Jazzed in Cleveland
a jazz history by Joe Mosbrook
a special WMV Web News Cleveland series

Part 110 - Lou Juliano
Story filed October 6, 2006

Lou Juliano is not a household name in Cleveland jazz. He made his mark in another field. But, it is no exaggeration to say that he was extremely influential in spreading the gospel of music, particularly jazz.

Juliano grew up in the late 1920s and early ‘30s in Cleveland Heights where his father, a native of Italy, owned a shoe store. Lou learned to play the tenor saxophone, and while he was still a student at Cleveland Heights High School, played with jazz bands at clubs at what was then known as "Doan’s Corners." The area around East 105th and Euclid is now part of the University Circle complex. Lou’s jazz idol was Stan Getz and he modeled much of his style after Getz.

During World War II Juliano attended what was then called "Western Reserve University," and often made enough money playing jazz gigs to support himself as a student. He received a bachelor’s degree in 1945 and decided to become a dentist. While continuing to play his saxophone, he went to graduate school. In 1947 Juliano earned a doctorate in dental surgery from the Western Reserve School of Dentistry.

In the 1950s, during the Korean War, he served on active duty in the Navy as a dental officer in Japan, Korea, California and Illinois. When he came home to Cleveland, he opened a dental practice on the second floor of a commercial building near Mayfield and Noble Roads in Cleveland Heights. He became a crown-and-bridge specialist and soon joined the faculty of the Western Reserve University School of Dentistry and served as a respected teacher for more than 50 years.

In the 1960s, he led a jazz band composed of Cleveland dentists who played for a number of professional gatherings and parties at his home. Juliano was a musical contemporary of such important Cleveland jazz musicians as Hank Geer, Hal Lynn, and Tony "Big T" Lovano, the father of Joe Lovano. He often played with them. In fact, many were also his dental patients.

In 1973, Juliano joined Cleveland’s outstanding Hermit Club Concert Jazz Orchestra, a big band led by former Woody Herman band member Bud Wattles. The band consisted of many successful businessmen, some of whom had toured with major national bands, as well as young, aspiring musicians. Some of the younger members in the past have included Chuck Finley, Rick Keifer and Jiggs Whigham. Juliano was often a featured soloist on tenor sax and continued playing with the Hermit Club band for 28 years, until 2001 when he was 77 years old.

Lou and his wife, Betty, also raised five children. They have all been deeply involved in music. Betty was a music teacher and a member of the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus. Their oldest child, Jim, studied with Bill Dobbins and Bill Gidney, and has been an active pianist, composer and arranger. He recently formed a jazz group called "Transportation Boulevard." Jim is also a lawyer and among his clients are the Cleveland Federation of Musicians and a number of individual Cleveland musicians.

Jeff Juliano became a professional drummer and has played around the world with such artists as Harry Connick, Jr., Big Joe Turner, and Otis Rush. For about 20 years, Jeff was based in New Orleans, playing with the variety of bands in a variety of styles. But last year, when Hurricane Katrina swamped New Orleans and all but knocked out the tourist and music scene, he moved back to Cleveland which is now his base of musical operations. But he continues to travel around the world to play.

The third son, Rich Juliano, plays piano, and in the 1980s studied with such Cleveland area pianists as Joe Howard, Eddie Ryan and Ron Smith, as well as with such national jazz names as Cedar Walton, Hal Galper, Barry Harris and Jaki Byard. Now a trade association executive in the Washington area, Rich still plays occasionally around the District of Columbia. When Rich was a student at Gilmore Academy, he became a member of Jazz Impact, the honors high school band at Lakeland Community College, then under the direction of Len Orcino. Last year, when Orcino organized a Jazz Impact Alumni Reunion concert for the Lakeland Jazz Festival, Rich was a featured soloist. In the audience that night was his father, Lou Juliano.

The three sons’ sisters, Jane and Betsy, both studied piano and are great jazz fans. Jane is a lawyer in Washington and Betsy is a business owner and consultant in Cleveland.

In the summer of 1995, the entire Juliano family traveled to Oratino, Italy, a little town on top of a mountain, where Lou Juliano’s father was born and lived before coming to Cleveland in 1911. During their final night there, the whole town, about a thousand people, turned out for a concert by the Cleveland musical family – father Lou on tenor sax, Rich on piano, Jim on bass and Jeff on drums. Rich recalls they played several standards as well as some local favorite Italian songs. "It was amazing," he said, "a musical highlight of our lives."

As a dentist, Dr. Louis J. Juliano served as president of the Greater Cleveland and the Ohio dental societies and in 1995 received the Case School of Dentistry Distinguished Alumnus Award. Even after retiring in 2002 from his private dental practice, which he had moved to the University Suburban Health Center on Green Road, he remained on the faculty of the Case Western Reserve University School of Dentistry.

He also continued playing his saxophone until just a few years ago when he became ill. Whenever his friends commented on how good he looked, he used to say: "There are three stages in life: youth, middle age, and ‘You’re looking good.’"

Juliano, a respected dentist and dental school faculty member, who loved jazz and played frequently with some of Cleveland’s top jazz artists, died August 10, 2006 at the age of 82.

At his funeral, at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Gates Mills, sons Jeff and Rich played some of their father’s favorite tunes as the guests arrived.

While Lou Juliano is gone, his musical legacy lives on through his five children, who, like their father, have managed to combine their love of jazz with their successful professional careers. Lou also had four grandchildren, and I would bet they have already inherited their grandfather’s love of jazz.

Copyright 2006 Joe Mosbrook


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