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Leo S. Ball

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Leo S. Ball New York City, N.Y. Leo S. Ball, whose trumpet playing took him from small clubs in the Brockton area to the big bands of the post World War II era and on to a long musical career, died of cancer Dec. 15 in New York City, where he lived. He was 80. Leo played with the Xavier Cugat, Billy May, Perez Prado and Paul Anka orchestras, among others, and served as musical director for Anka. He went on to perform in theaters, studios, jazz clubs and other venues in the New York area, until a few months before his death, becoming one of the city's most respected horn players. He also turned his hand to writing, producing a number of profiles of New York musicians he had known for the newspaper of Local 802, American Federation of Musicians. Leo also administered payroll services for the union since 1990, and at one time, was a contractor in New York, booking players and bands. Leo was raised in the 1930s in an apartment building at Brook and Belmont streets, in what was then, the Italian district of Brockton, Mass., and he counted Rocky Marciano, the late undefeated heavyweight boxing champion, among his close friends. In 1944, he wrote a memoir, "Rocky, Brockton and Me," for World Boxing magazine. Leo was one of several Brockton-born musicians who began their careers at about the same time and who became respected names in the musical world, among them Dick Johnson, who now fronts the Artie Shaw band, and Lou Colombo, the well-known trumpet player who performs and lives on Cape Cod. It was with Dick Johnson and two other musicians that Leo formed a group and first went on the road after the war, playing mostly at Army bases and traveling eventually to the West Coast. On his return to the east, Mr. Ball took the plunge into New York's musical scene and soon had a job with his first band. Charles Ball, of Brockton, said his brother honed his talent with constant practice, "almost to the day he died," and by playing with the best. "He seemed to know every musician in New York and he was widely admired for his ability to play any kind of music and do it extremely well. I always admired his perfectionism and his devotion to his music." "He told me that in the last 10 years or so he had finally reached a level of accomplishment he had been striving for." Mr. Ball was born in Brockton in 1927, a son of Harry and Florence (Yudovitz) Ball. He graduated from Brockton High School in 1944, served in the U.S. Navy in the Pacific area in World War II and attended Northeastern University. In addition to his brother and his brother's wife, Harriet, he is survived by two daughters, Sondra Sherman of St. Augustine, Fla., and Dr. Joanna Ball of Yonkers, N.Y.; a son, Ben Ochart of Glendale, Calif.; five grandchildren; and his former wife, Nancy Marano, of Fort Lee, N.J. Two sons, Ronald and Donald Ball, predeceased him. A memorial service will be held at the Riverside Memorial Chapel, 180 West 76th St., New York City, on Friday, Dec. 21, at 2:15 p.m.
Published in The Enterprise on Dec. 18, 2007
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