Bob Freedman (1934-2018)

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Robert M. Freedman, a jazz pianist, saxophonist and Grammy-winning arranger who orchestrated for artists ranging from Sarah Vaughan and Harry Belefonte to Maynard Ferguson and Paul Simon, and scored theme music for TV shows, including ABC's Monday Night Football, died on Dec. 22, 2018. He was 84.

Bob was a long-time JazzWax reader and an avid email correspondent, particularly whenever I posted on Ferguson or Pomeroy. I was informed late last year that Bob might have passed away, a fact I relayed to Bill Kirchner who reached out to Bob's wife, Tori, in Scottsdale, Ariz., over the weekend and confirmed his death.

Bob's Grammy was shared with Quincy Jones for their arrangement of The Wiz Main Title: Overture Part One in 1978. He also was nominated for three additional Grammys. During a phone call a few years ago, Bob admitted, with a laugh, that his jazz low point came in the mid-1950s, when he arranged and played alto saxophone on Music to Strip By, a jazz album of bump-and-grind songs that included Night Train, Shangri-la and One Mint Julep. But even on such an album for Boston's Surprise Records, which Bob noted was owned by someone with a broken nose, the group was top-notch and included trumpeter Herb Pomeroy and a few members of Pomeroy's band.

Bob excelled at big band writing, and he counted as his finest moment his composition and arrangement of And We Listened, recorded by Maynard Ferguson on A Message From Newport in 1958. Bob also was very proud of his arrangements for Herb Pomeroy's band.

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Born in Mount Vernon, N.Y., Bob grew up in Wollaston, Mass. When he was 12, his family moved to Cranston, R.I., where he began studying the clarinet and soon added the piano. His first brush with arranging came when he bought Glenn Miller's Method for Orchestral Arranging. His first professional playing job came at 14. In the Army, Bob was stationed in Arizona, where he encountered an enlisted Chet Baker and played with him on local Army gigs.

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Bob's first album was Piano Moods for Savoy in 1953, withi Joe Reichgott on bass and Bob Gibson on drums. Bob also knew pianist Dick Twardzik well in the early 1950s.

For more, here are my JazzWax interviews with Bob on Maynard Ferguson (go here), Dick Twardzik (go here) and Grover Washington, Jr. (go here).

Here are 10 favorite Bob Freedman clips plus two bonus clips:

Here's The Wiz Soundtrack: Main Title (Overture, Part One)...

Here's Bob and the trio in 1953 on Piano Moods playing Sophisticated Lady...

Sophisticated Lady

Here's Bob's arrangement of A Foggy Day on Margie Anderson's The Blues album in the mid-1950s, featuring Varty Haroutunian (ts) and likely Herb Pomeroy on trumpet. Bob was on alto sax...

Here's Bob's composition and arrangement of And We Listened for Maynard Ferguson from a clip Bob sent me some years ago of the band at Birdland between 1959 and '61...

And We Listened (live at Birdland)

Here's Bob's arrangement of Broadway and Seventh in 1963 by the Bill Berry Combo, on which Bob is playing piano, Berry is on trumpet, Alex Cirin Jr. is on bass and Alan Dawson is on drums. The album's original title was Jazz and Swinging Percussion...

Here's Bob's arrangement of Night Time Is the Right Time for Joe Williams and the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra in 1966...

Here's Bob's gorgeous arrangement of Alfie for Sarah Vaughan in 1967...

And here are three that Bill Kirchner sent along:

Here's Construction of the Raft from Bob's The Journeys of Odysseus in 1969, produced by Gary McFarland and narrated by Terry Currier...

Here's Bob's arrangement of Grady Tate singing Hooray from Tate's album Feeling Life in 1969...

And here's Bob's arrangement of Je crois entendre encore from Les Pêcheurs de Perles from Grover Washington Jr.'s Aria album in 1999...

Bonus 1: Two more from me—first, here's Bob's piano and arrangement of Deep Purple for Jerry Donato on his It's a Cool Heat album recorded in Arizona in 2004...

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Bonus 2:
And second, Charles Fox may have composed ABC's Monday Night Football theme in 1972, but "Bob" of "Bob's Band" was Bob Freedman and his arrangement and orchestra. Here's the theme....

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[Author: Marc Myers]

Tags: Abc, Boston, Paul Simon, Arizona, Broadway, Army, Jazz, Ferguson, Bob, Quincy Jones, Chet Baker, Cranston, Berry, Newport, Scottsdale Ariz, Mount Vernon, Tate, Les Pecheurs de Perles, Grover Washington Jr, Birdland, Alfie, Joe Williams, Tori, Pomeroy, Glenn Miller, Sarah Vaughan, Odysseus, Bill Kirchner, Thad Jones Mel Lewis, Bob Gibson, Gary McFarland, Marc Myers, Dick Twardzik, Maynard Ferguson, Herb Pomeroy, Bob Freedman, Grady Tate, Terry Currier, Harry Belefonte, Jerry Donato, Alan Dawson, Charles Fox, Robert M Freedman, Joe Reichgott, Margie Anderson, Alex Cirin Jr, Wollaston Mass When


February 11, 2019 at 2:54 AM Bob Freedman (1934-2019)
January 31, 2019 at 2:53 AM Perfect Album: Band in Boston
January 24, 2019 at 2:54 AM Perfect Album: Newport Message
May 3, 2017 at 2:56 AM Jerry Donato and Pete Jolly