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Bob Belden Remembers Pete Rugolo

A contemporary musician/composer/arranger pays tribute to a fellow composer/arranger

Pete Rugolo with Nat King Cole

Composer and arranger Pete Rugolo was a signature voice in the history of jazz music and popular culture. He joined Stan Kenton’s band in 1945 as an arranger and changed the jazz language; he brought in serial music and became part of a group of arrangers who embraced the rhythmic ideas of Igor Stravinsky.

In 1949 he joined the staff of Capitol Records and produced the legendary Birth of the Cool band with Miles Davis and Gerry Mulligan. The clarity of sound on the original recording is a result of Rugolo’s classically trained ears. Soon after his stint with Capitol he worked for Mercury as a producer (Dinah Washington, Billy Eckstine) before beginning a career as a solo artist. His LPs were diverse, highly musical and filled with surprises, and he used the best of the West Coast jazz players.

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