Born: October 29, 1922; Hastings, NE
Died: October 11, 2008; Los Angeles, CA
An acclaimed arranger, Neal Hefti wrote and/or arranged numerous songs for Count Basie, and many other bands. He's known for inventive, catchy charts that manage to be both popular and challenging, never losing their swinging quality, yet avoiding cliches. Hefti wrote his first arrangements in high school, and later worked as both a trumpeter and as an arranger for Charlie Barnet, Earl Hines, Charlie Spivak, and Horace Heidt before joining WoodyRead more Herman in the mid-'40s. He updated their "Woodchopper's Ball" themes and also arranged "The Good Earth," "Wildroot" and "Northwest Passage" among others. After doing arrangements for Charlie Ventura and Harry James, Hefti joined Basie in 1950 and remained over a decade, contributing numerous classic charts. He worked for both the octet and big band; some Hefti gems include "Little Pony," "Lil' Darlin," "Splanky" and virtually everything from the album The Atomic Mr. Basie. Hefti, a trumpeter and pianist in addition being an arranger and composer, led his own bands at times, and served as music director for his wife, Frances Wayne. During the '60s, Hefti did some studio work, contributing to the 1962 Frank Sinatra Reprise sessions, some with Basie. He later became a successful television arranger, writing the themes for the "Barefoot In The Park" and "Odd Couple" shows (as well as the films) and also wrote the "Batman" theme. Hefti toured and gave lectures through the '70s. He recorded a few albums as a leader for Jazz Scene, Coral and Epic. There are no Hefti albums as a leader on CD, but his arrangements and compositions will be constantly heard on many landmark Count Basie and Woody Herman discs. Read less
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