Larry Vuckovich

Larry Vuckovich was a Yugoslavian born in Kotor on December 8, 1936. In 1951, he arrived in San Francisco at the heights of the thriving bop jazz scene. He was classically trained, but he became a passionate jazz fan thanks to Armed Forces Radio. He began going to clubs such as the Blackhawk or the Jazz Workshop where he heard greats like Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Dizzy Gillespie. He met Cal Tjader at the Blackhawk and Vince Guaraldi at the Jazz Workshop. Guaraldi was his only student in jazz piano. He taught him jazz piano. He was also studying music at San Francisco State University during this time, where John Handy was an important influence on the jazz program. Handy also collaborated with students and brought in visiting musicians, such as Milt Jackson, Rahsaan Rod Kirk, Mickey Roker or Bob Cranshaw. Vuckovich started his professional career with Brew Moore, a tenor saxophonist. In 1960, he began to sub for Guaraldi with the help of Irene Kral and David Allyn. He also performed around this time with Handy and Monk Montgomery as an instrumentalist. He met Mel Torme in 1963, while accompanying him. This was the beginning of a musical relationship that led to his being first-call pianist for San Francisco. Vuckovich formed a long-lasting association with Jon Hendricks, the singer and lyricist. He appeared at major festivals and clubs around the world, and also performed in the well-known musical stage production Evolution of the Blues. He was the leader of the Domicile’s house band in Munich, Germany, in the late 1960s. He accompanied visiting jazz stars like Pony Poindexter and Clifford Jordan. He accompanied Buddy Tate and Charles McPherson as well as Leon Thomas, Buddy Tate and Eddie “Cleanhead”, Vinson, Scott Hamilton, and many others until the club’s closure in 1983. He moved to New York in 1985 and appeared at all major jazz clubs. Vuckovich, who is a mainstay of the San Francisco Bay jazz scene, returned to the Bay in 1990. Vuckovich was the music director of the West Coast Jazz Festival and Napa Valley Jazz Festival. He also played at Pearl’s and Yoshi’s and performed at concerts at the Herbst Theater, Palo Alto Jazz Alliance, and the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society near Half Moon Bay. Vuckovich presented a piano clinic that featured the music of Bill Evans and Bud Powell at the 2005 International Association for Jazz Education convention. With his wife Sanna Craig, he resides in the Napa Valley, Calistoga, north San Francisco. He is also a member of the Blue Balkan, Young at Heart and La Orquesta el Vuko bands. He has also collaborated with John Heard and Jules Broussard.

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