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Saturday, July 09, 2005

Tom Talbert, 80, noted jazz musician, composer and arranger

Tom Talbert, 80, noted jazz musician, composer and arrangerTom Talbert, 80, noted jazz musician, composer and arranger

Los Angeles Times
Jul. 9, 2005 12:00 AM

LOS ANGELES - Tom Talbert, a jazz composer and arranger whose music mixed influences as diverse as Duke Ellington and Debussy, has died. He was 80.

Talbert died Saturday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles after a severe stroke, his family said.

Self-taught as a pianist, Talbert became interested in arranging at age 15 after hearing big bands on the radio. During World War II, he joined the Army and became an arranger for a military band at Fort Ord that performed for war-bond drives throughout California.

After the war, the native of Crystal Bay, Minn., came to Los Angeles and led his own orchestra from 1946-49 and toured with singer Anita O'Day. In 1950, Talbert moved to New York and arranged music for many jazz greats, including big band leaders Buddy Rich, Stan Kenton and Claude Thornhill.

Two albums Talbert released in the mid-1950s, Bix Duke Fats, a modern jazz treatment of compositions by Bix Beiderbecke, Ellington and Fats Waller, and Wednesday's Child with singer Patty McGovern were critically well-received, if not easy to describe.

"Unique stylistic combination of French Impressionism, Abstraction and 'blowing,' " the Billboard review of Bix said.

When asked about his distinctive style, Talbert told the Los Angeles Times in 1994, "I probably learned the most from listening to records. So I ended up writing what I heard in my head, and what I liked. I never tried to make it sound like Ravel's Daphnis and Chloe. It's just what I hear."

In 1975, he returned to Los Angeles and wrote the soundtracks for such television shows as NBC's Serpico and Emergency. He led a septet and another big band, revived his recording career and performed through the 1990s.

He also established a scholarship for young musicians studying at California State University-Long Beach.

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