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Along with Tony Mottola, the "first call" guitarist in New York City for over thirty years. Both men were prolific studio musicians and the stalwarts of countless "Percussion" albums: Mottola's for Command, Caiola's for Time.
Caiola served in the Marines during World War Two, where he played alongside Bob Crosby and toured much of the Pacific Theater, until the bandmembers were assigned to active combat in the assault on Iwo Jima. After the war, he used the G.I. Bill to study music composition and theory at the New Jersey College of Music.
Not long after graduating, Caiola was hired as a staff musician by CBS radio in New York City, and he has spent much of the subsequent fifty years working in recording and broadcasting studios up and down Manhattan.
The list of artists Caiola worked with is so long and so star-studded that it becomes a bit mind-numbing. It's safe to say that he worked with just about every other New York musician in these pages, as well as pop artists from Tony Bennett to Andy Williams, and most of the mainstream singers in between.
Among his better known collaborations with a singer is the 1958 Columbia album, Open Fire, Two Guitars, on which he and Mottola, both playing acoustical guitars, accompanied Johnny Mathis on an exceptionally warm and beautiful set of ballads.
Cailoa recorded under his own name on a variety of labels: singles on RCA in the early 1950s, small jazz groups on Savoy in the mid-1950s, but he's best known for his very long string of LPs--mostly covers of then-current hits--on United Artists in the 1960s. His covers of the theme songs from "Bonanza" and "The Magnificent Seven" were top 40 hits in 1960-1. Like the Ventures, though, Caiola's own original tunes were often far more interesting to listen to.
At the same time he was recording under his own name for United Artists, Caiola was arranging and leading the Living Guitars for producer Ethel Gabriel's series of Living groups (Strings, Voices, Marimbas, etc.) on RCA's budget label, Camden. A quick glance at the discography below suggests that like fellow session maniacs Dick Hyman and Phil Kraus, Caiola never left the studio between 1961 and around 1972.
Beginning in the 1980s, Caiola cut back on his schedule and began to take a few touring jobs. In 1985, he was the lead guitarist in the band that accompanied Frank Sinatra on his tour of Europe, and he regularly appears with Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme in their nightclub and concert performances.
Caiola's best album is undoubtedly Sounds for Spies and Private Eyes, which features a stellar Caiola original, "Underwater Swim," that rates as one of the all-time best spy music tunes and has been included on Capitol's Ultra Lounge series of compilation CDs. Most of the other UA albums are worth a listen, and The Power of Brass, which teams Caiola with a Miami-based brass ensemble of the same name, is a terrific example of genuine "now sounds" music.
For more information on Al Caiola and how to arrange for him to play on your next world tour, check out http://www.zyworld.com/AlCaiola.
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