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Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Gene Puerling dies

Another giant dies.

Gene was the founder/leader/arranger for two of the outstanding jazz/pop vocal ensembles of the 20th century, the Hi-Lo's and Singers Unlimited.

The LA Times obit can be found here.

When I was doing my PLU Summer Choral Workshops, we almost always had a jazz clinician. One of those years it was Gene. It was a thrill to meet him, to watch him do clinics with teachers and students, and demonstrate how his Singers Unlimited recordings were made, over-dub by over-dub.

It was also fun to hear his stories, touring with the Hi-Lo's, about going to the Black Forest where their producer had his studio, how they bought a better multi-track player to record Singers Unlimited (and how it was covered over with a sheet until they returned again--they were the only ones who used it!).

The Hi-Lo's made an appearance at a PLU jazz festival a few years later and sounded as good live as they did on their recordings.

For those that don't know, the Hi-Lo's were a four-voice male ensemble, with the notable range of Clark Burroughs' tenor. The Singer's Unlimited had some crossover singers (besides Gene), but was three guys and soprano Bonny Herman. The Hi'Lo's were a classic vocal jazz ensemble, featuring full-voice singing and tight harmonies. They were an enormous influence on such groups at the Beach Boys and Manhattan Transfer. Singers Unlimited, on the other hand, was purely a studio group. Gene wrote 6-part arrangements for this quartet and all parts were over-dubbed, some many times. Their sound was a bit more artificial, but beautiful nevertheless.

Get some recordings--most are still available on CD (you can find them at Primarily A Cappella, for example), especially the Hi-Lo's for pure, beautiful, joyful singing.

For an interview with Gene, go here (thanks to the Choral Blog for this link).


Ruth said...

I didn't know about this until today! Sad. BTW, did you ever see the movie "Good Neighbor Sam"? It's a Jack Lemmon farce from the early 1960s, and the Hi-Lo's have a cameo...

Richard said...

No, I haven't seen Good Neighbor Sam--sounds like I need to!