Kenneth Ascher

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Kenny Ascher
Kenny Ascher.jpg
Kenny Ascher
Background information
Birth name Kenneth Lee Ascher
Born (1944-10-26) October 26, 1944 (age 69)
Washington, D.C., USA
Genres Big band, jazz, rock, film
Occupations Jazz pianist, composer, arranger, studio musician
Instruments piano

Kenneth Lee "Kenny" Ascher (born October 26, 1944 in Washington, D.C.) is an American jazz pianist, composer, and arranger who is active in jazz, rock, classical, and musical theater genres — in live venues, recording studios, and cinema production.[1] He is widely known for co-writing, with Paul Williams, The Rainbow Connection — music from The Muppet Movie. Both Williams and Ascher received Oscar nominations for the 1979 Academy Awards for Best Original Song ("Rainbow Connection") and Best Original Score (The Muppet Movie Soundtrack). The song was also nominated for the Golden Globes for "Best Original Song" that same year.

His work[edit]

Ascher's work through the years has included keyboard parts and string arrangements on John Lennon's albums Mind Games, Walls and Bridges and Rock 'n' Roll and Yoko Ono's A Story, music for several songs from Barbra Streisand's remake of A Star Is Born (where he also served as music coordinator), and arrangements for portions of Jim Steinman and Meat Loaf's masterpiece, Bat out of Hell (produced by Todd Rundgren). Ascher's own rendition of The Rainbow Connection was featured in the closing credits of The Break-Up (starring Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston). Ascher is the pianist with the Birdland Big Band, which performs Fridays from 5:15 to 7 at Birdland in New York City. The Birdland Big Band performs The Rainbow Connection, arranged by Lew Anderson.

In the latter 1960s, Ascher played piano and arranged for the Woody Herman Orchestra. Herman hired Ascher — on the advice of Frank Foster — to replace Nat Pierce, who had departed.[2][3] Ascher has been a member of ASCAP since 1968.

Selected compositions[edit]

  • Three for the show, m & arr. Ascher (©1960)
  • The White rabbit, music & arr. Ascher (©1960)
  • Scotch mist, music & arr. by Ascher (©1960)
  • Theme for Ken's men, m & arr. Ascher (©1960)
  • Retrospect, words & arr. Ascher (©1960)
  • Typically April: A Revolutionary Musical, lyrics and music by Ascher (1966)
  • Stars and sand (©1967)
  • Nightling (©1967)
  • April's in my lady's face (©1967)
  • Colors (©1967)
  • Dressed up for a dream (©1967)
  • These blues were made for cookin' (©1967)
  • Who can hear the nightingale? (©1967)
  • It seems different to me now (©1967)
  • Lullaby (©1967)
  • Last night's rain (©1967)
  • Laughin' place (©1967)
  • Miss Fitz (©1967)
  • Maybe another spring (©1967)
  • Funny little girl (©1967)
  • Concerto for Trombone and Orchestra (1968)
  • 1968 Baltimore Colts Highlights (ASCAP 1968)
  • Music for Orchestra (Master's essay, Columbia University) (1968)
  • Bittersweet wild child, words by Donna Lee, music by Ascher (©1968)
  • Cavettina (©1968)
  • Silent partners, words Donna Lee, music Ascher (©1968)
  • So I told it to the rain, words Donna Lee Levitt (Donna Lee), music by Ascher (©1968)
  • You can't make this child cry, words Donna Lee Levitt, music by Ascher (©1968)
  • Here I go again, words Donna Lee (Donna Lee Levitt), music by Ascher (©1968)
  • My memory bank's been robbed, words Donna Lee (Donna Lee Levitt), music by Ascher (©1968)
  • Leaf in the wind, words and music by Lon Ritchie & Ascher (©1969)
  • Omnibus, words & music by Ascher, Donna Lee & Joe Renzetti (©1969)
  • One for Jim (©1970)
  • Another kind of blues (©1970)
  • Mosaics : a piece for guitar, string quartet and woodwind quartet with accompanying aesthetic commentary and description (thesis for Columbia University) (©1972)
  • Inspiration, by Paul Williams, Ascher (©1973)
  • Bugaloo and such (©1973)
  • Play, piper, play, words Donna Lee Levitt, music Ascher (©1973)
  • Little bit of love, words & music by Paul Williams & Ascher (©1974)
  • Lone star, words & music by Paul Williams & Ascher (©1974)
  • Loneliness, words & music Paul Williams & Ascher (©1974)
  • Nilsson sings Newman, by Paul Williams, Ascher (©1974)
  • Sad song, words & music Paul Williams & Ascher (©1974)
  • Sunday, words & music Paul Williams & Ascher (©1974)
  • You know me, by Paul Williams, Ascher (©1974)
  • She Sings for Free, words & music by Paul Williams & Ascher (©1974, ©2002)
  • You and Me Against the World, Paul Williams, Ascher (©1974)
  • Makin' the same mistakes (©1974)
  • Isn't it odd? (©1974)
  • Candlelight dreamer (©1974)
  • Bein' a movie star (©1974)
  • Coming undone (©1974)
  • With you, words Carole Bayer Sager, music Ascher (©1975)
  • Don't you worry child, words Carole Bayer Sager, music Ascher (©1975)

From the 1976 film, A Star is Born

  1. Watch Closely Now, Paul Williams, Ascher
  2. Hellacious Acres, Paul Williams, Ascher
  3. The Woman in the Moon, Paul Williams, Ascher
  4. Finale: With One More Look at You/Watch Closely Now, Paul Williams, Ascher
  • Run for life, vocal music by Ascher, lyrics by Albert Lerman (©1978)

From the 1979 film, The Muppet Movie

  1. Rainbow connection, words & music by Ascher and Paul Williams (©1979)
  2. Movin' right along, Paul Williams & Ascher (©1979)
  3. Never Before, Never Again!,Miss Piggy, Paul Williams & Ascher (©1979)
  4. Never Before, Never Again!,Instrumental, Paul Williams & Ascher (©1979)
  5. I Hope That Somethin' Better Comes Along!,Kermit and Rowlf, Paul Williams & Ascher (©1979)
  6. Can you picture that?, Paul Williams & Ascher (©1979)
  7. I Hope That Somethin' Better Comes Along!, – Instrumental
  8. For goodness sake, Paul Williams, Ascher (©1979)
  9. Finale, the magic store, Paul Williams, Ascher (©1979)
  • For the life of me, Paul Williams, Ascher (©1979)
  • Making friends, Waring & LaRosa; arr. Ascher (©1979)
  • Gift, Paul Williams, Ascher (©1979)
  • Little more like you, Paul Williams, Ascher (©1979)
  • Save me a dream, Paul Williams, Ascher (©1979)
  • Go away
  • Song for children of all ages, words and music by Ascher
  • Kenny's ballad, music by Ascher (©1980)
  • Perfect crime, music & lyrics by Ascher & John Barranco (©1989)

Selected discography[edit]

As leader

As arranger

Woody's boogaloo, arranged by Ascher
B3 – You Know Me, by Ascher & Williams

As sideman or band member, on keyboards

A4 – The Sands Of Time And Changes (Ascher, piano)
B2 – A Song For You (Ascher, piano)
B2 – Sweet Misery (Ascher plays clavinet and organ)
A1 – A Little Bit Of Love, by Ascher
A4 – Sunday, by Ascher
B2 – She Sings For Free, by Ascher
B5 – Loneliness, by Ascher
B6 – Sad Song, by Ascher
B4 – I don't have to do what I don't want to do (Ascher plays melletron on this track)
B1 – You And Me Against The World, arr Don Hannah, written by Ascher & Williams
A1 – Watch Closely Now, by Ascher
A5 – Hellacious Acres, by Ascher
B1 – The Woman In The Moon, by Ascher and Williams
B4 – Finale: With One More Look At You / Watch Closely Now, by Ascher and Williams
A2 – You And Me Against the World, by Ascher and Williams
A4 – Loneliness, by Ascher and Williams
B2 – With One More Look at You, by Ascher and Williams
(Ascher produced tracks: A2, A4, B4, B5)
A3 – Heaven Can Wait (string arrangement by Ascher)
B1 – Two Out of Three Ain't Bad (string arrangement by Ascher)
A2 – Smoothin' On Down (Ascher plays clavinet on this track)
B – It Happened (Ascher, keyboards on the flipside only)
2-15 – Back By The River (Ascher plays keyboard)
1 – Morning Much Better, Ascher – piano
6 – Running Out Of Fools - If You Gotta Make A Fool Of Somebody, Ascher – piano
10 – Time, Ascher – piano
11 – When The Sun Comes Shining Through (The Ladder), Ascher – piano
5 – Unscheduled Departures
8 – M.A.P.S. (Bob Mann, Kenny Ascher, Don Payne, Allen Schwartzberg)
10 – When She Loved Me (Ascher, keyboards)
14 – Baby Mine, (Ascher, keyboards & string arrangements)
4 – One Less Bell To Answer (piano, Ascher; arr Bacharach; strings arr, Ascher)
11 – Close To You (Ascher, piano)
12 – A House Is Not A Home (Ascher, piano)
  • The Birdland Big Band, The Lew Anderson Tribute Concert (live), I.E.G. Inc. (June 1, 2007)
  • Tommy Igoe and the Birdland Big Band, Live from New York (DVD) I.E.G. Inc. (Jan 1, 2009) (OCLC 271753259)
  • Andy Farber and His Orchestra, This Could be the Start of Something Big (2009)
  • Tommy Igoe and the Birdland Big Band, Eleven (11-11-11)

Awards & award nominations[edit]

Awards

Nominations

Past Grammy Nominations
Nominee Genre Category Title Performing
Artist
17th Annual (for recordings released between Oct 16, 1973 and Oct 15, 1974)
March 1, 1975
Paul Williams
Kenneth Ascher
Songwriters Award Song of the Year You and Me Against the World Helen Reddy
20th Annual (for recordings released between Oct 1, 1976 and Sep 30, 1977)
February 23, 1977
Kenny Ascher, Alan Bergman,
Marilyn Bergman, Rupert Holmes,
Leon Russell, Barbra Streisand,
Donna Weiss, Paul Williams,
Kenny Loggins
Composers and Arrangers Best Album of an Original Score
Written for a Motion Picture or a TV Special
A Star is Born Motion Picture
22nd Annual (for recordings released between Oct 1, 1978 and Sep 30, 1979)
February 27, 1980
Paul Williams
Kenneth Ascher
Composers and Arrangers Best Album of an Original Score
Written for a Motion Picture or a TV Special
The Muppet Movie Motion Picture

Critically acclaimed live performances[edit]

  • Feb 1973 — Ascher played piano with Marvin Stamm at Sam's Jazz Upstairs (1220 2nd Avenue at 64th St., New York City): Bob Dougherty (bass) and Ronnie Zito on drums. Stamm said, "In 21 years of playing music, this is the best group of musicians I've ever been with." Reflecting on that statement, John Stuart Wilson (1913–2002), longtime jazz critic for The New York Times, said, "That might have sounded like a fatuous statement leaders often make in introducing their musicians to a jazz club audience. In this case, however, it was completely believable because Mr. Stamm's quartet is the most exciting group that has turned-up in New York for a long time."[4]
  • May 1973 — Kenny Ascher Trio, Sundays, Jimmy Weston's, 131 E 54th St., New York City[5]
  • Jan 13, 2009 — Mike Berkowitz and The New Gene Krupa Orchestra, Iridium
  • Dec 2000 — Michael Feinstein with a small swing band led by Kenny Ascher, the Regency, New York City[6]
  • July 2001 — Jay Leonhart with Kenny Ascher and Michael Leonhart, July 13–21, Oak Room of the Algonquin Hotel[7]

Jingle writing[edit]

Ascher has composed (or co-composed) jingles for:

  1. Applause
  2. Gotcha
  3. Larry
  4. Mr. Calm
  1. The Beer
  2. Combined
  1. Brilliant Idea/ GE Brings Good Things to Life
  2. Cooking
  1. Never Underestimate
  2. Canned Chef
  3. Hockey
  4. Makes Itself
  5. Red Dress
  6. Snowman
  7. Stay Young
  8. Storm Radio – Winter
  9. Superhero
  10. Superman
  11. Tennis Anyone?
  12. Wild Ride
  1. Herman JosephPolo, revised arr by Kenny Ascher (©1981)
  2. Herman JosephTennis, comp. & arr. by Kenny Ascher (©1981)
  3. Sailboat music and arr. by Kenneth Ascher (©1980)
  4. Billiards, music and arr. by Kenneth Ascher (©1980)

Many of Ascher's jingle compositions were (i) produced by Sunday Productions (Hilary Jay Lipsitz, born 1933, president), (ii) published by Ahoskie Music, Inc. (Hilary Jay Lipsitz, president), and (iii) licensed by ASCAP.

Academic education[edit]

Ascher holds three diplomas from Columbia University:

While at Columbia, Ascher studied composition with Otto Luening, Jack Beeson, and Vladimir Ussachevsky and piano with William Albert Beller[8][9] (1900–1986). Ascher graduated from William F. Dykes High School in Atlanta, Georgia, as valedictorian, and entered Columbia College, Columbia University on a math scholarship. In 1966, while in college, the Kenny Ascher Quintet performed live in WKCR's Stone Soup at midnight.[10]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Who's Who in Rock Music, by William York, Charles Scribner's Sons (1982); OCLC 8034627
  2. ^ Woody Herman & Stuart Troup, The Woodchopper's Ball: The Autobiography of Woody Herman, pg. 121, Hal Leonard Corporation (1994)
  3. ^ Gene Lees (1928-2010), Leader of the Band: The Life of Woody Herman pg. 266, Oxford University Press (1995)
  4. ^ "Jazz: Vital Creativity by Stamm Group", by John Steuart Wilson (1913-2002), New York Times, February 25, 1973
  5. ^ "Going Out Guide: You're Not Alone", New York Times, May 14, 1973
  6. ^ "In Performance: Cabaret; Celebrations Without Tinsel", by Stephen Holden, New York Times, December 12, 2000
  7. ^ "Cabaret Guide", New York Times, July 13, 2001
  8. ^ ASCAP Biographical Dictionary, 4th ed., compiled for the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers by Jaques Cattell Press, New York, R.R. Bowker (1980); OCLC 7065938
  9. ^ The Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz, the late Leonard Feather (ed.) & the late Ira Gitler, Oxford University Press (1999), pg. 110; OCLC 38746731
  10. ^ "Radio: Music", New York Times, pg. 77, col. 2, December 16, 1966