Jimmy Rowles

Jimmy Rowles

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May 28, 1996 (Age 77) died

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August 19, 1918 Birthday

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Spokane, Washington, U.S. Birthplace

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Jimmy Rowles was a jazz pianist, composer and vocalist. Recognized for his unique harmonic sense, he was a favorite accompanist of singers such as Billie Holiday, Carmen McRae, Sarah Vaughan, Peggy Lee and Ella Fitzgerald. Rowles started his career in Los Angeles in the 1940s playing in the bands of Woody Herman, Les Brown and Tommy Dorsey. In the 1950s he began working extensively as a studio musician, much of it with vocalists, but also with other jazz artists and even some pop bands. 1973 he moved to New York where he worked with Stan Getz. The two recorded the Grammy nominated album "The Peacocks" with Rowles composing the title track, now a well-known standard. He returned to Los Angeles in 1983 where he continued to perform and record. Rowles released over 40 albums as leader during his lifetime, is credited on over 500 jazz recordings, and contributed to various TV and movie soundtracks. Jimmy Rowles died of cardiac arrest in 1996 at the age of 77.


Jimmy Rowles was a 5 time Grammy nominee, including 2 nominations for Best Jazz Album in 1979, one for "The Peacocks" and one for "Heavy Love." Jimmy Rowles worked as a session musician for the pop-rock band The Monkees in 1969. Both of Jimmy Rowles children are musicians, his daughter, Stacy, was a jazz trumpeter, fluegelhorn player and vocalist, and his son, Gary, plays guitar.

Early Life

Born in Spokane, Washington in 1918 as James George Hunter, Jimmy chose to take the last name of his stepfather, Rowles for his professional life. Although he had piano lessons during his youth, he didn't particularly enjoy them. It wasn't until he attended Gonzaga University and a roommate introduced him to the music of Ben Webster and Benny Carter that Rowles became interested in jazz. He began performing with local groups around Washington state before moving to Los Angeles in 1940. Soon after, he began playing with musicians such as Slim Gaillard, Lester Young, Benny Goodman, and Woody Herman.