Born: April 29, 1930 - Ratibor, Poland
Claus Ogerman is known for being a composer, conductor, and arranger today. But he began his career with the piano. After composing for a number of German films, he relocated to New York in 1959. In the early 1960s, he became musical director for the Verve record label, arranging albums by Antonio Carlos Jobim, Kai Winding, and others. Later on he and Creed Taylor (Verve Producer) joined the A&M label where Claus continued to work with Tom Jobim and others. The list of artists that Claus Ogerman has arranged and conducted for has grown steadily since that time to include Stan Getz, Frank Sinatra, Astrud Gilberto, Joao Gilberto, Bobby Rosengarden, and many more.
German arranger/conductor/composer Claus Ogerman (born 1930 in Prussia, the part that is now Poland) has been widely-admired for five decades for his large orchestra arrangements of often brooding unison strings. His many strings often blossom into a sumptuous harmony highlighted by soloing flutes. He is best known for his brilliant and unparalleled arrangements of Brazillian music on a series of Antonio Carlos Jobim albums nearly the polar opposite of his traditional European classical music training. Ogerman also arranged Jobim's compositions on the acclaimed 1967 album "Francis Albert Sinatra and Antonio Carlos Jobim". Many lament that Sinatra failed to use Ogerman again (while searching for arrangers for the rest of his career) when one hears his outstanding arrangements behind Sinatra singing the American popular song classics "I Concentrate on You" and "Baubles, Bangles and Beads".
In the 1950's, Ogerman worked in Germany as an arranger-pianist with Kurt Edelhagen and with Max Greger. In 1959, he moved to New York City to begin an arranging career as light classical music interest started to rapidly decline. Despite being immediately saddled with lesser arranging assignments in a fast-changing American music business, he firmly established himself in the recording studios with his versatile skills such that his work is still heard in commercials, elevators and recordings of all types. In 1963 he joined Creed Taylor's Verve/MGM Records, working on recordings by Jobim, Bill Evans, Wes Montgomery, Kai Winding and Cal Tjader. Taylor sold Verve Records and brought Ogerman over to arrange Jobim's Wave on his new CTI label. Ogerman later worked on albums by Oscar Peterson, Nelson Riddle (his favorite orchestrator) and others at the German MPS label. His other collaborations include work with Benny Goodman, Joao Gilberto, Astrud Gilberto, Joao Donato, Betty Carter, Leslie Gore and Michael Franks. Ogerman arranged best selling albums for Connie Francis and The Drifters. He has written jazz charts for Stan Getz, Freddie Hubbard, and Stanley Turrentine, among others. He has composed for many German films as well. He greatly regrets missing Glenn Gould's request to play on the arrangements he did for Barbara Streisand's "Classical Barbra" album.
In 1976, Jobim gave Ogerman the back side of his "Urubu" LP to exclusively feature his strings while Bill Evans similarly allowed Ogerman great latitude on his albums. Ogerman's piano-playing, which included early work with Chet Baker, can be heard to great affect on Jobim's best album "Terra Brasilis" (1980), featuring his masterful reworking of his arrangements from Jobim's 1960's American albums, highlighted by "Double Rainbow".
After many Grammy nominations over the years, Ogerman won the 1979 Grammy for Best Arrangement on an Instrumental Recording - George Benson's "Soulful Strut" Living Inside Your Love. He also solidified the jazz guitarist's pop vocal career with his arrangments on Benson's hugely selling album "Breezin'". George Benson's producer Tommy LiPuma the then helped him take highlights from his ballet 'Some Times' to create his song-suite album 'Gate Of Dreams' featuring his own orchestra, George Benson, David Sanborn, Michael Brecker and others. LiPuma later also produced Ogerman's excellent album "Cityscape". After producing the Benson and Ogerman albums for Warner Brothers, LiPuma took Ogerman to Dave Grusin's GRP label to produce the 1991 album "Claus Ogerman featuring Michael Brecker".
Unlike many arrangers who became better known when touring and appearing on television with big-name singers, Ogerman's intricate, large orchestra arrangements could usually only be afforded in the recording studio. Until the 1970's, Ogerman's large-scale orchestrations were almost always reduced to backing other artists of widely-varying talents and types of music at a time when only hit-composing arrangers (with more marketing-friendly names) could cost-effectively record their own albums in a country lacking subsidized light music orchestras and productions. Ogerman even hinted that the vast majority of his 1960's and 1970's work was quite unsatisfying.
Since the 1970's, Claus has devoted himself almost exclusively to serious compositions. His commissions and projects include a ballet score for the American Ballet Theatre (Some Times), a work for jazz piano and orchestra (Symbiosis) for Bill Evans, a work for saxophone and orchestra (Cityscape, which includes Symphonic Dances) for Michael Brecker, a song cycle (Tagore-Lieder) after poems by Rabindranath Tagore that was recorded by Met soprano Judith Blegen and mezzo-soprano Brigitte Fassbaender, Concerto Lirico and Sarabande-Fantasie for violin and orchestra that was recorded by Aaron Rosand, 10 Songs for Chorus A-Capella After Poems by Georg Heym that was recorded by the Cologne Radio Chorus, a work for violin and orchestra (Preludio and Chant recorded by world-renowned violinist Gideon Kremer), and many more.
Update, September 2001: After 20 years away from jazz and popular music, Diana Krall coaxes Claus to arrange and conduct the London Symphony Orchestra on her best-selling album "The Look of Love". Now enjoy seeing Claus conduct on Diana's DVD "Live in Paris". Ogerman's major influences remain Max Reger and Alexander Scriabin. He steadfastly maintains that he is not primarily concerned with "modernism" per se - his goal is to evoke emotional response in the listener. Let's hope Maestro Ogerman excites us by returning on his own terms to the light orchestral music now afforded by today's retro music trend.
-By Alan Watts (from Robert Farnon Society (incl. Percy Faith) at www.rfsoc.freeserve.co.uk)