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Afterglow Jazz and American Popular Song

Pete Rugolo And The Singers

Arranger Pete Rugolo worked with some of the most significant vocalists of the 1940s and 50s.

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Rugolo and Cole

Photo: JazzTimes

Pete Rugolo and Nat King Cole in the studio.

Arranger Pete Rugolo passed away in 2011 at the age of 95, leaving behind a legacy as one of the most wide-ranging and vital arrangers to come out of the post-World War II era. In the early years of his career he often worked with some of the jazz and popular-song world’s top vocalists, writing charts and conducting for Nat King Cole, Peggy Lee, Mel Torme, and June Christy. Those artists and others with whom Rugolo worked, such as Billy Eckstine and Patti Page, are featured in this edition of Afterglow.

Pete Rugolo was born on Christmas Day in Sicily in 1915, migrated to California with his family at the age of 5, studied with the classical composer Darius Millhaud at Mills College in the 1940s, and in 1945 managed to get on board with the band of his idol, Stan Kenton, where, as one writer noted, “His unusual instrumental pairings, rhythm elements, and rich harmonic colors helped create the bold, distinctive Kenton sound that came to be called ‘progressive jazz’”.

Rugolo would go on to record 30 albums under his own name, and also write the music for TV shows such as “The Fugitive,” and films such as Where The Boys Are, eventually winning three Emmys and two Grammys. Throughout all of this work Rugolo retained the jazz elements of his sound, and critic Leonard Feather once called him “the most unfairly forgotten man of jazz.”

Music Heard On This Episode

Softly As In A Morning Sunrise
June Christy — Something Cool (Blue Note, 2001)
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Softly As In A Morning Sunrise
June Christy — Something Cool (Blue Note, 2001)
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It's Crazy
Nat King Cole — Lush Life (Blue Note, 1993)
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Come Rain Or Come Shine
Stan Kenton — Complete Capitol Recordings 1943-1947 (Mosaic Records, 1995)
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Willow Weep For Me
Stan Kenton — Complete Capitol Recordings 1943-1947 (Mosaic Records, 1995)
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Skylark
Mel Torme — Spotlight On Mel Torme (Capitol, 1995)
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Blue Moon
Mel Torme — Spotlight On Mel Torme (Capitol, 1995)
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Crazy He Calls Me
Peggy Lee — Miss Peggy Lee (Capitol, 1998)
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One Day
Peggy Lee — Miss Peggy Lee (Capitol, 1998)
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Lush Life
Nat King Cole — Lush Life (Blue Note, 1993)
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You Stepped Out Of A Dream
Nat King Cole — Lush Life (Blue Note, 1993)
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I've Got My Eyes On You
Patti Page — In The Land Of Hi-Fi (Polygram, 1999)
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Wonder Why
Billy Eckstine — Everything I Have Is Yours: Best of the MGM Years (Verve, 1994)
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Angel Eyes
Four Freshmen — And Five Trombones (Hallmark, 2009)
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This Can't Be Love
Four Freshmen — And Five Saxes (Hallmark, 2008)
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The Very Thought Of You
Four Freshmen — And Five Saxes (Hallmark, 2008)
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Something Cool
June Christy — Something Cool (Blue Note , 2001)
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Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most
June Christy — The Song Is June (Blue Note, 1997)
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David Brent Johnson

Born in Indianapolis, Indiana, David Brent Johnson moved to Bloomington in 1991. He is an alumnus of Indiana University, and began working with WFIU in 2002. Currently, David serves as jazz producer and systems coordinator at the station. His interests include literature, history, music, writing, and movies.

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