If a man were known by the company he keeps, Hal Schaefer would be a household name. Schaefer's list of associates reads like a who's who of music. Benny Carter, Billy Eckstine, Peggy Lee, Jimmy Dorsey, Tommy Dorsey, Vic Damone, Judy Garland, and Harry James, among others, have all made use of this extraordinary musician.
Born in New York, Hal Schaefer began his musical training at age six and has continued extensive studies in composition, orchestration, and keyboard throughout his career.
Following his professinal beginnings as pianist for numerous "name" bands (including Harry James and the Dorsey brothers), Schaefer became accompanist/conductor for Peggy Lee , Vic Damone, and Billy Eckstine. He was later chosen by 20th Century Fox to devise and arrange the music for production numbers in many of their major films and also served as vocal coach for Marilyn Monroe, Jane Russell, and Mitzi Gaynor.
During the late fifties, Schaefer returned to New York to become head of A&R for the then newly formed United Artists label, and became one of the industry's first independent producers. During the sixties and early seventies, Schaefer free-lanced on the East Coast recording, composing,orchestrating, and performing in a variety of contexts.
Schaefer returned to the West Coast in 1975 and was brought to my attention by Benny Carter, one of Hal's biggest boosters. A gig at Donte's (one of the major jazz strongholds in Southern California) was arranged, Hal chose old friend and associate Alvin Stoller to play drums, and I suggested the super-talented Fred Atwood to play bass. We called in Rod Nicas to do the taping, and the happy results are inside.
The music is swinging and clear cut with Schaefer displaying extraordinary warmth and sensitivity along with his superb technique. The tunes are all timeless standards, and afford ample opportunity to stretch out. Although there are many bright moments, Hal's solo treatment of Yesterdays is particularly noteworthy. Fred Atwood is outstanding throughout (dig his solo on I Can't Get Started), and Alvin Stoller provides strong, imaginative support.
This is the definitive album to date by Hal Schaefer. Try it, you'll like it.
Recorded live at Donte's in North Hollywood March 18, 1976
Produced by Dennis Smith and Albert Marx