Gene Cipriano, saxophonist best known for extensive work in television and film, dies – wbgo.org | Episode Movies

Gene Cipriano, a saxophonist who has played on thousands of pop and jazz recordings and whose music has been part of dozens of films and television shows, died of natural causes at his home in Studio City, California on November 12. He was 94 years old.

The saxophonist known as “Cip” has played music for seemingly every TV show outside of Hollywood, including Batman, the flints; ‘The Flintstones, MASH*, star trek, The simpsons, american father and Impossible Mission. He ghosted the saxophone part for Tony Curtis’ character in the iconic film Some like it hot. Cipriano was also a longtime member of The Wrecking Crew, the acclaimed group of Los Angeles session musicians who played on so many hits of the ’60s and ’70s.

Despite doing many jazz shows and recording sessions (nearly 200 recordings), Cipriano did not release an album as a leader until 2006, with the two-CD set, Gene Cipriano: Out for the first time. He was then 78 years old. The album was produced by Bill Hughes and Tom Ranier. “He played tenor sax, clarinet and cor anglais and acted as an improviser on every piece,” Ranier told WBGO. “The type of studio work he’s done for most of his career has given him very few opportunities to do it. This was an opportunity for him to shine with that ability. He played all of his instruments superbly and produced beautiful singing sounds on each one. His technical ability on each instrument was of the highest standard and he could sight read music of any style and adapt to any genre, perfectly. He also had perfect hearing and played all the instruments perfectly in tune.” Ranier said that Cipriano played soprano, alto, tenor, baritone and bass saxophones, as well as all clarinets, all flutes and piccolo, as well as oboe, cor anglais and bass -Oboe.

Cipriano was born on July 13, 1928 in New Haven, Connecticut. His father was a clarinetist who played in pit bands in New Haven and later on Broadway in New York City. His son started playing the clarinet at the age of eight and eventually learned to play the saxophone and flute as well. After playing in New Haven when he was young, he was invited to join Tommy Dorsey’s band when he was just 23 years old. He later settled in New York City, where he played with Claude Thornhill and Lee Konitz. Tex Beneke asked him to join a newly formed Glenn Miller Band and play the late leader’s hits. Among the members of this ghost band was Henry Mancini.

It was Mancini who gave Cipriano his start in the world of television, first calling him up to play the flute on the Peter Gunn show, for which Mancini was making the music. In the years that followed, Cipriano worked with Mancini as well as with almost every well-known television and film composer, including Johnny Mandel, Michel Legrand, Andre Previn, Neal Hefti, Lalo Schifrin, Marvin Hamlisch, Gary Foster and many others. “I met Cip in the early ’80s while working with him on various TV shows and films,” Ranier explained. “We’ve worked together many times at the Academy Awards – 24 for me and a record 53 for him, the most of any musician I think. He was one of, if not the most recorded woodwind musicians in history, having played on thousands of recording dates, films, jingles and television shows. I’ve learned many musical and personal lessons from him over the years, including how to look at the freelance music business with a healthy perspective.”

The quintessential session musician, Cipriano has recorded and performed with Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Rosemary Clooney, Natalie Cole, Judy Garland and many more. During the ’60s and ’70s, Cipriano was often part of The Wrecking Crew, a group of studio musicians who were involved in many of the rock and pop hits of the time – from the Monkees to the Beach Boys. “It was a lot of fun because the composer would often say to the rhythm section, ‘Think of something wild that would go with this particular piece of music,'” Cipriano told Joanie Harmon of website MakingLifeSwing in 2019. “They would come up with something and then they would tell us what to play at their leisure. Sometimes we came up with music right on the spot.”

Interview with Cipriano and Chuck Findley about the recording scene in LA:

Gene Cipriano and Chuck Findley

Cipriano has also done his fair share of jazz recordings, most notably as part of Thelonious Monk’s big band Monk’s Blues. He has played frequently with Shelly Manne, Gerry Mulligan, Shorty Rogers and other greats of the West Coast jazz scene.

“He was always positive, upbeat and a pleasure to be around,” Ranier said. “The tributes on Facebook are a testament to how much he was truly loved by everyone who knew and worked with him to some extent. He always encouraged younger musicians who were just starting out. He was truly a person that everyone looked up to with respect, admiration and love. His life was very well lived.”

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