Pete Rugolo

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Pete Rugolo, ca. December 1946.
Photograph by William P. Gottlieb.

Pietro "Pete" Rugolo (December 25, 1915 – October 16, 2011) was an Italian-born American jazz composer, arranger and record producer.

Life and career[edit]

Rugolo was born in San Piero Patti, Sicily. His family emigrated to the United States in 1920 and settled in Santa Rosa, California. He began his career in music playing the baritone horn, like his father, but he quickly branched out into other instruments, notably the French horn and the piano. He received a bachelor's degree from San Francisco State College, and then went on to study composition with Darius Milhaud at Mills College in Oakland, California and earn his master's degree.

After he graduated, he was hired as an arranger and composer by guitarist and bandleader Johnny Richards. He spent World War II playing with altoist Paul Desmond in an Army band.

After the war, Rugolo worked for Stan Kenton, who headed one of the most musically progressive big bands of the era. He and the songwriter Joe Greene collaborated on songs that made Kenton's band one of America's most popular.[1] Rugolo provided arrangements and original compositions that drew on his knowledge of 20th-century music, sometimes blurring the boundaries between jazz and classical music.

While Rugolo continued to work occasionally with Kenton in the 1950s, he spent more time creating arrangements for pop and jazz vocalists, most extensively with former Kenton singer June Christy on such albums as Something Cool, The Misty Miss Christy, Fair and Warmer!, Gone for the Day and The Song Is June!. Other singers he arranged for included Ernestine Anderson, Harry Belafonte, Nat King Cole, The Diamonds, Billy Eckstine, the Four Freshmen, Peggy Lee, Patti Page, Mel Tormé and Kitty White. During this period he also worked for a while on film musicals at MGM, and served as an A&R director for Mercury Records in the late 1950s. Among his many albums were Adventures in Rhythm, Introducing Pete Rugolo, Rugolomania, An Adventure in Sound: Reeds in Hi-Fi and Music for Hi-Fi Bugs.

Rugolo's arrangements for album The Four Freshmen and Five Trombones propelled the group to recognition in jazz circles. It was their best selling album of all time and they still perform music from that album.

Television and film scoring work[edit]

In the 1960s and 1970s Rugolo did a great deal of work in television, contributing music to a number of popular shows including Leave It to Beaver, Thriller, The Thin Man, Checkmate, The Fugitive, Run For Your Life, Felony Squad, The Bold Ones: The Lawyers, Alias Smith and Jones and Family.[2] He also provided scores for a number of TV movies and a few theatrical films, such as Jack the Ripper (1959), The Sweet Ride (1968), Underground Aces (1981) and Chu Chu and the Philly Flash (1981).[3] Rugolo's small combo jazz music featured in a couple of numbers in the popular 1960 movie Where the Boys Are, under the guise of Frank Gorshin's "Dialectic Jazz Band." While his work in Hollywood often demanded that he suppress his highly original style, there are some striking examples of Rugolo's work in both TV and film. The soundtrack for the last movie on which he worked, This World, Then the Fireworks (1997), demonstrates his gift for writing music that is both sophisticated and expressive.

Death[edit]

Rugolo died, aged 95, on October 16, 2011 in Sherman Oaks, California.[4] He is survived by wife Edye, sons Peter and Tony, and daughter Gina.[5]

Discography[edit]

Compilations[edit]

  • Music from Out of Space (Mercury, 1959) - selections from Music for Hi-Fi Bugs and Out on a Limb
  • Rhythm Meets Rugolo (Mercury, 1960) - selections from Music for Hi-Fi Bugs and Out on a Limb
  • Study in Stereo (Mercury, 1963) - selections from the "10 and 2" albums

As conductor/arranger[edit]

With Nat King Cole

With June Christy

With Robert Clary

  • Gigi (Mercury, 1958)

With Buddy Collette

With The Diamonds

  • The Diamonds Meet Pete Rugolo (Mercury, 1958)

With Vernon Duke

  • Time Remembered (Mercury, 1957)

With Billy Eckstein

With The Four Freshmen

With Donna Fuller

  • My Foolish Heart (Liberty, 1957)

With Paul Horn

With Stan Kenton

With Ruth Olay

  • Olay! The New Sound of Ruth Olay (Mercury, 1959)

With Patti Page

Film and TV Scores[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]