Jazzman, pianist, and arranger Clare Fischer has just died at 83. I first heard of him via Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers version of his song “Pensativa”, a jazz classic now covered by many artists, Bill Evans and Hubert Laws among them. Fischer isn’t exactly a household name unless perhaps you’re a practicing jazz musician. Fischer fronted a latin jazz band called Salsa Picante and played frequently in LA in the 1980s and recorded several albums for the Discovery label.
His greatest star shone, however, when he arranged. He could arrange a woodwind / brass section to include saxes, clarinets, bass clarinets, and contrabass clarinets, bringing out the colors and textures of musical instruments like few others. Gil Evans worked similar magic by putting french horns and tubas together, an unlikely combination but one that worked brilliantly in his timeless arrangements for Miles Davis (Miles Ahead, Sketches of Spain, Quiet Nights, etc). When Prince needed a top arranger to work with, he called Clare Fischer. Good call.
Herbie Hancock was also an admirer. Here’s what he said:
“Clare Fischer was a major influence on my harmonic concept…..he and Bill Evans, Ravel, and Gil Evans, finally. You know, that’s where it really came from. Almost all of the harmony I play can be traced to one of those four people”.