Bob Florence was best known for his big band arranging, as his Grammy award, thirteen Grammy nominations and two Emmys attest. He died last Thursday at home in Thousand Oaks, California, five days short of his 76th birthday. Florence was also a superb pianist and favorite
accompanist of singers. In recent years, in a pan-generational surprise, he hit it off with the adventurous young trumpeter Ingrid Jensen. Florence and Jensen discovered an affinity in a jazz festival after-hours session and, after that, played whenever they could manage to get together. Unfortunately, they seem not to have recorded.
Of the many albums Florence made with his Limited Edition big band, I find myself going back most often to the one called Serendipity. His empathy and supportiveness as an accompanist are evident in Flight of Fancy, a CD of Alan and Marilyn Bergman songs that he shared with the singer Sue Raney. As a solo pianist, Florence offered a sensitive touch and an arranger’s sense of harmony and placement of chords. His CD Another Side is evidence. Florence was natural, easy-going and inspirational as a music educator. He went out of his way to help school children learn what jazz is made of. The All About Jazz web site, has an excellent, uncredited, appreciation of Florence. There is an extensive obituary in his hometown paper, The Ventura County Star.