Jazz great Page Cavanaugh dies

Trio was a popular Southern California nightclub act

Veteran jazz musician Page Cavanaugh, whose popular trio bearing his name was a Los Angeles staple for decades, died Dec. 19 of kidney failure at a nursing home in Granada Hills, Calif. He was 86.

Cavanaugh, a pianist, composer, arranger and conductor, initially formed his celebrated trio with guitarist Al Viola and bassist Lloyd Pratt when they were serving in the U.S. Signal Corp. Their "whispering" vocal style became their signature.

When the threesome left the service, they almost immediately appeared on the Kay Kyser radio show and were booked in top Los Angeles nightclubs like Ciro's. Frank Sinatra heard them and took them to New York to appear at the Waldorf-Astoria and on his Old Gold Tobacco "Songs of Sinatra" radio show, where they also accompanied Jane Powell.

Columnist Walter Winchell said that "when the Page Cavanaugh Trio arrived in New York in l947, it was the greatest thing since kissing."

A move to Hollywood resulted in the trio being featured in such 1948 films as "Romance on the High Seas" with Doris Day, "A Song Is Born," "Big City" and "Jingle, Jangle, Jingle." They recorded numerous sides with Day as well as with Sinatra, Peggy Lee, Johnny Desmond, Connie Haines and other singers of the era.

Viola and Pratt left the trio in the late 1940's, Viola going with Sinatra, with whom he was associated for more than 30 years. After his musical partners changed over the years, Cavanaugh's latest collaboration for 18 years was with bassist Phil Mallory. Their chart hits included "The Three Bears" and "She Had to Go and Lose It at the Astor."

Cavanaugh also was a frequent guest on television, appearing on shows including "The Ed Sullivan Show" and "The Tonight Show."

After years of touring, the Page Cavanaugh Trio became a regular part of the Los Angeles music scene. Cavanaugh opened his own club in Studio City, and the trio later played on Thursday nights for more than a decade in Newport Beach. Their last appearance there was in 2007.

Cavanaugh never married, and no immediate family survives.