Monday, July 07, 2008

Eddie Sauter: Focus

Edward Ernest Sauter (born December 2, 1914 in Brooklyn; died April 21, 1981 in New York City) was a composer and jazz arranger who achieved renown among musicians during the swing era. Sauter studied music at Columbia University and the Juilliard School. He began as a drummer and then played trumpet professionally, most notably with Red Norvo's orchestra. Eventually he became a full-time arranger for Norvo. He went on to arrange and compose for Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw, earning a reputation for intricate, complex, and carefully crafted works such as "Benny Rides Again" and "Clarinet a la King". From 1952 to 1958 Sauter was co-leader of the Sauter-Finegan Orchestra. Between 1957 and 1959 he was Kurt Edelhagen's successor as leader of the SWF orchestra in Baden-Baden, Germany. In 1961 he worked with Stan Getz on the album Focus.
His film scores include 1965's Mickey One in which he worked with Getz again. His television composing includes the third season theme to Rod Serling's Night Gallery. In 2003 he was inducted into the Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame.

from al's soundtrack
His music and the arrangements are astounding. It really makes me think that there was this great nexus of musical thinking near the middle of the 20th century and we are just piddling along now. What inventiveness and... fun! If you go to itunes- you can find a couple of amazing things- and the music, diversity and FUN! is something you won't regret.
Scott Yanow wrote Eddie Sauter the following: One of the most inventive arrangers to emerge during the swing era, Eddie Sauter's complex and colorful charts never fit that easily into any specific category. His work tended to be at its best when written for a specific purpose, format or soloist. Sauter originally played trumpet and drums, later also learning mellophone. He studied at Columbia University and Juilliard and then during 1935-39 made a stir in the jazz world as the main arranger with Red Norvo's Orchestra. Sauter's writing perfectly framed both Norvo's xylophone and Mildred Bailey's voice and was full of surprises. He worked as a freelancer during the remainder of the swing era with his most notable work being for Benny Goodman (including the complex charts for "Superman," "Clarinet A La King," "Benny Rides Again," "Moonlight On The Ganges," "Love Walked In" and "La Rosita"), some of the most advanced music that the clarinetist ever played. In addition, Sauter contributed arrangements to the bands of Artie Shaw, Tommy Dorsey, Woody Herman and (in the postwar years) Ray McKinley. In 1952, Sauter joined forces with fellow arranger Bill Finegan to form the Sauter-Finegan Orchestra, an interesting but often excessive band that allowed the co-leaders' imaginations to run wild, often leading to novelties (including their hit "Doodletown Fifers") that are of lesser interest to jazz. After the band ran its course, in 1957 Sauter began two years in Germany as the leader of the Sudwestfunk Radio Station Band of Baden-Baden. Returning to the U.S. in 1959, Eddie Sauter worked in the studios but occasionally wrote for jazz-oriented projects, most notably 1961's Focus (which featured Stan Getz).and scoring for the movie Mickey One in 1965 (which also had Getz as the lead voice).

1 comment:

blabberblabber said...

Thanks for the note of appreciation to Sauter. I periodically snoop around to see if I can find more artifacts of his canon. I'm not sure how much I like his and Sauter-Finegan's music per se, but I love listening to it!

Having grown up in the 60's and 70's to pop and rock and blues, I then graduated as a musician to jazz and Brazilian music. But alwasy I have found myself continuously searching backwards in music history for inspiration. So I've spent most of my time through the past 20 years digging through music from the 20's through the early 60's.

I too am convinced that from the late 40's to early sixties, and centering in about the middle of the 50's, that jazz and most musically literate music was amazingly inventive, interesting, exploratory and as you mention, just plain FUN!

I guess the die was cast with the success of the Blue Note recording method, which was more or less a refined approach to the Charlie Parker method: You get a bunch of exceptional musicians in a studio, call a known tune, blow a new melody over the old changes, and then blow as many choruses as time allows. As we got into the sixties they start producing longer and longer blowing sessions up to and including 30 minutes (the limitation of an LP's side). Let's face it: Melody and arrangement was hardly second place to improvisation exploration, it was pretty much discarded.

But I listen to the recordings of Shorty Rogers and Al Cohn, and myriad others that were really doing great stuff with small ensembles in arranging. Hal McKusick and George Russell's stuff as well. Following Barry Galbraith's career trajectory it seems he was always called for the session when they needed a reading guitarist. Anybody who was writing guitar significant guitar charts was likely doing some well-wrought stuff. Quincy Jones arrangements of Dinah Washington, also way cool! And the list goes on but seems to center on the 50's.

That use to be the era I considered the most vapid.

Oops, this is turning into the equivalent of a Blue Note blowing session...