Larry Vuckovich was born in Kotor, Yugoslavia. Classically trained as a child, he was drawn to the jazz music that he heard on Armed Forces Radio and Voice of America during World War II. When Tito‘s communists took his home and imprisoned his father and brother, jazz came to symbolize freedom. In 1951, when he was 14, his family was granted political asylum in the United States. When they arrived in San Francisco they found a flourishing jazz scene. At the Black Hawk club, Vuckovich met Cal Tjader’s pianist, Vince Guaraldi, who adopted him as his only piano student. Vuckovich joined a two-piano quintet and became the first-call pianist for vocalists Irene Kral, David Allyn, and Mel Tormé.
Vuckovich began a 25-year association with Jon Hendricks . They made two recordings and toured in North America and Europe. At The Domicile, in Munich, he played with such artists as Lucky Thompson, Slide Hampton, Pony Poindexter, and Clifford Jordan. He worked with European trumpeter Dusko Goykoyich and became a member of his International Quintet, recording a live album. He performed with drum master Philly Joe Jones and toured with Dexter Gordon, appearing at the Montmartre jazz club. He performed at festivals at Jazz Ost/West Nuremberg, Cologne, Berlin, Vienna, Bologna, Lugano, Pescara, and Ljubljana.
Vuckovich worked with Philly Joe at Todd Barkan’s Keystone Korner, where he also played with jazz legends Arnett Cobb, Buddy Tate, Charles McPherson, Leon Thomas, Scott Hamilton and Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson. He recorded for Concord Records, Hot House, Inner City Records, and Palo Alto Jazz. In 2000, Vuckovich started his own label, Tetrachord Music, producing six highly successful CDs.
Vuckovich appeared at all major jazz clubs in New York, including Village Vanguard, Blue Note, Bradley’s Zinno, West End, and Hanratty’s. He worked with Billy Higgins, Cecil Payne, Al Cohn, Curtis Fuller, Milt Hinton, Mel Lewis, Michael Moore, Tom Harrell, and Charles McPherson. His two shows in the PBS Club Date jazz series received a New York Times critique as being “well worth tuning in for.” The series is archived in the U.S. Library of Congress.
He has performed at the San Francisco, Monterey and San Jose jazz festivals, the Aspen/Sonoma Jazz Festival and the Palo Alto Jazz Alliance, and at Yoshi’s, Jazz at Pearl’s, Herbst Theater, The Bach Beach House, Napa Valley Opera House, COPIA, Kimball’s East and Kimball’s West. He has recently appeared at European festivals at La Teste de Buch, Silda, Basel, Belgrade, and Bankiya.
Vuckovich was honored as a “Jazz Legend” by the Fillmore Jazz Heritage Center in San Francisco along with such greats as Eddy and Vernon Alley, Willie Bobo, Vince Guaraldi, Paul Desmond, Bop City’s Jimbo Edwards, John Handy, Noel Jewkes, Frank Jackson, Jon Hendricks, Bobby Hutcherson, Pat Nacey, Cal Tjader, and Allen Smith. Larry’s birthday, December 8th, was proclaimed Larry Vuckovich Day.
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