It was with great sadness that I learned yesterday that Clare Fischer has passed away. It starts to really make you feel like you are getting old when all the guys you listened and learned from in college start to go. But that’s life I guess.
Clare Fischer was actually born and raised in my area, and went to HS in my town, Grand Rapids, MI. Oddly enough, one of my uncles shared a locker with him in high school (Central HS, same HS that Gerald Ford attended way back).
Clare was about as talented as they come musically, and my uncle told me that he played about every instrument in the band and orchestra during that time. He would simply bring home an instrument for awhile until he had learned how to play it on his own. No wonder he became a terrific arranger.
He did go to Michigan State University for a time, but there was no jazz on campus at that time, and jazz ed was pretty much non existent too. I don’t even think most colleges would allow jazz to be played on the campus itself. The 1960s changed that in places like North Texas, and other places.
Back in the early 80s, Clare came back to Michigan and spent a week or so at Michigan State University while I was there. We played a big band concert of his charts and they were all terrific. He also did a solo concert at the time with Gary Foster, another monster.
Clare’s harmonic sense was really incredible, and if you get a chance to study his scores do so. One of my favorite records is Clare playing solo piano on standards. Some cuts last 10 minutes or more, and they are all masterpieces in solo piano playing.
On another note, a friend of mine who attended Eastman School of Music during the 80s told me once that Bill Dobbins transcribed that entire solo piano record note for note and gave Clare a copy of the written music when he was visiting Eastman during that time, probably 1985 or so. He told me that Clare was really choked up that someone would spend the time and effort to do that. For Bill Dobbins to spend that kind of time transcribing every note, you know that Clare was highly respected by his peers.