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Russell Garcia, Composer, Arranger & Conductor, Dies at 95

Oakland native was still performing months before his death

Russell Garcia, an arranger who collaborated with Duke Ellington, Stan Kenton, Anita O’Day, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Judy Garland, Frances Faye, Mel Tormé, Frank Sinatra and numerous others, and worked on film scores The Time Machine, died November 20 in Kerikeri, New Zealand. Garcia, who also orchestrated Charlie Chaplin’s Limelight, was 95. Gina Mauriello Garcia, his lyricist and wife of 59 years, was by his side when he passed away.

In April, Garcia performed three 95th birthday concerts throughout New Zealand with New York vocalists Shaynee Rainbolt and Terese Genecco and New Zealand singer Tim Beveridge.

Known as “Uncle Russell” by his collaborators around the world, Garcia was scheduled to continue his 95th birthday celebration during a three-city U. S. tour at jazz clubs in Los Angeles, Oakland and New York City, but he suffered collapsed vertebrae the week before he was set to travel. Instead, the Los Angeles concert was cancelled and his tour partners, Rainbolt and Genecco, paid tribute to Garcia and his music at Yoshi’s in Oakland on November 1 and at Iridium in New York on November 6.

Russell Garcia was born April 12, 1916, in Oakland, Calif. Throughout his career, he provided arrangements for many singers and instrumentalists and recorded more than 60 albums under his own name. In addition, his book, The Professional Arranger-Composer, has been used by both beginners and veterans since it was written in the mid-’40s.

In 2007, Rainbolt recorded the first-ever album of all Garcia originals, Charmed Life. Arranged by Garcia for his signature four-trombone band, this collaboration included a U.S. tour and garnered two MAC (Manhattan Association of Cabarets and Clubs) Awards for Best Jazz Recording (Charmed Life) and Best Song (“I Remember”).

Originally Published