Russ Garcia

Russ Garcia, West Coast jazz composer and arranger, was born in Oakland, CA, on April 12, 1916. He graduated from San Francisco State University and studied composition under Mario Castelnuovo–Tedesco. He then began a career as an arranger with Al Donahue and Horace Heidt. After moving to Los Angeles, Garcia was a conductor and composer on The Is America radio program hosted by Ronald Reagan. After the show ended, Garcia was hired as a staff arranger at NBC Radio for two more years. He then taught at Hollywood’s Westlake School of Music where his students included Gene Puerling, Bob Graettinger and Bill Holman. His curriculum was later published in The Professional Arranger. Garcia started composing and arranging feature films with 1946’s My Dog Shep. Henry Mancini later selected him to work on The Glenn Miller Story. This resulted in a 15 year tenure at Universal Pictures with Benny Carter and Pete Rugolo. Later, Garcia worked for Warner Bros. as well as Disney on various projects, including George Pal’s sci fi classic The Time Machine. He also freelanced with vocalists Anita O’Day, Frances Faye, as well as on television series like Rawhide or The Virginian. In the late ’50s, Garcia was also a frequent performer on West Coast jazz dates. His own band, the Wigville Band, featured Charlie Mariano and Jimmy Giuffre as members, as did brothers Pete Candoli and Conte Candoli. Garcia was also instrumental in the arrangement and musical direction of Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald’s Porgy and Bess sessions in 1957. His most notable work is not in jazz. While the AAMCO album Sounds in the Night is still one of the most stunning and mysterious vocal ensemble recordings, Garcia’s 1959 masterpiece, Fantastica, is a space-age pop LP that vividly imagines the music from other planets and worlds. After working as an arranger for Stan Kenton’s Neophonic Orchestra in 1966, Garcia quit his job and sold his house and possessions to sail to the Pacific Ocean with Gina, to spread the Baha’i message to remote islands along the Pacific Rim. In New Zealand, the Garcias settled down and Garcia returned to music only infrequently over the following years. Allmusic

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