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Teo Macero: American Jazz Saxophonist, Composer, Record Producer and Glens Falls Native

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A Tireless Innovator who Changed the Sound of Music

Glens Falls Native Teo Macero

Miles Davis and Teo MaceroRecord producers and musical artists are known to have relationships that are either contentious or fruitful; often times, their contributions are overlooked. Think of how Howlin’ WolfCarl PerkinsJerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley might have sounded without the influence of Sam Philips, or how YesFragile album would’ve sounded if Eddy Offord wasn’t at the helm? In the world of jazz, Glens Falls native Teo Macero was one such producer who had a successful collaboration with Miles Davis on several classic albums.

Born Attilio Joseph Macero on October 30, 1925, Macero was first introduced to music by his parents, Daniel and Angeline, who owned a nightclub called Macero’s Tavern (it’s not there anymore, but it was apparently located where Broad and Staple Streets intersect, the current location of the Hudson River Community Credit Union). The tavern attracted many jazz musicians who inspired a young Macero to begin playing the saxophone and writing his own music (Harry JamesWoody Herman and Count Basie performed there over the years) . By 13, Macero had put together his own dance band and dreamt of becoming a composer.

After graduating from Glens Falls High School in 1943, he served in the United States Navy, where he played in a band, Macero enrolled at Juilliard School of Music where he studied with composer Henry Brant. At Juilliard, Macero won the BMI Student Composers Award, two Guggenheim Fellowships, and formed Juilliard’s first jazz group. After graduating in 1953 with a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in composition, Macero co-founded Charles MingusJazz Composers Workshop and contributed to the New York City avant-garde jazz scene.

In 1956, Columbia Records producer George Avakian hired Macero as a tape editorwhere he gradually became the label’s primary producer of jazz and commercial music. As producer, Macero experimented with technology and used electronic effects, echoes, digital delays, and two or three microphones.

“In the studio,” he once explained, ”I was always free flowing. I wanted things to really happen and to be spontaneous because I knew, from my past experiences, what one could do with a raw tape.”

Throughout his 20-year career at Columbia Records, Macero produced more than 3,000 albums, 15 gold records, and worked with hundreds of iconic musicians including Mingus, Thelonious Monk, Dave Brubeck, Ella Fitzgerald, and Mahalia Jackson. He also produced the soundtrack for the 1967 movie The Graduate, starring Dustin Hoffman. Most notably, Macero is known for his collaborations with Miles Davis from 1959 to 1983, where he produced his best-selling and influential jazz albums, Kind of Blue, Sketches of Spain and Bitches Brew, as well as the legendary Dave Brubeck album Time Out. Macero also branched out in to different genres, including orchestral work and Broadway musicals.

In 1975, Macero left Columbia and became an independent producer, producing records for singer Robert Palmer, the Lounge Lizards, D.J. Logic, Vernon Reid and many others. Macero also began releasing his own albums including, Time Plus Seven, Impressions of Charles Mingus, and Acoustical Suspension.

Macero passed away at the age of 82, on February 19, 2008 at his home in Riverhead, New York.

A massive collection of Macero’s correspondence, unpublished works and related files from 1949 -1992 are open to the public at the Music Division of the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, which gives valuable insight to his extensive involvement in the music industry.

Click here to watch an excerpt of Play That Teo, a film about Macero’s life and work produced by Olana DiGirolamo.

Brenna Filipello is a Contributor to The Free George.

The Free George is the online magazine and visitors’ guide of Upstate NY, covering things from Albany to Lake Placid, including Saratoga, the Lake George region and the Adirondacks. Check out our City Blogs section for our extended coverage areas as well.

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