Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Pianist and Composer Clare Fischer Dies at 83

Prolific musician worked with Gillespie, Shearing, McCartney and others

Clare Fischer, a pianist, composer and arranger who wrote scores for films and television and worked with such jazz greats as Dizzy Gillespie, Cal Tjader, Joe Pass and George Shearing, as well as pop artists Paul McCartney, Prince and Michael Jackson, died Jan. 26 at age 83 in Burbank, Calif. Fischer had suffered a heart attack two weeks earlier.

Fischer, who (often with his son, arranger /conductor Brent Fischer) also worked with Natalie Cole, Branford Marsalis, Carlos Santana, Raphael Saadiq, Chaka Khan, Usher and Brandy, was nominated for 11 Grammy awards in the Best Instrumental Arrangement category. He won in 1986 for his album Free Fall and in 1981 for Salsa Picante plus 2+2.

Fischer was credited as a keyboardist on more than 100 albums and released more than 50 albums as a leader, beginning with 1962’s First Time Out. He also performed solo on piano and in various configurations with such musicians as Donald Byrd, Gary Foster and Jerry Coker. Fischer also composed and arranged for commercials in addition to his film and television. He released his first classical recording, After the Rain, in 2001.

He was born Douglas Clare Fischer in 1928, in Durand, Mich., and first studied violin and piano, later taking up cello, clarinet and saxophone. Fischer turned professional in the late ’50s, when he served as pianist, arranger and conductor with the Hi-Lo’s vocal group. His arrangements for Gillespie’s 1960 album, Jazz Portrait of Duke Ellington, brought him into jazz and he went on to work with Shearing, Tjader, Bud Shank, Pass and others.

Originally Published