Ian Underwood

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Ian Underwood
Born (1939-05-22) May 22, 1939 (age 85)
New York City, New York, United States
GenresJazz, avant garde, experimental rock, jazz fusion, doo-wop, comedy rock
Occupation(s)Musician, songwriter
Instrument(s)Keyboards, saxophone, clarinet, flute, guitar, vocals
Years active1959–present

Ian Robertson Underwood (born May 22, 1939) is a woodwind and keyboards player, known as a member of the original version of Frank Zappa's band the Mothers of Invention. Following the original band's split in late 1969, Underwood continued to work with Zappa extensively during the 1970s.


Underwood graduated from The Choate School in 1957 and Yale University with a bachelor's degree in composition in 1961 and a master's degree in composition at UC Berkeley in 1966. He began his career by playing San Francisco Bay Area coffeehouses and bars with his improvisational group, the Jazz Mice, in the mid-1960s before he became a member of Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention in 1967 for their third studio album, We're Only in It for the Money. He speaks on Uncle Meat; on the track "Ian Underwood Whips It Out" he relates how he first met Zappa and demonstrated his capabilities on the saxophone at Zappa's invitation. Underwood later worked with Frank Zappa on his solo recordings, including 1969's Hot Rats.[1] He married Ruth Komanoff (Underwood), marimbist/percussionist from the Mothers of Invention in May 1969. Underwood left the Mothers of Invention in September 1973. He and Ruth divorced in 1986.

After his association with Frank Zappa, he pursued a career as a session keyboardist. Underwood has since been proficient on the Minimoog synthesizer, mostly in film.[2] He has been credited in recordings for Quincy Jones, Barbra Streisand, Ronee Blakley, Hugh Cornwell, Freddie Hubbard, Jean-Luc Ponty, Herb Alpert, Hugh Masekela, Peggy Lee, Dolly Parton, Chicago, Janet Jackson, Dave Grusin, Jefferson Airplane, Frankie Valli, the Carpenters, James Ingram, and Barry Manilow. Underwood was also one of the musicians who played the main title theme for the 1980s hit series Knight Rider.[3] Underwood was the uncredited producer of the debut album by Alice Cooper, Pretties For You, in 1969.[4]

Underwood contributed synthesizers and programming to the historic recording of the Michael Jackson/Lionel Richie single "We Are the World" (produced by Quincy Jones in 1985); he has also been a featured performer (mostly on keyboard) with James Horner on numerous James Horner film scores including Titanic (1997) and Sneakers (1992).[5]


Lenox School of Jazz Concert, 1959 w/ Ornette Coleman, Herb Pomeroy

With Frank Zappa/The Mothers of Invention

With Sandy Hurvitz

  • Sandy's Album Is Here At Least (Bizarre, 1968)

With Captain Beefheart

With Alice Cooper

With Jean-Luc Ponty

With Freddie Hubbard

With Quincy Jones

With Gábor Szabó

With Alphonse Mouzon

With Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton

With Flo & Eddie

With Spirit

With Carmen McRae

With Seawind

  • Seawind (CTI, 1976)

With Alphonso Johnson

  • Moonshadows (1976)

With Chunky, Novi & Ernie

  • Chunky, Novi, & Ernie (Warner Bros, 1977)

With Ambrosia

With Lalo Schifrin

With Herb Alpert

With Barbra Streisand

With Peggy Lee

With Chicago

With Janet Jackson

Jefferson Airplane

Some of his work on Film Scores


  1. ^ Huey, Steve. "Hot Rats: Review". Allmusic. Retrieved December 22, 2010.
  2. ^ "Ian Underwood filmography". IMDB. Retrieved October 19, 2017.
  3. ^ "The Stu Phillips Scores: Knight Rider", david-hasselhoff.com Archived March 11, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ "45 YEARS AGO: Alice Cooper Show Glimpse Of Future On Second Album Amid Commercial Indifference". ultimateclassic rock. March 27, 2015. Retrieved October 19, 2017.
  5. ^ Ian Underwood at IMDb

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