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John Guerin

Composer, drummer

Composer and drummer John Guerin, who co-founded the L.A. Express jazz fusion band and contributed to a classic Joni Mitchell recording, died Jan. 5 of heart failure in West Hills, Calif. He was 64.

Hawaii-born and San Diego-reared, Guerin, who also was a producer and arranger, recorded with musical legends including Frank Sinatra, Frank Zappa, the Byrds, Thelonious Monk, Ella Fitzgerald, Roger Kellaway, Lou Rawls, Linda Ronstadt and Oscar Peterson during his 40-year career.

He contributed to the soundtrack for Clint Eastwood’s Charlie Parker biopic “Bird” as well as to the recent “Something’s Gotta Give.” He performed on the original title theme of TV’s “Hawaii Five-O” and the original theme for gameshow “Jeopardy!”

Composers he worked with or under included Dave Grusin, Jerry Goldsmith, John Williams and “Jeopardy!” creator Merv Griffin.

The L.A. Express was founded in 1975; its members were Guerin, saxophonist Tom Scott, guitarist Robben Ford and bassist Max Bennett.

Mitchell invited L.A. Express to play on the recording of her “Court and Spark” album; band later toured with her as the opening act. Guerin also collaborated with Mitchell on the title track of her album “The Hissing of Summer Lawns.”

Self-taught, Guerin began performing with Buddy DeFranco in 1960. Just a week before his death, he performed with Steve Tyrell at the Catalina Bar & Grill in Hollywood.

Guerin authored the drum book “Jazz + Rock = John Guerin.”

He is survived by wife Michelle, a son, two grandsons, sister and brother. Another son died last summer.

Donations in his memory can be made to the Nevada SPCA, 4800 W. Dewey Drive, Suite D, Las Vegas, NV 89118.

Services will be held at 6 p.m. Sunday at the Sportsmen’s Lodge in Studio City.

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