Saturday, January 28, 2012

R.I.P.: Clare Fischer

(born October 22, 1928, in Durand, MI, USA;
died January 26, 2012, in Burbank, CA, USA)

A couple of weeks since Phil Kraus passed away, more sad news. Clare Fischer died Thursday, January 26. We used to hang out in LA back in 1990/1991 when he was working on Joao Gilberto's album simply titled "João." In January 1992, we went together to the IAJE Conference in Miami, where he attended my clinic about "Jazz & Brazilian Music: Interaction Along The Years" and I attended his fabulous concert leading a nonet (with a vocal choir that sounded like a horn section!) as well as his clinic on "Harmonic Concepts & Improvisation." The obituary printed today in The LA Times follows.

I only would like to add that Fischer loved bossa nova, specially João Gilberto, to whom he composed in 1961 the song "João" a.k.a. "Carnaval," the opening track on "The Hi-Lo's Happen To Bossa Nova." He also wrote "Pensativa," the best bossa song ever composed by a non-Brazilian artist. Oh, and "Morning" is one of my favorite tunes. Fischer also recorded an extremely underrated duo album with Helio Delmiro ("Symbiosis"), worked with Cal Tjader, Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Shank, Hubert Laws and other jazz giants, arranged for Santana, Prince, Natalie Cole, Michael Jackson...And a track, "In The Beginning" (yes, the tune he composed for Hubert Laws' CTI album in 1974), re-recorded last year for a new Clare Fischer Big Band album, "Continuum" -- directed and produced by Brent Fischer for Clavo Records -- is nominated for a Grammy award in 2012 in the Best Instrumental Arrangement category. Rest In Peace.Although Clare Fischer, shown in 1987, entered professional music through jazz, his expansive creative perspective quickly grew to embrace many other musical areas. (Los Angeles Times)

Clare Fischer dies at 83; versatile pianist, composer, arranger
The Grammy-winning musician's interests included jazz, Latin and pop music, and he released more than 50 albums under his name.
By Don Heckman, Special to The Los Angeles Times
January 28, 2012

Clare Fischer, a Grammy-winning pianist, composer and arranger who crossed freely from jazz to Latin and pop music, working with such names as Dizzy Gillespie, George Shearing and Natalie Cole as well as Paul McCartney, Prince and Michael Jackson, has died. He was 83.

Fischer died Thursday at Providence St. Joseph's Medical Center in Burbank of complications from a heart attack he had two weeks ago, said family spokeswoman Claris Dodge.

Although he entered professional music through jazz, his expansive creative perspective quickly grew to embrace many other musical areas.

"I relate to everything," he explained in 1987 in The Times. "I'm not just jazz, Latin or classical. I really am a fusion of all of those." He went on to describe his fascination with Stravinsky, Schoenberg and Bartok, as well as Duke Ellington, Bud Powell, Lee Konitz, Tito Puente and boogie-woogie pianist Meade Lux Lewis.

Regardless of genre, Fischer's arranging and composing invariably possessed a rich harmonic palette, one that attracted and influenced other musicians.

"Clare Fischer was a major influence on my harmonic concept," Herbie Hancock said in a statement on Fischer's website. Hancock credited Fischer's arrangements for the 1950s vocal group the Hi-Lo's with significantly influencing his 1968 recording "Speak Like a Child."

Pop and rock artists especially valued Fischer's arranging for the lush, classical qualities of the textures he created, particularly for string ensembles. He worked closely with his son, Brent Fischer, also an arranger and conductor, to provide arrangements and orchestrations for McCartney, Chaka Khan, Carlos Santana, Rufus, Brandy and many others. Fischer's first music credit in film was for Prince's "Under the Cherry Moon."

Fischer was also in demand as a studio keyboardist, performing, composing or arranging for commercials, film and television scores, and for more than 100 albums for other artists.

He released more than 50 albums under his own name in a recording career that began in 1962 with the album "First Time Out." His diverse ensembles included the Latin group Salsa Picante; the vocal group 2 + 2; his Clarinet Choir; and the 30-piece band Clare Fischer's Jazz Corps. He also performed solo on piano and paired with Donald Byrd, Gary Foster, Jerry Coker and others.

Fischer's first classical recording, 2001's "After the Rain," was a collection of his symphonic works.

He won two Grammy awards, in 1981 for "Clare Fischer and Salsa Picante Present 2+2" and in 1986 for "Freefall."

Douglas Clare Fischer was born Oct. 22, 1928, in Durand, Mich., the third of four children. His first instruments were violin and piano; but during high school he added cello, clarinet and saxophone. As a teenager in Grand Rapids, he composed and arranged for big bands.

At Michigan State University, he majored in composition and theory, earning a bachelor's degree in music in 1951. After serving in the Army, Fischer received a master's in music from the school in 1955.

His professional career escalated in the late 1950s during his five-year association as pianist/arranger/conductor with the musically adventurous Hi-Lo's. But his arrangements for Dizzy Gillespie's 1960 album, "A Portrait of Duke Ellington," brought him the full attention of the jazz community. Albums for pianist George Shearing, vibraphonist Cal Tjader, alto saxophonist Bud Shank and guitarist Joe Pass followed.

A mid-1970s reunion with Tjader revived Fischer's fascination with Latin music, via his Salsa Picante group. He was fond of Brazilian music in general and bossa nova in particular.

In 1988, Fischer had a freeway encounter with another driver that escalated into a roadside physical confrontation. Fischer, then 60, was assaulted, suffering a hairline skull fracture and a concussion. It took nearly a year for him to recover and return to music.

"If I discovered anything in that strange, 10-month period of recovery," Fischer later told The Times, "it's that music is the one thing that makes me sane."

He is survived by his wife, Donna; his children, Lee, Brent and Tahlia; two stepchildren, Lisa and Bill Bachman; three grandchildren; and a brother, Stewart.(Mark Murphy, Arnaldo DeSouteiro and Clare Fischer during the IAJE Conference in Miami, January 1992)

Born on October 22, 1928 in Durand, Michigan, Clare Fischer is an uncommonly versatile musician, a master with many muses. Trained in the classics, inspired by jazz artists, healed by the rhythms of Latin and Brazilian music, his eclectic sound finds expression in every chart and instrument he touches.

A veteran studio musician and a composer of rare quality, Fischer began his studies in Grand Rapids, Michigan, at South High School with director of music, Glenn Litton. After receiving his master’s degree in composition from Michigan State University, where he studied with Dr. H. Owen Reed, he traveled extensively with “The Hi-Lo’s” as pianist-conductor for 5 years. About the same time, his musical ascension began with his critically acclaimed arrangements for Dizzy Gillespie’s “A Portrait of Duke Ellington.”

Fischer’s influences, absorbed along the way, are as distinct as his music: Stravinsky and Shostakovich, Bartok and Berg, Dutilleux, boogie-woogie pianist Meade Lux Lewis, Nat “King” Cole, Duke Ellington, Bud Powell and early Lee Konitz – Fischer’s self-expression knows no boundaries.“I relate to everything,” he explains. “I’m not just jazz, Latin, or classical. I really am a fusion of all of those, not today’s fusion, but my fusion.”

In 1983 classical concert artist Richard Stoltzman commissioned Fischer to write a symphonic work using Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn themes. The resulting composition, “The Duke, Swee’pea and Me,” features Stoltzman on clarinet, and is performed with symphony orchestras around the world. More recently Fischer was commissioned by Stoltzman to write a “Sonatine for Clarinet and Piano” in three movements, which he has recorded with RCA on his album, “American Clarinet” and is being published by Advance Music in Germany.

In 1986 Clare won his second Grammy Award – this one for his album, “Free Fall,” the first having been won in 1981 for his album, “Salsa Picante plus 2 + 2.” Since that time he has spent more time as a jazz educator, performing solo piano concerts and conducting clinics and master classes in universities and music conservatories in Scandinavia, Europe and throughout the United States.

In the last few years Clare has appeared in Paris, Finland, Norway, Germany with the WDR Big Band, Holland with the Metropole Orchestra, Austria at the Vienna Konzerthaus and in Mexico City at the Ollin Yolítzli Concert Hall in a concert commemorating the music of Antonio Carlos Jobim on the anniversary of his death in December, 1996. In October of 1998 he performed at the Choro Festival with Hélio Delmiro in Sáo Paulo, Brazil and returned in July, 2000 for a three-city tour in that country with Delmiro. In May 2001 Clare completed a European tour teaching master classes and performing solo piano concerts in four countries.

In addition to Dizzie Gillespie, Fischer has written for Cal Tjader, George Shearing, Diane Schuur, Natalie Cole, Chaka Khan and Rufus, The Jacksons, Earl Klugh, Prince, Robert Palmer, Paul McCartney, Michael Jackson, Spike Lee, João Gilberto, Paula Abdul, and most recently Brian McKnight, Regina Belle, J. Spencer, Norman Whitfield, Branford Marsalis, Tori Amos, Terry Trotter, a French group – “Charts,” a Japanese group – “Sing Like Talking,” Vanessa Williams, Brandy, Tony! Toni! Toné! and many others. His arrangements for strings are truly a revelation.

Since beginning his professional career, Fischer has recorded over 45 albums as leader and has arranged, composed and/or played on another 100 plus albums for other recording artists. His discography reads like a “Who’s Who” of the recording industry. Recent releases include “Clare Fischer’s Jazz Corps,” a big band album made up of 20 brass, 6 woodwinds plus rhythm; and “Symbiosis,” recorded with Hélio Delmiro on unamplified Brazilian guitar and Clare on digital piano. In January 2001 Fischer produced his first classical CD, “After the Rain,” made up entirely of his own symphonic works.

In December, 1999, Michigan State University School of Music conferred an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts Degree on Clare in recognition of his “.creativity and excellence as a jazz composer, arranger and performer..”

Clare has three grown children; Lee, Brent and Tahlia; and two stepchildren, Lisa and Bill Bachman. He is married to his high school sweetheart, Donna, who he lost when he was 20 and she was 18 because her mother didn’t approve of “jazzers.” After being apart for 43 years, they are enjoying their storybook marriage of unbelievable happiness, now in its eighteenth year.

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