Feather, Leonard (Geoffrey Feder)

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Feather, Leonard (Geoffrey Feder)

Feather, Leonard (Geoffrey Feder), jazz au-thor, composer, arranger, pianist, also vibraphonist; father of Lorraine Feather; b. London, England, Sept. 13, 1914; d. Encino, Calif., Sept. 22, 1994. Of Jewish ancestry, he studied at St. Paul School in London; in the late 1930s, he went to the U.S., and was naturalized in 1948. He held various jobs as an arranger, lyricist, adviser for jazz festivals, radio commentator, and lecturer; he specialized in the field of jazz and folk music. Like all critics, he had his detractors, but he was one of the few who was highly trained musically, and he was an innovator, pioneering in writing a jazz waltz in 1938, in writing a 12-tone jazz tune, in organizing all women jazz groups (1945 and after, led by Mary Lou Williams and others), and in organizing international jazz groups for recordings. He gave Dinah Washington her first shot as a solo artist and wrote her hit “Evil Gal Blues” (1945). He wrote the sophisticated altered blues “I Remember Bird” (recorded in 1960). He produced a vocal group called the Sound of Feeling (1970). As a writer, his many accomplishments include establishing the Esquire magazine jazz poll in the 1940s, originating the Blindfold test in Down Beat, writing a syndicated column in the Los Angeles Times, and penning encyclopedias of jazz. His encyclopedias were probably the first to be based on information submitted by the musicians (as opposed to being based on secondary sources) and he deserves great credit for conducting that research; however the musicians7 material often had errors and he did not do additional research to catch such problems. In 1964, he won the first Grammy ever awarded for journalism by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. He died of pneumonia at Encino Tarzana Medical Center.


Leonard Feather’s Swingin’ Swedes (1951); Cats vs. Chicks (1954); Winter Sequence (1954); Dixieland vs. Birdland (1954); Swingin’ on the Vibories (1956); West Coast Vs. East Coast (1956); Hi-Fi Suite (1957); Oh, Captain! (1958); Swingin’ Seasons (1958); All- Stars (1971); Night Blooming Jazzmen (1971).


Inside Be-bop (N.Y., 1949); The Encyclopedia of Jazz (N.Y., 1984); The Encyclopedia of Jazz in the 60’s (1986); The Encyclopedia of Jazz in the 1970s (N.Y., 1987); The Jazz Years: Earwitness to an Era (N.Y.,1987); The Passion for Jazz (N.Y, 1990).

—Lewis Porter