Composer, arranger and pianist Clare Fischer died Thursday, Jan. 26, his website has announced. He was 83. The L.A. Times reports that he died of complications from a heart attack suffered two weeks ago.
Fischer was a respected improvising pianist, but left his biggest mark behind the scenes as a composer, arranger and studio musician across idiom. “I’m not a pianist who writes — I’m a composer who plays,” he said on a February 2001 episode of Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz, heard above. A few of his tunes, “Pensativa” and “Morning,” have entered standard jazz repertoire.
His first big break came while touring as pianist/arranger for the Hi-Los, a popular vocal quartet of its time. He was soon commissioned to arrange for various jazz artists, including Dizzy Gillespie on A Portrait of Duke Ellington. Fischer was known for his love of Latin American music and European classical music alike; he led and played in Latin jazz bands (especially with vibraphonist Cal Tjader), and wrote for strings and symphony orchestras. He was also tapped to write backing arrangements for myriad pop stars, including Chaka Khan and Rufus, Paul McCartney, Joao Gilberto, Brandy, Carlos Santana and Prince, often in collaboration with Brent Fischer, his son and a fellow producer/arranger.
“Each decade, I find myself being interested in something else,” Clare Fischer told McPartland. “So I pursue it.”
In that time, Fischer released 51 albums as a bandleader or solo pianist, spanning ensembles of all sizes and styles. One of his last — Continuum, a collection of works for big band — was nominated for a Grammy in November.