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Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Neal Hefti born 29 October 1922

Neal Hefti (October 29, 1922 – October 11, 2008) was an American jazz trumpeter, composer, tune writer, and arranger.
Hefti was born in Hastings, Nebraska, the son of a travelling salesman and a piano teacher. He took up trumpet at the age of 11, as the Depression was biting hard on the family's finances. He discovered jazz through his brother John's collection of Duke Ellington records, and began playing in local bands to bring in money for the household.

Living close to Omaha, the young Hefti was inspired by visits there by some of the leading swing bands of the day. He heard trumpeters such as Dizzy Gillespie (with Cab Calloway), Harry Edison and Buck Clayton (with Basie).

He began writing arrangements for singers while still at school, although his sight-reading was not good enough to hold down his early professional jobs for long. But by 1942 he was working in New York with the successful Charlie Barnet. There, his vivid arrangement of Barnet's popular Skyliner theme hinted at his potential, and led to a move to Los Angeles with the orchestra of the trumpeter Charlie Spivak.

In 1944, on the recommendation of bassist Chubby Jackson, Hefti joined Herman's First Herd. This was a fast-blossoming outfit, offering more idiomatic variety and more dedicated enthusiasm than he had so far encountered, since Herman had a broad grasp of jazz swing, classical music, pop songs, and the beginnings of bop - with the pianist Burns, who joined at the same time as Hefti, saxophonist Flip Phillips and trombonist Bill Harris, a particularly shrewd appreciator of the new idiom.

Gillespie's bop-infused big band became their model. Hefti's five-trumpet part for Caldonia was a stylistic breakthrough, and its vibrant sound soon attracted
composer Igor Stravinsky to write a jazz-themed classical piece, Ebony Concerto, for the band. A cooperative at first, the band came under Herman's ownership from 1945, and - along with Charlie Barnet's group - became one of the few white big bands regularly to play black venues, a testament to its dynamism and grasp of the fundamentals, rather than the mannerisms, of jazz.  

In October 1945, Hefti married the band's singer Frances Wayne. The following year the couple left Herman, with Hefti leaving a raft of innovative material in the band's book, including the enduringly popular Apple Honey. Hefti then freelanced for drummer Buddy Rich, saxophonist Charlie Ventura and trumpeter Harry James. In 1947, sax genius Charlie Parker, having heard a studio-orchestra performance of Hefti's Cuban-tinged Repetition, transformed it from a generic Latin smoocher into a piece of real substance.

From 1950 on, the arranger was crucial to revitalising Basie's orchestra, in a period in which the big bands were suffering financially and sounding musically dated. Starting with the up-tempo Little Pony, for the saxophonist Wardell Gray, Hefti wrote a stream of scintillating works for the Basie orchestra over the next decade. Miles Davis, rarely hasty with compliments, remarked in 1955 that the arranger's presence was a significant reason why the Basie band of that era sounded as good as it did. Hefti produced, as well as arranged, the music on the Grammy-award winning The Atomic Mr Basie, and the 11 songs are among the greatest classics of late-period big-band swing, including Splanky, The Kid from Red Bank and Hefti's dedication to his daughter, L'il Darlin'.

Hefti was playing trumpet less as his writing career developed, and though he briefly led a group to perform his own work from 1952, by the decade's end he had virtually given up the instrument.

He headed the A&R department at Reprise Records in the 1960s, arranging and conducting the album Sinatra- Basie: A Historical Musical First. His own 1962 album Jazz Pops - featuring some of the Basie classics - was nominated for a Grammy, but his jazz work was almost entirely superseded by his accomplished, and often very imaginative, movie-studio achievements. Hefti also enjoyed substantial commercial success.  

He wrote the tongue-in-cheek, unerringly focused theme for the mid-60s Batman TV show, which became a US chart hit for the Marketts and a Grammy-award winner. Movies he worked on included Boeing Boeing and How to Murder Your Wife (both 1965), Barefoot in the Park (1967) and The Odd Couple (1968).   

Following his wife's death in 1978, Hefti gradually withdrew from active music making. In later years he concentrated on "taking care of my copyrights". Hefti died of throat cancer on October 11, 2008, at his home in Toluca Lake, California, at the age of 85. He subsequently was interred at Forest Lawn - Hollywood Hills Cemetery. His grave can be found at the Court of Remembrance.  The epitaph on the front of the crypt reads "Forever In Tune". (info mainly from The Guardian)


boppinbob said...

For the Neal Hefti Quintet – Light And Right (1956) go here:

1. You’re Just In Love
2. That Old Black Magic
3. They Can’t Take That Away From Me
4. It Had To Be You
5. You Do Something To Me
6. Mack The Knife
7. Poor People Of Paris
8. I Won’t Dance
9. September Song
10. Alexander’s Ragtime Band

For Neal Hefti – The Band With Young Ideas (1954) go here:

01. Coral Reef [02:59]
02. Charmaine [02:33]
03. Waltzing On A Cloud [02:31]
04. Lake Placid [02:52]
05. Two For A Nickle, Three For A Dime [02:57]
06. Why Not [02:34]
07. Sure Thing [02:44]
08. Uncle Jim [02:34]
09. Falling In Love All Over Again [03:10]
10. In Veradero [03:19]
11. It’s A Happy Holiday [02:41]
12. Sahara’s Aide [02:37]

E Craig said...

Great material. Thanks.