John Altman pays tribute to “one of the greatest arrangers in the history of popular music”, Jeremy Lubbock (1931-2021):
Jeremy Lubbock, who passed away peacefully on Friday morning in Oxfordshire at the age of 89, was one of the greatest arrangers in the history of popular music. Don’t just take my word for it, ask Quincy Jones, David Foster or one of the hundreds of artists whose recorded work he graced with his genius.
His many Grammys and other awards bear testimony to his brilliance – and he was equally talented as a composer for records and movies, songwriter and lyricist. His solo album Awakening shows his breadth of expertise – when I was musical director for Diana Ross’ Xmas album and found I couldn’t manage all the arrangements in the time allowed, Jeremy was brought in to arrange Silent Night. At the end of the first run through half the orchestra crowded round my music stand to look at his score and see what he’d written for the introduction – a great endorsement from his peers.
His website (link below) has a long list of his works covering most of the history of the last 40 years of popular music. But what of his jazz credentials? Although Jeremy saw the lines of demarcation as being blurred, his work in jazz is nonetheless very impressive. Having started out in the UK as a jazz pianist/vocalist in a Nat Cole vein in the early ’50s his writing for the BBC and records brought him to the attention of US jingle writer Don Specht who convinced him to move to Los Angeles. Through Don’s friendship with Henry Lewy, Jeremy was asked to arrange the Joni Mitchell album Mingus. He played piano on the demos and then was hastily summoned to New York by Charlie who preferred his playing on Joni’s demo to the five pianists they had tried out in New York.
His writing for Pat Metheny on Secret Story, Al Jarreau, Nancy Wilson, Chris Botti, Diane Schuur, Lou Rawls, Manhattan Transfer, Milt Jackson, Ray Charles and Natalie Cole – to name but a select few – all display that rare quality of a jazz sensibility allied to a sense of ‘commercialism’ (not selling out!) that makes his charts stand out and made the great Johnny Mandel choose Jeremy as his automatic replacement when he couldn’t accept the writing assignments.
I last saw Jeremy with his talented brother, the conductor John, at a George Benson concert a couple of years ago. He was very frail and wheelchair-bound but seemed happy to be back in the UK after spells in Los Angeles and South Africa. He will be missed by many for his music and his delightful curmudgeonly persona, which was really just a façade!