Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians

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Paich, Marty

Paich, Marty (Martin Louis Paich), composer, arranger, piano, accordion (b. Oakland, California, January 23, 1925, d. August 12, 1995, Santa Ynez, California). One of the most prolific arrangers in jazz and pop music, Marty Paich arranged and/or conducted on over 1000 albums. Among the singers he accompanied were Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, Mel Tormé, Aretha Franklin, Sarah Vaughan, Ray Charles and Michael Jackson. He led bands in Oakland from the age of 10, and attended several California colleges before graduating magna cum laude with a Master's in Music from the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music. Like many of the West Coast jazz players, he was an avid student of composition, with his primary studies with the classical composer Mario Castelnuevo-Tedesco. Paich played piano with two of the top groups in California jazz, Shorty Rogers and His Giants and Shelly Manne and His Men. Paich's arrangements appeared on two of Manne's Contemporary LPs, and his arrangement of "You're My Thrill" was heard by Tormé and inspired him to collaborate with Paich in creating a new ensemble and a series of brilliant recordings.

The new ensemble was called the Dek-tette and its instrumentation was based on the mid-sized cool jazz ensembles led by Miles Davis and Gerry Mulligan. In its original incarnation, the instrumentation featured a brass quintet with tuba and french horn both used melodically, along with 3 saxes (with a wide range of woodwind doubles) and only bass and drums in the rhythm section. Paich maintained the cool sound with relaxed ensemble figures (sometimes led by Tormé) and by writing the trumpet parts within the staff. Paich and Tormé used the opportunity to create some of the most challenging settings ever devised for a singer. They took great liberties in expanding and changing song forms, and adding quotes of pop songs as counterpoint to the vocal line. While Tormé did more recordings with the Dek-tette than anyone else, Paich also used the group to back up vocalists Ella Fitzgerald, Jeri Southern, The Hi-Lo’s, Sammy Davis Jr., Margaret Whiting, Frances Faye and Linda Lawson. The Dek-tette was also the back-up band on Art Pepper + 11: Modern Jazz Classics. The Dek-tette was filled with some of the finest musicians on the West Coast, and Paich continued to use the group on recordings until 1966, maintaining the sound of cool jazz far longer than any of the style’s other practitioners. A full-length article on the Tormé/Paich dek-tette can be found here.

From the 1960s onward, Paich expanded his scope to include more commercial music. In addition to recording projects with Sinatra, Paich also worked with Andy Williams, Al Hirt and Jack Jones. Later in the 1960s, he did more work in television, conducting the house bands for series featuring Glen Campbell, the Smothers Brothers and Sonny & Cher. His son, David, led the rock band Toto, and Marty contributed arrangements for their albums. He conducted several film scores written by James Newton Howard, including "Dave" and "The Prince Of Tides". Paich died of colon cancer in 1995. A memorial website set up by friends and family can be found at http://martypaich.com/index.html

Contributor: Thomas Cunniffe