Jimmy Rowles is an idol of a broad range of musicians and listeners. For more than four decades, he was in demand by premier jazz artists and conductors of studio orchestras. He was a favorite pianist of Ben Webster, Zoot Sims, Al Cohn, Benny Carter, Barney Kessel, Gary Foster and Harry Edison, to name a few of those who cherished his touch, swing and harmonic genius. Rowles is gone, but his influence lives on in the work of Bill Charlap, Alan Broadbent, Jan Lundgren and Bill Mays, among scores of other pianists, and also because of recordings of his compositions; Wayne Shorter’s version of “502 Blues,” for example, and Stan Getz’s of “The Peacocks” (with Rowles on piano). He is also memorable for his nonpareil accompaniments of singers including Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, Carmen McRae, Carol Sloane andearly in Rowles’s careerBing Crosby.
Rowles died 15 years ago in Southern California at the age of 77. Now, his son has taken his father’s and mother’s ashes to where he feels his parents always wanted to return. Jim Kershner tells the story and a good deal of Rowles’s history in Jimmy’s and Dorothy’s hometown paper, the Spokane, Washington, Spokesman Review. To read it, click here.
Many musicians and listeners treasured Jimmy equally for his singing and his piano playing. He put the two talents together unlike anyone else. Here’s a good way to remember him.
Rowles was a master at recalling or unearthing wonderful half-forgotten songs. He sings several of them on his 1994 Lilac Time album, which is itself becoming a rarity.