Composer, pianist, record producer
Dave Grusin is a pianist, keyboardist, arranger, record producer, and cofounder of GRP Records who likes the title “solo artist” least. Winner of a Grammy Award for best instrumental arrangement on the album Harlequin in 1985 and an Oscar for the motion picture score The Milagro Beanfield War in 1989, he told Scott Yanow in Down Beat, “I still don’t think of myself as a performer. I don’t have a burning desire to go out and play before people. I do it occasionally to try to spread the word about my records, but basically I’ve never felt like a performer. I much prefer the creative process in the studio, the writing and the recording.”
Grusin was born on June 26, 1934, in Littleton, Colorado, to parents who were both classical musicians. “My father was a very good violinist and a perfect teacher,” Grusin explained to Yanow. “He didn’t push music on us, but it was such an inherent part of our lives that it became a natural part of my childhood. My mother played piano and I started it when I was four, having the usual lessons.” At home, Grusin’s musical training was in the classical genre, but the youngster was also exposed to jazz. Although he remembers no jazz records being played at home, his parents took him to concerts in Denver, Colorado, where he saw such performers as Ray Brown, Ella Fitzgerald, Hank Jones, Gene Krupa, Illinois Jacquet, and Flip Phillips. “It was very exciting,” Grusin recalled to Yanow, “and set the stage for me gaining an interest in jazz.”
Growing up in an agricultural community, where he worked on a ranch through high school, Grusin originally planned to be a veterinarian. “Three weeks before entering college,” he told Yanow, “I switched to music out of guilt for the immense effort and expense that my father had spent on my musical education. He did not force me to study music but I knew that he’d approve of the switch. Grusin majored in piano and minored in clarinet at the University of Colorado, where he also backed performers like Anita O’Day at local clubs when he was not in class.
In 1959 Grusin went to New York City to begin graduate work at the Manhattan School of Music. Discovering that he had to wait six months before his union membership transferred locally, Dave was forced to find a job outside the city to support his young family. He related to Yanow, “An ex-roommate of mine found out that [singer] Andy Williams needed a piano player. Andy had had a couple of hit records but he was still a new guy.” The work for the singer involved extensive travel, so Grusin eventually left graduate school.
For the Record…
Born June 26, 1934, in Littleton, CO; son of a classical pianist and a classical violinist. Education: Received bachelor’s degree from University of Colorado; graduate study at Manhattan School of Music.
Began as pianist, became musical director and arranger for The Andy Williams Show, early 1960s; writer and arranger of musical scores for numerous motion pictures, including Divorce American Style, 1967, The Goodbye Girl, 1977, Heaven Can Wait, 1978, Reds, 1981, On Golden Pond, 1981, Tootsie, 1982, The Milagro Beanfield War, 1989, Tequila Sunrise, 1988, and For the Boys, 1991; and for television shows, including St. Elsewhere and Baretta. Record producer, 1976—; cofounder of GRP Records, 1983.
Addresses: Office —GRP Records, 555 West 57th St., New York, NY 10019.
The musician soon found himself in Los Angeles, where he was appointed Williams’s musical director and arranger when the vocalist began a weekly television variety show. Grusin noted in Down Beat, “It was a nice music show in the early ’60s and we didn’t perform any music that we would be ashamed of, even though it was on commercial television. It was a grind, a very hard job; but for me it turned out to be an amazing workshop.” Also at this time Grusin made some recordings, including Subways Are for Sleeping, Piano, Strings and Moonlight, and Kaleidoscope, which reflected the influence of Art Tatum and other jazz artists.
In 1964 Grusin left The Andy Williams Show to write music for motion pictures. He stated in Down Beat, “Getting the first assignment is always the hardest because if you haven’t written before, no one wants to talk about it. I’ll always be grateful to [writer] Norman Lear and [director] Bud [Yorkin] for taking a chance on me and hiring me for [the 1967 film] Divorce American Style.” Throughout his career, Grusin has written and arranged scores for more than 50 movies, including The Graduate, Heaven Can Wait, The Goodbye Girl, Reds, On Golden Pond, Tootsie, and Tequila Sunrise, and for such television shows as Baretta and St. Elsewhere. Nominated four times previously, he won an Academy Award in 1989 for the musical score he composed for the film The Milagro Beanfield War.
His main occupation—writing and arranging musical scores for films—did not deter Grusin from taking on additional work in the music field. In 1976 he began producing records with partner Larry Rosen, whom he had met earlier when he hired Rosen as a drummer for Andy Williams’s band. The musicians started as independent producers, but eventually formed their own record company, GRP Records, in 1983. Many best-selling albums by various jazz-influenced artists followed, and the producers have received critical acclaim and numerous awards.
In 1985 Grusin won a Grammy Award for best instrumental arrangement of a cut on the album Harlequin, and over the years GRP has received numerous Grammy Awards and nominations; the company boasts a roster of artists that includes Lee Ritenour, Diane Schuur, Chick Corea, Eddie Daniels, Dave Valentin, and Kevin Eubanks. “We’re not an avant garde or a mainstream label,” Grusin explained to Yanow in Down Beat, “but we’re also not interested in making a sort of formula new age product either. We’re comfortable in a type of fusion jazz that feels like it’s going somewhere and will continue to develop.”
Critical reaction to GRP’s interpretations of contemporary jazz varies. A reviewer in High Fidelity described GRP recordings as “mostly lightweight,” concentrating on a “sweeter, often electrified product.” Though Robin Tolleson labeled one Grusin number “nice ear candy” in a review in Down Beat, Stereo Review noted GRP Records’s “penchant for polished production.”
In 1986 Grusin moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, fulfilling a desire to live near the Rocky Mountains. He decided to make an album in 1988 with his brother, keyboardist Don Grusin, and the two recorded the electronic duet Sticks and Stones. Though his time is severely limited, the multitalented musician and businessman yearns to fulfill an additional career goal: “Someday I’d like to write a serious piece of classical music,” Grusin expressed to Yanow in Down Beat. “I find it difficult to do in a life full of assignments, but eventually I want to compose some non-jazz music in a contemporary vein.”
Subways Are for Sleeping, Epic.
Piano, Strings, and Moonlight, Epic.
Dave Grusin and the N.Y./L.A. Dream Band, GRD.
Mountain Dance, GRD, 1979.
Out of the Shadows, GRD.
One of a Kind, GRD.
The Dave Grusin Collection, GRD.
The Gershwin Collection, GRP Records, 1991.
With Lee Ritenour
Harlequin, GRP Records, 1985
Festival, GRP Records, 1989.
On the Line, Elektra/Musician.
Earth Run, GRP Records.
With Quincy Jones
Body Heat, A & M.
I Heard That!, A & M.
With Earl Klugh
Earl Klugh, Blue Note.
Living Inside Your Love, Blue Note.
(With Don Grusin) Sticks and Stones, GRD, 1988.
(With GRP All-Stars) GRP Super Live in Concert, GRD, 1988.
(With Eddie Daniels) Blackwood, GRD.
(With Kevin Eubanks) Face to Face, GRP Records.
(With Ray Brown) Brown’s Bag, GTI.
(With Art Farmer) Crawl Space, CTI.
(With John Klemmer) Barefoot Ballet, ABC.
(With Harvey Mason) Marching in the Street, Arista.
(With Sergio Mendes) My Favorite Things, Atlantic.
(With Gerry Mulligan) Little Big Horn, GRP Records.
(With Grover Washington, Jr.) A Secret Place, Kudu.
Audio, March 1988.
Down Beat, June 1987; July 1989; January 1990; February 1990.
High Fidelity, October 1988.
Stereo Review, August 1988; February 1989; March 1989.
"Grusin, Dave." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 21, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/grusin-dave
"Grusin, Dave." Contemporary Musicians. . Retrieved September 21, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/grusin-dave
Composer. Nationality: American. Born: Littleton, Colorado, 26 June 1934; son of Henri (a violinist) and Rosabelle (a pianist) Grusin. Education: University of Colorado, B. Music (piano), 1956; graduate study at Manhattan School of Music, 1959–60. Military Service: U.S. Navy, involved with air operations, 1956–58. Career: Pianist, keyboardist, composer, conductor, arranger, and record producer. Worked and performed with Quincy Jones, beginning in early 1960s; worked and performed with numerous artists, including Mel Torme, Peggy Lee, Ruth Price, Sergio Mendes, Tom Scott, Gerry Mulligan, Lee Ritenour, Sarah Vaughan, Carmen McRae, Jon Lucien, Roberta Flack, and Aretha Franklin; released over thirty albums, beginning with Subways Are for Sleeping (Epic, 1960); composer for over a dozen television series, including The Virginian (1962), Gidget (1965), The Wild, Wild West (1965), Girl from U.N.C.L.E., The (1966), It Takes a Thief (1968), Maude (1972), Good Times (1974), Baretta (1975), and St. Elsewhere (1982); conductor, The Andy Williams Show, 1963–1964; record producer, with Larry Rosen, beginning in 1976; owner, with Rosen, of GRP Records, Inc., 1983—; affiliated with N.Y./L.A. Dream Band, a septet of jazz-fusion artists; principal with N2K Inc. (record label), New York City. Awards: Grammy Award (with Paul Simon), Best Album or Original Instrumental Score for a Motion Picture or Television Special, for The Graduate, 1968; Academy Award, Best Original Score, for The Milagro Beanfield War, 1988; Grammy Award, Best Arrangement on an Instrumental, for "Suite from The Milagro Beanfield War" from Migration (album), 1989; Grammy Awards, Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocals, for "My Funny Valentine" from The Fabulous Baker Boys Motion Picture Soundtrack (album) and Best Album of Original Instrumental Background Score Written for a Motion Picture or Television, for The Fabulous Baker Boys Motion Picture Soundtrack, 1989; Hollywood Discovery Award for Outstanding Achievement in Music in Film, Hollywood Film Festival, 1998; also winner of many other music awards, including several additional Grammy Awards, and recipient of honorary doctorates from University of California, Berkeley, 1988, and University of Colorado, 1989. Office: GRP Records, Inc., 555 West 57th St., New York, NY 10019. Agent: Gorfaine-Schwartz Agency, 3301 Barham Blvd., Suite 201, Los Angeles, CA 90068–1477, U.S.A.
Films as Composer:
Waterhole #3; Divorce American Style; The Graduate (additional music); The Scorpio Letters (for TV)
The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter; Candy; Prescription: Murder (Columbo: Prescription Murder) (for TV); Where Were You When the Lights Went Out?
Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here; The Mad Room; Generation (A Time for Caring; A Man Called Gannon; Winning
Double Jeopardy (for TV) (theme); Halls of Anger; Adam at 6 A.M.; The Intruders (for TV)
Deadly Dream (for TV); A Howling in the Woods (for TV); The Forgotten Man (for TV); The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight; Sarge (The Badge or the Cross) (for TV); The Pursuit of Happiness; Shootout
Fuzz; The Family Rico (for TV); The Great Northfield, Minnesota Raid
The Friends of Eddie Coyle
The Midnight Man; The Nickel Ride; The Death Squad (for TV)
The Trial of Chaplain Jensen (for TV); W.W. and the Dixie Dancekings; The Yakuza (Brotherhood of the Yakuza; Three Days of the Condor; Eric (for TV)
Murder by Death; The Front
The Goodbye Girl; Bobby Deerfield; Fire Sale; Mr. Billion (The Windfall)
Heaven Can Wait
The Champ; The Electric Horseman; . . . And Justice for All
Absence of Malice; On Golden Pond
Tootsie; Author! Author!
Falling in Love; Scandalous; The Little Drummer Girl; Racing with the Moon; The Pope of Greenwich Village
The Milagro Beanfield War; Tequila Sunrise; Clara's Heart; This is America, Charlie Brown (for TV)
The Fabulous Baker Boys; A Dry White Season
Havana; The Bonfire of the Vanities
For the Boys
In the Gloaming (for TV); Hope (for TV) (theme); Selena
The Wiz (musician)
Falling in Love (orchestrator)
The Fabulous Baker Boys (musician)
The Firm (performer)
By GRUSIN: articles—
Yagiyu, S., "A Conversation with Dave Grusin," interview in Soundtrack (Stanford, California), vol. 7, no. 27, September 1988.
On GRUSIN: articles—
Lander, David, "Grusin and Rosen of GRP, the Musician's Label," in Audio (Philadelphia), March 1988.
Yanow, Scott, "Dave Grusin: Scoring It Big," in Down Beat (Chicago), July 1989.
Pulliam, Becca, "Maintaining Standards," in Down Beat (Chicago), May 1992.
Tiegel, Eliot, "Scoring in Hollywood," in Down Beat (Chicago), October 1993.
* * *
Academy Award winner Dave Grusin has combined classical music training, jazz virtuosity, and a popular culture sensibility to become one of the most prolific composers of the late twentieth century. Educated at the University of Colorado, Grusin was a classical piano major who developed an affinity for jazz, and played with such visiting artists as Art Pepper and singer Anita O'Day.
After moving to New York to pursue an academic career, Grusin found a job touring behind Andy Williams as a pianist and arranger. When he was asked to be Williams' musical director, Grusin moved to Hollywood to work on The Andy Williams Show. In 1964, Grusin left the popular program to score his first film, Norman Lear and Bud Yorkin's Divorce American Style. In 1967, Grusin was brought in to compose additional music for a film that became a hallmark of the 1960s, both musically and cinematically, The Graduate.
Grusin quickly rose to the ranks of one of Hollywood's premier and most prolific composers. By the time he received his first Oscar nomination in 1978 for Heaven Can Wait, he had worked on thirty films. The best of those were the result of his collaboration with Robert Redford, including Tell Them Willie Boy is Here (1969) and Three Days of the Condor (1975). In the latter, Grusin's jazz style shone through on the strength of Tom Scott's brilliant tenor saxophone. One of Grusin's personal favorites from this period was The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (1968), which featured an unforgettable love theme.
Grusin followed his 1978 Oscar nomination with another in 1979 for the tearjerker The Champ. During the 1980s, Grusin entered his most prolific period. He was nominated for three more Academy Awards for his scores for On Golden Pond (1981), The Fabulous Baker Boys (1989), and The Milagro Beanfield War (1988), for which he won the Oscar. Grusin was also nominated for Best Original Song for "It Might Be You" from Tootsie (1982). Other notable scores from this period include The Goodbye Girl (1977), Bobby Deerfield (1977), Reds (1981), and Racing with the Moon (1984). Grusin also continued his fruitful association with Redford, scoring most of the popular director's films.
The diversity of these films is mirrored by the wide range of Grusin's musical styles, tastes, and influences. In the jazzy score to The Fabulous Baker Boys, Grusin successfully mirrors the feel of the sexy standards performed by Michele Pfeiffer, while in The Milagro Beanfield War, Grusin's minimal use of music is offset by his lushly evocative themes conducted by John Scott with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
Grusin's work from this period is also familiar to television audiences—he wrote the memorable theme songs for Good Times, Maude, Baretta, and St. Elsewhere.
During the 1990s, Grusin was nominated for two more Academy Awards for his scores for Havana and The Firm. And though his prolific output fell off somewhat, he continued to work on at least one film project a year throughout the decade.
Despite his cinematic successes, Grusin has remained true to his jazz roots. Highly respected in the jazz community, Grusin's successful recording and performing career has spanned three decades. He has won ten Grammy Awards, and collaborated with most of the world's major jazz talents.
Undoubtedly Grusin's strength as a film composer is his belief that he is at heart a great accompanist. He thinks of himself as writing music to accompany the visual and dramatic action of a movie. His scores can be broken down into two major styles: those influenced by jazz and the more intimate and sensitive orchestral scores redolent with strings. In both styles, Grusin never loses his gift for melody.
Though the Oscar and Grammy winner is certainly one of the most prolific and successful composers of the late twentieth century, it is his status as one of music's true Renaissance men that makes him unique among film composers, bringing with it the promise that each of his scores will take audiences into new areas of musical exploration.
"Grusin, Dave." International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 21, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/movies/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/grusin-dave
"Grusin, Dave." International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers. . Retrieved September 21, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/movies/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/grusin-dave