Ralph Burns

Ralph Burns ( born June 29, 1922 in Newton, Massachusetts, † 21 November 2001 in Los Angeles, California ) was an American composer, arranger, bandleader and jazz pianist.

Life and work

Ralph Burns learned early piano and attended from 1938, the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. His first experience with jazz he had transcribing plates recordings of Count Basie, Benny Goodman and Duke Ellington ( for arrangements local bands ) and Frances Wayne, and her brother Nick Jerrett, where he lived as a student and the big-band singer and bandleaders were. In the early 1940s he moved to New York, where he took over for Charlie Barnet and from 1944 for Woody Herman arranged and the piano part in the rhythm section of the band ( which still consisted of bassist Chubby Jackson and drummer Dave Tough ). With the band, he remained connected by Herman 15 years. There he arranged or composed several hits like Nortwest passage, Bijou ( for the trombonist Bill Harris), Apple Honey and Early Autumn ( performed by Stan Getz ). He also played in smaller combos with Herman sidemen such as Bill Harris and Charlie Ventura. In the 1950s he also took under his own name on, inter alia, with Billy Strayhorn, Lee Konitz, Ben Webster, and wrote compositions for Johnny Mathis and Tony Bennett. He later arranged for Ray Charles ( String Orchestra in Georgia on My Mind and Come Rain or Come Shine ), Aretha Franklin, Natalie Cole.

In the 1960s he began to arrange for Broadway in musicals such as Chicago ( John Kander ), Funny Girl, No, No, Nanette and Sweet Charity. In 1971 he began to work for the film, the first for the soundtrack of Bananas with Woody Allen. In 1972, he won an Oscar for John Kander's Cabaret in Arrangement, directed by Bob Fosse. 1974 followed the soundtracks for lenny (with Dustin Hoffman as Lenny Bruce ) and 1977 for New York, New York by Martin Scorsese, in which Robert De Niro plays a jazz musician on the side of Cabaret star Liza Minnelli. Burns wrote in another collaboration with director Bob Fosse also the music for All That Jazz, for in 1979 he again won an Academy Award, followed in 1982 by an Oscar for Annie. In the 1990s, he also arranged for Mel Torme, John Pizzarelli and Michael Feinstein. He died in 2001 of complications from a stroke and pneumonia.

Burns received an Emmy Award in 1980 for Baryshnikov on Broadway and Tony Awards for Fosse in 1999 and posthumously in 2002 for Thoroughly Modern Millie.

Ralph Burns was inducted into the New England Jazz Hall of Fame in 2004. He is one of the few artists who have won both an Oscar, Grammy and a Tony.


  • The free forms of Ralph Burns, 1950
  • Jazz Recital, 1951
  • Ralph Burns among the J.A.T.P ' s, 1955
  • Ralph Burns, 1955
  • Jazz Studio 5, 1955
  • Bijou, 1955
  • Spring Sequence, 1955
  • The songs of Billie Holiday, 1956
  • The Masters Revisited, 1957
  • Very warm for Jazz, 1958
  • Porgy and Bess, 1958
  • The Swinging Seasons, 1958
  • New York 's a Song, 1960
  • Swingin 'down the lane 1962
  • Where there's Burns, there 's fire, 1962
  • No strings (with strings ), 2002