given name Jack Fina
birth August 13, 1913, Passaic, NJ
death May 14, 1970, Sherman Oaks, CA, heart attack
education New York College of Music, New York City (where he studied with August
Fraemcke and Elsa Nicilini)
membership ASCAP, 1948-
In the late summer of 1946, Fina left Martin and organized his own group, which opened at the Claremont Hotel in Berkeley, CA that fall.
Other spots where they performed included Elitch’s Gardens in Denver; the Chase Hotel in St. Louis; the Balinese Room in Galveston, TX; and the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City.
Though well-received, he never quite reached the level of fame to which some other leaders had risen during the height of the big bands.
Fina made two dozen sides for Mercury in 1946-47 (the first were just his piano with rhythm accompaniment), then he switched to MGM in 1947, for whom he recorded with 14 to 16-piece ensembles into 1954.
Actress Debbie Reynolds made one record with his orchestra, Oops!, on October 29, 1951.
By reducing the size of his group as the '50s went on, Fina continued to find steady employment.
Most notably, he worked in the Persian Room of the Beverly Hills Hotel in California from 1960-68, as leader of a trio which included Nick Pelico on drums.
Between 1960 and 1966, Fina did four albums for Dot Records, “Jack Fina Plays Boogie Woogie” (DLP 25243), “Kitten On the Keys” (DLP 25268), “Great Hits in Boogie Woogie” (DLP 25374), and “More Great Hits in Boogie Woogie” (DLP 25719). As expressed by the album titles, his material ranged from boogie and perennial piano favorites to, on the last LP, newer pop songs such as The Shadow of Your Smile, Spanish Eyes, King of the Road, and Cast Your Fate to the Wind.
In the spring of 1970, Fina returned to the Beverly Hills Hotel, but this time, the engagement came to a sad end with his sudden death.
Charles Garrod, Freddy Martin and His Orchestra (Zephryhills, FL: Joyce Record Club,
“Fina, Jack,” in The ASCAP Biographical Dictionary, Fourth Edition (New York City: R.R.
Bowker Company, 1980), p.156.
Michael Ruppli and Ed Novitsky, The Mercury Labels: A Discography, Volume I
The 1945-1956 Era (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1993).
---, The MGM Labels: A Discography, Volume I 1946-1960 (Westport, CT: Greenwood
Leo Walker, “Jack Fina,” in The Big Band Almanac (New York City: Da Capo Press, 1989),
I would like to expand this tribute with, if possible, a new interview of someone who was important to Jack Fina's life or career. Are you an alumnus of his band, a member of his family, or a collector who is knowledgeable about his accomplishments? Please contact me via e-mail
"RHAPSODY IN BLUE"
by Music Librarian CHRISTOPHER POPA
His were once called “the ten most talented fingers in radio.”
Joining Freddy Martin’s orchestra in 1935 as pianist proved to be a smart move, offering nationwide exposure as a member of Martin's fine band which played to appreciative crowds over the radio, on recordings, and at high-class locations including the Cocoanut Grove of the Ambassador Hotel in Hollywood, the Ritz Carlton in New York City, and the St. Francis in San Francisco.
When Martin began in 1941 heavily featuring his big band adaptations of classical compositions, the lion’s share of the solos went to Fina.
Such pieces as Tonight We Love, the Grieg Piano Concerto, Warsaw Concerto, Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto #2, and Bumble Boogie all showcased Fina at the keyboard.