Tuesday, June 16, 2009

R.I.P.: Jack Nimitz

Jack Nimitz
(born January 11, 1930, Washington, D.C.,USA;
died June 10, 2009, Studio City, CA, USA)

One of the unsung heroes of the Californian jazz scene, Jack Nimitz, a member of the Woody Herman and Stan Kenton bands, and a founding member of Supersax, had a busy career as a studio musician in Hollywood, having also played with Benny Carter, Gerald Wilson, Thelonious Monk, Terry Gibbs, Dizzy Gillespie, Louie Bellson, Shelly Manne, Charles Mingus, Horace Silver, Gene Ammons, Oliver Nelson, Kenny Burrell, Quincy Jones, Milt Jackson, Bud Shank, Johhny Mandel, Clare Fischer, Johnny Hartman, June Christy, Peggy Lee, Joe Williams, Carmen McRae, Anita O'Day and most recently Diane Schuur.
In 1995, he released his first solo album, "Confirmation." The Jack Nimitz Quintet played their final performance on May 10, 2009, in Northridge, California.
He also recorded on João Donato's outer space jazz-funk masterpiece "A Bad Donato" (Blue Thumb, 1970), as well as on Johnny Hammond's acid-jazz classic "Forever Taurus" (Milestone, 1976), Stanley Clarke's seminal (and best-selling) fusion album "School Days" (Epic, 1976) and Herbie Hancock's techno-funk manifest "Rockit" (Columbia, 1983).
Not to mention his incursions on the pop side with The Beach Boys, Diana Ross, Cass Elliot, Neil Diamond, The Carpenters, Barry Manilow, Judy Collins, Lou Rawls, Frankie Valli, Paul Anka, Captain & Tennille, Michael Bolton, and, already in the 2000s, even Christina Aguillera.
Nimitz's impressively huge discography also includes Shirley Horn's sublime collaboration with Johnny Mandel on "Here's To Life" (Jack can be seen in the studio sessions filmed for the LaserDisc version issued by Verve in 1992), Natalie Cole's multi-Grammy winner and million-selling project "Unforgettable" and Nina Simone's final album, "A Single Woman." His association with Quincy Jones goes from "That's The Way I Feel About Jazz" (produced by Creed Taylor for ABC in 1956 and reissued on the CTI label in 1993) to "Q's Jook Joint" (Qwest, 1994).
He also took part in over 300 soundtracks. One of the last sessions was for Clint Eastwood's "Flag of Our Fathers" and "Letters from Iwo Jima." A true music giant!

The obituary published on The Los Angeles Times follows:


Jack Nimitz, Baritone Sax Player, Dies at 79
Los Angeles Times, June 16, 2009

Jack Nimitz, a jazz baritone saxophonist who played in the Woody Herman and Stan Kenton big bands and in the group "Supersax," died Wednesday of complications from emphysema at his home in Studio City. He was 79.

Born in Washington, D.C., in 1930, Nimitz began playing clarinet at an early age and alto saxophone at 14. He was still a teenager when he began playing professional gigs at Howard Theatre in Washington.

He soon fell in love with the baritone saxophone. "It sounded so warm and nice and dark and rich," he told The Times some years ago. "The bottom notes are the best notes in the whole orchestra, because if you don't have a good bottom, nothing really works."

He bought his first baritone saxophone at the age of 20 and three years later was playing baritone in Herman's band. Through the 1950s, he played with Herman, Kenton and, later, Herbie Mann.

On the advice of colleagues in Kenton's band, he came to Los Angeles in the early 1960s and established himself as a first-rank studio musician for scores of film soundtracks and recording sessions. He worked frequently for songwriter Johnny Mandel. He also played with such jazz luminaries as Benny Carter, Gerald Wilson and the Lighthouse All-Stars.

In the early 1970s, he added his baritone to the Charlie Parker tribute band "Supersax."

His first album as a leader was the 1995 session on Fresh Sound records called "Confirmation," which focused heavily on bebop tunes.

"Bebop is the most sophisticated form of jazz," he told The Times. "It's very challenging but also rewarding because it feels so good when it happens."

A memorial service will be held Saturday at 3 p.m. at Chapel of the Hills, Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills.
We also recommend this article on the All About Jazz:

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