RIP Clare Fischer (1928-2012) – An Appreciation

Composer/arranger/ pianist Dr. Clare Fischer died yesterday following a heart attack earlier in the month.

The track, In The Beginning from The Clare Fischer Big Band album, Continuum (Clavo Records) is nominated for a 2012 Grammy award in the Best Instrumental Arrangement category.

Frank Griffith writes:

Pianist, and composer/arranger, Clare Fischer, has died at 83. Originally from Durand, Michigan, he achieved a Masters Degree in Composition from Michigan State University before traveling with the singing group The Hi Los for 5 years. He then settled in NYC for several years before moving permanently to LA where he thrived for over 40 years.

His early collaborations were with leading jazzers of the day, including trumpeters, Donald Byrd and Dizzy Gillespie as well as moving on to Cal Tjader and George Shearing. Particularly noteworthy are his string arrangements for Byrd’s 1957 LP, “September Afternoon” which were well ahead of their time utilising 20th Century string writing techniques brought about by Debussy, Ravel and Bartok coupled with modern jazz reharmonisations of standards like “Stardust”, The Touch of Your Lips” and Ellington’s “Moon Mist”. Up until this point, string backings for jazz soloists were largely the preserve of things like Bird and Strings (Charlie Parker) which while being musical enough were quite conservative and predictable in terms of string writing. Interestingly, this album was not actually released by Warner Brothers until 1982!

Clare’s 1960 album with Dizzy featuring Duke and Strayhorn material is also refreshingly forward thinking but in this case utilising a nonet somewhat based on the Birth of The Cool instrumentation. Another key album featuring his string writing was a 1963 date with San Francisco vibist, Cal Tjader, of songs from West Side Story. All of which contained provocative and ground breaking settings for strings and soloist.

Fischer’s output of arrangements was huge and varied, the imprints he has left within jazz, but also on the evolution of Brazilian and popular music in general, are massive and unique. He collaborated with everyone from Hubert Laws and Vince Guaraldi to The Singers Unlimited and aforementioned Hi Los to singers Diane Schuur and Natalie Cole. Clare’s collaborations with Pop icons Prince and Robert Palmer are unique and unparalled. The passage of time is bound to increase general awareness their significance.

His arrangements for Joao Gilberto’s 1991 CD, “Joao” are state-of-the-art, with his treatment of Cole Porter’s “You Do Somethng to Me” standing out. Its asymmetrical floating rhythmic effect creates a magical dynamic between band and singer mutually bouncing off of each other aboard a gently erratic wave.

Thank you, Clare for your gift and your rich musical offering to so many different musics. You will never be replaced or forgotten.

Frank Griffith.


Categories: miscellaneous

1 reply »

  1. A sad loss to the jazz world (….and beyond). His big band recording 'Thesaurus' is a classic, and his early Revelation recordings (eg 'The State of His Art' and 'Reclamation Act') must rank as some of the best blues piano ever.

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