Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

PIERCE, Nat

(b 16 July 1925, Somerville MA; d 10 June 1992, Los Angeles CA) By his own admission one of the finest rhythm pianists in jazz. Worked for Woody Herman early '50s, again early '60s, eight years altogether as chief organizer, arranger as well as pianist; also played and/or arranged for Count Basie, Louie Bellson, others; depped for Claude Thornhill, Stan Kenton, Basie when they were ill. He also led his own big bands on and off (Big Band At The Savoy Ballroom '57 on RCA); also did many jazz festivals, worked in music education and played on superb mainstream small-group albums (e.g. Jo Jones Special, Ruby Braff Special on Vanguard, Basie reunions on Prestige mid-to-late '50s).

His style when leading or comping at the piano was hard to tell from Basie's in its economy and swing; any record he played on was the better for it. He co-led the big band Capp--Pierce Juggernaut (which see). Apart from countless appearances as a sideman, his own albums included Boston Bustout on Hep UK and 1948--1950 on Zim USA, different but complementary sets from '48-50 with Charlie Mariano, Serge Chaloff, Ralph Burns, singer Teddi King making her record debut: sides from long-defunct Motif label, unreleased material etc. Also reissue The Nat Pierce--Dick Collins Nonet/Charlie Mariano Sextet on Fantasy; Ballad Of Jazz Street '61 on Zim USA/Hep UK (including Paul Quinichette, Paul Gonsalves, Clark Terry, etc; three-part title composition), 5400 North '78 on Hep, live recording with trumpeter Collins (b 19 July 1924, Seattle WA), Bill Perkins, Frankie Capp, Mary Ann McCall's vocals.