Pete Rugolo: Arranger crucial to both Miles Davis and Stan Kenton

When he joined Stan Kenton's band as an arranger in 1945 Pete Rugolo became the first in his trade to be regularly acknowledged in public. Arrangers had until then always operated anonymously in the engine room of a band, but whenever Kenton introduced a piece to his audiences he always gave Rugolo credit for what he had written. And so he should have done, for Rugolo established the character of the band, inventing a medium that Kenton labelled "Progressive Jazz".

"Pete was one of the first to apply an extensive symphonic or non-jazz compositional technique to the jazz orchestra," said the wordy but worthy composer Bill Russo.

Rugolo remembered those early years. "I guess that an arranger's idea of paradise is some place where he can write anything he wants to and still manage to make a living. That's why I felt like I was walking through the pearly gates when, fresh from the army, I went to work with Stan Kenton. Not only could I arrange the way I wanted to, but I could even compose originals and know they'd be heard. To make the situation more unbelievable, Stan never said, 'Don't do it this way' or 'Don't do it that way.' He was willing to try anything so long as he felt the writer really meant what he was saying."

Establishing the Kenton style was one of two major things that Rugolo did for jazz. The other was to bring before the public an obscure band from the late '40s that became known as"The Birth of the Cool." It was anine-piece led by the trumpeter Miles Davis and it changed the whole direction of jazz in terms of style and harmonic progression.

When he left Kenton in 1949 Rugolo worked for two years as music director for Capitol Records in New York.It's amazing that he managed to persuade such a commercially minded company as Capitol to record the Davis band, for it had had virtually no public exposure and no prospect of selling many records. Indeed the company may have had second thoughts because they didn't issue any of the groundbreaking recordings until a couple of years later. They have since remained constantly among the best-selling jazz records of all time.

Rugolo moved from Sicily to San Francisco with his family in 1921, getting a BA from San Francisco State College in 1938. He then enrolled in Mills College in Oakland, where he studied music and gained his MA under the composer Darius Milhaud, who was on the faculty of the college.

He was still in the army when he sold his first arrangement, "Opus A Dollar Three Eighty", to Kenton. Kentonhired him at $150 a week in November 1945 and they stayed together until1949. Many people considered that Rugolo's era produced the greatest in Kenton's music.

"Progressive Jazz", in which medium Kenton's was the only band, was by definition bombastic, unswinging and extremely loud. Kenton's jazz had Wagnerian pretensions and Rugolo was its most brilliant and precise orchestrator. In the first signs of post-war youth rebellion, his fans loved Kenton's musical detonations. "When you played for Kenton he just wanted louder, louder, louder," was how the trumpeter jack Sheldon summarised the music.

Until Rugolo joined Kenton the leader had himself written most of the musical library for the band. Rugolo's talent was so great that it needed a different language. Kenton gave way and Rugolo became the dominant voice of the band. He was a master of compressing an expansive symphonic writing style into the limits of the three-minute record. It was Rugolo also, who discovered the young Canadian trumpet virtuoso Maynard Ferguson and persuaded him to join the band.

Whereas Kenton had always favoured grandiose titles for his compositions ("Concerto To End All Concertos"), Rugolo's names for his own hits were more mundane and included things like "Minor Riff", "Monotony", "Interlude", "Collaboration", "Conflict", "Lament" and "Impressionism".

Jazz fans divided exactly into love or hate of the Kenton-Rugolo music. There was no in between.

In 1950, when Rugolo left New York for Hollywood, he found himself financially strapped. Kenton told him that royalties from Rugolo's compositions were pouring in and paid him a monthly cheque. It later emerged that this was untrue and that the money came from Kenton's own pocket. Rugolo was able to return the favour in 1979 by helping out with the medical expenses during Kenton's final illness.

After his time with Kenton, Rugolo became the first of many jazz musicians to make his name writing music for films and television. He rose to the top of his field and won a shower of Emmy awards and nominations and glittering Hollywood prizes. He wrote innumerable film and television scores, most notably the themes and music for the Sixties series The Fugitive starring David Janssen and The Thin Man, which featured Peter Lawford.

Rugolo recorded many albums during the 1950s. They were notable for the characteristically glittering orchestrations and were often designed and used to demonstrate high-fidelity equipment in the home. Others were more obviously gimmick-laden – Ten Saxophones and Two Basses and Ten Trumpets and Two Guitars speak for themselves. Although there were good recordings that featured the finest of the West Coast jazz musicians, the impact of Rugolo's music under his own name lacked the fire of his work for Kenton.

Peter Rugolo, arranger, composer, bandleader: born San Piero, Sicily 25 December 1915; married Edye (two sons); died Los Angeles 16 October 2011.

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film Ridley Scott reveals truth behind casting decisions of Exodus
News
people
Sport
footballArsenal 2 Borussia Dortmund 0: And they can still top the group
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
An unseen image of Kurt Cobain at home featured in the film 'Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck'
filmThe singers widow and former bandmates have approved project
News
Andy Murray with his girlfriend of nine years, Kim Sears who he has got engaged to
peopleWimbledon champion announces engagement to girlfriend Kim Sears
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tv
Arts and Entertainment
George Mpanga has been shortlisted for the Critics’ Choice prize
music
News
Albert Camus (left) and Jean-Paul Sartre fell out in 1952 and did not speak again before Camus’s death
people
Arts and Entertainment
Roisin, James and Sanjay in the boardroom
tvReview: This week's failing project manager had to go
News
Ed Miliband visiting the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. The Labour leader has spoken more openly of his heritage recently
newsAttacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But are the barbs more sinister?
Arts and Entertainment
'Felfie' (2014) by Alison Jackson
photographyNew exhibition shows how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
News
i100
Life and Style
Fright night: the board game dates back to at least 1890
life
Environment
The vaquita is being killed by fishermen trying to catch the totoaba fish, which is prized in China
environmentJust 97 of the 'world's cutest' sea mammals remain
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Data Warehouse & Business Intelligence Co-ordinator

£35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Required skills include SQL querying, SSRS, u...

Ashdown Group: C#.Net Developer - C#, ASP.Net, PHP, HTML, JavaScript, CSS

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: C#.Net Developer - C#, ASP.Net, HTML...

Argyll Scott International: Senior Business Analyst- Insurance

Negotiable: Argyll Scott International: Senior Business Analyst - Insurance ...

Recruitment Genius: Property Manager

£25000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This independent, growing Sales...

Day In a Page

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

When two worlds collide

Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?