David (Bosco) Danford, 1961-2005

NEW YORK The musician and songwriter David Danford, known to friends and associates as "Bosco", died Tuesday, June 28, in Brooklyn, following a lengthy illness. Danford was born March 23, 1961 in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, the youngest of four sons of Thomas Danford, a Brooklyn police officer, and his wife, Beatrice, a homemaker. A precocious child with a humorous, quick wit, Danford sang in the choir and was an altar boy at St. Cyril & Methodius Church, prior to graduating from Archbishop Malloy High School, in 1979.

Having taught himself bass guitar in order to participate in the Lower East Side's punk rock movement, he joined the punk group UXA, with whom he traveled to Los Angeles in 1980. When the group broke up, he was recruited by future Nirvana guitarist Pat Smear to join the Darby Crash Band. The band was together only a few months before lead singer Crash (formerly of L.A. punk band the Germs) committed suicide with a heroin overdose, addressing his suicide note to Bosco. Returning to New York, Bosco became part of the early-1980s scene at 171 Avenue A, an improvised storefront studio and performance space where groups such as the Bad Brains and the Beastie Boys made their first recordings.

Friends since childhood with two of the Beastie Boys, Michael (Mike D) Diamond and Adam (MCA) Yauch, Bosco led two groups in the 1980s that included Diamond as the drummer. The first of these groups, a Beatles- and Bowie-influenced rock band called Big Fat Love, grew out of jam sessions held at a dilapidated Upper West Side building called the "Hell House", and featured ex-Beastie Boy bassist John Berry, and slide guitarist Eric Hubel. A CD entitled "Hell House" (with Erik Talbert replacing Diamond on drums on some later recordings) was released on the Beasties' Grand Royal label, in 1997.

In the mid 1980s, Bosco encountered early jazz, in particular, the music of Louis Armstrong, King Oliver, Jelly Roll Morton, and Fletcher Henderson. He obtained a cornet and began leading a punk-influenced traditional jazz band, the Flophouse Society Orchestra, in 1986. The group included Diamond on drums, as well as future Black 47 trombonist Fred Parcells, Hubel on banjo, and Jay Wasco on piano. (Trombonist Jeff Baker later replaced Parcells.) The raucous, yet surprisingly orthodox band was an instant hit with the irony-craving downtown party crowd at venues such as Odeon and MK. A later incarnation of the group included alto saxophonist Sandra Koponen, trombonist Greg Robinson, and drummer Talbert, in addition to Hubel and Wasco; this lineup enjoyed a weekly engagement at the Ludlow Street Café in the summer of 1989.

In 1987, the same year that the Clash's Mick Jones produced studio sessions for Big Fat Love, Danford married Catherine Costes, a beautiful French airline worker. In 1991, he broke up the Flophouse Society Orchestra and moved with his wife to Fort-de-France on the Caribbean island of Martinique, where he played trumpet in marching and zouk bands. After separating from Catherine and returning to New York in 1998, he found work as a mailroom supervisor in a midtown Manhattan office building, and studied trumpet and music theory with jazz greats Jimmy Owens and Dr. Donald Byrd. A proud Catholic, he also took an interest in the esoteric Christianity of G.I. Gurdjieff, and participated in a Gurdjieff study group.

He returned to performing in the late 1990s, debuting new songs with Big Fat Love at Coney Island High and other downtown venues. He released a solo CD, "Bosco's Tales of Greenpernt Fiddlin'", on his own Dave and Confused label, in 2001 (reissued a year later on Ratcage Records). In 2002, he formed a sextet to perform arrangements of traditional songs he had learned in Martinique as well as tunes by his trumpet idol, Lee Morgan, songs by the French pop star Serge Gainsbourg, and his own jazz and pop originals. When that group failed to take off, he joined Robinson's trio for weekly gigs at the East Village jazz bar Louis, in 2004. According to friend and producer Paul Stark, Bosco had nearly completed a second solo CD, at the time of his passing. Music from these sessions is available for download from a memorial web site, www.supersoulsound.com/bosco.

A connoisseur of life's finer things, as well as a battle-scarred veteran of its lowest depths, Bosco's death at 44 seemed an unjust reward for a life spent trying to open the eyes of those around him to life's greater possibilities, a mission he accomplished with humor, love, and impeccable artistic taste. He is survived by his wife, Catherine Danford, of Fort-de-France, Martinique; and his mother and two brothers, Kevin and Tommy, of Brooklyn. A funeral mass for David Danford was held Friday, July 1 at St. Cyril & Methodius Church, in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, and burial took place at St. Charles' Cemetery in Farmingdale, Long Island.

- Greg Robinson

 

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