Sauter studied music at Columbia University and the Juilliard School. He began as a drummer and then played trumpet professionally, most notably with Red Norvo's orchestra. Eventually he became a full-time arranger for Norvo. He went on to arrange and compose for Artie Shaw, Tommy Dorsey, Woody Herman, and especially Benny Goodman, earning a reputation for intricate, complex, and carefully crafted works such as "Benny Rides Again," "Moonlight on the Ganges," and "Clarinet a la King".
From 1952 to 1958 Sauter was co-leader of the Sauter-Finegan Orchestra. Between 1957 and 1959 he was Kurt Edelhagen's successor as leader of the SWF orchestra in Baden-Baden, Germany. In 1961, he worked with tenor saxophonist Stan Getz on Focus, a unique collaboration for which Sauter---at Getz's commission---wrote a suite of string compositions (Roy Haynes, the jazz drummer, appeared on "I'm Late, I'm Late," the only selection to feature a non-string instrument other than Getz) without primary melodies, the idea being for Getz to improvise them in his customary lyric style.
Sauter and Getz collaborated again during Sauter's work composing the score for the 1965 film Mickey One, which starred Warren Beatty. His television composing includes the third season theme to Rod Serling's Night Gallery. In 2003 he was inducted into the Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame.
Although Sauter is best known for his jazz music, he also orchestrated a number of Broadway musicals, most notably 1776, but also including The Apple Tree and It's a Bird...It's a Plane...It's Superman.
- John Carisi, Eddie Sauter, Christian Wolff, Stefan Wolpe: Counterpoise (hat(now)ART; 2000)
- Stan Getz, composed and conducted by Eddie Sauter: Focus (Verve 731452141927; original release: 1961)
- Stan Getz (Eddie Sauter, composer), Stan Getz Plays Music from the Soundtrack of Mickey One (Verve 731453123229; original release: 1965)
- Benny Goodman, Benny Goodman Plays Eddie Sauter (Hep, 1997).
- Red Norvo, Knockin' on Wood (ASV Living Era, 1999).
- The Sauter-Finegan Orchestra, Inside the Sound (1952 recordings; Jasmine, 2007).
- The Sauter-Finegan Orchestra, NBC Bandstand Live: 1957 (Collectors' Choice, 1997).
- [Portrait of Ralph Burns, Edwin A. Finckel, George Handy, Neal Hefti, Johnny Richards, and Eddie Sauter, Museum of Modern Art, New York, N.Y., ca. Mar. 1947 - William P. Gottlieb, accessed January 2011
- Suskin, Steven (2009). The sound of Broadway music: a book of orchestrators and orchestrations. Oxford University Press. p. 86.