Bob Zurke


Bob Zurke (January 7, 1912 – February 16, 1944) was a significant American jazz pianist, arranger, composer and briefly a bandleader during the Swing Era. Born Boguslaw Albert Zukowski in Hamtramck, Michigan, he was already using the name Bob Zurke professionally by the age of 16 when he first recorded with a group led by pioneering female jazz bassist Thelma Terry. At that time, Zurke also began to work as a copyist for the Detroit-based booking agency run by Jean Goldkette. Through the end of 1936, Zurke worked in various Detroit clubs, mostly as a band pianist, and occasionally went on tour with other groups; it was in this period that Zurke developed a long friendship with pianist Marvin Ash, who would later go on to record some of Zurke's compositions. At the beginning of 1937, Zurke was hired by bandleader Bob Crosby to fill in for Joe Sullivan, then ailing with tuberculosis. It was with Crosby that Zurke gained notice; he contributed arrangements to the band's book and was a featured soloist on several numbers, including his arrangement of Meade Lux Lewis' Honky Tonk Train Blues, which became a hit. In 1938, Bob Zurke was named the winner in the piano category in the Reader's Poll from Down Beat and, in the course of Alan Lomax' Library of Congress interviews, was singled out by Jelly Roll Morton as the only one (jazz pianist of the present time) that has a tendency to be on the right track. In March 1939 Joe Sullivan returned to the Bob Crosby Orchestra and Zurke s...

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