Harry Aaron Finkelman (May 26, 1914 – June 26, 1968), better known by the stage name Ziggy Elman, was a Jewish American jazz trumpeter most associated with Benny Goodman, though he also led his own Ziggy Elman and His Orchestra.
He was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, but his family settled in Atlantic City when he was four. His father was a violinist who had hoped he would play violin as well. Although he learned to play the violin, Harry preferred the brass instruments. He began playing for Jewish weddings and nightclubs at age 15, and in 1932 had his first recording where he played trombone. At some point in the decade he adopted the name Ziggy Elman. Elman is a shortening of Finkelman while "Ziggy" is believed to be a reference to Florenz Ziegfeld.
He joined the Benny Goodman orchestra as a trumpet player in 1936. His 1939 composition "And the Angels Sing" with lyrics by Johnny Mercer (originally recorded by his own band as an instrumental, "Frailach In Swing", in December 1938) became the number one song in the nation. In 1956, he was asked to recreate his famous frailach solo along with the original vocalist Martha Tilton for the movie, The Benny Goodman Story but was unable to, his technique having since withered away. Another trumpeter, Manny Klein, played the solo on the soundtrack, but Elman appeared performing it in the film. This song is, arguably, his longest-lasting musical legacy since it has appeared in films up to 1997 and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1987. After his work with Goodman he joined Tommy Dorsey's band and also played as a member of the military during the war. He loved frailach music, later known as klezmer, and made a few recordings of such with Mickey Katz. In the period from 1940 to 1947 he was honored in Down Beat magazine readers poll six times. He led his own bands starting in 1947.
By the 1950s big bands had declined and for a time he switched to entertainment work. In this decade he appeared in films mostly as himself. In 1956 he had a heart-attack which curtailed his musical career. By the end of the 1950s he had to work for a car dealership and was financially ruined. In 1961 it was revealed at an alimony hearing that he was virtually bankrupt. He later worked in a music store and taught trumpet to some up-and-coming musicians. He died in 1968 at 54 and was buried at Mount Sinai Memorial Park Cemetery.
- ↑ The Rough Guide to Jazz
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