John Graas

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John Graas
Born (1917-03-14)March 14, 1917
Dubuque, Iowa, U.S.
Died April 13, 1962(1962-04-13) (aged 45)
Los Angeles, California
Genres Jazz, third stream
  • Musician
  • Composer
  • Arranger
Instruments French horn
Years active 1941–1962
Labels Trend, Decca, VSOP

John Graas (March 14, 1917– April 13, 1962) was an American jazz French horn player, composer and arranger from the 1940s through 1962. He had a short but busy career on the West Coast, and became known as a pioneer of the French horn in jazz.[1]

Music career[edit]

Graas was born in Dubuque, Iowa, on March 14, 1917.[2][3] He was educated in classical music and attended Tanglewood Music Center, where he performed under the tutelage of Serge Koussevitsky. He soon became interested in jazz and studied ways to bring jazz and classical music together, an early effort at what would later be called Third Stream music. Following the path of his dual interests, he was a member of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra (1941), the Claude Thornhill Orchestra (1942), the Army Air Corps band during World War II (1942–1945), the Cleveland Orchestra (1945–1946), the Tex Beneke Orchestra (1946–1949), and the Stan Kenton Orchestra (1950–1953).[3]

The 1950s were a period of intense activity by Graas, as performer, composer, and arranger. Besides groups under his own name, he appeared in the musical aggregations of Shorty Rogers, Stan Kenton, Maynard Ferguson, Billy May, Pete Rugolo, Mel Lewis, and others. The 1960s began with equal intensity, including recordings with Henry Mancini, Bobby Darin, Heinie Beau, and others, until his career was cut short by his death of a heart attack, at age 45, in the Van Nuys section of Los Angeles.[3][4]


As leader[edit]

  • John Graas (Trend, 1953)
  • Jazz Studio 2 (Decca, 1954)
  • French Horn Jazz (Trend, 1954)
  • Jazz Studio 3 (Decca, 1955)
  • Jazz Lab 1 (Decca, 1956)
  • Jazz Lab 2 (Decca, 1957)
  • Jazzmantics (Lone Hill, 1958)
  • International Premiere in Jazz (VSOP, 1958)
  • Coup de Graas (1959)[5]

As sideman[edit]

With Benny Carter

With Stan Kenton

With Gerry Mulligan

With Shorty Rogers

With Pete Rugolo


  1. ^ Feather, p. 232.
  2. ^ Most sources give Graas's birthdate as October 14, 1924, but the Social Security Death Index reveals it to have been the earlier date.
  3. ^ a b c Yanow, Scott. "John Graas | Biography & History | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 7 October 2016. 
  4. ^ Flanagan, Jack Sheldon Liner notes.
  5. ^ "John Graas | Album Discography | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 7 October 2016. 


  • Feather, Leonard. The Encyclopedia of Jazz (Horizon Press, 1960)
  • Flanagan, John. Liner notes, Jack Sheldon: Complete College Goes to Jazz; Featuring John Graas (Lone Hill Jazz, 2004)