As one of Mike’s closest friends for more than sixty years, I’ve felt that I should express my feelings and share it with the rest of Motif’s readers. He was an inductee to the Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame.
Mike Renzi was among the top international jazz accompanists in the musical world. He owed his success to his mother, who convinced him, to give up playing in the streets with his friends… and practice the piano.
And practice he did.
Mike developed a love for the keyboard, and every available ivory. His early development won him performances at most of the state’s lounges, restaurants and group participations. He became a regular at the Kings & Queens, in North Providence (at the Pawtucket city line). Soon, he worked his way to New York City, where his skills brought him jobs with famous musicians.
He became known and worked with a long list of top singers and performers, including: Frank Sinatra, Liza Minnelli, Sylvia Sims, Peggie Lee, Lena Horne, Jack Jones, John Pizzarelli, Kathy Lee Gifford, Michael Feinstein, Carol Sloan, Shawn Monteiro, Mark Lewis, Quincy Jones, Nelson Riddle, Si Zentner, Dick Lupino, Angelo Bocari and Nicholas King, recording with all of them. Mike also wrote, composed, arranged and performed at Sesame Street Television.
His many years with Mel Tome and a two year stint with Tony Bennett were among the highlights of his career. He also was in charge of music for Macy’s Thanksgiving Parades, for several years.
He won eight Emmy Awards. He displayed them in his home in Boca, Florida in a row on a white piano.
Mike was a walking encyclopedia of all music, including jazz, motion pictures, Broadway musicals and famous classical works.
But he never recorded solo performances of himself for commercial sale, and refused to perform “A night with just Mike Renzi” in New York or in Rhode Island. He didn’t want to be a soloist, just known as the quality accompanist, that he was.
Mike’s large following, his peers and family will never forget his skills, laughter and his firm handshake.
Our shared sympathy goes to all his friends and family. May Mike Renzi rest in peace.