Manny Albam, noted jazz composer, arranger, conductor and teacher, died Oct. 2 at his home in Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y. He was 79.
During a career spanning more than 60 years, Albam worked with some of the 20th century’s most celebrated jazz performers, including Dizzy Gillespie, Coleman Hawkins, Stan Getz, Sarah Vaughn, Count Basie, McCoy Tyner and Bob Brookmeyer.
Among his recent works was Joe Lovano’s critically hailed 1997 album, “Celebrating Sinatra.” His 1958 jazz version of “West Side Story” was nominated for a Grammy Award.
Albam’s compositional style, with its rich harmonies and playful rhythms, were as recognizable to his fans as the great dust-broom of a mustache he wore for much of his adult life. But his arrangements inevitably also provided a solid foundation for the great soloists with whom he worked throughout his career.
Born in the Dominican Republic in 1922 and raised in New York City, Albam began playing alto and baritone saxophone professionally while still in high school. After a brief service in the Army during World War II, he toured with the big bands of Charlie Barnet, Jerry Wald and others, as both a sax player and arranger.
But in 1950, he put down his horn for good and began devoting himself to a career as a composer and arranger in New York.
In addition to dozens of jazz recordings, Albam also wrote music for TV, movies, and commercials. In later years, he ventured into more ambitious orchestral compositions that combined jazz harmonies and contemporary classical compositional techniques.
A dedicated teacher, Albam was co-director of the Eastman School of Music’s prestigious summer arranger’s workshop. At the time of his death, he was a professor of composition at the Manhattan School of Music and was the music director, with Jim McNeely, of BMI’s Jazz Composers Workshop.
He is survived by his wife, artist Betty Hindes, three children, two stepchildren, three grandchildren and four stepgrandchildren.