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Leonard Niehaus (born June 1, 1929) is an American alto saxophonist, arranger, and composer on the West Coast jazz scene. He has played with the Stan Kenton big band, and various other jazz bands on the West Coast of the U.S. Niehaus has arranged and composed for motion pictures, including several produced by Clint Eastwood.[1][2][3]

Lennie Niehaus
Birth nameLeonard Niehaus
Born (1929-06-01) June 1, 1929 (age 90)
St. Louis, Missouri
GenresJazz, West Coast jazz, film music
Occupation(s)Composer, arranger, orchestrator
InstrumentsAlto saxophone
Associated actsStan Kenton, Bill Perkins, Shelly Manne, Jerry Fielding, Clint Eastwood

Life and careerEdit

Education and active years as a musicianEdit

Niehaus was born in St. Louis, Missouri, US. His sister was a concert pianist, his father, Père Niehaus, an expert violinist. His father started him on violin at age seven, then Lennie changed to bassoon. At thirteen, Niehaus began alto saxophone and clarinet, about this time he began composing. In 1946, after graduation from Roosevelt High School, Niehaus started studying music at Los Angeles City College later earning a music education degree from Los Angeles State College in 1951 as part of the school's first full graduating class. Niehaus started his professional career arranging for and playing alto saxophone with Phil Carreón and His Orchestra in the Los Angeles area. Members of the band included saxophonists Herb Geller, Herbie Steward, and Teddy Edwards.[4][5][6][7]

Niehaus went out on the road with the Stan Kenton orchestra for six months but was drafted into the army in 1952. Discharged in 1954, he rejoined Kenton for five years.[1] He wrote extensively for the Kenton band and had the longest and most recorded tenure of any of the lead alto players with the group to include noted names as Charlie Mariano, Lee Konitz, Gabe Baltazar, or Tony Campise. He left the Kenton orchestra in 1959 to pursue music composition in the studios. He arranged music for the King Sisters, Mel Tormé, Dean Martin, and Carol Burnett.

Orchestrating and composing for filmEdit

In 1962 he began orchestrating for film composer Jerry Fielding. Niehaus worked with Fielding on approximately seventy TV shows and films like Straw Dogs and Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia by Sam Peckinpah, the comedy The Bad News Bears or the horror film Demon Seed. Since Fielding’s death, Lennie has been a leading film composer in his own right; he always does his own orchestrating for his scores.[8]

In films Lennie never forgets his jazz roots. The story of the 1984 film City Heat was cast in the 1930s, so he wrote jazz of that period using people like altoist Marshal Royal. Bill Perkins came in and played like Lester. He had a jazz violinist who sounded like Stephane Grappelli. Then there was a boogie woogie sequence with three pianists Pete Jolly, Mike Land and co-star Clint Eastwood.[9]

Work with Clint EastwoodEdit

With Clint Eastwood Niehaus had probably the most significant relation. Sharing a passion for jazz they knew each other for a long time. Niehaus had already orchestrated scores for films starring Eastwood like Tightrope (1984), that was also produced by Eastwood. But it was not until Eastwood's eleventh direction, 1985 Pale Rider, that Niehaus actually wrote the first score for one of his films. Niehaus then wrote the musical scores for the following twelve films up to Blood Work in 2002, and orchestrated the music for the next six features that Eastwood now provided himself, from Mystic River to 2008 Gran Torino. Niehaus won the BMI Film & TV Awards for Heartbreak Ridge (1986), Unforgiven (1992), The Bridges of Madison County (1995), and Space Cowboys (2000).

The most outstanding collaboration between Niehaus and Eastwood related directly to jazz, was the 1988 biographical film on Charlie Parker, Bird from 1988. Besides a Golden Globe for Eastwood as best director, an Academy Award for best sound and many others, the score by Niehaus was nominated for a BAFTA Award, and won 2nd place at the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards, shared between Niehaus and Charlie Parker, due to a production process never done before, that had managed to electronically isolate Parkers saxophone solos from original tapes and backed them with new, better sounding stereo recordings.

Other awarded film scoresEdit

Lenny Niehaus wrote the music for another jazz related feature, the 1993 TV movie Lush Life, in which Forest Whitaker, who played Charlie Parker in Bird, also starred as a jazz saxophonist. Niehaus won a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Music Composition for a Miniseries, Movie, or a Special. In 2008 he was nominated again for Oprah Winfrey Presents: Mitch Albom's For One More Day.

Further worksEdit

His work includes Spiritual Jazz Suite, four pieces arranged for brass quartet, Three sets of Christmas Jazz suites (4 pieces in each) and a Christmas Jazz Medley arranged for saxophone quartet, a book of classical saxophone duets, A beginning, intermediate, and advanced methods for the understanding of jazz technique, and a book of jazz saxophone duets exemplifying jazz styles. After many years of not playing his alto saxophone at all, Niehaus returned to performing, reportedly in top form.[10][11][12] He played saxophone as leader of his octet on his 2004 album, Sunday Afternoons At The Lighthouse Cafe.[13]

Selected discographyEdit

  • Volume 1: The Quintets (1954 (7" & 10")/1956, Contemporary 3518)
  • Volume 2: The Octet, No. 1 (1954 (7" & 10"), Contemporary); LP reissue on Zounds!
  • Volume 3: The Octet, No. 2 (1955, Contemporary 3503)
  • Volume 4: The Quintets and Strings (1955, Contemporary 3510)
  • Volume 5: The Sextet (1958, Contemporary 3524)
  • Zounds! (1958, Contemporary 3540); reissue of The Octet, No. 1 with a further 1956 octet recording
  • I Swing for You (1957, EmArcy 36118)
  • The Lennie Niehaus Quintet: Live at Capozzoli's (Woofy WPCD96)

With Stan Kenton

Selected musical scoresEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b "Artist Biography: Lenny Liehaus," by Scott Yanow, AllMusic (retrieved December 17, 2010)
  2. ^ The Encyclopedia of Jazz in the Seventies, by Leonard Feather and Ira Gitler, Horizon Press (1976); OCLC 2698149
  3. ^ The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz
        1st ed. (2 vols.), Barry Kernfeld, Stanley Sadie (eds.) (1988); OCLC 16804283
        1st ed. (1 vol.), Barry Kernfeld (ed.) (1994); OCLC 30516743
        2nd ed. (3 vols.), Barry Kernfeld (ed.) (2002); OCLC 46956628
  4. ^ The Kenton Kronicles: A Biography of Modern America's Man of Music, Stan Kenton, by Steven D. Harris, Dynaflow (2003), pg. 152; OCLC 44035053
  5. ^ "Interview: Lennie Niehaus" (Part 1), JazzWax, November 9, 2009
  6. ^ Beyond Alliances: The Jewish Role in Reshaping the Racial Landscape of Southern California, George J. Sanchez, Bruce Zuckerman (eds.), Purdue University Press (2012), pg. 39; OCLC 774640408
  7. ^ "Lennie Niehaus," by Marcia Hillman, The New York City Jazz Record, Issue 145, May 2014
  8. ^ Who's Who in Entertainment, 3rd ed., 1998–1999, New Providence, New Jersey: Marquis Who's Who (1997); OCLC 54303731
  9. ^ Contemporary Theatre, Film, and Television. A biographical guide featuring performers, directors, writers, producers, designers, managers, choreographers, technicians, composers, executives, dancers, and critics in the United States, Canada, Great Britain and the world, Vol. 40, Detroit: Gale Group (2002); OCLC 867590253
  10. ^ The Heritage Encyclopedia of Band Music: Composers and Their Music (2 Vols.), by William Harold Rehrig (born 1939), Westerville, Ohio: Integrity Press (1991)
        3rd. Vol. Supplement (1996); OCLC 24606813
  11. ^ The Penguin Encyclopedia of Popular Music, Donald Clarke (ed.) New York: Viking Press (1989); OCLC 59693135
  12. ^ The Encyclopedia of Popular Music 4th ed. (8 Vols.), Colin Larkin (ed.), Muze (1998), Grove's Dictionaries
        "Niehaus, Lennie" OCLC 5108648136
        "Contemporary Records" OCLC 5108887634
        "Bird" OCLC 5108925774
        "Manne, Shelly" OCLC 5108784472
  13. ^ "Lennie Niehaus: Composing for Clint," Archived April 2, 2015, at the Wayback Machine by Don Heckman, JazzTimes, September 2007

External linksEdit