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.”