Shorty Rogers

Milton "Shorty" Rogers (April 14, 1924 November 7, 1994) was one of the principal creators of West Coast jazz. He played trumpet and flugelhorn and was in demand for his skills as an arranger.

Shorty Rogers
©1989 Robert Brecko Walker
Background information
Birth nameMilton Rajonsky
Born(1924-04-14)April 14, 1924
Great Barrington, Massachusetts, U.S.
DiedNovember 7, 1994(1994-11-07) (aged 70)
Van Nuys, California
GenresJazz, cool jazz
Occupation(s)Musician, composer, arranger
InstrumentsTrumpet, flugelhorn
LabelsRCA Victor, Atlantic
Associated actsStan Kenton, Woody Herman, Art Pepper


Rogers worked first as a professional musician with Will Bradley and Red Norvo. From 1947 to 1949, he worked extensively with Woody Herman and in 1950 and 1951 he played with Stan Kenton.[1]

Rogers appeared on the Shelly Manne 10" LP The Three (1954, later reissued as part of The Three & The Two) along with Jimmy Giuffre. Much of the music he recorded with Giuffre showed his experimental side, resulting in an early form of avant-garde jazz. He also made notable recordings with Art Pepper and André Previn, among others.

Rogers had with his Orchestra including Johnny "Guitar" Watson, perform for the famed ninth Cavalcade of Jazz concert held at Wrigley Field in Los Angeles which was produced by Leon Hefflin, Sr. on June 7, 1953. Also featured that day were Roy Brown and his Orchestra, Don Tosti and His Mexican Jazzmen, Earl Bostic, Nat "King" Cole, and Louis Armstrong and his All Stars with Velma Middleton.[2]

From 1953 through 1962, Rogers recorded a series of albums for RCA Victor (later reissued on RCA's Bluebird label), as well as a series of albums for Atlantic Records with his own group, Shorty Rogers and His Giants, including Shorty Courts the Count (1954), The Swinging Mr. Rogers (1955), and Martians Come Back (1955), the album title alluding to the tune "Martians Go Home" which Rogers had composed and performed on The Swinging Mr. Rogers earlier the same year. These albums incorporated some of his more avant-garde music. To some extent they could be classified as "cool" jazz; but they also looked back to the "hot" style of Count Basie, whom Rogers always credited as a major inspiration.[3]

Credited with the composition of the music for UPA's Mr. Magoo cartoon Hotsy Footsy and Looney Tunes' Three Little Bops, Rogers eventually became better known for his skills as a composer and arranger than as a trumpeter.

In the film The Man with the Golden Arm (1955), starring Frank Sinatra, Eleanor Parker, Kim Novak, Arnold Stang and Darren McGavin, and directed by Otto Preminger, the film's jazz soundtrack was played by Shorty Rogers and His Giants with Shelly Manne.

Shorty Rogers and his Giants appear performing "Wig Alley" (a version of "Morpo") and the opening bars of "Manteca" in the club scene of the surreal film Dementia (aka Daughter of Horror, 1955) with Adrienne Barrett as The Gamin who is caught in a nightmarish maelstrom of deeds.

In the 1950s, when Igor Stravinsky began experimenting with dodecaphony, one of the twelve-tone techniques originally devised by Arnold Schoenberg, Stravinsky was impressed with Rogers's playing, which, as Robert Craft reports in his book Conversations with Stravinsky, influenced the composer's 1958 choral work Threni.

In the Peter Gunn television series episode The Frog (1958), Rogers played flugelhorn as Lola Albright sings How High the Moon at Mother's. Rogers conducted the orchestra and chorus for Ray Peterson's hit "The Wonder of You" (1959). He composed the score to the film Tarzan, the Ape Man (1959) starring Denny Miller, and his other film scores included Young Dillinger (1965), The Tiger Makes Out (1967), Gidget Grows Up (1969), Fools (1970), The Teacher (1974), Dr. Minx (1975), and The Specialist (1975), which stars Adam West.

After the early 1960s, Rogers ceased performing on trumpet, and left the jazz scene for many years. Among other composing and arranging activities, he arranged a series of records for the Monkees (including "Daydream Believer") in the late 1960s, and in the 1970s wrote the jazzy background score to The Partridge Family during the television show's first season. He also contributed episode scores for the fourth season of Starsky & Hutch, and scored the reunion television movie The Return of Mod Squad (1979). In 1981, he arranged and conducted the soundtrack of the film Zoot Suit.

In 1982, he returned to performing on the trumpet in jazz ensembles, playing first with Britain's National Youth Jazz Orchestra and soon with Bud Shank and others. In the early 1990s, he was part of a Lighthouse All Stars group along with Shank, Bill Perkins, Bob Cooper, Conte Candoli, Claude Williamson, Monty Budwig, and John Guerin.

Rogers died of melanoma in Van Nuys, California, at the age of 70.[1]


As leader/co-leader

As sideman

With Elmer Bernstein

With Teddy Charles

With Jimmy Giuffre

With Stan Kenton

With Perez Prado

With Pete Rugolo

As arranger

With Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass

With Ernie Andrews

  • Soul Proprietor (Dot, 1968)

With Chet Baker

With Elmer Bernstein

With Peter Brady

  • An Exciting New Voice On the Move (Capitol, 1965)

With Les Brown and His Band of Renown

  • The Young Beat (Capitol, 1963)

With Bobby Bryant

  • The Jazz Excursion Into "Hair" (Pacific Jazz, 1969)

With Dennis Budimir

  • The Creeper (Mainstream, 1965)

With Bobby Darin

With Frances Faye

  • You Gotta Go! Go! Go! (Regina, 1964)

With Bobbie Gentry and side to side with producer Kelly Gordon

With Terry Gibbs

with Jerry Goldsmith

With Lena Horne

With Helen Humes

  • Midsummer Night's Songs (RCA, 1974) with Red Norvo and His Orchestra

With Dean Jones

  • Introducing Dean Jones (Valiant, 1963)

with Frankie Laine

  • You Gave Me a Mountain (ABC, 1969)

With Peggy Lee

With Harvey Mandel

  • Righteous (Philips, 1969)
  • Baby Batter (Janus, 1971)

With Shelly Manne

With Carmen McRae

With The Monkees

With Michael Nesmith

With Jack Nitzsche

With Buddy Rich

With Bud Shank

With Mel Tormé

See also


  1. "Shorty Rogers, 70, Jazz Trumpeter". The New York Times. 9 November 1994.
  2. “More Big Names in Cavalcade” Article Los Angeles Sentinel May 21, 1953.
  3. Yanow, Scott. "Shorty Rogers: Biography". Allmusic. Retrieved 14 September 2010.
  4. Reviews: Jazz-Fusion - Recommended. Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. 12 January 1985. pp. 101–. ISSN 0006-2510.
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