Lennie Niehaus, Who Set Eastwood’s Movies to Music, Dies at 90


Lennie Niehaus, who turned properly referred to as an alto saxophonist and arranger for the jazz bandleader Stan Kenton within the 1950s earlier than turning to a profession as a composer of movie scores, notably for Clint Eastwood films like “Hen” and “Unforgiven,” died on Might 28 at his daughter’s house in Redlands, in Southern California. He was 90.

His son-in-law, Owen Sheeran, stated the trigger was in all probability heart-related.

Mr. Niehaus had been with the Kenton band for a number of months when he was drafted into the Military in 1952. He performed within the base band at Fort Ord in Northern California and in a quartet that carried out at noncommissioned officers’ golf equipment the place Mr. Eastwood, a jazz lover, was a daily.

He returned to Kenton’s band in 1954 and remained till 1959, however he didn’t reconnect with Mr. Eastwood till the 1970s. By then, Mr. Niehaus was orchestrating scores for the composer Jerry Fielding, together with some for films starring Mr. Eastwood, together with “The Outlaw Josey Wales” (1976).

Eight years later, Mr. Niehaus wrote the rating for “Tightrope,” a homicide thriller set in New Orleans that Mr. Eastwood produced and starred in as a police officer.

Mr. Eastwood needed the rating at occasions to replicate the “cacophony of music” that burst from golf equipment on Bourbon Avenue. So he flew with Mr. Niehaus to New Orleans, the place they walked alongside that historic French Quarter avenue.

“Hear, hear these snippets of music on the left and proper sides of the road?” Mr. Niehaus recalled Mr. Eastwood saying when he was interviewed for the web site JazzWax in 2009. “Are you able to get that impact within the rating?”

Mr. Niehaus’s resolution was to report eight completely different tunes in numerous kinds by completely different musicians, then fade the tracks out and in in scenes the place Mr. Eastwood’s character walked down Bourbon Avenue.

Along with his rating for “Tightrope,” he turned inextricably linked with Mr. Eastwood, composing scores for 14 movies that Mr. Eastwood directed, together with “Pale Rider,” “Heartbreak Ridge,” “The Bridges of Madison County,” “Absolute Energy” and “Area Cowboys.” Starting in 2003, he orchestrated the music for six others, most lately “Gran Torino” (2008). (Mr. Eastwood himself wrote the scores for 4 of these movies.)

For “Bird” (1988), the Eastwood movie in regards to the pioneering jazz saxophonist Charlie Parker, who was referred to as Hen, Mr. Niehaus not solely composed and supervised the music; he additionally taught Forest Whitaker, the star, the right way to play and maintain himself onstage as Parker had.

Because the music supervisor, Mr. Niehaus eliminated the piano, bass and drums from a few of Parker’s recordings from the 1940s and ’50s due to their poor high quality, leaving solely the sound of his sax, after which introduced in musicians to report new tracks.

“I informed the engineers, ‘Don’t sacrifice Hen’s sound,’” Mr. Niehaus told The New York Times in 1988. “So we obtained the best-sounding Hen we may, and we added a rhythm part that was suitable.”

Mr. Whitaker, who had performed baritone horn in highschool and will learn music, had been practising in a loft earlier than beginning his tutelage below Mr. Niehaus.

“Once I obtained the half, I purchased a sax from a pawnshop,” Mr. Whitaker stated in a telephone interview. “Once we met, he stated, ‘That sax is damaged, let me get you one which works.’ I had struggled so onerous to get sound, and after I obtained the sax from him, I obtained a standard sound.”

They labored intensively in order that Mr. Whitaker may grasp the fingering and play the melody traces (though his enjoying was not heard within the film). Typically they performed duets.

Mr. Niehaus stated that Mr. Whitaker was “terrific” as Parker, however that he had one specific flaw: He rolled his shoulders whereas enjoying, one thing Parker by no means did.

“Hen performed as if his footwear have been nailed to the ground,” Mr. Niehaus told JazzWax. “So I put my fingers on Forest’s shoulders to carry them nonetheless so he’d perceive. However it was nonetheless onerous for him, and a little bit of that comes via within the movie.”

Leonard Niehaus was born on June 1, 1929, in St. Louis to Aaron and Clariss (Weissman) Niehaus. His mom was a homemaker. His father, a Russian immigrant, was a violinist who performed in an orchestra that accompanied silent movies in theaters. Within the mid-1930s, after speaking footage had taken maintain, he moved the household to Los Angeles, the place he performed in Hollywood studio orchestras.

Lennie realized the violin from his father, then started enjoying the oboe in grade college. The large-band music of the early 1940s made him a jazz fan and altered his focus to the saxophone, which enraged his father. In the JazzWax interview, he recalled his father telling him, “You’ll find yourself enjoying in a home of prostitution!”

He purchased his first alto saxophone as a result of it was cheaper than the tenor he needed.

Whereas in highschool he started enjoying in a band led by Phil Carreon, for whom he additionally started writing charts within the new fashion referred to as bebop. He auditioned for Kenton quickly after graduating from Los Angeles State Faculty (now Cal State LA), the place he had majored in composition.

The Kenton band performed Gerry Mulligan’s “Limelight,” and Mr. Niehaus had the primary solo. Kenton preferred his work on that and different tunes and employed him.

Mr. Niehaus proved to be a deft sideman and arranger earlier than leaving for the Military in 1952. After his discharge two years later, he was welcomed again by Kenton and have become one of many main musicians in West Coast jazz circles. His preparations for Kenton might be heard on each observe of “The Stage Door Swings,” a 1958 album of Broadway present tunes.

Uninterested in touring — and anxious by the drop in jazz’s reputation — Mr. Niehaus left the band in 1959 and labored in Hollywood as an orchestrator for the tv collection “Hogan’s Heroes” and movies like “Straw Canines” (1971), “The Killer Elite” (1975) and “The Unhealthy Information Bears” (1976).

Even throughout his years as a movie composer and orchestrator, he carried out with combos within the Los Angeles space. His remaining album was “Sunday Afternoons at the Lighthouse Cafe” (2004), on which he led an octet.

Mr. Niehaus is survived by his spouse, Patricia (Jarvis) Niehaus; his daughter, Susan Lehrman; and two grandchildren.

His love of jazz, happy in Eastwood movies, was additional happy when he obtained to put in writing the Emmy-winning rating for “Lush Life” (1994), a Showtime film directed by Michael Elias about two jazz musicians (performed by Mr. Whitaker, as a trumpeter, and Jeff Goldblum, as a saxophonist).

“Aside from ‘Hen,’” Mr. Niehaus informed The Instances. “it was the spotlight of my profession for movie scoring. I obtained to do what I needed, which is uncommon.” Like Mr. Eastwood, he stated, Mr. Elias was educated about jazz.

“I’d say a chunk ought to sound like Sonny Rollins’s ‘St. Thomas,’ and he’d comprehend it,” he stated, “which may’t be stated about too many administrators.”


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