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Manny Albam Dies at 79

Manny Albam, who did much to shape the sound of jazz in the 1950s and 1960s as a composer and arranger, died of cancer on Oct. 2 at his home in Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y. He was 79.

Albam was born on June 4, 1922 in the Dominican Republic; his family emigrated to New York City when he was 6. He began playing alto saxophone while attending Stuyvesant High School, and got his first professional gig (with the Don Joseph Quintet) before he graduated. Switching to baritone, he had a series of band jobs before entering the U.S. Army for two years in 1945. Upon his discharge, he toured with the big bands of Jerry Wald, Sam Donohue, and Charlie Barnet as an arranger and performer. He eventually quit Barnet’s band in 1950, devoting himself full-time to freelancing as an arranger and composer.

Over the next two decades, Albam produced compositions and arrangements for the big bands of Count Basie, Woody Herman, Stan Kenton and Buddy Rich, and for singers such as Sarah Vaughan, Carmen McRae and Dakota Staton. He also worked with such instrumental luminaries as Dizzy Gillespie, Coleman Hawkins, Stan Getz and Gerry Mulligan. Albam never led a band himself, but from 1955 to 1966 he recorded with studio ensembles for RCA, producing some of his most ambitious compositions, such as “The Blues Is Everybody’s Business” and the suite “Soul of the City.”

In 1964, Albam entered the then-burgeoning field of jazz education, leading a summer workshop on arranging at the Eastman School of Music. Over the next three decades, he made education his focus, teaching at Glassboro State College in New Jersey and eventually assuming the post of composition professor at the Manhattan School of Music.

Albam remained active as an arranger in his later years, most notably providing many of the arrangements for Joe Lovano’s 1997 album Celebrating Sinatra.

Albam is survived by his wife, Betty Hindes; a son, Evan, of Nyack, N.Y.; two daughters, Amy Albam of Nyack and Kate Crain of El Sobrante, Calif.; two stepsons, Paul Hindes of New York and Andrew Hindes of Eagle Rock, Calif.; three grandchildren; and four step-grandchildren.

Originally Published