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Jerry Gray

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Jerry Gray (July 3, 1915–August 10, 1976) was an arranger, composer, and conductor who is best known for his work with popular music during the Swing Era. His name is inextricably linked to two of the most famous bandleaders of the time, Artie Shaw and Glenn Miller.

Jerry Gray was born Generoso Graziano in East Boston, Massachusetts. His father Albert Graziano was a music teacher who began training his son on the violin at age 7. As a teenager he studied with Emanuel Ondricek and was soloist with the Boston Junior Symphony. By age 18 he had already formed his own jazz band and was performing in Boston-area clubs.

In 1936 Gray joined Artie Shaw (then calling himself Art Shaw) and his “New Music” orchestra as first violinist. He studied arranging under Shaw and became a staff arranger a year later. During the next two years he penned some of the band’s most popular arrangements, including “Carioca”, “Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise”, “Any Old Time”, and the classic “Begin the Beguine”. Many of his up-tempo arrangements show early evidence of the style that would eventually become his trademark: the melody is broken into two- to four-measure phrases, usually carried by the brass sections, that are repeated with increasing intensity until the song’s climax.

In November of 1939 Artie Shaw suddenly broke up his band and moved to Mexico. The next day Glenn Miller called Gray and offered him a job arranging for his band. It was initially a difficult move because Shaw had usually allowed his arrangers great musical latitude, while Miller’s commercial orientation often led him to second-guess his staff.

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