Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians
Fischer, Clare (Douglas)
Fischer, Clare (Douglas), composer, pianist, educator; b. Durand, MI, 22 October 22 1928. His parents are Luella Blanche Roussin, of French descent, and Cecil Harold Fischer, of German descent, both born in Canada at the turn of the last century. The third of four children, two older brothers and one younger sister-the eldest brother, Stewart (Dirk) Fischer is also a musician and fine writer. General music study began for Clare in grade school with violin and tuba as his first instruments. At the age of 7 he began to pick out four-part harmony on the piano. Piano lessons began at age 9 and continued for two years. The Fischer family then moved to Grand Rapids, where 12-year-old Clare began composing classical music and writing instrumental arrangements for dance bands.
At South High School in Grand Rapids he took up cello, clarinet and saxophone. Glenn Litton, the high school instructor, took an interest in Clare and because the family couldn't afford it, gave him free lessons in Theory, Harmony and Orchestration. Clare returned the favor by orchestrating and copying music for him. Whenever the concert band needed an instrument, Clare would be supplied with the instrument and the fingering chart to play it in concert, giving him personal training in orchestration that was invaluable. He started his own band at 15, for which he wrote all the arrangements.
Graduating in 1947, he began undergraduate studies in 1948 at Michigan State University majoring in Composition and Theory, under the guidance of Dr. H. Owen Reed (Composition) and Alexander Schuster (Cello and Conducting). During his teens there were no funds for him to study piano, so he was mostly self-taught. Therefore his major instrument in college was cello, with piano a minor. Later he changed his major to piano and minor in clarinet and became the first to receive an A on a faculty jury on clarinet through a graduate student instructor. Fischer graduated in '51 B.M. cum laude and began his first year of graduate work in composition.
The U.S. Army drafted him in 1952 sending him to Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., for basic training. There he played alto saxophone in a band and ended his service as an arranger at the U.S. Military Academy Band at West Point, N.Y. After the army, Clare returned to Michigan State and a second year of graduate work. In '55 he received his Master of Music.
In '56 he married, and his first son, Lee Clare, was born. He joined the vocal group, "The Hi-Lo's," as pianist-conductor in 1957. Divorcing in '58, he relocated in Hollywood. During his 5 years with the Hi-Lo's he wrote his first vocal arrangements, and recorded several albums with them as pianist, and sometime vocal and instrumental arranger. At the same time, he wrote his first complete album as arranger for Donald Byrd. Then for jazz trumpeter, Dizzy Gillespie, he wrote an album called "Portrait of Duke Ellington." In 1960 albums for Cal Tjader and George Shearing followed, as did an 8-year career of writing music for commercials. He also began playing in background orchestras for films, TV and live TV shows. In 1960 he married a second time and had a son Brent, and a daughter, Tahlia.
His first recordings under his own name began in 1962 for Pacific Jazz Records. Arrangements for Sergio Mendes, Willy Ruff and others followed. In the sixties he began playing the organ again, having studied pipe organ at sixteen. He began to record on a Hammond B-3 on an album for Cal Tjader, "So-a Libre" for Fantasy Records. His performance on Yamaha instruments began with the EX-42 Electone Organ and later on digital pianos. The latest in this category is the FX-20 Digital Organ by Yamaha.
His roommates at M.S.U. were Latin Americans, as were the majority of his friends outside the music department. One, Roberto Fortier, introduced him to Cuban music through recordings by Tito Puente, Tito Rodriguez, Machito and others. Through these friends Clare became interested in the Spanish language and took it as a minor on his Masters Degree. At this time he was not playing Latin-Jazz, just listening to it, so when he moved to Hollywood in '58, he went to East L.A. to play and learn about the music. He started in an Afro-Cuban group with Modesto Duran as leader and Carlos Vidal and Rolando Lozano as sidemen. Playing with many different groups, he paid his dues in the joints.
By 1965 he was busy raising a family and doing studio work. During this period he became interested in Brazilian music through the recordings of Elizete Cardoso. He began hanging out with Brazilians, studying the language and ultimately receiving records from friends in Brazil of the new "Bossa Nova" some three years before it came to the U.S. During "the twist" craze, Clare had a seven-piece group trying to get the public to dance Brazilian. What he learned was not to be in the wrong place with the wrong product. Following his second divorce in 1970, after years of not performing very much in public he became more active.
In 1975, while still working in the studios, he began to travel a third of the year with Cal Tjader, recording with him again. Before this he had not played Latin music for ten years. He enjoyed the Latin music so much that he decided to organize his own group. During this time he continued to work with Cal while working toward recordings and a library for his own group.
In 1978 he launched his "Salsa Picante" group into public performance. Next he organized a vocal group of 2 women and 2 men, which he called "2 + 2," which later became "Clare Fischer and Friends." He added this group to "Salsa Picante" and recorded "2 + 2" which won a Grammy in 1981.
Several years ago Clare began doing orchestral sweeteners for pop-rock recordings. First with Rufus and Chaka Khan (their first four hit albums) followed by a lot of work for Motown Records (Switch, The Jacksons, Earl Klugh, The Debarges). Other R & B groups included " Shot-Gun" and "Atlantic Star." His walls are now covered with gold and platinum records from these recordings and Grammy Award Nominations, N.A.R.A.S. MVP Awards culminating in an MVP-Emeritus in 1985.
In 1983 classical concert artist Richard Stoltzman commissioned him to write a symphonic work using Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn themes. The result was "The Duke, Swee'pea and Me," an eleven and a half minute orchestral work featuring Stoltzman on the clarinet who now performs it with symphony orchestras around the world.
Since 1985, Clare has written orchestral arrangements for Prince - some have appeared on Prince's albums and have been used for his movies, "Under the Cherry Moon," (Clare's first screen credit) and "Graffiti Bridge." One of Clare's Prince arrangements was also used in a revised form for the movie, "Batman."
In 1986, Clare Fischer's "Free Fall" album was nominated in three categories for the Grammy Awards and won under the category of Best Jazz Album by a Vocal Duo or Group. More recently, as a jazz educator, Clare has performed solo piano concerts and conducted clinics and master classes in universities and music conservatories in Europe and throughout the United States.
In 1992 Clare married for the third time, this time to his high-school sweetheart, Donna van Ringelesteyn, after having been separated for 44 years and now at last happily married. About the same time, Clare's son, Brent began working as Clare's manager as well as being a very talented and busy electric bassist and writer, himself.
At the present time, in addition to Prince, Clare continues to write for many other world renowned artists including Paul McCartney, Michael Jackson, Brazilian artist Jo"o Gilberto, Paula Abdul, Diane Schuur, Brian McKnight, Amy Grant, Natalie Cole, Branford Marsallis, Vanessa Williams, Brandi, Toni Braxton and Boyz II Men.
In the last ten years Clare has appeared in Norway, Finland, Germany, Holland, France, Austria, Switzerland, Croatia, Mexico City and Brazil. He has played at the North Sea Jazz Festival in the Hague, as well as the Jazz-Sommer Graz Festival in Austria, with his Latin Jazz group, in Holland and in Germany with his six singers and rhythm section, both groups that he brought with him from the States. He has also taken Don Shelton with him to perform - Don on woodwinds and Clare, of course, on piano. Clare has performed solo piano concerts in cities all across Europe as well as teaching master classes on composition, improvisation and harmony. All of this in addition to the work that he regularly does here in the States at universities and music schools.
In 1998, tired of dealing with record company producers dictating what and how to record his music, Clare started producing his own work. Since then he has released four recordings himself, which he offers to the public on his web site, www.clarefischer.com along with the rest of his recordings that are still available - 18 in all.
In 1999 Michigan State University awarded Clare an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts Degree. He is still actively engaged in writing, performing, and teaching. His wife is Donna Fischer.
Jazz (1961); First Time Out (1963); Surging Head (1964); So Danco Samba (1965); Manteca! (1965); Piano Concert (1965); Easy Livin' (1966); One to Get Ready, Four...to-Go! (1968); Thesaurus (1969); Great White Hope (& His Japanese Friend) (1970); Love is Surrender (1970); Tell It Like It Is (1972); Clare Fischer In the Reclamation Act of 1972! (1972); Music Inspired by the Kinetic Sculpture of Don Conard Mobiles (1975); The State of His Art (1976); Clare Declares (1977); America the Beuatiful (previously released in 1967 as Songs For Rainy Day Lovers) (1978); Jazz Song (1979); 'Twas Only Yesterday (1979); Clare Fishcer & EX-42 (originally released in 1972 as T'DA-A-A!) (1979); Duality (1980); Salsa Picante (1980);Alone Together (1980); Machaca (1981); Clare Fischer & Salsa Picante Present 2+2 (1981);Head, Heart and Hands (1982);And Sometimes Voices (with 2+2) (1982); September Afternoon (with Donald Byrd) (1982); Starbright (1983); Whose Woods Are These? (1984); Extension (1984); Crazy Bird (1985); Freefall (1986); Clare Fischer Plays (1987); Tjaderama (1987); Blues Trilogy (1987); Waltz (1988); Lembranias (Remembrances) (1990); Memento (1992); Just Me (1995); Rockin' In Rhythm (1997); Alone Together (1997); The Latin Side (1997); The Jazz Corps (1998); Latin Patterns (1999); Symbiosis (1999); Thesaurus (2000); After the Rain (2001); On a Turquoise Cloud (2002); America the Beautiful (2002)
Music books published:
Harmonic Exercises For Piano, Pub. Advance Music (Toward finger strength and facility and harmonic thinking at the keyboard);
The Music of Clare Fischer, Vol I (48 original compositions), Pub. Advance Music; Sonatine For Clarinet and Piano (Commissioned by Richard Stoltzman), Pub. Advance Music
Suite for Cello and String Orchestra - three movements, Pub. Advance Music;
Time Piece - Written for full Orchestra - three movements, Pub. Advance Music
Bachludes I and II - Written for String Orchestra, Pub. Advance Music