American jazz composer, keyboardist, pianist, and film-score composer
By using electronic components to complement acoustic music, Grusin became a leader in the fusion jazz movement. Unlike many who compose for different fields, Grusin uses the same instruments (and even musicians) in both his jazz recordings and his film scores.
June 26, 1934; Littleton, Colorado
film scores: Divorce American Style, 1967; A Man Called Gannon, 1968; The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, 1968; Generation, 1969; Adam at Six o’Clock, 1970; The Pursuit of Happiness, 1971; Shoot Out, 1971; Fuzz, 1972; The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid, 1972; The Friends of Eddie Coyle, 1973; The Midnight Man, 1974; Three Days of the Condor, 1975; The Yakuza, 1975; The Front, 1976; Murder by Death, 1976; Bobby Deerfield, 1977; The Goodbye Girl, 1977; Heaven Can Wait, 1978; The Champ, 1979; Absence of Malice, 1981; On Golden Pond, 1981; Author! Author!, 1982; Tootsie, 1982; Falling in Love, 1984; The Little Drummer Girl, 1984; Racing with the Moon, 1984; The Goonies, 1985; Lucas, 1986; Ishtar, 1987; Clara’s Heart, 1988; The Milagro Beanfield War, 1988; Tequila Sunrise, 1988; The Fabulous Baker Boys, 1989; The Bonfire of the Vanities, 1990; Havana, 1990; The Firm, 1993; The Cure, 1995; Selena, 1997; Hope Floats, 1998; Random Hearts, 1999.
albums: Subways Are for Sleeping, 1961; The Many Moods of Dave Grusin, 1962; Kaleidoscope, 1964; Discovered Again, 1977; One of a Kind, 1977; Mountain Dance, 1979; Out of the Shadows, 1982; Night Lines, 1983; Dave Grusin and the N.Y.-L.A.
Dream Band, 1984 (with the N.Y.-L.A. Dream Band); Harlequin, 1985 (with Lee Ritenour); Cinemagic, 1987; Little Big Horn, 1988 (with Gerry Mulligan); Sticks and Stones, 1988 (with Don Grusin); Zephyr, 1988; Migration, 1989; The Gershwin Connection, 1991; Homage to Duke, 1993; The Orchestral Album, 1994; Two for the Road: The Music of Henry Mancini, 1996; West Side Story, 1997; Two Worlds, 2000 (with Ritenour and Renee Fleming); Discovered Again Plus, 2004; Now Playing: Movie Themes, Solo Piano, 2004; Amparo, 2008 (with Ritenour).
David Grusin (GREW-sihn) was born June 26, 1934, in Littleton, Colorado. Grusin grew up with a classical-music background: His father, Henri, was a professional violinist, and his mother, Rosabelle, began giving Grusin piano lessons when he was four. Grusin continued his piano studies at the University of Colorado under Storm Bull, the grandnephew of Edvard Grieg and a former pupil of Bela Bartok, graduating in 1956.
After serving in the U.S. Navy, Grusin planned to continue his studies at the Manhattan School of Music only to be hired as the accompanist for Andy Williams in 1959. He played piano on the singer’s recordings and eventually served as leader of the Dave Grusin Orchestra on the televised The Andy Williams Show from 1962 to 1965. In addition to acting as arranger, conductor, producer, and musician on many jazz and pop recordings, Grusin recorded three jazz piano albums during the 1960’s.
Grusin became interested in a new challenge after being hired by his friend Quincy Jones to play on the sound track of director Sydney Pollack’s The Slender Thread (1965). He began composing for the television series Gidget in 1965-1966 and for The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. the following season. Thiswork led to Grusin’s first film score, Divorce American Style.
Grusin continued working on film scores, television music, and jazz recordings. He and producerengineer Larry Rosen, once Grusin’s drummer, formed Grusin Rosen Productions to create albums by young jazz artists for such labels as Blue Note. In 1982 they founded GRP Records, a pioneer in digital recording, releasing some of the first jazz albums in the new medium of compact discs.
His most significant film relationship began in 1975 with The Yakuza, the first of his nine scores for Pollack. Two of these earned Academy Award nominations: Havana and The Firm. He was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Score for Heaven Can Wait, The Champ, On Golden Pond, and The Fabulous Baker Boys, in which he also performs the piano pieces played by Jeff Bridges’s character. GrusinwonanAcademyAwardfor scoring Robert Redford’s The Milagro Beanfield War. He was nominated for best song, along with lyricists Alan and Marilyn Bergman, for “It Might Be You” from Tootsie.
Grusin won Grammy Awards for his work on The Fabulous Baker Boys, The Milagro Beanfield War, The Gershwin Connection, Homage to Duke, and The Orchestral Album and another for his arrangement of “Mean Old Man” for James Taylor’s album October Road (2002). He has received honorary doctorates from the Berklee College of Music and the University of Colorado and a Golden Score from the American Society of Musicians, Composers, and Arrangers.
The Music Fusion Jazz.
Grusin became a leader in the fusion jazz movement, melding electronic and acoustic music, and he often uses the same instruments and the same musicians for his jazz recordings and for his film scores.Heeven includes a piece from his jazz fusion album Mountain Dance in his score for Falling in Love.While his jazz compositions are generally upbeat, his film scores are more contemplative.
Exceptions to the latter include the frisky “New Hampshire Hornpipe” segment from the family dramaOnGolden Pond and the title music for Tootsie, which emphasizes the hopeful optimism of the main character, a struggling actor.
Diverse Film Scores.
While many film composers specialize in certain genres, often employing variations of the same themes and motifs from film to film, Grusin has been remarkably diverse.Hehas done Westerns such as The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid, crime dramas such as The Friends of Eddie Coyle, Neil Simon comedies such as The Goodbye Girl, political films such as The Front, and romances about the pain of young love, Racing with the Moon, and about adulterous love, Falling in Love.
For each type of film, Grusin does not impose his jazz-accented style but finds ways of combining his usual approach with the conventions of the genre.
For On Golden Pond, Grusin creates a simple, haunting score emphasizing the film’s melancholy nature without resorting to sentimentality. This mutedly forlorn sense of loss can also be heard in Havana, which resists the musical cliches of a film set in Latin America. For The Little Drummer Girl, he adds Middle Eastern drums, pipes, and stringed instruments to reflect the setting, yet he uses them in a jazzy blend to emphasize how the title character is torn between two cultures.
Grusin has probably done his best work for longtime collaborator Pollack. For the thriller Three Days of the Condor, his jazz score uses strong percussive beats and dissonance to underscore the paranoia of the spy played by Redford. This film also displays Grusin’s skill in counterpoint. The theme carries an almost carefree tone because the protagonist marked for death does not anticipate the horrors awaiting him. Grusin creates a softer, reflective piece for the photographer played by Faye Dunaway to match the mood of her somber blackand- white pictures, yet he mixes it with the theme to show how she is torn between conflicting emotions.
For another Pollack paranoia thriller, The Firm, Grusin uses a solo acoustic piano, alternating between repetitive and melodic sounds to underscore the uncertainties of the young lawyer played by Tom Cruise.
Because the title characters in The Fabulous Baker Boys play well-worn pop tunes in their nightclub act, the initial music is an amalgam of Broadway conventionality. Because the character portrayed by Bridges hates this music and longs to be a jazz pianist, the score gradually shifts, becoming jazzier, more improvisational and introspective, aligning itself with the character’s need for freedom.
Jazz Compositions and Performance.
Grusin balanced his film and television work with his output as jazz pianist and composer. In addition to Mountain Dance, his best-known nonfilm work, his jazz fusion albums include Out of the Shadows, Dave Grusin and the N.Y.-L.A. Dream Band, Harlequin (with frequent collaborator guitarist-composer Lee Ritenour), Little Big Horn (with saxophonist Gerry Mulligan), Sticks and Bones (with his brother Don, also a keyboardist), Migration, and Two Worlds (with Ritenour and soprano Renee Fleming). Two Worlds explores the composer’s interests in classical and folk music in addition to jazz.
In the 1990’s Grusin returned to acoustic piano and thework of other composers, issuing tribute albums to George Gershwin, Duke Ellington, Elmer Bernstein, Henry Mancini, and West Side Story (1957). In 2004 he released Now Playing: Movie Themes, Solo Piano, a collection of his film themes transcribed for solo piano.
A man of many talents, Grusin has shown aspiring musicians that they can enjoy producing a diverse range of musical styles while working in a variety of positions. By working as soloist, accompanist, sideman, arranger, conductor, and composer in several fields, Grusin has proved that musicians can thrive by meeting numerous challenges.
As a recording executive, he helped the careers of young performers while preserving the past accomplishments of jazz greats and film composers.
His cofounding of the National Foundation for Jazz Education demonstrates his commitment to encouraging new talent. Grusin’s greatest achievement has been his many film and television scores, demonstrating his ability to adapt his style to the needs of the individual projects. ¶
Dave Grusin Biography
American jazz composer, keyboardist, pianist, and film-score composer