Playing drums was the elixir of life for Lou Marino, one of the giants of Buffalo jazz.
In recent years, despite declining health, he was rejuvenated when the music started.
“When he played the drums,” his wife JoAnn says, “he never felt out of breath and he always had energy.”
His last performance was in August. He was scheduled to play two weekends ago in “An Evening of J.J. and Kai,” when he would have relived his youthful artistry with Kai Winding’s acclaimed big band in the 1950s, but he was hospitalized.
“It was very disappointing to him,” his wife says. “He was very, very looking forward to it. He had all kinds of jobs booked.”
Marino died last Friday in Buffalo General Medical Center. He was 80.
Louis D. Marino was born Nov. 17, 1936, in Brooklyn and came to Buffalo with his family as a toddler. His father was a saxophone and clarinet player who played briefly with Paul Whiteman’s band and led his own group in Buffalo.
He learned to love drumming from his family’s Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich records. Drums were his Christmas presents.
In first grade, he wrote in a biographic sketch, he convinced his teacher that he could play a drum cadence for his classmates as they marched around the room and pledged allegiance to the flag.
By third grade, he was in the school orchestra and taking lessons with John Roland, principal drummer with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra.
When he was 9, he became best friends with young saxophonist Don Menza. They listened to jazz records, jammed and played in Menza’s group, the Mellow Tones. As young teens, Mr. Marino recalled, they performed in night clubs six and seven nights a week.
In his sophomore year at Hutchinson Central High School, he got his father’s blessing to tour with the Al Belletto Sextet, a jazz group based in New Orleans. He returned to Buffalo a year later and began teaching drums at a music store owned by John Sedola, who was Menza’s teacher.
Then he was called one night to be a last-minute substitute on drums for saxophonist James Moody at a Buffalo club. Bandleader Kai Winding dropped in to see Moody that weekend and hired Mr. Marino on the spot for a new band he was organizing.
He toured the nation’s major jazz venues with Winding from 1956 to 1958, then stayed in New York City, picking up dates, including a short tour with Billie Holiday.
Returning to Buffalo, he married the former JoAnn Destro in 1959 and moved to Las Vegas, where he appeared in lounges with Billy Eckstine, Jackie and Roy, and the Kirby Stone Four until he was drafted into the Army. Assigned to a base in Augusta, Ga., he played with the 1st Army Band and a 16-piece band within the band that played the officers’ club. He also started a jazz quintet and played clubs around Augusta.
After his discharge, he came back to Buffalo, played in the house band at the Palace Burlesk and worked clubs around the city with Menza, Sam Noto and other local and touring jazz notables.
In 1964, he returned to the road, this time with the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra, led by Lee Castle, which he described as “one of the greatest experiences because I read the original book (of arrangements).”
“After two years of living on a bus and traveling 100 miles a day to the next town,” he wrote, “I decided to go back to Buffalo and raise my family. I started teaching at Mr. Sedola’s music store once again, and then started a studio of my own.”
Mr. Marino taught for more than three decades at Buffalo Music School. He also taught part time at the University at Buffalo and directed the UB Jazz Combo for eight years. A number of his students have gone on to successful careers in music.
He told an interviewer a few years ago, “Drums are a musical instrument. ... You play with tonality, you don’t just play with a lot of noise.”
He also continued performing – in clubs, at Buffalo Philharmonic pops concerts, at Melody Fair and for more than 30 years on the Variety Kids Telethon.
He was inducted into the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame in 2001.
In addition to his wife, survivors include a daughter, Cheryl Marino-Schlueter; a sister, Carmella Riggio; and a granddaughter.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday in St. Mark’s Catholic Church, 401 Woodward Ave.