when they were 12 and lived a block away from one another.
Rizzo went on to play for Sly & the Family Stone, War and Tito Puente, while Fraga graduated from the New York School of Music and the Arts (noted for the "Fame" film and TV show) and continued playing a variety of music. He opened for Vic Damone in Las Vegas and toured the East Coast with a rock band booked by part-time Rancho Mirage resident Norby Walters.
Rizzo asked him to come to Palm Springs for a month of dates in 1988 and his wife, Paula, said they fell in love with the town. He and Rizzo worked in nightspots in the Ocotillo, the Riviera Resort, Hyatt Regency and Ritz Carlton, which became The Lodge at Rancho Mirage.
Rizzo called Fraga his best friend and a perfect teammate.
"If I got the work or got an idea, Andy followed through," he said. "I learned a lot from him. We stayed together longer than most married couples."
Fraga was due to become music director of the Villa Resort in Cathedral City. Bass player Whitey Mitchell, who often worked with Fraga, was planning to join him.
"Andy had an innate sense of good taste for music, wrote wonderful charts for local singers, backed them beautifully and had an eclectic supply of music, which I enjoyed playing every time we worked together," Mitchell said.
"I will miss him musically and personally and am saddened he didn't get the chance to complete some projects he was working on."
Fraga played in every Jazz in the Pines festival since its inception 13 years ago. He was staying at a cabin in Idyllwild on Friday night and friend Mary Moody Lewis said he looked a little gray when she and her husband, drummer Jay Lewis, had a nightcap with Fraga.
Former Duke Ellington vocalist Herb Jeffries said at a set at the Java Lounge in Idyllwild Fraga was a rare jazz pianist who also was a great accompanist.
He relayed Tuzzolino's story, which sent chills around the Idyllwild event.
Tuzzolino, who was slated to replace Mike Costley on the set with Fraga at 11:45 a.m., got a call from Rizzo by cell phone at 7:30 a.m. that Fraga had died.
He drove to the gig and was on Highway 243 at the last grand vista before Idyllwild, he said, when he heard Fraga's "maniacal laugh" and saw Fraga's grinning face as if he were the head of a comet. Then he said he heard Fraga say, "This is fun, Tuzz."
Fraga is survived by his wife, Paula, his son, Andy Jr., his mother, Maria Fraga, and a sister, Evangeline Kohn.
A memorial fund is being planned in his honor.

17:56 Gepost door Lexman in Muziek | Permalink | Commentaren (1) |  Facebook |

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