Don Sebesky

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Don Sebesky
Birth nameDonald John Sebesky
Born(1937-12-10)December 10, 1937
Perth Amboy, New Jersey, U.S.
DiedApril 29, 2023(2023-04-29) (aged 85)
Maplewood, New Jersey, U.S.
Years active1956–2023

Donald John Sebesky (December 10, 1937 – April 29, 2023) was an American composer, arranger, conductor, and jazz trombonist. He was a multi-instrumentalist and could play a number of other instruments: keyboards, electric piano, organ, accordion, and clavinet.


Sebesky trained in trombone at the Manhattan School of Music; in his early career, he played with Kai Winding, Claude Thornhill, Tommy Dorsey, Warren Covington, Maynard Ferguson and Stan Kenton.[1] In 1960 he began devoting himself primarily to arranging and conducting; one of his best-known arrangements was for Wes Montgomery's 1965 album Bumpin'. Other credits include George Benson's The Shape of Things to Come, Paul Desmond's From the Hot Afternoon and Freddie Hubbard's First Light. His song "Memphis Two-Step" was the title track of the Herbie Mann 1971 album of the same name. His 1973 release, Giant Box, hit #16 on the U.S. Billboard Jazz Albums chart.[2]

Sebesky worked with such orchestras as the London Symphony, the Chicago Symphony, the Boston Pops, The New York Philharmonic, the Royal Philharmonic of London, and the Toronto Symphony.

Sebesky was nominated for thirty-one Grammy Awards and won three Grammys in the 1990s: Best Instrumental Arrangement for "Waltz for Debby" (1998) and for "Chelsea Bridge" (1999), and Best Instrumental Composition for "Joyful Noise Suite" (1999).[3] Twice, he won the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Orchestrations, for Parade (1999), and Kiss Me, Kate (2000). Sebesky won a Tony Award for Best Orchestrations for the revival of Kiss Me, Kate (2000).

In 1975, Sebesky wrote The Contemporary Arranger, which was published with three accompanying LP phonograph records.

His Broadway theater credits included Porgy and Bess (London production by Trevor Nunn), Sinatra at the Palladium, Sweet Charity, Kiss Me, Kate, Bells Are Ringing, Flower Drum Song, Parade, The Life, Cyrano, The Goodbye Girl, The Will Rogers Follies, Sinatra at Radio City, Pal Joey, Come Fly Away, Baby It's You!, and Honeymoon In Vegas.

Sebesky's work for television garnered three Emmy nominations, for Allegra's Window on Nickelodeon, The Edge of Night on ABC, and Guiding Light on CBS. He also composed film scores that include The People Next Door (1970), F. Scott Fitzgerald and 'The Last of the Belles' (1974), and The Rosary Murders (1987).

Sebesky arranged for hundreds of artists, including Barbra Streisand, Tony Bennett, Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears, John Pizzarelli, Michael Buble, Liza Minnelli, Seal, and Prince.

Don Sebesky married Janina Serden in 1986, and had two daughters with her; Olivia and Elizabeth. He had two sons from a previous marriage, Ken and Kevin, and two daughters, Ali and Cymbaline.

Sebesky died in Maplewood, New Jersey, on April 29, 2023, at the age of 85.[4][5]


As leader[edit]

  • Don Sebesky and the Jazz-Rock Syndrome (1968)
  • Distant Galaxy (1968)
  • Giant Box (CTI, 1973)
  • The Rape of El Morro (CTI, 1975)
  • Three Works for Jazz Soloists and Symphony Orchestra (1979, 2LP, Gryphon Records)
  • Sebesky Fantasy (1980)
  • Moving Lines (1984)
  • Full Cycle (1984)
  • Symphonic Sondheim (1991)
  • Our Love Is Here to Stay (Telarc, 1997), John Pizzarelli w/Don Sebesky combo
  • I Remember Bill: The Tribute to Bill Evans (1998)
  • Joyful Noise: A Tribute to Duke Ellington (1999)
  • Kiroron I-Kiroro Melodies (2000)

As sideman[edit]

With Stan Kenton

As arranger[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Biography,
  2. ^ Billboard,
  3. ^ Grammy Awards,
  4. ^ Ingenthron, Blair (April 29, 2023). "Don Sebesky, Broadway Orchestrator of PARADE and More, Has Passed Away". broadway WORLD. Retrieved May 5, 2023.
  5. ^ Chinen, Nate (May 2, 2023). "Don Sebesky, composer-arranger with a golden touch, has died at 85". WRTI Your Classical and Jazz Source. Retrieved May 5, 2023.

External links[edit]