Dick Twardzik

Pianist Richard Twardzik remains one of the most tragic cautionary tales in the annals of jazz -- a gifted and original bop pianist on the precipice of international renown, he died of a heroin overdose at the age of just 24.

Born April 30, 1931, in Danvers, MA, Twardzik was a classically trained child prodigy who studied under Madame Chaloff, the mother of the famed baritone saxophonist Serge Chaloff; he began his professional career at 14 playing the Boston nightclub circuit, and later attended the New England Conservatory. While still in his teens, he also acquired the heroin addiction that would ultimately end his life.

Twardzik made his recorded debut on the December 1951 sessions that yielded alto saxophonist Charlie Mariano's Boston All Stars; the following spring, he appeared on an unreleased Serge Chaloff date, and in late 1952 backed saxophone giant Charlie Parker during an...

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