Jimmy Rowles

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Jimmy Rowles
Birth nameJames George Hunter
Born(1918-08-19)August 19, 1918
Spokane, Washington, U.S.
DiedMay 28, 1996(1996-05-28) (aged 77)
Burbank, California, U.S.
InstrumentsPiano, vocals
Years active1940–1980s
Associated acts

James George Hunter (August 19, 1918 – May 28, 1996), known professionally as Jimmy Rowles (sometimes spelled Jimmie Rowles), was an American jazz pianist, vocalist, and composer. As a bandleader and accompanist, he explored multiple styles including swing and cool jazz.[1]

Music career[edit]

Rowles was born in Spokane, Washington and attended Gonzaga University in that city. After moving to Los Angeles, he joined Lester Young's group in 1942. He also worked with Benny Goodman, Woody Herman, Les Brown, Tommy Dorsey, Tony Bennett, and as a studio musician.

With female singers[edit]

Rowles was praised as an accompanist by female singers. He recorded Sarah Vaughan with the Jimmy Rowles Quintet with Sarah Vaughan and accompanied Carmen McRae on her 1972 live album The Great American Songbook. McRae described Rowles as "the guy every girl singer in her right mind would like to work with".[2]

In the 1950s and 1960s, he frequently played behind Billie Holiday and Peggy Lee. In the 1980s, he succeeded Paul Smith as Ella Fitzgerald's accompanist. He first performed with Fitzgerald at the Mocambo nightclub in Hollywood in late 1956. He appeared on several recording sessions with her in the 1960s before joining her for nearly three years in 1981. Rowles appeared on Fitzgerald's final collaboration with Nelson Riddle, The Best Is Yet to Come in 1982. His song "Baby, Don't You Quit Now", written with Johnny Mercer, was recorded on her final album All That Jazz, released in 1989.

In 1983, Rowles worked with Diana Krall in Los Angeles, shortly after she moved from the Berklee College of Music in Boston. He developed her playing abilities and encouraged her to add singing to her repertoire. In 1994, he accompanied jazz singer Jeri Brown on A Timeless Place, the only album containing only his own compositions.


Rowles's best known composition is "The Peacocks", which was recorded on the 1975 album of the same name with Stan Getz. It has subsequently been recorded by Gary Foster, John McLaughlin, Esperanza Spalding, Bill Evans, and other artists. Singer Norma Winstone wrote lyrics for the composition and recorded it under the title "A Timeless Place". Rowles' 1958 composition "502 Blues" gained wide exposure from Wayne Shorter's 1966 recording. "502 Blues" was subsequently included in the Real Book, a collection of jazz sheet music widely used by students and professionals when playing jam sessions and casual gigs

Rowles's piano work was featured prominently on the DePatie-Freleng Enterprises cartoon series The Ant and the Aardvark (1969–1971).[3]

In 1986, September 14 was declared as “Jimmie Rowles Day” in Los Angeles.[4]

Rowles died of cardiac arrest in Burbank, California, at the age of 77.[5] His daughter, Stacy (September 11, 1955 – October 30, 2009), was a jazz trumpeter, singer, and flugelhornist.[6]


As leader/coleader[edit]

  • 1954 Rare, But Well Done (Liberty)
  • 1957 Bill Harris and Friends (Fantasy)
  • 1958 Let's Get Acquainted with Jazz (for People Who Hate Jazz) (Tampa, reissued by VSOP)
  • 1958 Weather in a Jazz Vane (Andex, reissued by VSOP)
  • 1959 Upper Classmen (Interlude)
  • 1960 Fiorello Uptown, Mary Sunshine Downtown (Signature)
  • 1963 Kinda Groovy (Capitol)
  • 1968 Our Delight (VSOP)
  • 1972 Some Other Spring (Blue Angel)
  • 1974 Jazz Is a Fleeting Moment (Hazzz)
  • 1974 The Special Magic of Jimmy Rowles (Halcyon)
  • 1975 The Peacocks (Columbia, 1975) with Stan Getz
  • 1976 Grand Paws (Choice)
  • 1976 Music's the Only Thing That's on My Mind (Audiophile)
  • 1977 Heavy Love (Xanadu) with Al Cohn
  • 1978 Isfahan (Sonet)
  • 1978 Jimmy Rowles Trio on Tour (SIR)
  • 1978 Shade and Light (Ahead)
  • 1978 We Could Make Such Beautiful Music Together ([Xanadu)
  • 1978 Scarab (Musica)
  • 1978 Red'n Me (Dreyfus)
  • 1979 Tasty! (Concord Jazz)
  • 1980 Paws That Refresh (Choice)
  • 1981 Plays Ellington and Billy Strayhorn (Columbia)
  • 1981 Checkmate (Pablo) with Joe Pass
  • 1983 The Peacocks (Stash)
  • 1985 I'm Glad There Is You: Jimmy Rowles, Vol. 2 (Contemporary)
  • 1986 With the Red Mitchell Trio (Contemporary)
  • 1988 Looking Back (Delos)
  • 1988 Sometimes I'm Happy, Sometimes I'm Blue (Orange Blue)
  • 1989 Plus 2, Plus 3, Plus 4 (JVC)
  • 1990 Trio (Capri)
  • 1994 Lilac Time (Kokopelli)
  • 1995 A Timeless Place (Justin Time)
  • 2000 Red 'n' Me (Dreyfus)
  • 2002 Grandpa's Vibrato (Black & Blue)
  • 2011 The Chess Players (Candid)
  • 2014 Jam Face (Choice)[7]

As sideman[edit]

With Pepper Adams

With Louis Bellson

With Bob Brookmeyer

With Hoagy Carmichael

With Benny Carter

With Nat King Cole

With Harry Edison

With Ella Fitzgerald

With Stan Getz

With Jimmy Giuffre

With Woody Herman

With Billie Holiday

With Barney Kessel

With Lee Konitz

With Julie London

With Herbie Mann

With Carmen McRae

With Gerry Mulligan

With Buddy Rich

With Nelson Riddle

With Pete Rugolo

With Bud Shank

With Zoot Sims

  • Party (Choice, 1976)
  • If I'm Lucky (Pablo, 1977)
  • For Lady Day (Pablo, 1978 [1991])
  • Warm Tenor (Pablo, 1978)
  • Passion Flower (Pablo, 1979)
  • I Wish I Were Twins (Pablo, 1980)
  • The Swinger (Pablo, 1982)
  • Suddenly It's Spring (Pablo, 1983)
  • Live in San Francisco 1978 (Fog, 2014)

With Sonny Stitt

With Ben Webster

With Buster Williams

  • Heartbeat (Muse, 1978)

With Gerald Wilson

With Phil Woods and Lew Tabackin

With Henry Mancini


  1. ^ Yanow, Scott. "Jimmy Rowles | Biography & History | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 19 November 2016.
  2. ^ New York Media, LLC (10 July 1978). New York Magazine. New York Media, LLC. pp. 70–. ISSN 0028-7369.
  3. ^ Beck, Jerry (2006). Pink Panther: The Ultimate Guide to the Coolest Cat in Town. New York, New York: Dorling Kindersley, Ltd. p. 39. ISBN 0-7566-1033-8.
  4. ^ Kernfeld, Barry, ed. (2002). The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz. 3 (2nd ed.). London: Macmillan Publishers Limited. p. 461. ISBN 0-3336-9189-X.
  5. ^ Watrous, Peter (May 30, 1996). "Jimmy Rowles, 77, Lyrical Jazz Accompanist". The New York Times.
  6. ^ Ratliff, Ben (6 November 2009). "Stacy Rowles, 54, Jazz Musician, Dies". The New York Times. Retrieved 19 November 2016.
  7. ^ "Jimmy Rowles | Album Discography | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 19 November 2016.

External links[edit]