Russell Garcia dies at 95; arranger, composer and conductor

Russell Garcia, an arranger, composer and conductor who was an influential figure in the West Coast music scene during the 1950s and '60s and whose work in Hollywood included writing the score for the 1960 science-fiction classic "The Time Machine," has died. He was 95.

Garcia, who walked away from his career in Hollywood in the mid-'60s, died of


Sunday at his home in Kerikeri,

New Zealand

, said his wife, Gina.

During his eight-decade career in music, Garcia recorded more than 60 albums under his own name,


the otherworldly sounding

and the avant-garde jazz album "Wigville" in the 1950s.

Garcia also arranged for artists such as Louis Armstrong,

Ella Fitzgerald


Judy Garland


Stan Kenton


Julie London

, Anita O'Day, Oscar Peterson,

Mel Torme


Margaret Whiting


That included arranging — and conducting — Armstrong and Fitzgerald's classic 1958 "Porgy & Bess" album.

Garcia also was known for his signature four-trombone band, which he used on recordings with singers such as O'Day, Frances Faye and, more recently,


Garcia, who orchestrated

Charles Chaplin

's 1952 film


was under contract at Universal as an arranger, composer and conductor in the 1950s and early '60s.

His years at Universal included

composing the theme and numerous scores for the 1960s


western "Laredo" and writing the score for the 1966 movie comedy "The Pad and How to Use It."

Garcia's "Fantastica" album caught the attention of


George Pal

for whom he scored "The Time Machine" and "Atlantis, the Lost Continent" (1961).

A post-

World War II

stint teaching at the Westlake School of Music in Los Angeles

led Garcia to write "The Professional Arranger Composer."

The book

has been translated into six languages and is still used in universities and music conservatories around the world. It was followed by "The Professional Arranger Composer Book II."

"While he was here and active, Garcia was very much admired for the breadth of his skills as an arranger and a composer and then became even more influential by virtue of these books," said music critic Don Heckman. "They continue to be basic handbooks for anyone who wants to understand the process of arranging and composing."

In 2005, the Los Angeles Jazz Institute honored Garcia for his more than 60 years of contributions to jazz.

One of five brothers, Garcia was born in Oakland on April 12, 1916.

Self-taught on a cornet bought by one of his brothers for $5, he began

writing music when he was about 8 and was only 11 when the Oakland Symphony Orchestra performed his arrangement of "Stardust."

Garcia started a jazz band in junior high school and by high school was working five nights a week playing trumpet in a band that played in a San Francisco hotel.

After a year at what is now San Francisco State, he dropped

out and went on the road with the band before moving to Hollywood in the late 1930s to study music and conducting.

He was a staff composer and arranger for NBC radio before serving in the Army infantry in Europe during World War II.

In 1966, Garcia and his wife sold their home in the Hollywood Hills and most of their possessions and set off on an around-the-world trip on a 41-foot trimaran.

But it wasn't just a pleasure cruise.

"We were members of the Bahai faith and we were going to be visiting the Bahai

communities around the world and sharing it with anyone who would be interested," Gina Garcia said.

They had planned their trip to last for at least three years before returning to Hollywood. But, she said, they fell in love with New Zealand after arriving there in late 1971.

During his many years in New Zealand, Garcia continued to compose, arrange for various singers and conducted much of his original music with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra.

In 2009, Garcia and his wife were awarded the New Zealand Order of Merit from the Queen of


for their service to music.

"The Unquenchable Flame," an opera Garcia wrote in the mid-'90s with his wife, who wrote the libretto and lyrics, will have its world premiere in Auckland in July.

In addition to his wife of 59 years, Garcia is survived by a daughter, Judy Kulp; four grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren. His son, David, died in 2007.