Clare Fischer

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Clare Fischer (born October 22, 1928 in Durand, Michigan) is an American composer, arranger, pianist and organist. His parents were of German, French, Irish-Scot, and English backgrounds. In grade school he started his general music study with violin and tuba as his first instruments. At the age of 7 he began to pick out four-part harmony on the piano. After two years of piano lessons the family moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan, where 12-year-old Clare began composing classical music and making instrumental arrangements for dance bands. At South High School he took up cello, clarinet and saxophone. His high school instructor, Glenn Litton, took an interest in the boy and, because the family could not afford it, gave him free lessons in music theory, harmony, and orchestration. Clare returned the favor by orchestrating and copying music for him. Whenever the concert band needed an instrument, Clare would be supplied with it and the fingering chart to play it in concert. This gave him a personal training in orchestration that was invaluable. He started his own band at 15, for which he wrote all the arrangements. After graduating in 1946, he began undergraduate studies in 1947 at Michigan State University, majoring in music composition and theory, and studying with H. Owen Reed. During his teens there were no funds for him to study piano, so he was mostly self-taught. Therefore his major instrument in college was cello, and piano a minor. Later he changed his major to piano and minor in clarinet. Fischer graduated in 1951 with a B.M., cum laude, and began his first year of graduate work in composition. The U.S. Army drafted him the next year, sending him to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, for basic training. There he played alto saxophone in the band and ended his service as an arranger at the U.S. Military Academy Band at West Point, N.Y. After the army, Clare returned to Michigan State. In 1955 he received his Master of Music. Next Clare was living in Detroit, Michigan, where after a concert he offered his duties to the vocal quartet The Hi-Lo's. For five years he was pianist and arranger for this group. He wrote his first vocal arrangements and recorded several albums as pianist and sometime vocal and instrumental arranger. Herbie Hancock once explained that these arrangements were a major influence on him: the time I actually heard The Hi-Lo's, I started picking that stuff out; my ear was happening. I could hear stuff and that's when I really learned some much farther-out voicings -like the harmonies I used on 'Speak Like A Child' -just being able to do that. I really got that from Clare Fischer's arrangements for the Hi-Lo's. Clare Fischer was a major influence on my harmonic concept... He and Bill Evans, and Ravel and Gil Evans, finally. You know, that's where it really came from. Almost all of the harmony that I play can be traced to one of those four people and whoever their influences were. While with The Hi-Lo's, Fischer arranged a record by trumpeter Donald Byrd, on which well-known standards by subtle use of strings and harps acquired a new, melancholical quality. Even though Byrd's album September Afternoon remained on the shelves of the record company for twenty-five years, Fischer was so lucky that the trumpeter played a copy for Dizzy Gillespie. Gillespie in his turn asked him for his own "Portrait of Duke Ellington," which was well received. In 1960 albums for vibraphonist Cal Tjader and pianist George Shearing followed as did an eight year career of writing music for commercials. Fischer was ready to sign his first record contract.