Buddy Bregman, a West Coast big-band arranger who could write with sensitivity and swing, and spent much of his career orchestrating music for leading jazz-pop singers, television and the movies, died Jan. 8. He was 86 and had been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

Bregman was a nephew of songwriter Jule Styne, which is how he managed to record Gypsy with Annie Ross so early. In short, Styne gave him the music first, before song pluggers began pushing the show’s catchy songs with other singers. The Ross album was recorded just before the Broadway musical opened on May 21, 1959.

Born in Chicago, Bregman began his music education at 5, performing his first piano recital at 12 at the city’s Baldwin Hall. By 15, Bregman could play clarinet, saxophone and flute. Two years later, he became the youngest arranger ever hired by NBC when he signed on to arrange and conduct The Jack Haley Show.

A flurry of radio, TV and movie credits followed, and by the early 1950s he was the musical director of NBC-TV’s top-rated Eddie Fisher Show. While Bregman arranged occasional albums for Ella Fitzgerald, Anita O’Day, Bing Crosby and other singers, they were jobs of passion since he was by the late 1950s found largely in the world of television and the movies.

I’ve always loved Bregman’s arrangements. He had the clout to pull together the best West Coast recording studio artists, and the results always had punch and drive. If all he ever recorded was Anita O’Day’s Pick Yourself Up for Verve, that would be enough for me. Of course, Bregman arranged much more. Here are a bunch of my favorites:

Here’s Anita O’Day singing Bregman’s arrangement of You’re the Top in Dec. 1955 (the trombone section here was comprised of Milt Bernhart, Lloyd Ulyate, Joe Howard and Si Zentner)…

Here’s Ella Fitzgerald singing Bregman’s arrangement of Anything Goes in 1956 on Verve’s Cole Porter Songbook (dig the rundown with brass tagged at the end with strings)…

Here’s Count Basie Bregmans’ arrangement in 1956 and Joe Williams singing There’ll Never Be Another You

Here’s Ella Fitzgerald in1956 singing Bregman’s arranging of Mountain Greenery on the Rodgers and Hart Songbook

Here’s Kicks Swings from Swinging Kicks in 1956 with Conte Candoli (tp), Frank Rosolino (tb), Bud Shank (as), Jimmy Giuffre (bar), Paul Smith (p), Joe Mondragon (b) and Stan Levey…

Here’s Anita O’Day singing Bregman’s arrangement of Man With a Horn from Pick Yourself up with Ted Nash playing gorgeous obbligatos on the tenor saxophone…

Here’s Annie Ross singing Bregman’s arrangement of Small World from Gypsy

Here’s John Raitt singing Hey There from the movie Pajama Game, which Bregman orchestrated…

And here’s Doris Day singing the same song from the movie with Bregman’s orchestration. Brilliant phrasing by Day, even though she recorded her vocal and then lip-synced it in the film…

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This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
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