Bob Florence is one of those rare musicians who is so multi-talented
that he is impossible to pigeonhole. Florence has garnered national
and international acclaim as a jazz composer, arranger, band
leader, keyboardist, accompanist and educator. He has lent his
formidable writing and playing skills to such diverse artists
as Count Basie, Stan Kenton, Sarah Vaughan, Ray Charles, Louis
Bellson, Quincy Jones and the Tonight Show Orchestra. He has
received an incredible 14 Grammy Nominations and two Emmy Awards.
His powerhouse big band, The Bob Florence Limited Edition, has
recorded extensively, and has appeared at the Playboy and Monterey
Jazz Festivals as well as at other jazz venues across the country.
He also has traveled to Europe to serve as guest conductor with
such esteemed ensembles as the BBC Jazz Band, the Frankfurt HR
Big Band and others.
Florence began his lifelong study of music before he was even
four years old. His parents noticed a fascination for music in
Bob and referred him to a local teacher, who soon discovered
that he had perfect pitch and a prodigious talent for the piano.
He gave his first classical recital at age seven and performed
classical works extensively throughout his formative years. As
a teenager Florence became mesmerized by the sounds of Duke Ellington,
Count Basie and Woody Herman. By age 19, he abandoned his classical
studies in order to devote his time to playing shows, accompanying
singers, and jamming with jazz groups.
It was during this period that Florence began to develop his
arsenal of composing and arranging skills. He recalls, "At
L.A. City College, a friend suggested that we both write a couple
of charts, get some players together, and meet at the Musician's
Union to play them. This trial and error method turned out to
be a wonderful way to learn how to write." In the crucible
of the workshop setting, his skills flourished, and he soon began
to attract the attention of established band leaders.
Florence got his first break in 1959, when he arranged two
numbers for a Harry James recording. This led to associations
with Louis Bellson and Si Zentner, the latter being notable for
Florence's famous arrangement of "Up a Lazy River,"
which was a huge national hit. That same year, Florence recorded
Name Band 1959, his first of 16 big band albums as a leader.
He followed that with his Grammy-nominated Here and Now and never
looked back, earning a reputation as a writer with a unique style
and a knack for thick yet uncluttered voicings. This talent also
made him a favorite arranger and accompanist of many fine vocalists,
including Julie Andrews and Vikki Carr.
In addition to his many other talents, Florence is a highly
respected jazz educator. He often serves as clinician, adjudicator
or guest instructor in college settings, bringing full circle
the worlds that were opened to him during his days at L.A. City
College. He is a warmly engaging man who approaches the act of
making music with great humanity and humor. In this way, Bob
Florence is inseparable from his music.
Serendipity 18, The Bob Florence Limited Edition's
fourth CD for MAMA Records, vividly illustrates the mastery of
orchestration and arranging which has afforded Florence the worldwide
respect he currently enjoys. "I'm getting inspiration all
the time from different sources," he says, adding "I'm
giving equal consideration to rhythm, color, melody and harmony."
This aesthetic shines on his latest outing: from the bat-out-of-hell
opening of the title track and Florence's deft arrangement of
Stanley Turrentine's "Sugar," to the light-footed elegance
of "Tres Palabras" and the playful, quick turns of
"Bimbosity." As one of the premiere bandleaders of
his age, Bob Florence and his orchestra, the Limited Edition,
show no signs of slowing down or taking the easy way out.