Starred in Worlds of Jazz and Films : Composer-Pianist Calvin Jackson Dies

Times Staff Writer

Calvin Jackson, a classically trained composer and pianist whose versatility allowed him to segue into the worlds of jazz and film, has died in an Encinitas hospital, it was learned this week.

Jackson was living in Point Loma and working on arrangements for a 31-piece concert jazz orchestra when he was felled by an ongoing heart ailment and taken to the hospital. He died Nov. 28 at age 66.

One of the best trained of any generation of jazzmen, he studied piano for 17 years, 13 with private teachers in his native Philadelphia and then four years at Juilliard and New York University.

The arranger, nominated for a 1964 Academy Award for the scoring of "The Unsinkable Molly Brown," began the popular side of his career with Frankie Fairfax's band in the early 1940s and then went to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer as assistant musical director under George Stoll. There he was involved in such epic musicals as "Anchors Aweigh," "Meet Me in St. Louis" and "Molly Brown."

Jackson, whose mother was a concert singer of some note in Philadelphia, was also composing and concertizing in the decades of the '40s, '50s and '60s, touring with his own orchestra and trio and writing "The Carl Sandburg Suite for Symphony Orchestra," "A Musical Anthology of Jazz for Symphony Orchestra and Jazz Orchestra," "Themes and Explorations for Symphony Orchestra and Jazz Orchestra" and "The Loon's Necklace," a ballet.

His personal appearances ranged from the Music Center, where he composed and performed "Themes and Explorations" with the Stan Kenton orchestra, to the old Glen Cove nightclub, where Jackson held forth for months in 1968 with his own trio.

Reviewing the latter performances, Times arts critic Charles Champlin said that Jackson's weaving of jazz rhythms with Chopin preludes provided "rippling, harp-like arpeggios" and lauded the resultant "lace curtains of sound."

His jazz characteristics were likened to those of Art Tatum, and Jackson recorded widely on the Columbia and Verve labels.

Most recently he had given occasional concerts and performed in cafes in the San Diego area while continuing his composing and arranging.

Jackson's wife, Anysha, said Jackson's compositions, including "Jazz Waltz," "Lovely Music Hath Charms" and "It's Grand to Be Alive," will be sent to the University of Wyoming, which will make them available to musicologists.

His other survivors include four children from previous marriages.

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