Lennie Niehaus

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Lennie Niehaus
Birth name Leonard Niehaus
Born (1929-06-11) June 11, 1929 (age 85)
St. Louis, Missouri
Genres Jazz
Occupation(s) Composer, Arranger
Instruments Saxophone

Lennie Niehaus (born 11 June 1929) is an American alto saxophonist, arranger, and composer on the West Coast jazz scene. He has played with the Stan Kenton big band, and various other jazz bands on the West Coast of the U.S. Niehaus has arranged and composed for motion pictures, including several produced by Clint Eastwood.[1]

Life and career[edit]

Niehaus was born in St. Louis, Missouri, USA. His sister was a concert pianist, his father an expert violinist. Père Niehaus, his father, started his son on violin at age seven, Lennie then changed instruments to bassoon. At thirteen, he began alto saxophone and clarinet, about this time he began composing. In 1946, after graduation from high school, he started studying music at Los Angeles City College later earning a music education degree from Los Angeles State College in 1951 as part of the school's first full graduating class. Niehaus started his professional career, along with reedmen Herb Geller, Herbie Steward and Teddy Edwards playing jazz clubs in the Los Angeles area. He went out on the road with the Stan Kenton orchestra for six months but was drafted into the army in 1952. Discharged in 1954, he rejoined Kenton for five years.[1] He wrote extensively for the Kenton band and had the longest and most recorded tenure of any of the lead alto players with the group to include noted names as Charlie Mariano, Lee Konitz, Gabe Baltazar, or Tony Campise.

He left the Kenton orchestra in 1959 to pursue music composition in the studios. He arranged music for the King Sisters, Mel Tormé, Dean Martin, and Carol Burnett. In 1962 he began orchestrating for film composer Jerry Fielding. Niehaus worked with Fielding on approximately seventy TV shows and films. Since Fielding’s death, Lennie has been a leading film composer in his own right; he always does his own orchestrating for his scores.

In films Lennie never forgets his jazz roots. The story of the film City Heat was cast in the 1930s, so he wrote jazz of that period using people like altoist Marshal Royal. Bill Perkins came in and played like Lester. He had a jazz violinist who sounded like Stephane Grappelli. Then there was a boogie woogie sequence with three pianists Pete Jolly, Mike Land and producer Clint Eastwood. After many years of not playing his alto saxophone at all, Niehaus returned to performing, reportedly in top form.[citation needed] He still composes for films as well. He was the musical director for the Charlie Parker feature film, Bird.

His work includes Spiritual Jazz Suite, four pieces arranged for brass quartet, Three sets of Christmas Jazz suites (4 pieces in each) and a Christmas Jazz Medley arranged for saxophone quartet, a book of classical saxophone duets, A beginning, intermediate, and advanced methods for the understanding of jazz technique, and a book of jazz saxophone duets exemplifying jazz styles.


  • Volume 1: The Quintets (Contemporary 3518)
  • Volume 2: Zounds! (Contemporary 3540)
  • Volume 3: The Octet, Number 2 (Contemporary 3505)
  • Volume 4: The Quintets And Strings (Contemporary 3510)
  • Volume 5: The Sextet (Contemporary 3524)
  • I Swing For You (EmArcy 36118)

Musical scores[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Yanow, Scott. "Lennie Niehaus: Biography". Allmusic. Retrieved 2010-12-17. 

External links[edit]