STEVEN CERRA, COPYRIGHT PROTECTED; ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Pete Rugolo and Hank Mancini were the best of friends.
Both were also the best at what they did - primarily composing and arranging for big bands, movies and television.
And both were lucky, too, and they knew it.
Pete, still in the military, meeting Stan Kenton at the Golden Gate Theater in San Francisco toward the close of World War II and giving him arrangements that were perfectly in keeping with the way Stan wrote charts for the band at a time when Stan was looking to replace himself at the band's chief orchestrator.
The soon-to-be-unemployed Hank Mancini coming out of the barber shop at Universal City Studios and encountering a chance meeting with Blake Edwards who was in the planning stages for PETER GUNN, a new half hour television series, and being offered the opportunity to write the music for it.
"What is it," Mancini asked, "a Western"?
I heard Pete and Hank speak at a university in Northridge, CA where they shared their respective reminiscences with an audience of music faculty and students about "what it was like" back in the good old days" when there was "so much work writing for movies and TV" that they stayed awake all night creating music to meet production deadlines.
Pete went on to say: "In the early days, we had to copy out our own parts, take them to rehearsals, conduct the music and synch [synchronize] it with "click tracks" to the movie or edit it for the TV show. Sometimes, we even contracted the musicians for the gig."
Overlooking the fact that each was a gifted musicians, Hank commented "I guess we were both at the right place at the right time, because those days are over."
And so they are.
These days the music for many TV shows sounds like it was written by a tone deaf synthesizer operator creating audience sensations by subjecting it to a series of aural, electronic shocks. Thank goodness that John Williams still writes the occasional score for action hero movies.
Will listening to their music recently, I was thinking about Pete and Hank and thought it would be fun to connect a series of previous features about them under the banner of one of Hank's most memorable melodies - Two for the Road.
I can still hear the infectious laughter and see the gleam in their eyes as they recounted their heartwarming stories.
Every so often, the good guys win.
PETE RUGOLO: SENSIBILITIES
STEVEN CERRA, copyright protected; all rights reserved.
"Pete Rugolo was a soft-spoken, self-effacing man, which may be one of the reasons he has not been given his due as the pioneering jazz composer he was. Kenton managed to be a controversial figure for the scope of what he attempted, which was often denounced as pompous. And it could be, particularly in its later manifestations. But the band for which Pete first wrote had a blazing quality, particularly in its slow pieces, which a lot of young people found moody, almost mystical, and melancholy, an emotion appropriate to the fragile years of adolescence."Gene Lees
Every so often, the editorial staff at JAZZPROFILES enjoys revisiting with one of its heroes.
It is our way of saying "Thank You" to those who helped make our entrance into the joys of Jazz possible.
Such reconsiderations are especially pleasurable when we can do so through the perspective of the late
Gene Lees, whose writings on Jazz collectively form one of the great gifts to the music and its makers.
Imagine our delight, then, when we uncovered the following essay by Gene on arranger-composer Pete Rugolo whose sensibilities brought us the brilliant music he wrote for both Stan Kenton's and his own orchestra, Miles Davis Nontet'sBIRTH OF THE COOL when he served as the head of Jazz artist and repertoire for Capitol Records and a whole host of marvelous movie and television music.
GENE LEES, copyright protected; all rights reserved.
"I've told this before, but this is how I met the man. If you have reached "a certain age," as the French delicately put it, sufficient to remember the big bands in all their brassy glory, you will recall how the true believers would cluster close to the bandstand, listening to soloists whose names we knew, while the mere fans -- some distance behind us -- did their jitterbug gyrations. Since I was always one of these ardent listeners, I never learned to dance worth a hoot. But I heard a lot of good music.
Yet another of the bands I admired came through, playing in the red-brick Armory on
"I went to high school and junior college in
Santa Rosa. From there I went to San Francisco State College to be a teacher. I never thought I'd make a living in music. I studied classical piano for the first time. I had to play some Beetho ven for my graduation. I went for four years, got my B.A. I played in dance bands in
San Francisco. My favorite piano players were Teddy Wilson and Art Tatum. I played at Sweets Ballroom, where every week they would have a name band. Benny Goodman came in with Harry James playing the trumpet. Sinatra came in singing with Tommy Dorsey. We would play the first couple of hours and then we'd hear Duke Ellington or Jimmie Lunceford or Gene Krupa. I remember giving Gene a couple of arrangements.
"I learned the hard way, and I got to be pretty good, I must say. Everybody wanted to use me to play piano in dance bands. In those days in
San Francisco, what they called tenor bands were quite popular. I had to play like Eddie Duchin and people like that. I didn't go for the Freddy Martin type things. Gil Evans was my favorite band."
Gil Evans had a highly regarded regional band that played in a Benny Goodman style. It was heard on the radio.
"I liked Fletcher Henderson," Pete said. "Eddie Sauter was one of my favorite arrangers. And Bill Finegan. They were to
One of the best things on the band that I have read is in a liner note by Pete Welding for a reissue CD that he produced, KENTON: NEW CONCEPTS IN ARTISTRY IN RHYTHM. Acknowledging the later criticisms of Kenton, Welding wrote:
"But the 1940s and most of the '50s belonged to Kenton. His was one of the most vital new bands to have emerged during the war years and, as the decade advanced and put behind it the hit-oriented vocals and novelty fare that initially had enabled it to sustain itself, its music became ever more venturesome in character as its approach was more clearly defined. This stemmed almost solely from Kenton, through the many attractive themes and striking arrangements he fash ioned for the band and . . . through supervising . . . the other orchestrators who from the late '40s contributed to its book."
"A lot of the things in the book I did not write," Rugolo said. "Stan wrote Artistry in Rhythm, although I did different arrangements of it. He'd been using it as a theme, the slow version. I did Artistry Jumps. Stan wrote Concerto to End All Concertos and Opus in Pastels." Indeed, Kenton wrote and arranged a lot of the material that defined the band by the mid-1940s, including Eager Beaver, Painted Rhythm, Collaboration, Theme to the West, Minor Riff, and Southern Scandal. 'They were all things he wrote before I joined the band," Pete said. "I wrote Elegy for Alto and a lot of things. I wrote most of the original tunes for the band.
"We were supposed to record Ravel's Bolero. But we couldn't get a copyright clearance. Stan said, 'Can you write a new bolero?' So I wrote Artistry in Bolero. Ten out of twelve things in those albums are mine."
One of the things he wrote was an arrangement of Benny Carter's Lonely Woman, featuring a trombone solo by Milt Bernhart. He also wrote an arrangement on All the Things You Are for June Christy. The tune itself is beyond the scope of her chops, and the boodly-oo-debe-bop scat solo in the up- tempo second chorus is particularly inept. But then my views on scat singing are by now a matter of record. He also wrote a piece called Three Mothers, a sort of homage to Woody Herman's Four Brothers. The players were Art Pepper, Conte Candoli, and Bob Cooper. Bebop was in full flower, and Pete sounded very much at home in it.
Kenton had an acute ear not only for arrangers, Bill Russo and Bill Holman among the most important, but for players. The alumni included, as well as those already mentioned, Stan Getz, Eddie Safranski, Kai Winding, Shelly Manne, Laurindo Almeida, Conte and Pete Candoli, Maynard Ferguson, Shorty
Rogers, Lennie Niehaus, Frank Rosolino, Sal Salvador, Bill Perkins, Lee Konitz, Richie Kamuca, Herb Geller, Zoot Sims, Stan Levey, Bill Perkins, Charlie Mariano, Carl Fontana, Pepper Adams, Red Mitchell, Jack Sheldon, Bud Shank, Rolf Ericsson, Jimmy Knepper, Al Porcino, and Red Kelly. A lot of these men also played in the Woody Herman band
There was no great love between Woody Herman and Stan Kenton. Because I liked both men, and Woody was almost a father to me, I tried to soothe things, telling each of them (I lied) something nice the other supposedly had said about him. It didn't work; they either knew each other too well, or they knew me too well. Bassist Red Kelly, one of those who worked in both bands, proposed a theory. "They didn't trust each other," Red said. "Woody didn't trust anything that didn't swing. Stan didn't trust anything that did."
Shelly Manne was quoted in DOWN BEAT as saying that playing drums with Kenton was like chopping wood. Al Porcino, one of the greatest of lead trumpet players, was yet another of those who had played in both bands. A legend has grown up around a remark attributed to Porcino. Stan would sometimes give pep talks to the band. In one of them Stan said (and he had a wonderfully sonorous voice), "We've had the Artistry in Rhythm orchestra, we've had the Innovations in Modern Music orchestra, we've had the Neophonic Orchestra. We've got to try something new."
From the back of the band came the slow bored voice of Al Porcino, "We could try swinging, Stan."
Bud Shank told me a few years ago:
"I had and still have a lot of respect for Stan. He really encouraged the guys in the band to do whatever their thing was. I was hired to be lead alto player, not to be a soloist. That was Art Pepper's job. Whatever your position in that band, Stan encouraged you to do your thing.
"But that band was too clumsy to swing -- because of the instrumentation and the voicings. On the other hand, the sounds that came out of it were big noises, really impressive. That's what that band was all about, making those really big noises. As far as swinging, it never did swing. Maybe it wasn't supposed to. I don't know. There sure were some players in it who swung.
"The CONTEMPORARY CONCEPTS album, with those Bill Holman arrangements -- that's one of the best big-band albums I've ever heard."
And, with Mel Lewis driving the rhythm section, it assuredly swung.
Confirming Bud's statement that Stan let the musicians do their thing, Pete said: "We played a lot of theaters in those days. Stan needed a fast opener. He'd tell me things like that. He changed hardly a note of what I did. He paid me so much a week. At first it was fifty dollars a week, or something like that, but he never said, 'You have to write so many arrange ments.' When we traveled I never had time to write. But when we'd get to
L.A. I'd write five arrangements. I learned to write pretty fast in those days. One tune a day.
"I traveled on the bus. We had to pay for our own room and board. We were on the bus a lot, playing one-nighters. We'd play one place and the next night we'd be two hundred miles away. I loved playing
"Yeah, that's where I met you. You were so kind to me."
"I'm glad. I think all the people I met were nice to me. I met Duke Ellington. He would talk to me. In fact he'd call me at four o'clock in the morning and say, 'When are you going to write something for me?' I couldn't write for him. He was my favorite, and I'd think, 'What if I write something and he doesn't like it?' The other guy I did the same thing to was Frank Sinatra. I got to be a buddy of his. I kept company with him, especially during his bad years when he couldn't sing. He was always after me to do an arrangement for him. And I could never do it. He was my favorite singer, and I thought 'Suppose I do something and he doesn't like it?' So those two, Duke Ellington and Frank Sinatra, I could never write for them. Anybody else asked me, and I would do it. Charlie Barnet. Whatever they wanted. But those two, I never could force myself to write for them.
"After Stan broke up the band in '49,1 stayed two years in
New York. I went to work for Capitol records, producing. I recorded all the Capitol people that came to town. In those days,
New York was wonderful. It had
"Then one day I got a call from Stanley Wilson at Univer sal. They said they were doing a TV series with Boris Karloff called THRILLER and they thought I'd be good for that kind of score. They wanted a real kind of modern score. So I went to Universal and I did the pilot and they really liked it a lot. I met Roy Huggins, who became a very dear friend, and he used me in everything. I did THE FUGITIVE theme and the music and everything Roy Huggins did. And I did other things at Universal. I stayed at Universal for fifteen years. I did one show after another. I wrote, like, forty minutes of music every week. I don't know how I ever did it. I learned to write real fast! And I never had an orchestrator. I orchestrated all my own music. I did a lot of those movies-of-the-week, as they called them. I did some of the Hitchcock TV shows."
"Were you and Mancini at Universal at the same time?"
'Yeah. By then Hank was doing movies. He didn't do any television then. He'd already done PETER GUNN. We were very dear friends. We had dinner together, we liked to cook together. For a long time he never got the credit he deserved. It went to Joseph Gershenson at Universal. Hank would get an orchestration credit. Gershenson would take the music credit. That was going on a lot in those days."
I said, "Hank did things like CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON, and the royalties are still coming in. As Hank said, 'Movies are forever.'"
"Oh sure. I was griping all the time because Roy Huggins wanted music under everything, fires, machine guns, wrecks. And I was saying, 'I don't have time to write all that music!' But now I'm so glad I did, because the residuals are by the minute. And they took time to do, automobile races, and all that. Now I'm glad I did it"
I asked Pete, who retired some time ago, if he could, in so storied a career, cite high points in his life and work. He said:
"I wrote a lot of television shows. I did movies. I did some jazz albums for Columbia Records. I'm very proud of all the things I did with June Christy, Something Cool.
"And the years with Stan. They were wonderful. Stan was wonderful. We were very close friends, almost like brothers."
Some years ago, Henry Mancini went to the mountain village where his father was born. The road was rough and danger ous. There was no hotel in the village, and he and his wife turned around and went back down the mountain. Now, Hank told me, a freeway ran to the village, and it had evolved into a ski resort. He said it's where the Italians go to ski.
Pete made a similar pilgrimage, but in his case to the village in which not his father but he was born. Again, the road up the mountain was dangerous. And again, there was no hotel, and he never did find the house in which he was born. He and his wife Edie told their driver to turn around, and they went back down the mountain. They went on to
Sicily was far in Pete's past."
You can listen to an example of Pete's writing for television on the audio track to the following video. The tune is entitled The Teaser and it would be played for the short "teaser" action you see first at the beginning of each RICHARD DIAMOND PRIVATE DETECTIVE television show starring actor David Janssen.
"The Teaser is a stirring example of Rugolo's thrilling Latin Jazz. Larry Bunker plays both bongos and (later) vibraphone. The irrepressible Bud Shank plays the Jazz alto solo. Buddy Collette and Bob Cooper are briefly heard on flute and oboe respectively."
PETE RUGOLO: GENTILITY AND GREATNESS
(c) -STEVEN A. CERRA, COPYRIGHT PROTECTED; ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
"Gentle and self-effacing to a fault, Pete has had more influence on jazz than he would ever claim."Gene Lees
"Rugolo was always a musical risk-taker."Ted Gioia
"Pete was one of the first to apply an extensive symphonic or non-Jazz compositional technique to the Jazz orchestra. Rugolo was without a doubt the initiator of Third Stream Music."
- Bill Russo
Many years later, in an interview in Metronome, he recalled what it was like to become a member of Kenton's arranging staff in 1946: "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."
- Pete Rugolo
"Take one little idea, one little 'gem', and develop it. It's knowing what not to put in, when not to fill. Write a couple of bars and develop them. Simplicity is the key."
- Pete Rugolo
Has there ever been a more talented composer-arranger than Pete Rugolo?
Has there ever been a kinder, nicer human being?
Even when you meet Pete Rugolo in person, this accomplished and incredibly talented man, makes YOU feel good!
Take, for example, this anecdote as told by
Gene Lees in John Reeves, JAZZ LIVES: 100 PORTRAITS IN JAZZ [p. 14]:
"A few years ago I ran into Pete Rugolo at a party.
I told him of a night back in my home town, Hamilton, Ontario, when I went to hear one of the touring big bands I admired. I can still picture the scene: the old red-brick armory down on
This article was first published in CRESCENDO AND JAZZ MUSIC, August, 1993.
Copyright (c) 1993, Howard Lucraft. All Rights Reserved
The prestigious American Society of Music Arrangers and Composers (ASMAC) gives an annual "Golden Score" award for "continued excellence and achievement in arranging and composing". As a long-time ASMAC member (and both former vice president and executive director) I am a proud major influence in the choice of awardees in previous years, which have included Alex North and Benny Carter. This year the "Golden Score" most deservedly went to Pete Rugolo.
All jazz buffs know of Pete as the primary composer and arranger in the early, highly successful years of the Stan Kenton Orchestra. In
Hollywood today Pete is far more famous as a film and TV composer.
Pete's film credits (mostly musicals for Joe Pasternak) include "Where the Boys Are", "Skirts Ahoy", "Latin Lovers", "The Strip", "Everything I Have Is Yours", "Easy to Love", and "Jack the Ripper". His TV scores (some of which received Emmy awards and nominations) are too numerous to mention. Possibly the most famous are "Richard Diamond", "Run for Your Life" and "The Bold Ones".
Hollywood has always applauded Pete for his unique creativity--for his thematic material, form and style and original colors in orchestration. When Pete had his big band he introduced a special reed sound. In contrast to the Glenn Miller clarinet lead, Pete had an alto flute lead, above four saxophones.
Pete's pertinent pointers for today's arrangers--use imagination, courage and inquisitiveness in writing--always wonder how this and that would sound together. "Nowadays there are no rules to follow", Pete declared. "Today the techniques of players have improved so much. You can write almost anything and they will play it." Pete likes to use colors that are only possible in a studio--such as a bass flute against eight brass.
Pete Rugolo was born in
Sicily on Christmas Day 1915. His father played baritone horn. Both his sisters were musicians. The Rugolo family came to the
United States when Pete was five.
He claims that he originally learned to write "just by trial and error. I just got the sheet music and started to write arrangements. I was playing piano in my home town of
California. I used to question the arrangers in the name bands that came to town." Later Pete did study extensively. He gained a B.A. at
College. Then he studied with Darius Milhaud at
College and obtained his M.A.
"To be an effective composer for films and TV the more schooled you are as a musician the more fluently you can write. You must know harmony and counterpoint thoroughly." Speed writing is essential, of course, for TV series. "You must have the idea(s) properly in your mind before you start." Pete is probably the most modest, self-effacing yet ultra original composer/ arranger in
Hollywood. It's hard to think of another famous film composer with such a varied background of successes.
After some 100 compositions and arrangements for Kenton he became an Athe two quotations by Pete are from an interview that Ted conducted with him on October 16, 1989].
TED GIOIA, copyright protected; all rights reserved.
"After Rugolo's discharge from the service, he joined the Kenton squad full-time, with a $150 a week salary and--even rarer for a staff writer-- constant public acknowledgment by Kenton for his contributions to the band. The Kenton position was demanding. "For the four or five years I was with the band full-time, I wrote probably about ninety percent of the band's material," Rugolo recalls. "Stan wasn't writing much then, and occasionally someone else would contribute a chart. But most of it I did." Time pressures aggravated the situation:
'I never had time to write during those years. Sometimes I'd have to come up with three or four arrangements in a couple of days. Or with seven ar rangements in four days, like when we did a June Christy project. I listen back to those pieces and sometimes I wish I had had more time, but some times I'm surprised at what I came up with. You see, it was hard to find time to write when the band was on the road. I don't know why, but Stan wanted me to show up every night at the concerts--sometimes I would sit in on the piano for the last hour of the concert, while Stan would go mix with some of the people.'
During the postwar years, however, Rugolo proved to be an ideal collaborator for Kenton. He played Billy Strayhorn to Kenton's Duke El lington, and as with the Ellington/Strayhorn collaborations, Kenton and Rugolo could each create individual music that flowed seamlessly into the work of the other. Rugolo recalls their working sessions:
'Stan might have an idea. He'd maybe say, "Let's do something for [bassist Eddie] Safranski," or he'd want something for [drummer] Shelly [Manne] or [tenor saxophonist] Vido [Musso]. Some times we'd sit for a few minutes at the piano and work on some ideas. A lot of times we would write what we'd call a menu. Stan would say, "Let's start with a piano introduction, then a piano solo of sixteen bars, then Vido"-- things like that. Then I'd go and do all of the actual writing. Stan wasn't writing much at all at that time. He never really changed anything I wrote. Even though I would do some daring things with time signatures or disso nances, or classical things.'"
Steven Harris in his magnificent retrospective on THE KENTON KRONICLES: A BIOGRAPHY OF MODERN AMERICA'S MAN OF MUSIC - STAN KENTON shared these observations by Pete.
(c) -Steven Harris, copyright protected; all rights reserved.
"Stan was probably the greatest showman of all the bandleaders. He just gave a downbeat with his arms stretched out, and that sold everybody. At the keyboard, lOths were nothing to him; I had to "roll" mine. Stan was so handsome and had a wonderful personality. June Christy had that same dynamic personality. Whenever she had to make announcements on some radio show or introduce a song at a concert, she was so good at it--just the opposite of me..
I became staff arranger around November, 1945, when I got out of the service. I was discharged in San Pedro and met with Kenton at the Palladium in
Holly wood. There were a couple of other arrangements I brought with me and Stan really liked them, even more so than the first ones. Not long after that, the band headed back east for Frank Dailey's Meadowbrook [in February, 1946.] Whenever I was on the road with Stan, he'd always take a rest around midnight and I would play the last set every night..
Eager Beaver, that's what really drew the people to Stan, the commercial sides. If he hadn't managed to sell things like And Her Tears Flowed Like Wine or
Tampico to the public, I'm convinced that Stan never would have had the chance to continue on with his progressive jazz.
As far as any composing format goes, for some of the things Stan and I did together, we would have a meeting. We'd get together at the piano and if he had an idea for a tune, I would finish it. We'd write what we called a "map." We would put down a piano solo for the first eight bars, and figure out a sax or trombone solo for so many bars...we worked together that way on numbers such as Theme To The West. But for the most part, Stan didn't have the time to compose. Most of the time, he gave me total freedom in the arrangements and choice of tunes. The only input he gave me for compositions was wanting a specific arrangement for Shelly Manne, Eddie Safranski and Vido Musso for our debut album on Capitol, and some pop tunes for June Christy...Curiosity and all those awful tunes we had to do.
I knew what Stan liked, truthfully, and I worked that way for the first year or so, the way he would write things, to try to please him. But he never told me harmonically what to write or stopped me. After that I was on my own. I decided to go a little further and he gave me all the freedom in the world. That's when I got more adventurous and daring with progressive jazz. Stan never said, that's too wild, but sometimes the guys in the band thought the music was copied wrong. I'd say, No, no, I wrote it that way intentionally!'
By the time we premiered the Progressive Jazz Orchestra in September, 1947, I had written a new arrangement of the opening and closing theme of Stan's Artistry In Rhythm, which was the same one that Stan played until the end. He always got credit for the full arrangement, but I did write the closing section.
At the start of 1950, Stan called me in
New York about forming the new Innovations Orchestra, and I came out to help organize it. We didn't have much time until the first LA concert at Philharmonic Hall. In one week I wrote Mirage, Conflict,
In a chapter entitled "The Arrival of Rugolo (1946)" in his definitive biography, STAN KENTON: THIS IS AN ORCHESTRA!, Michael Sparke offers these reminiscences by Pete on his time on the band.
(c) -Michael Sparke, copyright protected; all rights reserved.
"'Little by little,' Rugolo recalled, 'I started bringing in the more modern stuff, and at first the guys in the band weren't crazy about it, because they said it didn't swing. They liked Basie. But slowly they came around. The trumpet players especially had never seen writing like it, where they would have to come in at different times and all that, and after a while they started to enjoy the challenge. Saxophones were funny too--people like Vido Musso, who was not a good reader, he'd count on Boots Mussulli to tell him when to come in, 'cos I was writing for the saxes with everybody coming in at different times, not all five of them together.
Truthfully, a lot of the guys didn't like my arrangements, because though there were some people in the band that liked modern music, others just liked swinging, Basie-type things. And they would balk because we played so many of my things that didn't really swing. They weren't supposed to swing, they were supposed to be concert pieces.
I'd bring in some of these progressive arrangements, and the guys had never played anything like that before. They'd say, "Hey, I have a wrong note here," and I'd say, "No, I want you to play it like that." They were used to playing all the old-time things, and I introduced these new ideas to Stan. He played everything open in the early days, and I liked to experiment with different timbres and tone colors. I'd put maybe two trumpets in a Harmon, one in another kind of mute, and leave one open, opening up all kinds of tone colors. Stan was wonderful, he never changed a note. He thought the more modern the better.
Stan might sometimes come up with part of a theme, but more often the actual melody was my own work. Then many times Stan and I would discuss a piece at length, and write what we called a 'menu' or 'map,' such as piano intro, Vido 1st eight, saxophone chorus, Kai solo