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Richard K. Griffo, jazz saxophonist, music educator; Sept. 20, 1948 -- May 30, 2012

Richard K. "Dick" Griffo, a leading local jazz tenor saxophonist and music educator, died May 30 in Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital, Amherst, after a battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 63.

Mr. Griffo, who had toured with the Woody Herman and Tommy Dorsey bands, was a mainstay of area jazz ensembles and served as mentor to generations of young players.

Jazz keyboardist and composer Emilio Palame said Mr. Griffo was "an inspiration to me and helped me more than anyone to make the transition from a young dreamer to an accepted member of Buffalo's high-level jazz scene. By your example, you taught me and those around you to give 110 percent all the time, no matter what the gig or the circumstances."

Born in Buffalo, Mr. Griffo attended School 76 and was a graduate of Grover Cleveland High School. He studied music with noted local instructor John Sedola.

Upon graduating from the University at Buffalo as a music major, he joined the Army and played in the U.S. Army Jazz Ambassadors, a touring orchestra based in Washington, D.C.

Returning from service, he played with the Herman and Dorsey bands, the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra under Michael Tilson Thomas and in bands in Las Vegas with Keely Smith and Michel Legrand, as well as Sam Butera and the Witnesses. He also appeared with the Philharmonic in its pops series and was part of the Lewiston Jazz Project, which gives summertime concerts in Hennepin Park.

He taught music students for many years at Alder Creek Music in Wheatfield, where he led a famous Saturday jam session for groups of 20 or more players of all ages and abilities.

For the past several years, he played saxophone and flute weekly with pianist Krista Seddon in the Trinity @ 7 gatherings on Sunday evenings in Trinity Episcopal Church in downtown Buffalo. He also played for the church's Sunday morning services.

Surviving are his wife of 23 years, the former Judith Korzie; a stepdaughter, Gina Alessandra; a stepson, Dominic LaBarber; and a brother, Frank J. Jr.

A memorial service will be at 7 p.m. June 24 in Trinity Episcopal Church, 371 Delaware Ave.

[ANDERSON]