by Lola Rossi-Meza


Pianist, vocalist, composer and arranger, Patrick Tuzzolino, performs every Wednesday through Saturday at Castelli’s Ristorante located at 73-098 Highway 111 in Palm Desert. (760) 773-3365.


Born and raised in New York City, Patrick Tuzzolino was supposed to be a roofer in the family roofing business, who knew he would venture off to become a full time musician? There was always music in the family home. “My mother and father loved to dance. My father would sing and play guitar and all of my brothers sang and played guitar, for fun,” said Tuzzolino, “I started out playing guitar and singing when I was ten years old, I performed in a school play and I played football in high school.”


In the mid 70s and early 80s, he spent time playing guitar, singing and writing lyrics to songs made famous by Charlie Parker, performing in New York and Connecticut with pianist Kenny Kirkland, of the Tonight Show, and jazz drummer Alvin Queen, who tours with many great artists, including Oscar Peterson, before he passed away.

Tuzzolino was one of the first musicians to take pop tunes and put them to jazz arrangements. A perfect example of that talent would be his outstanding arrangement of “Way of the World” originally performed by Earth, Wind and Fire.


At the suggestion of a close friend, Tuzzolino came out to California to audition for the television show Star Search. His first night in Los Angeles, the day before the audition, he stopped by Carmello’s and made history performing with Ray Brown on bass, Teddy Edwards on saxophone, The Condoli Brothers, Pete and Conti on trumpet, Ross Tompkins on piano and Eddie Shaughnessy on drums. “All these guys were part of the Tonight Show Band. I was asked to sing and I sang “Cloud Burst”. I  didn’t realize who they were at the time.” What an evening that must have been.


“I had been performing for years, but became serious about playing the piano when I moved to Los Angeles. I was working at the Nucleus Nuance Restaurant opening clams and they needed a piano player for the cocktail hour. They asked me if I could play the piano, and I said I could, but I really didn’t. I learned how to play on the job basically. While I was learning how to play, they used me in shows performing with guys like Bruno Carr, Teddy Edwards and Larry Gayles.” It was during this time he really got his start and met many people in the music business. “This was a high point in my life, it was amazing.”


In 1991, he headlined in Las Vegas at the Aladdin Hotel Casino with slide trombone player Carl Fontana opposite Sam Butera on saxophone, who was the player for all the Louie Prima and Keely Smith music. While in Las Vegas, he met pianist, composer and arranger Dennis Michaels and vocalist and producer Bobby Milano, who invited him to Palm Springs where he first met Pat Rizzo.  The rest is history.


Tuzzolio sang and  co-wrote many TV commercials with composer Michael Sherwood, “a genius, in my opinion.” Together they did the first EBay Campaign, “When You Do It, EBay” which won the prestigious MADDY Award in 2002, along with many other commercials you would remember.


He recorded his first CD “Spirit Of One” in 1998, followed by “Eclection” released in 2001 and his third in 2007 “Live At Vibrato” available for viewing on YouTube. While Keely Smith was recording her CD, “Swing, Swing, Swing”, Tuzzolino played guitar on the CD and sang background vocals.  Before Michaels finished arranging the charts for the CD, Tuzzolino introduced them to a song called “Palm Springs Jump”, a song they had never heard before. As a matter of fact, thanks to him, it is on the CD and has brought worldwide attention to Palm Springs.


The song was written by Slim Gaylard and Slam Stuart a while back, however, Tuzzolino would play guitar in the Wayne Powers Band, “Hoy Polloi” one of his favorite bands. “Wayne would sing the song during our performances, and I always loved the song. I was so glad they decided to include it on the CD. I have to say, it is my favorite song on the CD.”


Recording artist Jack Jones included two songs written by Tuzzolino and trumpeter Carl Saunders on his latest CD entitled, “Love Ballad” which is the title track and one of the songs, along with “Speaking Softly”.  “I was thrilled to have my lyrics brought to life by such an incredible artist and friend.” Tuzzolino toured with Jones at Feinstein’s in New York, the South Point Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas and at the Andy Williams Theater in Branson, ironically, the same week Williams passed away.


Tuzzolino made the move to Palm Springs in November of 2011, where he continues to perform at Castelli’s, now in his third season. “Practice, practice, practice. Love what you do, play for the art of it, not just what you can get from it.”