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George Mesterhazy, a singer's pianist, dies at 58

Ron Scott | 4/26/2012, 3:54 p.m.

Mesterhazy had a diverse career that took him around the world as an accompanist for a broad spectrum of people, including headliners Jaye P. Morgan, Bernadette Peters, Anthony Newley, Jack Jones, Bobby Rydell, Chita Rivera and comedian Billy Crystal and jazz personalities Gary Burton, Fran Jeffries, Mark Murphy, Clark Terry, Phil Woods, Steve Gilmore, Red Holloway, Bill Berry, Franky Capp, Les Paul and Karrin Allyson.

Jazz singers flocked to Mesterhazy. He recorded "He Loves, She Loves" with Melanie Rice (Orchard Records) and "Everytime We Say Goodbye" with Lisa Lindsley. Rebecca Parris was more than just a singer to Mesterhazy, they were good friends. Aside from great songs, they loved great jokes.

Mesterhazy came to the United States with his family when they fled Hungary following the country's 1956 revolution. The family originally lived in upstate New York before moving to Somers Point, N.J. He considers himself "a Jersey boy." He played rock guitar and trumpet until he started playing keyboards and moved on from there.

At age 17, he was already leading the house band in the Strand Hotel in Atlantic City. In high school he had a band called the Penthouse Trio. After that, he played piano at the Apartment Lounge and worked during the day at an auto parts store. He was a self-taught pianist whose main influences were Horn, Herbie Hancock and Oscar Peterson.

The Cape May resident played most of the Atlantic City casinos, as well as the long-gone Club Harlem. He was a regular at the annual Cape May Jazz Festival.

Friends and family are establishing the George Mesterhazy Foundation to foster music education, performance and preservation. To learn more about how to make an artistic or financial contribution, email merioninn@aol.com with "GM Foundation" in the subject line.

Mesterhazy was sincere about two things: his music and friends. His giant smile attested to his love for music and humanity. He leaves behind a wealth of music and a lingering friendship for all to remember with joy.

Mesterhazy is survived by Watson; his father, Lajos Mesterhazy; and his four children, Robert and Tanya Mesterhazy and Ben and Dan Thieberger.