John Bunch

John Bunch (December 1, 1921 – March 30, 2010) was an American jazz pianist.[1][2]

John Bunch
Dick Sheridan and John Bunch, 2007
Dick Sheridan and John Bunch, 2007
Background information
Born(1921-12-01)December 1, 1921
Tipton, Indiana, U.S.
DiedMarch 30, 2010(2010-03-30) (aged 88)
New York City
Associated actsTony Bennett, Kenny Davern, Maynard Ferguson

Early lifeEdit

Born and raised in Tipton, Indiana, a small farming community, he studied piano with George Johnson, a well-known Hoosier jazz pianist. By the age of 14 he was already playing with adult bands in central Indiana.

Later life and careerEdit

During World War II he enlisted in the Air Corps and became a bombardier on a B17 Flying Fortress. He and his ten-man crew were transferred to combat duty in England, flying bombing missions over Germany. His plane was shot down 2 November 1944 and Bunch was taken prisoner. In prison camp he learned to arrange for big bands.

After the war, he applied for university training as a music major, but was refused because he couldn't sight read classical music. He worked later in factories and insurance. In 1956 he moved to Los Angeles where he immediately was accepted by jazz musicians such as Georgie Auld and Jimmie Rowles, who later recommended him to Woody Herman. He settled in New York in 1958, where he joined Eddie Condon and Maynard Ferguson. He recorded with Ferguson and many smaller groups.

In 1966 Bunch joined Tony Bennett as pianist and musical director, and stayed in the employ of the singer until 1972. During that time he appeared on Bennett's 1972 series for Thames Television, Tony Bennett at the Talk of the Town. After that, he resumed his jazz work, performing and recording with Benny Goodman, Buddy Rich, Gene Krupa, Pearl Bailey, and Scott Hamilton. He led a trio, mostly in England, and made many recordings as a leader, most notably with the New York Swing Trio with Bucky Pizzarelli and Jay Leonhart.

Bunch was still active in Europe and the United States during his final years. He died of melanoma in Roosevelt Hospital, Manhattan, New York City, on March 30, 2010. He was survived by his wife, Cecily "Chips" Gemmell, a former private secretary to Winston Churchill.[3]


As leader/co-leaderEdit

Year recorded Title Label Personnel/Notes
1975 John's Bunch Progressive With Urbie Green (trombone), Al Cohn (tenor sax), Milt Hinton (bass), Mousey Alexander (drums)
1975 John Bunch Plays Kurt Weill Chiaroscuro Solo piano; reissue added solo piano tracks recorded in 1991
1977? Jubilee Audiophile Trio, with Cal Collins (guitar), George Mraz (bass)
1977 John's Other Bunch Progressive With Warren Vaché (trumpet), Scott Hamilton (tenor sax), Michael Moore (bass), Connie Kay (drums)
1977? Slick Funk Famous Door
1987? The Best Thing for You Concord Trio, with Phil Flanigan (bass), Chuck Riggs (drums)
1994? Plays Rodgers & Hart LRC As New York Swing; quartet, with Bucky Pizzarelli (guitar) Jay Leonhart (bass), Joe Cocuzzo (drums)
1994? Tributes Cole Porter LRC As New York Swing; quartet, with Bucky Pizzarelli (guitar) Jay Leonhart (bass), Joe Cocuzzo (drums)
1994? Tributes Jerome Kern LRC As New York Swing; quartet, with Bucky Pizzarelli (guitar) Jay Leonhart (bass), Dennis Mackrel (drums)
1995 Struttin' Arbors Duo, with Phil Flanigan (bass)
1996 Solo Arbors Solo piano
1996 New York Swing Chiaroscuro Trio, with Bucky Pizzarelli (guitar) Jay Leonhart (bass); in concert
1997 World War II Love Songs Groove Jams Trio, with Michael Moore (bass), Butch Miles (drums)
2001? Love in the Spring Koch
2001 A Special Alliance Arbors Trio, with Dave Green (bass), Steve Brown (drums)
2002? Manhattan Swing: A Visit With Duke Ellington Arbors Trio, with Bucky Pizzarelli (guitar), Jay Leonhart (bass)
2003 An English Songbook Chiaroscuro Solo piano
2003 Tony's Tunes Chiaroscuro Trio, with Bucky Pizzarelli (guitar), Jay Leonhart (bass)
2006 At the Nola Penthouse: Salutes Jimmy Van Heusen Arbors Trio, with Dave Green (bass), Steve Brown (drums)
2008 Plays the Music of Irving Berlin (Except One) Arbors Some tracks trio, with Frank Vignola (guitar), John Webber (bass); some tracks quartet, with Frank Wess (flute) added
2009 Do Not Disturb Arbors Trio, with Frank Vignola (guitar), John Webber (bass)

As sidemanEdit

With Benny Bailey

With Buck Clayton and Tommy Gwaltney's Kansas City 9

With Maynard Ferguson

With Gene Krupa

With Bucky Pizzarelli

With Donnie O'Brien

  • Donnie O' Brien Meets Manhattan Swing: In a Basie Mood (Arbors)

With Kenny Davern

With Rex Stewart and Dicky Wells


  1. ^ Archived October 25, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^
  3. ^ Nate Chinen (April 1, 2010). "John Bunch, pianist with Goodman and Bennett, dies at 88". New York Times. Retrieved 2014-12-23. John Bunch, a jazz pianist whose elegant style led to prominent sideman posts with Benny Goodman and Tony Bennett as well as an accomplished solo career, died on Tuesday in Manhattan, where he lived. He was 88. His death, at Roosevelt Hospital, was caused by melanoma, said Cecily Gemmell, his wife and only immediate survivor. ...