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Buddy Bregman (1930-2017)

Wednesday, 11 January 2017 14:23

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Buddy Bregman, a West Coast big-band arranger who could write with sensitivity and swing, and spent much of his career orchestrating music for leading jazz-pop singers, television and the movies, died Jan. 8.

He was 86 and had been suffering from Alzheimer's disease.

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Bregman was a nephew of songwriter Jule Styne, which is how he managed to record Gypsy with Annie Ross so early. In short, Styne gave him the music first, before song pluggers began pushing the show's catchy tunes toward big-name singers. The Ross album was recorded just before the Broadway musical opened on May 21, 1959.

Born in Chicago, Bregman began his music education at 5, performing his first piano recital at 12 at the city's Baldwin Hall. By 15, Bregman could play clarinet, saxophone and flute. Two years later, he became the youngest arranger hired by NBC when he signed on to arrange and conduct The Jack Haley Show.

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A flurry of radio, TV and movie credits followed, and by the early 1950s he was the musical director of NBC-TV's top-rated Eddie Fisher Show. While Bregman arranged occasional albums for Ella Fitzgerald, Anita O'Day, Bing Crosby and other singers, they were jobs of passion since by the late 1950s he was found largely in the world of television and the movies.

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I've always loved Bregman's arrangements. He had the clout in Hollywood to pull together the best West Coast recording studio artists, and the results always had punch and kick. If all he ever recorded was Anita O'Day's Pick Yourself Up for Verve, that would have been enough for me. Of course, Bregman arranged much more. Here are a bunch of my favorites:

Here's Anita O'Day singing Bregman's arrangement of You're the Top in Dec. 1955 (the trombone section here featured Milt Bernhart, Lloyd Ulyate, Joe Howard and Si Zentner)...

Here's Ella Fitzgerald singing Bregman's arrangement of Anything Goes in 1956 on the Cole Porter Songbook (dig the rundown with brass, tagged at the end by a strings figure to close it out)...

Here's Count Basie playing Bregman's arrangement of There Will Never Be Another You in 1956 with Joe Williams singing...

Here's Ella Fitzgerald in1956 singing Bregman's arrangement of Mountain Greenery on her Rodgers and Hart Songbook...

Here's Kicks Swings from Swinging Kicks in 1956 with Conte Candoli (tp), Frank Rosolino (tb), Bud Shank (as), Jimmy Giuffre (bar), Paul Smith (p), Joe Mondragon (b) and Stan Levey...

Here's Anita O'Day singing Bregman's arrangement of Man With a Horn from Pick Yourself Up with Ted Nash playing gorgeous obbligatos on the tenor saxophone...

And here's Annie Ross singing Bregman's arrangement of Small World from Gypsy, featuring Conte Candoli and Pete Candoli (tp), Frank Rosolino (tb), Herb Geller (as), Richie Kamuca (ts) or Stan Getz (ts), Bill Perkins (bar), Russ Freeman (p), Jim Hall (g), Monty Budwig (b) and Mel Lewis (d)...

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