Golden Oldies

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Golden Oldies is a collection of partial studies of highly skilled musicians who are performing in public beyond the age of 90. Its ultimate focus is to identify both cognitive and physical factors contributing to the preservation of musical memory.

Subjects are identified by initials only. Materials found here are not available for re-use without express written permission of the subjects or their next of kin.


Roberta Mandel

Roberta Mandel (29 December 1920 - 5 September 2017) performed as a jazz pianist for 75 years. She was also an arranger and composer. She had a special gift for transcribing arrangements found in recordings. She also adapted band numbers for solo piano. She held two degrees from the California State University at San Francisco. She claimed that her extensive knowledge of harmony came from her study of classical music. Her first teacher was her mother, a pianist.

Mandel's longest engagement was with the 18-member Junius Courtney Big Band, which was noted for its arrangements. She played with the group for 32 years. She is the rightmost figure in the Big Band photo (2011). Mandel was the first female pianist to sit in with Count Basie's band. Her 1982 transcription of Billy Strayhorn's "Blood Count" from the Duke Ellington Orchestra's recording is preserved in the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian. No copies of her book of compositions, Jazz Tunes for Friends, from 2001 are publicly accessible.

This memoir from Jazz Now appeared in 1990.