F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote, “There are no second acts in American lives.” On Nov. 2, 1971, Gary McFarland died under mysterious circumstances at the 55 Bar in Greenwich Village. He was 38. Apparently he ingested a lethal dose of liquid methadone. It will never be known whether he took the drug on purpose or whether someone spiked his drink. Inexplicably, the police never investigated.
McFarland was a gifted composer, arranger, vibraphonist and producer. He was self-taught and started late. In his 10-year career, his most important achievements were his orchestral albums, including the Impulse! LPs Profiles, from 1966, and The October Suite, released the following year and featuring pianist Steve Kuhn. They are as formidable, and as majestic, as the great works of Gil Evans.