Bunch, John, talented American piano player and musical director; b. Tipton, Ind., Dec. 1, 1921. Bunch began playing piano in a small Ind. town in the early 1930s and, by age 12, was appearing in clubs all over the state that officially honored him at the 1996 Elkhart Jazz Festival. An Army Air Force enlistee in 1942, Bunch was shot down and captured during his 17th mission over Germany. He passed time as a prisoner playing with the camp band and wrote his first arrangement there. Upon his return to the U.S., Bunch entered Ind. Univ., graduating in 1950. He mostly put music aside until age 34, when he headed for Calif. and a spot in Woody Herman’s band, followed by band work with Benny Goodman and Maynard Ferguson, and subsequent dates around N.Y.C. with Urbie Green. In December 1966, Bunch joined Tony Bennett as accompanist and musical director for six years, and was appropriately referred to by the singer as “Gentleman John Bunch.” In 1972, Bunch returned to jazz full-time. As well as working solo over the years, he worked with the Scott Hamilton Quintet, frequently returned to the Benny Goodman fold, and played mostly in small groups. He currently works with guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli and bassist Jay Leonhart in a powerhouse combine dubbed New York Swing. Bunch has been around long enough to come under the spell of Fats Waller and Teddy Wilson, but was young enough to adopt some Bud Powell mannerisms and sophisticated harmonies. Bunch remains very much a melody player with a delicate keyboard touch and yet can swing with the best.
John Bunch Play Kurt Weil (1975); John’s Bunch (1975); Jubilee (1977); John’s Other Bunch (1977); Slick Funk (1977); The Best Thing for You (1987); NY Swing (1992); Plays Rodgers and Hart (1993); Plays Cole Porter (1994); Plays Jerome Kern (1994); Struttin’ (1995); Solo (1996); New York Swing: Live at the Norway (1997); World War II Love Songs (1999).
—John T. Bitter