Claus Ogerman (born Klaus Ogermann; 29 April 1930 – 8 March 2016) was a German arranger, conductor, and composer best known for his work with Billie Holiday, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Frank Sinatra, and Diana Krall.
Born in Ratibor (Racibórz), Upper Silesia, Germany (now part of Poland), Ogerman began his career with the piano. He was one of the most prolific 20th century arrangers and has worked in the top 40, rock, pop, jazz, R&B, soul, easy listening, Broadway and classical music fields. The exact number of recording artists for whom Ogerman has either arranged or conducted during his career has never been determined.
In the 1950s, Ogerman worked in Germany as an arranger-pianist with Kurt Edelhagen, saxophonist and bandleader Max Greger, and Delle Haensch. Claus (then Klaus) also worked as a part-time vocalist and recorded several 45 rpms under the pen name of “Tom Collins”, duetting with Hannelore Cremer; he also recorded a solo vocal with the Delle Haensch Jump Combo.
In 1959, he moved to the United States and joined the producer Creed Taylor at Verve Records, working on recordings with Antonio Carlos Jobim, Bill Evans, Wes Montgomery, Kai Winding and Cal Tjader – among countless others. Verve was sold to MGM in 1963. Claus Ogerman, by his own admission in Gene Lees’ Jazzletter publication, arranged some 60-70 albums for Verve under Creed Taylor’s direction from 1963-67.
During this time he also arranged a large number of pop hits, e.g., in 1961 “Cry To Me” by Solomon Burke, including also those of Lesley Gore, “It’s My Party”, “Judy’s Turn to Cry”, “She’s a Fool”, and “Maybe I Know”. In 1966, Ogerman arranged and conducted Bill Evans Trio with Symphony Orchestra (Verve Records). In 1967, he joined Creed Taylor on the A&M/CTi label. Ogerman charted under his own name in 1965. The RCA single “Watusi Trumpets” reached #130 in the Music Vendor charts.
Ogerman arranged and conducted Diana Krall’s 2001 album The Look of Love, and conducted on her DVD Live in Paris. He also served as arranger and conductor for Krall’s 2009 album Quiet Nights.
Ogerman won the 1980 Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Arrangement for “Soulful Strut” and the 2010 Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s) for “Quiet Nights”. He arranged and conducted the orchestra on George Benson’s 1976 album, Breezin’, as well as on two other Benson albums. Among Ogerman’s most remarkable albums are: Gate Of Dreams (WB, 1977), from the music of the ballet Some Times; Cityscape with Michael Brecker (Warner/Pioneer, 1982); and Claus Ogerman Featuring Michael Brecker (GRP, 1991), which all include original compositions centered on the juxtaposition of jazz instruments and rhythm sections with classical music orchestra.
Ogerman devoted himself almost exclusively to composing since the 1970s; his commissions included a ballet score for the American Ballet Theatre, Some Times; a work for jazz piano and orchestra, Symbiosis, for Bill Evans; a work for saxophone and orchestra, Cityscape, for Michael Brecker; a song cycle, Tagore-Lieder, after poems by Rabindranath Tagore, recorded by Judith Blegen and Brigitte Fassbaender; a concerto for violin and orchestra, Lirico, and a Sarabande-Fantasie for violin and orchestra, recorded by Aaron Rosand; 10 Songs for Chorus A-Capella After Poems by Georg Heym, recorded by the Cologne Radio Chorus; a work for violin and orchestra, Preludio and Chant, recorded by Gidon Kremer. His works for violin and piano were recorded on a 2007 disc by the Chinese violinist Yue Deng and French pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet. In July 2008, Ogerman released an album of compositions with jazz pianist Danilo Perez, Across the Crystal Sea.
Ogerman’s major influences as a composer were Max Reger and Alexander Scriabin. He steadfastly maintained that he was not primarily concerned with “modernism” per se, stating that his goal was to evoke an emotional response in the listener.
Ogerman arranged and conducted Francis Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim (1967), the first of two recordings that Frank Sinatra made with Antonio Carlos Jobim. Ogerman also arranged and conducted Jobim’s The Composer of Desafinado, Plays (1963), A Certain Mr. Jobim (1967), Wave (1967), Jobim (1972), Urubu (1976), and Terra Brasilis (1980), on which he also played the piano. On the Jobim and Urubu albums, Ogerman was also the producer.
With George Benson
With Solomon Burke
With Donald Byrd
With Betty Carter
With Sammy Davis Jr.
With Bill Evans
With Connie Francis
With Michael Franks
With Stan Getz
With Astrud Gilberto
With João Gilberto
With João Donato
With Lesley Gore
With Stephane Grappelli
With Al Hirt
With Billie Holiday
With Johnny Hodges
With Freddie Hubbard
With Willis Jackson
With Antônio Carlos Jobim
With Dr. John
With Wynton Kelly
With Ben E. King
With Diana Krall
With Wes Montgomery
With Danilo Perez
With Oscar Peterson
With Frank Sinatra
With Jimmy Smith
With Barbra Streisand
With Cal Tjader
With Mel Tormé
With Stanley Turrentine
With Kai Winding
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