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Clare Fischer, Grammy-Winning Composer/Arranger for Chaka Khan and Prince, Is Dead at 83

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Mon, Jan 30, 2012 at 3:30 AM

click to enlarge Brent Fischer and his father, Clare Fischer - CLAREFISCHER.COM
  • clarefischer.com
  • Brent Fischer and his father, Clare Fischer
Less than a month after suffering cardiac arrest at his Los Angeles home, two-time Grammy winning composer/arranger and pianist Clare Fischer died Thursday in Burbank at the age of 83. Fischer had been a highly regarded figure in jazz since backing the group the Hi-Lo's in the 1950s, and in later years became an arranger for pop luminaries including Prince, Michael Jackson, Paul McCartney and many others.

Fischer began his own recording career in 1962. He was one of the early jazz arrangers to fully embrace Latin music, and recorded a number of albums under his own name, one of which included the now-classic jazz standard Pentislava. In the early 1970s, he joined the band of vibraphonist Cal Tjader, and subsequently developed his own Latin ensemble, Salsa Picante. He added a vocal group called 2+2 to the ensemble, and their first recording, 2+2, won Fischer his first Grammy award in 1981, with a second following in 1986 for Freefall.

Along the way, Fischer's wide-ranging musical interests and abilities led him to play and/or arrange on more than 100 albums for various artists, 50 of which were under his leadership. An encounter with a high school drum and bugle corp inspired Fischer to create the Clare Fischer Jazz Corps, for which he purchased all the instruments and hired top L.A. jazz studio musicians as players. He also wrote extensively for solo piano, a clarinet choir, and created his own symphonic works.

In the 1970s, Fischer began doing arrangements for R&B superstar Chaka Khan, which earned him a following of other R&B artists including The Jacksons and DeBarge. Appreciation for those arrangements led to even greater demand from popular music icons including Prince, Michael Jackson, Paul McCartney, Santana, Celine Dion and numerous others.

Veteran L.A. studio trumpeter Carl Saunders was a fan of Fischer from the age of 14 growing up in Las Vegas. "I wore out the local record store's copy of the Hi-Lo's Love Nest until they kicked me out. Years later I found out the track I still listen to from that record, "Yesterdays," was one that Clare arranged," he said over the phone this weekend. Saunders has been a fixture for years in Fischer's big bands, including the 2011 Grammy-nominated Continuum for Best Instrumental Arrangement. A decade ago, he recruited Fischer to arrange for his own recording Eclecticism.

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