Harold J. Lieberman of Woodstock, NY – for decades a first-call studio trumpet player in New York, a versatile performer, jazz educator, wonderful storyteller, Yankee fan and family man died September 16 2020 of natural causes. He was 89.
He was the beloved husband for 61 years of Toby (Gershon) Lieberman. Born in Hartford, CT, he was the son of Jechiel Lieberman and Jennie (Steingart) Lieberman. Harold graduated from Weaver High School in Hartford in 1949, and at 17 became Principal Trumpet for the Hartford Symphony. He joined the Air Force in 1952, serving with the 730th Air Force Band at McGuire AFB in Trenton NJ before his honorable discharge in 1956 with a National Defense Service Medal.
He moved to New York earning a B.S. in Trumpet from Julliard in 1959, followed in 1960 by a Master’s in Music Education from Columbia University Teacher’s College. His studio work included many movies, TV shows, commercials, recordings with legends such as Laura Nyro and Free Design and Broadway shows including How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying and Purlie. In 1962 he toured with Benny Goodman, his idol growing up. A widely respected improviser, he frequently performed in jazz bands including ones led by Gerry Mulligan, Urbie Green, and Doc Severinsen. But he comfortably transcended genres and in 1970 performed with Pink Floyd at the Fillmore East. Harold became staff trumpeter for CBS TV and Radio in 1967. He was featured on Arthur Godfrey Time, a weekday radio show where he soloed in a song written for him by band leader Gerry Alters: “The Love Call of Harold J. Lieberman.” He also performed with the CBS Symphony and on The Ed Sullivan Show, The Carol Burnett Show, and You Are There, a Saturday morning TV show hosted by Walter Cronkite. In addition to his CBS and studio work, he led his own band, Jazz Impact, whose members included his friend, tennis partner and renowned pianist Derek Smith. In his April 4, 1971 concert at Carnegie Recital Hall, entitled “Music of the Baroque and Contemporary,” Harold premiered Joseph Turin’s first composition for trumpet, Elegy, and Richard Peaslee’s Nightsongs, now a staple of the instrument’s repertoire. The following year he joined Ramapo College of NJ, helping to turn the institution into a respected center for jazz education with guest classes and concerts from performers including Maynard Ferguson, Buddy Rich, Toots Thieleman, Gerry Mulligan, Woody Herman, Lionel Hampton, and Bill Waltrous.
Harold became a full Professor in 1977 and also taught at the Mannes College and the Manhattan School of Music before 2000 when he retired. As Professor Emeritus, Harold — a gifted storyteller — gave frequent lectures on the history of jazz, and wrote music criticism in Sanibel, Fla, where he and his wife spent winters for 10 years.
Harold is survived by his wife Toby who wrote a memoir of their years together, The Love Call of Harold J. Lieberman; his daughter Rhonda of Riverdale, NY; and his son Aaron, also a gifted musician, of Germantown, NY. He is also survived by cherished grandchildren, Milo and Delilah and his nephew David Lieberman of NYC and niece Debra Lieberman of Santa Barbara, CA. He was predeceased by brothers Milton and Benjamin Lieberman.
A celebration of his life will be held at a future date. In lieu of flowers, donations in his memory may be made to MusicCares or The Musician’s Foundation.