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Afterglow Jazz and American Popular Song

Pete Rugolo And The Singers

In honor of the centennial of arranger Pete Rugolo, we'll feature his progressive arrangements for Nat King Cole, June Christy, and others.

Pete_Rugolo,_New_York,_N.Y.,_between_1946_and_1948_(William_P._Gottlieb_07531)

Photo: William P. Gottlieb collection, Library of Congress

Pete Rugolo at the piano in New York, between 1946 and 1948

Last month would have been the 100th birthday of arranger Pete Rugolo, one of the most progressive and wide-ranging 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 top vocalists in the jazz and popular-song world, writing charts and conducting for Nat King Cole, Peggy Lee, Mel Torme, and Patti Page. We’ll feature those artists, as well as his work with Ernestine Anderson and Billy Eckstine, on 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 Milhaud at Mills College in the 1940s. 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 joined Kenton not long after singer June Christy had replaced Anita O’Day as the orchestra’s singer. It was the beginning of a beautiful musical friendship between Rugolo and Christy, who would go on to record numerous tracks and LPs together over the next 15 years.

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

Star Dust (Carmichael/Parish)
Ernestine Anderson — Ernestine Anderson (Polygram, 1992)
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Star Dust (Carmichael/Parish)
Ernestine Anderson — Ernestine Anderson (Polygram, 1992)
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Unison Riff [Excerpt] (Rugolo)
Stan Kenton Orchestra — The Best of Stan Kenton (Capitol, 1995)

Notes: Background Music

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Come Rain Or Come Shine (Arlen/Mercer)
Stan Kenton Orchestra featuring June Christy — The Complete Capitol Studio Recordings of Stan Kenton, 1943-1947 (Mosaic, 1995)
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Willow Weep For Me (Ronnell)
Stan Kenton Orchestra featuring June Christy — The Complete Capitol Studio Recordings of Stan Kenton, 1943-1947 (Mosaic, 1995)
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Jeru [Excerpt] (Mulligan)
Miles Davis — Birth of the Cool (Capitol, 1998)

Notes: Background Music

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Blue Moon (Rodgers/Hart)
Mel Tormé — Spotlight on Mel Tormé (Captiol, 1995)
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Skylark (Carmichael/Mercer)
Mel Tomré — Spotlight on Mel Tormé (Captiol, 1995)
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Them There Eyes (Pinkard/Tauber/Tracey)
Peggy Lee — Capitol Collector's Series (Capitol, 1990)
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Sugar (That Sugar Baby Of Mine) (Pinkard/Alexander/Mitchell)
Peggy Lee — Capitol Collector's Series (Capitol, 1990)
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Lush Life (Strayhorn)
Nat King Cole with the Pete Rugolo Orchestra — Lush Life (Capitol, 1993)
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Interlude [Excerpt] (Rugolo)
Stan Kenton Orchestra — The Best of Stan Kenton (Capitol, 1995)

Notes: Production Support Music

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Love For Sale [Excerpt] (Porter)
Stan Kenton Orchestra — The Best of Stan Kenton (Capitol, 1995)

Notes: Midpoint Music Bed

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You Can't Make Me Love You (unknown)
Nat King Cole with the Pete Rugolo Orchestra — Lush Life (Capitol, 1993)
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It's Crazy (Rogers/Fields)
Nat King Cole with the Pete Rugolo Orchestra — Lush Life (Capitol, 1993)
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Nevertheless (Ruby/Kalmar)
Patti Page — In the Land of Hi-Fi (Polygram, 1999)
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Lullaby of the Leaves (Petkere/Young)
Billy Eckstine and Pete Rugolo and His Orchestra — Compact Jazz - Billy Eckstine (Polygram, 1989)
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You Stepped Out Of A Dream (Kahn/Brown)
The Four Freshmen — Four Freshmen and Five Trombones (Capitol, 2001)
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Something Cool (1960 - stereo) (Barnes)
June Christy — Something Cool (Captiol, 2001)
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This Time The Dream's On Me (1960 - stereo) (Arlen/Mercer)
June Christy — Something Cool (Captiol, 2001)
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How High the Moon (Hamilton/Lewis)
June Christy — The Best of June Christy (Capitol, 1996)
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Collaboration [Excerpt] (Kenton/Rugolo)
Stan Kenton Orchestra — The Best of Stan Kenton (Capitol, 1995)

Notes: Fade out music

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Mark Chilla

Mark Chilla, originally from Atlanta, GA, is the Production Director at WFIU, where he also hosts Ether Game and Afterglow. He studied music theory at Indiana University and taught various music theory courses at IU and Butler University. He enjoys film, woodworking, learning new instruments and the Beatles.

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