Jazz pianist, composer, arranger, former Recording Academy president and prolific studio musician Mike Melvoin died on Feb. 23 in Burbank. He was 74.
Sporting a recording resume that included the Beach Boys’ “Pet Sounds” as well as key recordings from Frank Sinatra, John Lennon, the Jackson 5 and Tom Waits, Melvoin was also active as a film and TV composer and released a number of respected jazz recordings under his own name.
Born in Oshkosh, Wisc., Melvoin began singing at age 2 and playing piano at 3. He told William Grimm in a 2003 interview, “(I thought) the alphabet ended with G.” He attended Dartmouth College in the late 1950s and in 1961 moved to Los Angeles, where he became a fixture in the city’s jazz scene, playing with the likes of Joe Williams and Peggy Lee.
Melvoin released his first album as a bandleader, “Keys to Your Mind,” on the Liberty label in 1966, a year that also saw him notch studio time on the Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations” single and “Pet Sounds” LP, as well as Sinatra’s “That’s Life.” Studio work on Lennon’s “Stand by Me,” Barbra Streisand’s “Evergreen,” the Jackson 5’s “ABC” and Waits’ live album “Nighthawks at the Diner” would follow.
Melvoin began composing for TV and film in the early ’70s and contributed scores to skeins “Fame” and “MacGyver.” He had a small role in the Robert De Niro-directed “The Good Shepherd” in 2006.
Melvoin was the first active musician to serve as topper of the Recording Academy. He received a Grammy nomination in 2003 for his recording of “All or Nothing at All,” as well as lifetime achievement awards from the Friends of Jazz at UCLA and Los Angeles Jazz Society.
Continuing the family tradition, Melvoin’s twin daughters Wendy and Susannah played and recorded with Prince in the 1980s (with the former forming half of the Wendy & Lisa duo), and his son Jonathan was a touring member of the Smashing Pumpkins until his death in 1996.