Jimmy Rowles

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Jimmy Rowles
Birth name James George Hunter
Born (1918-08-19)August 19, 1918
Spokane, Washington, U.S.
Died May 28, 1996(1996-05-28) (aged 77)
Los Angeles County, California, U.S.
Genres Jazz
Instruments Piano, vocals

Jimmy Rowles (born James George Hunter; August 19, 1918 – May 28, 1996) was an American jazz pianist, vocalist, and composer. As a bandleader and accompanist, he explored various styles including swing and cool jazz.[1]


Born in Spokane, Washington, Rowles studied at Gonzaga College (now University) in Spokane, Washington. After moving to Los Angeles, he joined Lester Young's group in 1942. Rowles also worked with Benny Goodman, Woody Herman, Les Brown, Tommy Dorsey, and Tony Bennett, and as a studio musician.

In the 1950s and 1960s, he frequently played behind Billie Holiday and Peggy Lee, and in the 1980s he succeeded Paul Smith as Ella Fitzgerald's accompanist. Rowles had first performed with Fitzgerald at the Mocambo nightclub in Hollywood, Los Angeles, in late 1956. He had 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. Fitzgerald recorded Rowles and Johnny Mercer's song "Baby, Don't You Quit Now" on her final album, All That Jazz, released in 1989.

Rowles' piano work was featured prominently on the DePatie-Freleng Enterprises cartoon series The Ant and the Aardvark (1969-1971), which utilized a jazz score for its theme and musical cues.[2]

In 1973, Rowles settled in New York City, where he performed and/or recorded with Zoot Sims and Stan Getz, among others. By 1983, he 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.

Rowles was particularly praised as an accompanist by female singers. Rowles 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".[3]

He composed several jazz pieces, the best known being "The Peacocks", recorded on the 1975 album of the same name. The piece is performed on the alto flute by Gary Foster on Foster's album, Make Your Own Fun. Rowles also performed on this album. The song is also featured on Foster's Perfect Circularity, and a version with lyrics by Norma Winstone is performed by Winstone, accompanied by Rowles, on her 1993 album Well Kept Secret, under the title "A Timeless Place". Guitarist John McLaughlin also recorded a version of "The Peacocks" on his 1995 album The Promise. Jazz bassist/singer Esperanza Spalding also performs the song on her LP "Junjo".[4]

In 1994, he accompanied jazz singer Jeri Brown on the only album containing only his own compositions, A Timeless Place.

Recorded interviews appeared in the PBS documentary by Ken Burns, Jazz, in 2001. The interviews were unique in their first-hand accounts of the relationships and experiences Rowles had with many musicians; specifically, Billie Holiday, Benny Goodman and Lester Young.

Rowles died from cardiovascular disease in Burbank, Los Angeles County, California, at the age of 78. Rowles' daughter, Stacy, (September 11, 1955 – October 30, 2009) was an accomplished jazz trumpeter and flugelhornist.[5]


As leader[edit]

As Sideman[edit]

With Bob Brookmeyer

With Benny Carter

With Nat King Cole

With Harry Edison

With Stan Getz

  • The Peacocks (Columbia, 1975)

With Jimmy Giuffre

With Barney Kessel

With Herbie Mann

With Carmen McRae

With Buddy Rich

With Ben Webster

With Buster Williams

  • Heartbeat (Muse, 1978)

With Zoot Sims

  • Party (Choice, 1976)
  • If I'm Lucky - Zoot Sims meets Jimmy Rowles (Pablo 1977)
  • Warm Tenor (Pablo 1978)
  • The Swinger (Pablo 1982)
  • Suddenly It's Spring (Pablo 1983)
  • Live in San Francisco 1978 (Fog 2014)


  1. ^ Allmusic
  2. ^ 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. 
  3. ^ New York Media, LLC (10 July 1978). New York Magazine. New York Media, LLC. pp. 70–. ISSN 00287369. 
  4. ^ "Junjo - Esperanza Spalding | Songs, Reviews, Credits | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 2015-10-26. 
  5. ^ Thedeadrockstarsclub.com - accessed November 2009

External links[edit]