Over a period of 40 years, Mike Melvoin has firmly established himself as one of the most versatile and accomplished pianists and composers in Los Angeles. As a studio musician alone, he has been frequently heard on major recordings, and has composed and conducted many television and motion picture soundtracks. He has arranged for Lou Rawls, Bill Henderson, Peggy Lee, Joe Williams, Billy Ekstine, Barry Manilow, Pat Boone, The Four Freshmen, Jon Davidson, The Partridge Family, Tom Waits, Wayne Newton and many others. He was last year’s Music Director for the Grammys and this year filled that role for the Emmy Hall of Fame celebration.
Melvoin's work has been spotlighted on such significant recordings as Natalie Cole's "Unforgettable," which garnered a Grammy "Record of the Year" award; The Beach Boys Grammy Hall of Fame recordings "Good Vibrations" and "Pet Sounds," Frank Sinatra's "That’s Life," and the first hit by the Jackson Five ("ABC"). Most recently he is heard on Tony Bennett1s Grammy nominated new blues album, "Singin With My Friends," playing Hammond B3, which includes duets with Ray Charles, Kay Starr, and Bonnie Raitt.
The Mike Melvoin Trio's current CD "Oh Baby" (City Light Entertainment) displays his strong pianistic wares as a jazz performer. The playing is polished and passionate. Working alongside him are the brilliant young bassist Brian Bromberg and the celebrated drummer John Guerin who, with the leader, make up probably the most dazzling jazz piano trio in Los Angeles today. "Oh Baby" once again shows how Melvoin can handle both up-tempo tunes as well as beautiful ballads with equal skill. His compositional gifts are on display as well with five original tunes: "The Melody Is You," "Sandy" (named for his lovely wife), "North Star," "Fifth Power," and "Oh Baby." The well-known alto and soprano saxophonist Tom Scott is also featured on two tracks. The reviews have been fantastic!
Melvoin was honored at the end of 2002 with an appearance on Marian McPartland’s NPR radio show "Piano Jazz" where he was interviewed and played, both solo and in duet. With this performance, Melvoin joins Marian’s guest list of the greatest pianists in the history of jazz.
Coming next month will be Melvoin’s new CD "It’s Always You" with the legendary Phil Woods as special guest. In April Melvoin’s production of Kansas City jazz singer David Basse’s new CD will follow. Also Melvoin will be featured prominently as a soloist on the new Terry Gibbs CD tribute to Lionel Hampton . He will debut this new output at special Grammyfest appearances at the New York City club The Cutting Room on February 15th and 16th, and a CD release party at Lunaria in L.A. in March.
Mike Melvoin was born in Oshkosh, Wisconsin on May 10, 1937 but grew up in Milwaukee. He began playing piano at the age of 3 and made his professional debut at 13 with local dance bands. At Dartmouth College in New Hampshire he led The Barbary Coast, a jazz/dance band as well as a jazz quintet called The Sultans which the English publication The Melody Maker cited as the best college jazz band in the U.S. In 1959 he graduated from Dartmouth with a BA in English Literature.
The next three years proved to be extremely formative in his career as he gigged with numerous jazz, dance, and Latin bands all over the New York area as well as on the road. He further honed his piano-playing abilities in Harlem jam sessions. Sensing greater opportunities for himself, in 1962 he moved to Los Angeles where he formed a trio and worked with such important jazz artists as Leroy Vinnegar, Gerald Wilson, Bud Shank, Red Mitchell, Paul Horn, Joe Pass, Frank Rosolino, Oliver Nelson, Milt Jackson, Shelly Manne, Plas Johnson, Herb Ellis, Sweets Edison and Terry Gibbs. His talent as an accompanist became apparent during stints accompanying the late Joe Williams, Gene McDaniels, Bill Henderson , Nancy Wilson, and Diane Schuur. He also arranged and conducted a series of albums for the late great Peggy Lee while serving as her musical director.
Among the hundreds of album projects he has participated in are those of Barbra Streisand, Quincy Jones, Barry Manilow (for whom he also arranged several tracks on his "Tribute to the Big Bands" CD), Bette Midler, Tom Waits, Wayne Newton, Michael Jackson, Glen Campbell, Bing Crosby, Billy Eckstine, John Lennon, John Williams, Andy Williams, Burt Bacharach, Dean Martin, Herb Alpert, Mel Torme, Paul Anka, Sammy Davis, Jr., Ann Margaret, Carol Burnett, Frankie Laine, Patti Page, Liza Minelli, Diana Ross, The Monkees, Ray Charles, The Fifth Dimension, The Partridge Family (Melvoin arranged all the Partridge family records), Manhattan Transfer, Laura Nyro, Stan Getz, Roy Rogers, Betty Carter, Steve Allen, Burl Ives, Les Brown, and the current jazz sensations Kurt Elling and Jane Monheit.
He continues to have a successful career as a composer for film and TV that includes features, movies for TV and series. His next film scoring assignment is the feature "Looking For Chet Baker" which is scheduled to score in June 2003. Notable soundtrack recordings at the keyboard include the films "Rocky," "The French Connection," and "Play Misty For Me." In television, he played on Lalo Schifrin's theme for the television show "Mission:Impossible" which also won a Grammy for "Record of the Year." He also composed and conducted the scores to Streisand's "The Main Event," Michael Caine's "Ashanti," and Matt Dillon's "The Big Town" and soundtracks for the television series "Early Edition," "Lou Grant," "Beretta," "MacGyver," and "Fame."
During his long career, Melvoin has won three NARAS "Most Valuable Player" awards and the prestigious Emeritus Award. Recent projects include arranging and playing the title song of Pat Boone’s "controversial" heavy metal album "No More Mr. Nice Guy," two piano albums for Bruton, a duo CD with Charlie Haden, and recording, conducting and performing with singers Nina Simone, Vikki Carr, Bill Henderson, David Basse, and Nancy Marano. Just released is his production of David Cassidy's new CD. Newly recorded projects include a large orchestra piece with Lou Rawls and and his trio's backing of singer Richard Crystal, Billy's brother, on his debut recording.
He is also the first active musician to have served as the National President of The Recording Academy (which presents the Grammy Awards) in 1984 and 1985. Melvoin continues to serve the Academy on the Board of Directors of MusiCares, the Academy's charitable foundation. He has also been involved in the production of the Grammy show itself, in some cases composing, arranging, and playing as well as assisting in the production of segments such as the salute to Louis Armstrong and the All-Star Jazz tribute during the mid 1980s. He also produced the salute to Duke Ellington for the 1999 Grammys. He composed and conducted original music serving as music director of the 1993 "Grammy’s Greatest Moments," a two-hour special that aired on CBS. Further, as a featured member of , and writer for Jack Elliott’s Orchestra, he contributed to the underscores for the Grammy Awards shows from 1994 through 2000.
Melvoin's career is one of substance and durability. Beyond his celebrated work as a composer, he is now at a point in his life where he is reaching out from the often-confining life in the Los Angeles studios to emerge as the important jazz pianist he has always been. Summing up his many years as a musician, he remarked candidly, "I’m a lucky man to be able to continue to do the work I love."