Ziggy Elman

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Ziggy Elman
Benny Goodman rehearsal NYWTS.jpg
Ziggy Elman with Benny Goodman (third from left) and some of Goodman's former musicians in 1952. Left to right: Vernon Brown, George Auld, Goodman, Gene Krupa, Clint Neagley, Elman, Israel Crosby, and Teddy Wilson (at piano)
Background information
Birth nameHarry Aaron Finkelman
Born(1914-05-26)May 26, 1914
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
DiedJune 26, 1968(1968-06-26) (aged 54)
Los Angeles, California
GenresJazz, swing
Years active1930s–1950s
Associated actsBenny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey

Harry Aaron Finkelman (May 26, 1914 – June 26, 1968), known professionally as Ziggy Elman, was an American jazz trumpeter associated with Benny Goodman, though he also led his group Ziggy Elman and His Orchestra.

Early years[edit]

Elman was born in Philadelphia, but his family settled in Atlantic City, New Jersey when he was four. His father was a violinist who had hoped Elman would play violin. Although he did learn to play violin, he preferred brass instruments. He began playing for Jewish weddings and nightclubs at age 15.


In 1932 made his first recording, playing the trombone. At some point in the decade he adopted the name "Ziggy Elman". Elman is a shortening of Finkelman. In 1936 Elman joined the Benny Goodman orchestra as a trumpet player after playing briefly with Alex Bertha's local big band at Steel Pier in Atlantic City, where Goodman heard him and was impressed. His 1939 composition "And the Angels Sing" with lyrics by Johnny Mercer (recorded in December 1938 by his own band as an instrumental, "Frailach in Swing" based on the 1918 recording of "Der Shtiller Bulgar" (The quiet Bulgar) by Abe Schwartz) became the number one song in the nation. In 1956 he was asked to recreate his famous klezmer solo[which?] along with the original vocalist Martha Tilton for the movie, the Benny Goodman Story, but was unable to, his technique having since withered away. Elman appeared performing it in the film, but another trumpeter, Manny Klein, played the solo on the soundtrack.[1]

After his work with Goodman, Elman joined Tommy Dorsey's band and also played as a member of the military during the war. He loved frailach music, later known as klezmer, and made a few recordings of such with Mickey Katz. In the period from 1940 to 1947 he was honored in Down Beat magazine's Readers Poll six times.[2] He led his own bands from 1947.

Later years[edit]

By the 1950s, the music had changed. Big bands had declined and for a time he switched to entertainment work. In this decade he appeared in films mostly as himself. In 1956 he had a heart attack, curtailing his music career. By the end of the 1950s he was financially ruined and had to work for a car dealership. In 1961 it was revealed at an alimony hearing that he was virtually bankrupt. He later worked in a music store and taught trumpet to some up-and-coming musicians. He died in 1968 at 54 and was buried at Mount Sinai Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles.


With Tommy Dorsey

  • What Is This Thing Called Love? (1942-Victor 27782)[3]

With Benny Goodman


  1. ^ The Rough Guide to Jazz
  2. ^ [1] Archived October 26, 2005, at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ Orodenker, M.H. (February 28, 1942). "On the Records". Billboard. p. 25.

External links[edit]