HAPPY 89th BIRTHDAY to Dave Grusin!!! Dave Grusin is a pianist, keyboardist, ar…

HAPPY 89th BIRTHDAY to Dave Grusin!!!

Dave Grusin is a pianist, keyboardist, arranger, record producer, and cofounder of GRP Records who likes the title “solo artist” least. Winner of a Grammy Award for best instrumental arrangement on the album Harlequin in 1985 and an Oscar for the motion picture score The Milagro Beanfield War in 1989, he told Scott Yanow in Down Beat, “I still don’t think of myself as a performer. I don’t have a burning desire to go out and play before people. I do it occasionally to try to spread the word about my records, but basically I’ve never felt like a performer. I much prefer the creative process in the studio, the writing and the recording.”

Grusin was born on June 26, 1934, in Littleton, Colorado, to parents who were both classical musicians. “My father was a very good violinist and a perfect teacher,” Grusin explained to Yanow. “He didn’t push music on us, but it was such an inherent part of our lives that it became a natural part of my childhood. My mother played piano and I started it when I was four, having the usual lessons.” At home, Grusin’s musical training was in the classical genre, but the youngster was also exposed to jazz. Although he remembers no jazz records being played at home, his parents took him to concerts in Denver, Colorado, where he saw such performers as Ray Brown, Ella Fitzgerald, Hank Jones, Gene Krupa, Illinois Jacquet, and Flip Phillips. “It was very exciting,” Grusin recalled to Yanow, “and set the stage for me gaining an interest in jazz.”

Growing up in an agricultural community, where he worked on a ranch through high school, Grusin originally planned to be a veterinarian. “Three weeks before entering college,” he told Yanow, “I switched to music out of guilt for the immense effort and expense that my father had spent on my musical education. He did not force me to study music but I knew that he’d approve of the switch. Grusin majored in piano and minored in clarinet at the University of Colorado, where he also backed performers like Anita O’Day at local clubs when he was not in class.

In 1959 Grusin went to New York City to begin graduate work at the Manhattan School of Music. Discovering that he had to wait six months before his union membership transferred locally, Dave was forced to find a job outside the city to support his young family. He related to Yanow, “An ex-roommate of mine found out that [singer] Andy Williams needed a piano player. Andy had had a couple of hit records but he was still a new guy.” The work for the singer involved extensive travel, so Grusin eventually left graduate school.

The musician soon found himself in Los Angeles, where he was appointed Williams’s musical director and arranger when the vocalist began a weekly television variety show. Grusin noted in Down Beat, “It was a nice music show in the early ’60s and we didn’t perform any music that we would be ashamed of, even though it was on commercial television. It was a grind, a very hard job; but for me it turned out to be an amazing workshop.” Also at this time Grusin made some recordings, including Subways Are for Sleeping, Piano, Strings and Moonlight, and Kaleidoscope, which reflected the influence of Art Tatum and other jazz artists.

In 1964 Grusin left The Andy Williams Show to write music for motion pictures. He stated in Down Beat, “Getting the first assignment is always the hardest because if you haven’t written before, no one wants to talk about it. I’ll always be grateful to [writer] Norman Lear and [director] Bud [Yorkin] for taking a chance on me and hiring me for [the 1967 film] Divorce American Style. ” Throughout his career, Grusin has written and arranged scores for more than 50 movies, including The Graduate, Heaven Can Wait, The Goodbye Girl, Reds, On Golden Pond, Tootsie, and Tequila Sunrise, and for such television shows as Baretta and St. Elsewhere. Nominated four times previously, he won an Academy Award in 1989 for the musical score he composed for the film The Milagro Beanfield War.

His main occupation–writing and arranging musical scores for films–did not deter Grusin from taking on additional work in the music field. In 1976 he began producing records with partner Larry Rosen, whom he had met earlier when he hired Rosen as a drummer for Andy Williams’s band. The musicians started as independent producers, but eventually formed their own record company, GRP Records, in 1983. Many best-selling albums by various jazz-influenced artists followed, and the producers have received critical acclaim and numerous awards.

In 1985 Grusin won a Grammy Award for best instrumental arrangement of a cut on the album Harlequin, and over the years GRP has received numerous Grammy Awards and nominations; the company boasts a roster of artists that includes Lee Ritenour, Diane Schuur, Chick Corea, Eddie Daniels, Dave Valentin, and Kevin Eubanks. “We’re not an avant garde or a mainstream label,” Grusin explained to Yanow in Down Beat, “but we’re also not interested in making a sort of formula new age product either. We’re comfortable in a type of fusion jazz that feels like it’s going somewhere and will continue to develop.”

Critical reaction to GRP’s interpretations of contemporary jazz varies. A reviewer in High Fidelity described GRP recordings as “mostly lightweight,” concentrating on a “sweeter, often electrified product.” Though Robin Tolleson labeled one Grusin number “nice ear candy” in a review in Down Beat, Stereo Review noted GRP Records’s “penchant for polished production.”

In 1986 Grusin moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, fulfilling a desire to live near the Rocky Mountains. He decided to make an album in 1988 with his brother, keyboardist Don Grusin, and the two recorded the electronic duet Sticks and Stones. Though his time is severely limited, the multitalented musician and businessman yearns to fulfill an additional career goal: “Someday I’d like to write a serious piece of classical music,” Grusin expressed to Yanow in Down Beat. “I find it difficult to do in a life full of assignments, but eventually I want to compose some non-jazz music in a contemporary vein.”

Source: Marjorie Burgess