The passing of Pete Rugolo was mentioned briefly last month, as his music was played at the LAJI's "Modern Sounds" event in Los Angeles and Rugolo, it was hoped, would be there to hear it. Sadly, he died October 16, four days before the concert by John Altman's big band, at age ninety-five. While widely known as a composer / arranger for television series (for which he earned two Emmy awards), Rugolo is best remembered in jazz circles as the chief arranger for Stan Kenton's post-World War II orchestra and an architect of the "Kenton sound." His first recorded arrangement for Kenton, "Opus a Dollar Three Eighty," was written in 1944.Three years later, Rugolo won the DownBeat magazine poll as best arranger, the first of five such honors over the next seven years. He also arranged extensively for June Christy and the The Four Freshmen. After leaving Kenton in the mid 1950s, Rugolo served for two years as music director for Capitol Records in New York, during which time he signed trumpeter Miles Davis, among others, to the label and produced the groundbreaking "Birth of the Cool" recording sessions by Davis and his group. In 1958, while working as an arranger and orchestrator for MGM and serving as West Coast music director for Mercury Records, Rugolo wrote his first television score, for "The Thin Man," starring Peter Lawford and Phyllis Kirk. He later wrote theme music for "Richard Diamond: Private Detective," the Boris Karloff anthology "Thriller," "The Fugitive," starring David Janssen, and "Run for Your Life," starring Ben Gazarra. His two Emmys came for the 1970 TV movie "The Challengers" and a 1972 episode of "The Lawyers." As is true of many enormously talented musicians, Rugolo is gone but his musical legacy lives on.
Speaking of talented composer / arrangers, Joe Coccia, another contributor to the Stan Kenton library whose compositions and arrangements were recorded by the Kenton orchestra on the Capitol and Creative World labels, died November 14 at his home in Cranston, RI. He was ninety-one years old. In later years, Coccia served as an educator and administrator in Cranston schools. In 2000, Cranston High School's new media center was named the Joseph A. Coccia Library Media Center in his honor. More recently, his arrangements of "Flamingo" and "Midnight Sun," performed by the DePaul University Jazz Ensemble, were included on the album Double Feature, Volume 1 (Tantara Productions 1126) and his compositions "North Wind" and "West Wind" are included on the recently released Volume 3.