Originally a Julliard-trained bassist playing 2nd chair bassist under Leopold Stokowski, Victor A Labate (1908-1981), known to Bob as “Uncle Willie,” made a career for himself as a jazz musician in his twenties. He played in major jazz big bands including the Jimmy Durante Jazz Band which played in speakeasies during Prohibition, the mid-fifties Tonight Show band in which he played electric guitar, the Copacabana house band, and the Tommy Dorsey Big Band. He settled down when he married Bob’s aunt, and moved to the Bronx. Labate worked a day job, but still had his “Sunday Band” where Jazz greats like Louis Armstrong (d. 1971) and Gene Krupa (d. 1973) would stop by and play at his home. Bob remembers being about 6 years old visiting his uncle’s place and seeing Krupa and Armstrong rehearsing, and once saw the three play at the 1964 World’s Fair. Several years ago, after his uncle had passed away, Bob had the good fortune of discovering his Uncle’s bow in his closet.
Maker Samuel Kolstein was born 1915 and lived to 1999. Before WWII he played piano, accordion and bass in several jazz/big bands himself. (He was a Juilliard graduate majoring in piano.) He started a bass restoration shop in the early 1940s in his apartment in midtown NYC. By 1958 when he moved his shop to Long Island he had a solid reputation as a bowmaker and restorer as well. Kolstein was well-known in the strings community for his personal service, often exceeding the expectations of his customers, despite his hard exterior. He was also an educator, teaching at the Violin Society of America, the Viola Society, the International Society of Bassists, and several colleges throughout the country.