Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music



(b Attilio Joseph Macero, 30 October 1925, Glens Falls, NY; d 19 February 2008, Riverhead NY) Saxophonist, composer, producer. He served in the U.S. Navy, studied at Juilliard '48-53 and also ran a dance band; he was a composer of jazz-influenced classical music and had Guggenheim grants: a piece called Fusion was performed by Leonard Bernestein and the New York Philharmonic in 1958. He worked with Charles Mingus off and on '53-7, in Mingus's Jazz Workshop and on records on Debut, Savoy and Period; he led his own quintet session including Mingus on Debut '53 (he multi-tracked himself playing two tenors and two altos on 'Explorations', unusual then). His own LPs also included two nonet sets on Columbia '55 and '59 and a quintet album on Prestige '57; a ballet suite Time Plus Seven with chamber orchestra recorded '65 was issued on the Swedish label Finnadar.

He joined the staff at Columbia in 1957 as a music editor, turned producer and helped make some of the most successful and influential recordings of the following 20 years. He produced Mingus's masterpieces Mingus Ah-Um and Mingus Dynasty '59-60, and Thelonious Monk albums (Monk's 'Teo' was recorded '64). He also worked with J.J. Johnson, Mahalia Jackson, Johnny Mathis and Dave Brubeck (Time Out); he produced Broadway cast albums (A Chorus Line) and film soundtracks. But his biggest success and his biggest influence began when he took over from George Avakian to produce almost all Miles Davis's albums from Kind Of Blue onwards, obtaining (with the confidence of boss Goddard Leiberson) extra time for Sketches Of Spain '59, which was a technical as well as a musical breakthrough.

Subsequently Macero used techniques partly inspired by composers like Edgard Varèse, who had used tape-editing and electronic effects. By the late 1960s Davis would record a lot of music in the studio, much of it bits and pieces improvised on the spot; later, Macero and Davis would put an album together out of the pieces. For example, Macero used a legato, melodic improvisation by Davis as the theme of “Shhh/Peaceful” on In a Silent Way, placing it at the beginning and end of the piece. Even live recordings were sometimes reworked; the first track of Davis’s Live at Fillmore East from 1970 contains a snippet pasted in from a different track. Macero believed that the finished versions of Davis’s albums, with all the splices and sequencing done on tape with a razor blade in those days, were themselves the work of art, the entire point of the exercise. He opposed the later release of boxed sets that scraped together all the material recorded in the studio, and was not involved in Columbia’s extensive reissuing of Davis’s work in that way since 1995. A fine musician himself and a technical wizard who 'always understood the duality: music as music, and music as product' (Ian Carr), Macero's ability to work with the difficult Davis resulted in an unmeasurable influence on music. Making jazz records in that way was not particularly influential on jazz, but electric-jazz albums like Bitches Brew have deeper echoes in almost 40 years of experimental pop (see entries for Can, Brian Eno, Radiohead).

With CBS's decline as an innovating label, Macero left '75 and made records of his own, including Teo '80 on American Clavé and Impressions Of Charles Mingus '83 on Palo Alto. A Best Of Teo Macero on Stash was a survey of his earlier work. He also produced other artists, such as Robert Palmer, the Lounge Lizards, Vernon Reid, D.J. Logic and others.