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Shorty Rogers

  • Born Milton Rajonsky 14 April 1924, Great Barrington, Massachussetts
  • Died 7 November 1994, Marina Del Rey, California

One of the leading figures of West Coast jazz, Shorty Rogers' decision to stop performing and switch to full-time studio work in 1962 marked the end of its golden era. Rogers played with a number of big bands in the late 1940s, and began to attract attention as an arranger while working with Woody Herman. Stan Kenton then hired him away from Herman and Rogers' compositions and arrangements for Kenton made him as much of a star as any of Kenton's soloists. Rogers left Kenton and pulled together a small group that included Art Pepper, Shelley Manne, Jimmy Giuffre, and Hampton Hawes to record Modern Sounds for Capitol. Rogers' tight and innovative arrangements on this recording are considered by many to be as influential as Gil Evans' for Miles Davis' small group on Birth of the Cool.

Rogers formed a small group he called the Giants and recorded a series of albums for RCA, including The Cool and the Crazy and Shorty Courts the Count. Marlon Brando wanted Rogers to provide the soundtrack for his movie, The Wild One, but the studio refused, hiring Leith Stevens to provide most of the score. Rogers was featured on screen, though, in Frank Sinatra's The Man With the Golden Arm, leading the jazz group Sinatra's character played with. Rogers also worked with Perez Prado on a concept album titled Voodoo Suite.

Rogers was a dramatic character but a thoroughly professional musician, and he moved to the financial security of writing for television and movies when the West Coast jazz scene began to fade in the early 1960s. He was a prolific contributor to television and to a lesser extent films through the 1980s. Among the series he scored or wrote incidental music for were "The Partridge Family," "The Mod Squad," "The Rookies," "Starsky and Hutch," and "The Love Boat." His tune "Chelsea Memorandum" shows up in the midst of Lalo Schifrin's cuts on the second "Mission: Impossible" soundtrack album. He also composed and conducted the music for a number of the innovative UPA cartoons featuring the work of Theodore Geissel (Dr. Seuss) and Stan Freberg.

During this period, Rogers continued to work occasionally on pop and jazz recordings, but primarily as an arranger. He and Claus Ogerman split arranging duties on Mel Torme's 1962 hit album, "Coming Home, Baby." Late in the 1960s, he was responsible for one of those assimilation-via-train wreck creations that incredibly strange music fans love, Bobby Bryant's "The Jazz Excursion into 'Hair'". He pops up as arranger in a variety of places, from Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass' Christmas album to Bud Shank's mellow album of Lovin' Spoonful covers for Liberty to Frances Faye's now sounds album, "Go Go Go." One of his ignominious credits is the arrangement for Wayne Newton's cover of "These Boots are Made for Walking."

In the early 1980s, he returned to performing, eventually forming a combo with West Coast legend Bud Shank on alto sax and releasing a number of CDs. Rogers fell ill in the early 1990s and died during KLON's West Coast Jazz festival in 1994.


  • Modern Sounds (rereleased as The Birth of the Cool, vol. 2, Capitol CDP 7-98935-2
  • Shorty Rogers and His Giants, RCA Victor LPM-3137
  • The Cool and the Crazy, RCA Victor LPM-3138
  • The Wild One, RCA Victor EPA-535
  • Shorty Courts the Court, RCA Victor LJM-1004
  • Wherever the Five Winds Blow, RCA Victor
  • Plays Richard Rogers, RCA Victor LPM-1428
  • Portrait of Shorty, RCA Victor LPM-1561
  • Gigi in Jazz, RCA Victor LPM-1696
  • Voodoo Suite, RCA Victor LSP
  • Manteca: Afro-Cuban Influence, RCA Victor LSP-1763
  • Chances Are, RCA Victor LSP-1975
  • The Swinging Mr. Rogers, Atlantic 1212
  • Martians Come Back, Atlantic 1232
  • Way Up There, Atlantic 1270
  • Tarzan the Ape Man (soundtrack), MGM SE3798
  • The Fourth Dimension in Sound, Warner Brothers WBS-1443
  • Bossa Nova, Reprise R9-6050
  • Sunday Morning with the Comics, Reprise 6210
  • Fools (soundtrack), Reprise R9-6429
  • arrangements on Bobby Bryant, The Jazz Excursion into Hair, World Pacific ST-20159

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