Renowned maestro, conductor, producer, pianist and composer Ettor Stratta recently passed away. He was 82 years old.
ETTORE STRATTA: RENAISSANCE MUSIC MAN, “Pioneer of Crossover”
CONDUCTOR, PRODUCER, PIANIST, COMPOSER PASSED AWAY JULY 9TH at 82
Maestro Ettore Stratta arrived in America from his small town in northern Italy, Cuneo, when he was in his 20’s, inspired by America’s movie musicals and Jazz. He was a gifted musician from the age of 5, went on to have his own band in Italy, got a hold of smuggled American Jazz recordings during the war and set his sights on the US after seeing a Duke Ellington concert. He also studied conducting at the conservatory in Rome as well as piano and composition, packed up with barely any money, spoke several languages, but not a word of English and headed for New York.
He came by boat, landed in New York City, boarded at the YMCA, and tried to land a job. After knocking on Columbia’s personnel door for many months, they finally sent him to the Long Island factory pressing plant. From there, he moved to the main office where the great Goddard Lieberson realized his talent and placed him in the A & R Department where he produced hundreds of recordings including Barbra Streisand (3 Gold Records), Dave Brubeck, Tony Bennett, Nini Rosso, Andy Williams, Steve and Eydie and traveled the world producing recordings of “Fiddler on the Roof”, “The King and I”, “My Fair Lady” (all in Hebrew)..and many more. Now speaking 5 languages including English, he became the Head of Columbia International , always the ultimate music man.
He had his own orchestra called “Fantasy Strings” with over 25 recordings of some of the American Songbook’s greatest compositions.
As “The Pioneer of Crossover”, he created “Switched on Bach” (for CBS) and then went out on his own and produced historic crossover recordings which he also conducted: “Symphonic Tango”, “Symphonic Bossa Nova”,”Symphonic Boleros” (Teldec) with The Royal Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra, arrangements by Jorge Callandrelli, who he discovered. Top artists such as Al Jarreau, Dori Caymmi, Hubert Laws, Paquito D’Rivera, were included in these recordings , part of his signature of ‘crossover’. He was a master when it came to repertoire for such recordings. Maestro Stratta also conducted for the London Symphony, Melbourne Symphony, Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, St Lukes Symphony Orchestra, L’ Orchestra de Lille in France and many more.
Other masterpieces were with Placido Domingo, Jose Cura (Bway with orchestra), Sumi Jo (Bway with orchestra) which sold over a millions copies, Eddie Daniels’ “Breakthrough” (GRP), Emmanuel Ax with Pablo Ziegler (Sony), Yo-Yo Ma and Stephane Grappelli (Yo-Yo’s first outside venture… Classical to Jazz - Sony). Other greats were Chanticleer with orchestra, Justino Diaz singing Mozart Arias with English Chamber Orchestra, The Four Seasons Vivaldi and so many more. He also fought for the Classical Crossover category for the Grammy’s of which he was a Trustee and Governor for many years and succeeded.
Other recordings and conducting were with Tony Bennett “The Art of Excellence”, Lena Horn’s “The Men in My Life” (which included Sammy Davis Jr. and Joe Williams), Cleo Laine, Diahann Carroll, Maureen McGovern, Sissel, Dave Grusin, Julio Iglesias, Linda Eder, Claus Ogerman w. Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Hank Jones, Chaka Kahn, Dick Hyman, Nancy Wilson, Ramsey Lewis, Toots Thielemans, Dionne Warwick, Roland Hanna, Judy Garland, Dave Grusin and so many more. Maestro Stratta, the ultimate renaissance music man conducted for Michel Legrand for 10 years, Stephane Grappelli for 25, and for George Duke’s orchestral piece.
Ettore Stratta composed many pieces of music, one notable was “Forget The Woman” recorded by Tony Bennett and many others and has become part of the Great American Songbook .
In 1986, Maestro Stratta was nominated for the Wavendon Allmusic Awards for Conductor of the Year alongside Leonard Bernstein and Andre Previn. He won first prize at the Castlebar International Festival for the instrumental composition award and received 3 Grammy nominations. He was Musical Director in England for major concerts with Gregory Hines, Nancy Wilson, Stephane Grappelli, Vic Damone, Michel Legrand, Rita Coolidge and others.
Ettore Stratta partnered with Producer Pat Philips in 1988 forming Stratta Philips Productions. While he was still producing recordings, they went on to present major musical concerts at Carnegie Hall , Avery Fisher Hall, Rose Hall and other prestigious venues around the country, paying tribute to Stephane Grappelli upon his 80th birthday, George Shearing’s 80th, Toots Thieleman's 80th, Paquito D’Rivera’s 50 years in the business, Oscar Peterson’s Tribute, Regina Carter’s Paganinni concert, The Nicholas Brothers Tribute, Antonio Carlos Jobim’s last major concert, plus a series of Brazilian music projects called “All Jobim and More” one of which Bernard Holland of the NY Times wrote “The music of Antonio Carlos Jobim ….gives hope that taste, simplicity, and lyrical invention may yet survive”. He married partner Pat Philips in 1999.
He created Absolut Concerto at Avery Fisher Hall with major symphony orchestras and commissioned composers on the rise such as John Adams, Christopher Rouse, and Alan Jay Kernis. Ettore Stratta, along with his partner, has been producing the successful Django Reinhardt Festival.
Maestro’s musical knowledge brought together many well-known musicians from Jazz to Classical to Pop to create extraordinary music that was original and musically brilliant. His music will live on forever.
Ettore Stratta was a class act all the way, a beloved man by his peers for his integrity, charm, warm personality, humor, was humble and talented. In his loving family, he leaves behind his wife Pat Philips Stratta, his sons Paul and Luca, stepsons Brad and Evan, three daughter-in-laws Carla, Radia, and Ashley, and 5 grandchildren, Manuka, Isabella, Sophie, Rianne, and Luke.
*A Memorial will be held in September.