The music of marty paich

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The music of Marty Paich is characterized by a wide-ranging catholicity of style, a tremendous sense of color, and impeccable taste. He was never a musical braggart, and never put himself first. His dedication was to the music he wrote and arranged, to the text it endorsed, and to the artists with whom he worked. Although notoriously perfectionist and demanding in the studio and onstage, Marty was a man of uncommon humility.

He was influenced by many forces: his classical training gave him skill and superb technique. His experience in jazz created a sense of driven pulse and easy improvisation. Marty’s religious upbringing (his family was Serb and Catholic) made his work in gospel a natural fit. The world of pop music made sense to him, and he gave its music form and force. He studied with Arnold Schonberg and Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, and was fascinated by the new language and harmonies of the 20th Century. And through years of practical experience in clubs, on tour, on stage, and in collaboration with some of the finest artists of his time, Marty became one of the greatest all-round musicians we have ever known. One example stands for many: when Ray Charles made his country albums, it is no surprise that he turned to Marty Paich. No field in music was closed to him.
And he was fast. What composer-conductor John Williams described as “the best ears in the business” could work with terrific speed, hearing instantly what was needed, and what was possible. He was often called upon to bail out others who had gotten stuck in muddy waters. In that regard, a fair amount of his music went uncredited.

And like every real professional, he succeeded in every arena he entered. He wrote for film and television and cartoons. He wrote for a galaxy of great singers. He wrote jingles and commercials, and for the finest orchestras. Marty never played a string instrument personally, but his ‘sweetening’ of extant work with new strings added was part of his work for many years. And, no surprise, he was not terribly concerned about his legacy.

When we talked with him about preserving his own art, he usually brushed us aside. He seemed to take the view that, if something went missing, he could simply write it again, or write something new altogether. Only toward the very end of his life did he show any concern at all for his legacy. He could always write more.
In the decade I knew and worked for him, Marty served as a teacher and coach. I often asked for his criticism of my own scores and charts. I would usually write for orchestra, mail him the score, and a day or a week later he would phone with corrections. On one occasion he was busy with real work, and never got around to mine. With little time left I phoned him late one night. He had obviously not read the score. On the spot he did so. To save time he started singing the lines he wanted changed. I took dictation over the phone, did as he demanded, and ‘my’ work was immeasurably the better for it. He had phenomenally fast eyes and ears for defect and possibility. Many saw him do this sort of thing, many times over many years.
And he was unafraid of silence. Remember Streisand’s recording of “The way we…. were”? That stunning silence at the end of the last verse was Marty’s inspiration. It was an utterly unique way to suggest time, silent and passing. And remember the arrangement of “Send In The Clowns” he wrote for Sarah Vaughan? The last time they did it together was at the Hollywood Bowl late one summer’s eve. Marty knew the capacity of her great voice. He did the best anyone could with such an instrument: the second verse was sung à capella, unaccompanied. Only taste and modesty could make such a gesture. No voice could surpass the human voice at such a moment, and Marty was musician enough to grant it.

And consider the career of his immensely gifted son David. Perhaps best-known from his work with the band Toto, David’s art is in many ways the gift of his father. It shines with tremendous dexterity and colorful invention. Although they are two very different musicians, David is always first to acknowledge the compass and influence of his father. Hundreds of other musicians, especially in Los Angeles, felt the same way.

As you discover Marty’s music for yourself, please consider these findings: When he was alive, his music changed by artist and occasion. Now that he is gone, the music will live within and be further transformed by musicians like yourselves.

Nothing would make him happier.

Charles Barber

Stanford, California

There is an increasing amount of attention being paid to Marty’s career and life by serious scholars in American music. From time to time we will post the best of their work, as below.
I. Phil Woods: Groovin' to Marty Paich

C. Michael Bailey

Review, courtesy
In its quiet and amiable way, ‘Phil Woods - Groovin’ to Marty Paich’ is one of the most significant recordings of this year. Recorded at the Los Angeles International Airport Sheraton Hotel on May 30, 2004, the music on ‘Groovin’ to Marty Paich’ is almost too humble about its auspicious beginnings. The story of this music begins almost 50 years ago in the mind and talent of a West Coast 34-year-old pianist/arranger named Martin Paich.

Marty Paich, who could be described as the West Coast Tadd Dameron, possessed greater jazz credentials than his peers strictly because of his 1950s Los Angeles experience. Born in Oakland, CA, on January 23, 1925, Paich began modestly as a pianist (like Dameron), and was performing professionally by age 16. He and Pete Rugolo wrote arrangements for a local bandleader before being drafted for military service in 1943. Gratefully, Paich continued to arrange while serving as the leader of the Army Air Corps band through the end of World War II. Once discharged, Paich rode G.I. Bill in furthering his musical education, enrolling at UCLA to study arranging under classical composer Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco. He went on to earn a master's degree from the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music in 1951, and immediately found work in the West Coast music industry as both an arranger and pianist.

As it turned out, Paich soon was just warming up and moved on to playing and arranging for drummer Shelly Manne and trumpeter Shorty Rogers through 1954. Additionally, he performed as Peggy Lee's accompanist and music director during her most popular period. Like Tadd Dameron, Paich fronted his own groups and, in 1955, began recording for a succession of labels that included Mode, Tampa, Candid, Warner and RCA Victor. He backed Dorothy Dandridge, and arranged (and performed on) the soundtrack to the Disney film ‘Lady and the Tramp’ (1955). During the late '50s, Paich wrote arrangements for anyone who mattered in West Coast jazz, including Chet Baker, Buddy Rich, Ray Brown, Dave Pell, and Stan Kenton. His most notable contribution came with Mel Tormé, whom he supported with a ten-piece group dubbed the Dek-tette. This union resulted in the classic album Mel Tormé and the Marty Paich Dek-tette (Lulu’s back in Town) and many other superb sessions.

For the current discussion, the year 1959 looms the largest. The year 1959 is a ground zero year for jazz. So important was this year to Jazz that AAJ writer Nathan Holloway penned an ‘AAJ Building a Jazz Library’ article out of it. Funny that he would have forgotten one of the most important recordings (forgive me, Nathan). In 1959, Marty Paich convened a “little” big band for a series of recording sessions that were to result in Marty Paich Orchestra-The Broadway Bit, Marty Paich Orchestra-The New York Scene, Marty Paich Orchestra-Moanin’, Marty Paich Orchestra-I Get a Boot Out of You, and Art Pepper + Eleven Plays Modern Jazz Classics. While the former of these recordings are excellent examples of the West Coast aesthetic in jazz, the latter, the Art Pepper offering, is one of the most important recordings in jazz. What Art Pepper + Eleven Plays Modern Jazz Classics proved was Paich could write for a medium-sized band and make it sound like a large orchestra. This recording was Paich’s ‘Derek and the Dominoes-Layla.’

Looming large, but not formally credited in the proceedings, is alto saxophone player Art Pepper (1925-1982). He is one of the common denominators in all of the selections included on ‘Groovin’ to Marty Paich’, as he sat first chair alto saxophone on all selections included on the recording. I dare say that it was on the coattails of ‘Art Pepper + Eleven Plays Modern Jazz Classics’ that the other Paich-led dates gained their popularity. It is the spirit of Art Pepper that permeates the Phil Woods tribute as much as that of the talented arranger. In fact, it would be appropriate to consider the Paich-Pepper recordings as extensions of ‘Art Pepper + Eleven Plays Modern Jazz Classics’ or vice versa. In any event, all of these recordings should be released. Mosaic: Consider a Marty Paich-Art Pepper set!
‘Phil Woods -- Groovin’ to Marty Paich’ breaks down like this, sessionography- wise:

* Groovin' High - March 28, 1959, Art Pepper + Eleven Plays Modern Jazz Classics

* Walkin' Shoes - March 14, 1959, Art Pepper + Eleven Plays Modern Jazz Classics

* I've Never Been In Love Before - January 1959, Marty Paich-Moanin’ (most recent release)

* Round Midnight - March 14, 1959, Art Pepper + Eleven Plays Modern Jazz Classics

* Donna Lee - March 28, 1959, Art Pepper + Eleven Plays Modern Jazz Classics

* Moanin' - June 30, July 2 & 7 1959, Marty Paich-Moanin’ (most recent release)

* Anthropology - March 28, 1959, Art Pepper + Eleven Plays Modern Jazz Classics

* Violets For Your Furs - June 30, July 2 & 7 1959, Marty Paich-Moanin’ (most recent release)

* Bernie's Tune - May 12, 1959, Art Pepper + Eleven Plays Modern Jazz Classics

* Airegin - March 14, 1959, Art Pepper + Eleven Plays Modern Jazz Classics

* Too Close For Comfort - January 1959, Marty Paich-Moanin’ (most recent release)

* Shaw'nuff - March 28, 1959, Art Pepper + Eleven Plays Modern Jazz Classics.

Allowing for little practice time, this recording is a tribute to the jazz performer’s art -- improvisation and playing by the seat of one’s pants. The listener need only hear Phil Woods’ sotto voce introduction to ‘Anthropology’, where he is trying to convey the tempo of the piece in addition to the fact that he is quite respectful of the clarinet (the instrument used by Art Pepper to play ‘Anthropology’ on Art Pepper + Eleven Plays Modern Jazz Classics). The true highlight of the recording is the burning performance of ‘Violets For Your Furs’, which comes off as a smoldering funk, ballad.

Bandleader Christian Jacob lends a superb musical hand (and Francophonic accent) to the proceedings, making the show move at a brisk pace. His greatest affinity is for Paich’s ballad arranging, which he leads with great aplomb and fervor. Phil Woods proves ever the spanning bridge through the last 60 years of jazz. His playing remains full-bodied and intelligent, assimilating the bebop of Charlie Parker with the swing of Johnny Hodges, and the modern bent of… well… Phil Woods.
‘Phil Woods -- Groovin’ to Marty Paich’ is a delight. It is a quiet, brilliant recording that will please even the stingiest of listeners. This recording is an end-of-the-year selection for sure.
Personnel: Phil Woods- alto sax, clarinet; Frank Szabo, Steve Huffsteter- trumpet; Scott Whitfield- trombone; Rick Bullock- bass trombone; Stephanie O’Keefe- French horn; Don Shelton- alto sax; Brian Scanlon- tenor sax; Bob Carr- baritone sax; Brad Dutz- vibes; Christian Jacob- piano; Chris Conner- bass; Paul Kreibich- drums.

II. Mel Tormé, Marty Paich and the Dek-tette

Thomas Cunniffe

Courtesy Jazz Institute of Chicago

--Article has been removed per author’s request. You may still view the entire article here:

III. Bibliography

At this date no formal biography of Marty Paich has yet been written. There are, however, a number of books concerning other artists and the times in which they worked together. These refer to, and/or quote from, Marty concerning their music-making. All of them are fascinating, and well worth reading.

The most comprehensive is Ted Gioia’s history of West Coast jazz. But there are others worth looking at, as below. We would be grateful for readers’ recommendations of other volumes with significant mention of Marty. Please contact
The pages on which Marty’s name appear are listed after each entry.

Balliett, Whitney. Collected Works: A Journal of Jazz, 1954 – 2000. New York: St Martin’s Press, 2002. Pages: 536, 799

Carr, Ian et al. Jazz: The Rough Guide. New York: Penguin, 1995. Page: 489
Collette, Buddy and Stephen Isoardi. Jazz Generations: A Life in American Music and Society. New York: Continuum, 2000. Page: 80
Dahl, Linda. Stormy Weather: The Music and Lives of a Century of Jazzwomen. New York: Pantheon, 1984. Page: 214
Feather, Leonard. New Edition, The Encyclopedia of Jazz. New York: Horizon Press, Bonanza, 1960. Page: 374
Fidelman, Geoffrey Mark. First Lady of Song: Ella Fitzgerald for the Record. New York: Carol Publishing Group, 1994. Pages: 116, 117, 123, 123, 150, 151, 155, 168, 176, 184, 198, 200, 210-212, 228, 232, 245, 256
Friedwald, Will. Jazz Singing: America’s Great Voices from Bessie Smith to Bebop and Beyond. New York: Scribner’s, 1990. Pages: 85, 112, 113, 142, 151, 200, 285, 288, 289, 293-294
Giddins, Gary. Visions of Jazz: The First Century. London: Oxford University Press, 1998. Pages: 330, 576
Gioia, Ted. The History of Jazz. London: Oxford University Press, 1997. Pages: 272, 291, 384

Gioia, Ted. West Coast Jazz: Modern Jazz in California, 1945-1960. Berkeley: UC Press, 1998. Pages: 82, 182, 252, 255, 256, 258, 267, 268, 288, 301-304

Gordon, Robert. Jazz West Coast: The Los Angeles Jazz Scene of the 1950s. New York: Quartet Books, 1986. Pages: 64, 87-89, 91-92, 165, 170, 177-179
Gourse,Leslie, ed. The Ella Fitzgerald Companion: Seven Decades of Commentary. New York: Schirmer, 1998. Pages: 86, 93, 100, 102
Haskins, Jim. Ella Fitzgerald: A Life Through Jazz. London: New English Library, 1991. Page: 160 [NOTE: entered as ‘Paitch’]
Lees, Gene. Friends Along the Way: A Journey Through Jazz. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003. Pages: 48, 49, 228
Lydon, Michael. Ray Charles: Man and Music. New York: Riverhead, 1998. Pages: 184, 185, 198, 201, 215, 220, 230, 365
Nicholson, Stuart. Ella Fitzgerald. London: Gollancz, 1993. Pages: 173, 202
Pepper, Art and Laurie Pepper. Straight Life: The Story of Art Pepper. New York: Schirmer, 1979. Da Capo, 1994. Pages:

Tormé, Mel. It Wasn’t All Velvet: An Autobiography. New York: Viking, 1988. Pages: 167, 169, 229

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