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Tony Rizzi; Jazz Guitarist, Performer With Kenton Band

June 06, 1992

Trefoni (Tony) Rizzi, jazz guitarist who performed with Stan Kenton and other well-known bands and popularized the work of pioneer guitarist Charlie Christian, has died. He was 69.

Rizzi died Tuesday of a severe head injury suffered during a fall at his Huntington Beach home, his wife, Laurel, said Friday. She said he underwent emergency brain surgery at Hoag Memorial Medical Center in Newport Beach, but that he never regained consciousness.

A native of Los Angeles, Rizzi studied violin for 11 years and switched to trumpet. He eventually played all string instruments and spent several years as a staff musician for NBC. He also performed with Boyd Raeburn, Milt DeLugg, Alvy West and Les Brown.

In 1973, Rizzi organized and toured with four other guitarists, interpreting harmonized versions of the compositions of Christian. The nine-piece band recorded the album "Tony Rizzi and His Five Guitars Plus Four Play Charlie Christian."

Times jazz critic Leonard Feather, reviewing the group when it performed at Donte's, wrote: "Rizzi has done a remarkable job not only of research and elongation, but also of finding compatible men who could read and interpret these complex lines."

Feather quipped that the group Rizzi called his "wire choir" might be billed "Guitars Galore."

In addition to his wife, Rizzi is survived by two daughters, Teresa and Gina, two brothers and three grandchildren.

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