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Space Age Music Maker

Irving Joseph

  • Born 3 March 1925, Bronx, New York
  • Died 28 March 2000, Long Island, New York

Irving Joseph spent most of his career in the anonymity of the orchestra pit, but space age pop fans know him for a choice piece of crime jazz titled, Murder, Inc. on Bob Shad's Time label. Murder, Inc. sounds a little like outtakes from the Tijuana strip-joint "source music" in Mancini's great score to Orson Welles' "Touch of Evil." In fact, there's enough of a rocking sax combo feel to Murder, Inc. that Shad reissued it a few years later as Surf Party--My Pad by "The Wedges" in an attempt to cash in on the surf music craze. (Time Records soon went under for the third time, however, to resurface as Mainstream).

Joseph studied piano with Adele Marcus and was enlisted in the U.S. Navy during World War Two, where he served in a fleet band. After the war, he was hired by Tommy Dorsey, but he left the band within a year to settle in New York City. Lena Horne's husband and musical director, Lennie Hayton, hired Joseph as Horne's pianist and main accompanist for a very successful club act, and from that gig, Joseph became acquainted with another singer, Felicia Sanders, whom he later married.

Although he recorded several albums in addition to Murder, Inc., he preferred to work in live performances. He served as conductor for numerous Broadway musicals and plays, including "Jimmy Shine," one of Dustin Hoffman's earliest starring vehicles. He conducted national touring companies of "Chicago!," "Jesus Christ Superstar," and "Seesaw," among others.

After his wife died in 1975, Joseph returned to club work as pianist for Rita Moreno. He later remarried, and went on to work with Moreno for nearly twenty years. He also accompanied Shirley Bassey, Patti Lupone, and other singers, and even worked briefly with Frank Sinatra on one of Sinatra's last tours.


  • Murder, Inc., Time Series 2000 S/2002
  • Cole Porter in Percussion, Time Series 2000 S/2009
  • Greatest Italian Songs, Lion 70072

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