Sy Oliver

James Melvin " Sy " Oliver ( born December 17, 1910 in Battle Creek, Michigan, USA; † 28 May 1988 in New York, United States of cancer ) was a jazz trumpeter, arranger, composer, singer and bandleader.

Life and work

Oliver is the son of musicians ( music teacher, a concert singer ). With his father he learned to read music, piano and trumpet. After graduating high school, he was in territory bands in the Midwest, working as a musician and vocalist with Cliff Barnett and Zack Whyte's Chocolate Beau Brummels, where the first shots were taken, and later with Alphonse Trent. Played between 1933 and 1939, and he sang in the band of Jimmie Lunceford and contributed many arrangements and their specific sound at. In Lunceford Oliver was responsible for success titles like " My Blue Heaven ", " Is not She Sweet ," " Organ Grinder 's Swing " and " ' Tain't What You Do".

He then worked in the orchestra of Tommy Dorsey, after this earning him with the offer of $ 5,000 a year, was headhunted at Lunceford. He played until 1943 and again from 1945 Dorsey, with a break in the U.S. Army, where he led a military band, and was the first African American who played an important role in a " white" ribbon. Oliver's arrangement of the standard "On the Sunny Side of the Street" was Dorsey's biggest hit. Oliver had some time also has its own jazz band, with whom also appeared on the radio. Since the late 1940s he worked as a freelance arranger, writing for film and studio bands, especially on behalf of singers such as Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Ella Fitzgerald, Chris Connor and Louis Armstrong; whose " sacred " Album Louis and the Angels and Louis and the Good Book (1957 /58) were especially Oliver's work. In 1957 he was arranger and bandleader of the album Plenty Valente! , One of the first international studio album by Caterina Valente.

He also worked as a record producer for Decca Records and was employed from 1959 as an arranger in the recording studios. In 1968/69 he served as musical director of the Paris Olympia; From 1970 he led with his own band in his old arrangements or Ellington compositions; with the material created in 1973 the album Yes Indeed. With his band he joined, among others 1972 at the Newport Jazz Festival and toured in 1973, 1975 and 1981 in Europe, including at the Berlin Jazz Festival. From 1975 to 1980 he joined the New York Rainbow Room on with an all-star band as Repertory Orchestra, for which he wrote over 300 arrangements of pieces Ellington, Dorsey, Lunceford and Fletcher Henderson. Oliver was active until the 1980s. After his death in 1988 left his widow in 1995 his manuscripts of the band arrangements at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.

Among the compositions by Oliver include the well-known by Ray Charles " Yes Indeed ", but also " For Dancers Only", "Opus I", " Well Git It" and " Easy Does It."


Martin Kunzler denotes the influenced by Ellington Arranger (along with Benny Carter and Don Redman, but more important than this ) as a leading figure of the Jimmie Lunceford Orchestra " by strong contouring of the saxophone set, call and response exchange between the sections and two-beat rhythm. (...) Sy Oliver is an accomplished trumpet player as Swing Growl and wah-wah solo specialist with taste and potency. "

Digby Fairweather described Sy Oliver, who was nicknamed "Psychology ", " as one of the most serious, smartest and most educated people in the swing. "

According to Leonard Feather, his style was ( at Lunceford ) " by simply swinging effects, staccato phrases with a touch of humor and a brilliant sense of continuity and highlights " determined.