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Carmen Cavallaro, 76; Among Best of Cafe-Society Pianists

Carmen Cavallaro, considered among the best of the cafe-society pianists who led big bands in the 1940s, died Thursday night in Columbus, Ohio.

He was 76. United Press International reported that he had suffered from cancer and died at Mt. Carmel East Hospital, where he had been since Oct. 5.

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Born in New York City, Cavallaro may best be remembered for his sound track recordings on “The Eddy Duchin Story,” a 1956 film about the life of another highly successful society pianist.

In the film, Cavallaro was heard playing as Tyrone Power in the title role ran synchronized fingers over the keys.

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Ironically, points out George Simon in his book “The Big Bands,” Duchin had been twitted years earlier by members of his own orchestra for not being Cavallaro’s equal on the piano. “Carmen,” as he was known in the early 1930s, was at the time playing in the relief band at New York’s Central Park Casino, where the Duchin band was featured.

Known as the Poet of the Piano, Cavallaro started with the Abe Lyman, Rudy Vallee and Al Kavelin bands in the 1930s and formed his own orchestra in 1939.

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He made several recordings over the years, among them “Warsaw Concerto,” “The More I See You,” “Full Moon and Empty Arms” and, with Bing Crosby, “I Can’t Believe That You’re in Love With Me.”

His other films included “Hollywood Canteen,” “Diamond Horseshoe” and “The Time, the Place and the Girl.”

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