Teo Macero

Teo Macero

Teo Macero
Macero at the first Miles Davis Conference held at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, on May 11, 1996
(photo: Catherine Rankovic)
Background information
Birth name Attilio Joseph Macero
Also known as Teo Macero
Born (1925-10-30)October 30, 1925
Origin Glens Falls, New York, U.S.
Died February 19, 2008(2008-02-19) (aged 82)
New York, U.S.
Genres Jazz, classical, third stream, orchestral jazz
Occupation(s) Composer, saxophonist, producer
Instruments Saxophone
Years active 1953–2008
Labels Columbia
Associated acts Miles Davis, Charles Mingus, Thelonious Monk, Dave Brubeck

Teo Macero (October 30, 1925 – February 19, 2008), born Attilio Joseph Macero, was an American jazz saxophonist, composer, and record producer. He was a producer at Columbia Records for twenty years, and most notably produced Kind of Blue, the Miles Davis album which at No. 12 is the highest-ranked jazz album on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, and according to the RIAA, is the best-selling jazz album of all time. Macero also produced Davis' Bitches Brew, and Dave Brubeck's Time Out, which, along with Kind of Blue, are three of the best-selling and groundbreaking jazz albums of all time.[1]


  • Biography 1
    • Early work 1.1
    • Composer and arranger 1.2
    • Columbia Records producer 1.3
    • Other work 1.4
    • Films 1.5
  • Death 2
  • Awards 3
  • Discography 4
    • As leader 4.1
    • As sideman 4.2
  • Notes 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


Early work

Teo Macero was born and raised in Glens Falls, New York. After serving in the United States Navy, he moved to New York City in 1948 to attend the Juilliard School of Music. He studied composition, and graduated from Juilliard in 1953 with Bachelor's and Master's degrees.

In 1953, Macero co-founded Charles Mingus' Jazz Composers Workshop, and became a major contributor to the New York City avant-garde jazz scene. As a composer, Macero wrote in an atonal style, as well as in third stream, a synthesis of jazz and classical music. He performed live, and recorded several albums with Mingus and the other Workshop members over the next three years, including Jazzical Moods (in 1954) and Jazz Composers Workshop (in 1955).

During this time, Macero also recorded Explorations (DLP-6). While he had contributed compositions to other albums, this was the first full album of his own compositions, and Macero's first album as a leader. Macero plays tenor and alto saxophones on the album, and is joined by Orlando DiGirolamo on accordion, both Mingus and Lou Labella on basses, and Ed Shaughnessy on drums. Explorations was originally released in 1954 on Mingus' Debut Records, and was reissued on CD in 2006 on Fresh Sounds Records, with additional tracks.

The 1958 short experimental film Bridges-Go-Round by filmmaker Shirley Clarke featured two alternative soundtracks, one by Louis and Bebe Barron and one by Macero.

Composer and arranger

Macero's first projects for Columbia included one side of What's New?, an album of original music in the emerging Third Stream genre that was shared with Bob Prince as well as arrangements for the first Johnny Mathis album.

Macero continued to compose and arrange for a variety of artists during his time as a producer at Columbia, contributing tracks to (and still producing) several albums including Monk's Monk's Blues, and Something New, Something Blue, a collection of blues compositions and arrangements by Macero, Teddy Charles, Manny Albam, and Bill Russo. He contributed a track to (and produced) John Lewis and Gunther Schuller's Orchestra U.S.A. album, Sonorities, an album of third stream compositions, and he arranged music for easy listening pioneer, André Kostelanetz.

He composed, conducted, and produced numerous television and film soundtracks and scores. He scored the 1970 Muhammad Ali documentary, a.k.a. Cassius Clay, and produced soundtrack music for True Romance, Finding Forrester, and Martin Scorsese's The Blues.

Macero also composed for, conducted, and performed with Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic, the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the Salt Lake Symphony, the Kansas City Symphony, and the Juilliard School; and was commissioned by, and composed ballets for, the Joffrey Ballet Company, the Anna Sokolow Ballet Company, the London Ballet Company, the Juilliard Ballet Company, and the American Ballet Theatre.

Columbia Records producer

Columbia Logo.
Columbia Records Logo.

Macero found greater fame as a producer for Columbia Records. He joined in 1957, and produced hundreds of records while at the label, working with dozens of artists including Mingus, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Thelonious Monk, Johnny Mathis, Count Basie, Dave Brubeck, Tony Bennett, Charlie Byrd, and Stan Getz. He was also responsible for signing Mingus, Monk, and Byrd to Columbia. Additionally, Macero produced over 100 albums of classical orchestral music for Columbia, including less conventional, contemporary pieces such as And God Created Great Whales by Alan Hovhaness, which required him to overlay recordings of humpbacked whale songs on to the orchestral track.

Macero produced the seminal Dave Brubeck Quartet album Time Out, and Thelonious Monk's first Columbia recording, Monk's Dream, as well as his Underground. He also produced Mingus' first Columbia album, Mingus Ah Um. Macero is also acknowledged on the 1973 Mingus album Let My Children Hear Music, for "his untiring efforts in producing the best album I have ever made." Beyond jazz, he produced a number of Broadway original cast recordings including A Chorus Line and Bye Bye Birdie. And he produced the soundtrack to The Graduate, by Simon and Garfunkel. In another deviation from his standard focus on jazz, Macero produced Irish folk albums with the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem in the late 1960s.

While Macero produced many artists' albums, he had an especially long and prolific relationship with Sketches of Spain, and Someday My Prince Will Come. Macero's role as producer on Kind of Blue has sometimes been disputed, as some of the early Kind of Blue sessions were overseen by Irving Townsend. But numerous sources, including the original liner notes, support Macero's involvement in the sessions, and preparation of the final album, and credit him as producer.[2][3][4] (However, despite the citations mentioned in the previous sentence, careful inspection of the front and back covers, including the liner notes and labels of the original 1959 Columbia Records LP release (CL 1355), shows no mention of Macero's name. In fact, there is no producer listed.[5] Macero is credited as the "digital remix producer" in the accompanying booklet of the 1987 Columbia Jazz Masterpieces CD reissue.[6])

Macero's role of producer was further expanded on Davis' later forays into electric fusion, such as

  • Teorecords official site (no longer active) at the Wayback Machine (archived March 18, 2006).
  • Teo Macero Collection, 1949-1992 Music Division, New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.
  • Teo Macero Collection, ca. late 1940s-1990s Institute of Jazz Studies, Dana Library, Rutgers University, Newark, NJ.
  • Commentable Teo Macero discography.
  • Teo Macero at the Internet Movie Database
  • Official site for the documentary film, Play That, Teo.
  • Audio feature about In a Silent Way from National Public Radio.
  • Short clip from "Teo" a documentary in production on YouTube.
  • Obituary by John Fordham and an appreciation by Daragh McCarthy from the Guardian newspaper. retrieved 28 Feb 2008.
  • Artists House Music Exclusive interview conducted in 2004.
  • Miles Beyond. The book Miles Beyond was the first to fully appreciate Macero's central role in Davis' electric music. The corresponding site also gives extensive details.
  • Daly, Ann: "A Century of Jazz and Modern Dance", 2000.
  • Several references to Anna Sokolow and Macero's work together.
  • Le Grand Spectacle at the American Ballet Theater.
  • Review of The Best of Teo Macero, by Ted White.
  • Interview with Macero by Iara Lee.
  • AllMusic biography of Teo Macero, by Scott Yanow.
  • RIAA album certification database.
  • Guggenheim Foundation.
  • Ratliff, Ben: "Teo Macero, 82, Record Producer, Dies", New York Times, February 22, 2008.

External links

  • Tingen, Paul: Miles Beyond: The Electric Explorations of Miles Davis, 1967-1991, Billboard Books, 2001.
  • Marmorstein, Gary: The Label: The Story of Columbia Records, Thunder's Mouth Press, 2007.
  • Feather, L and Gitler, I (eds): The Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz, Oxford University Press, 2007.
  • Weidenbaum, Marc: "Higher Sources", Pulse!, August 2001.


  1. ^ Burgess, Richard James (2014). The History of Music Production.  
  2. ^ Marmorstein, Gary: The Label: The Story of Columbia Records, Thunder's Mouth Press, 2007.
  3. ^ Nisenson, Eric: The Making of Kind of Blue, St. Martin's Griffin, 2001.
  4. ^ Carr, Ian: Miles Davis: The Definitive Biography, HarperCollins, 1998.
  5. ^ Back cover of Columbia Records LP CL 1355, 1959.
  6. ^ Booklet for Columbia Records CD CK 40579, 1987.
  7. ^ Tingen, Paul: [2], Miles Beyond, Billboard Books, New York, 2001.
  8. ^ Southall, Nick: "Miles Davis - In A Silent Way", Stylus, September 2003.
  9. ^ Ballon, John: "Miles Davis: The Complete In A Silent Way Sessions", All About Jazz, October 2003.
  10. ^ Tingen, Paul: "The Making Of The Complete Bitches Brew Sessions."
  11. ^ a b Interview with Macero by Bobby Jackson.
  12. ^ Engelbrecht, Michael: "Interview with Brian Eno", Jazzthetik, November 1996.
  13. ^ Play That, Teo film information at official website.
  14. ^ Daragh McCarthy,The Guardian, 28 February 2007
  15. ^ http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/22/arts/music/22macero.html


With Charles Mingus

As sideman

  • Explorations (Debut DLP 6, 1953)
  • What's New? New Jazz from Teo Macero and Bob Prince (Columbia CL 842, 1956)
  • Teo - with the Prestige Jazz Quartet (Prestige, 1957)
  • Something New, Something Blue (Columbia CL 1388, 1959)
  • Time Plus Seven (Finnadar, 1979), Orchestra USA, conducted by Teo Macero; miscellaneous ensembles, conducted by Harold Farberman and Howard Shanet
  • Impressions of Charles Mingus (Palo Alto, 1983)
  • Acoustical Suspension (Doctor Jazz, 1984)
  • Fusion (Europa Records, 1985), The London Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Macero
  • Teo Macero's Jamboree (Musical Heritage Society, 1987), The London Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Macero
  • Whispering Gods: The String Music of Teo Macero (Teorecords, 2003)
  • NYU Jazz Orchestra Plays the Music of Teo Macero (Teo Productions Inc., 2005), featuring Alex Sipiagin

As leader



On the evening of February 19, 2008, Macero died in his sleep, having long suffered from pneumonia. He was 82, and is survived by his wife, Jeanne, and sister Lydia Edwards.[15]


Another documentary Teo was filmed by producer/director Daragh McCarthy and features Teo Macero's last recording session and extensive interviews.[14]

A Teo Macero documentary film, Play That, Teo, was produced by Olana DiGirolamo, daughter of Macero's friend and collaborator, Orlando DiGirolamo. Shot by cinematographer Fortunato Procopio, the film features a behind-the-scenes look at the person behind the persona, and includes photos, archival footage, and recordings from Macero's personal collection.[13]


In the late 80s Macero tried his hand at country music, producing an album by a New York-based band called Sixgun, whose members included Joe Spena, Phil Gelfer, Kenny Davis (Leichtling), Ed Jennings, and Pete DeSalvo. He made this connection through his friend Phil Levitan, manager of the group, and father of well-known Nashville producer and agent, Ken Levitan.

In the 1970s and 1980s, Macero released a handful of his own albums, including Time Plus Seven, Impressions of Charles Mingus, and Acoustical Suspension, before founding his own label, Teorecords, in 1999. Subsequently, he released over a dozen albums of original compositions, and continued to produce reissues of Miles Davis and other artists for various record companies. However, Macero was outspoken in his opposition to the practice of adding back alternate takes that didn't appear on the original albums, or otherwise altering the original music, on the grounds that it corrupts the intentions of the musicians and the producer at the time the recording was made. "They put all the mistakes back in," said Macero. "Don't destroy the original record."[11]

After his tenure at Columbia, Macero continued as a player and producer on other projects, working with Brubeck, Tony Bennett, Herbie Hancock, Michel Legrand, Wallace Roney, Shirley MacLaine, Vernon Reid, Robert Palmer, and DJ Logic.

Other work

In 1975, Macero left Columbia and formed his own production company. However, he continued to work with Davis until 1983, and continued to produce records for Columbia throughout his career.

Macero's innovative techniques were inspired partially by his association with avant-garde composer Edgard Varèse, and they continue to impact the way musicians, producers, and remixers work in the studio today. Brian Eno, a producer who has worked extensively with U2 and Talking Heads, among others, talked about Macero's influence on him in a 1996 interview with jazzthetik magazine. Eno describes being "fascinated" by Macero's editing techniques and the "spatial" quality he added to the music. "He did something that was extremely modern."[12]

On Davis' 1970 release, Bitches Brew, Macero continued to expand his innovative practices, and "Bitches Brew not only became a controversial classic of musical innovation, it also became renowned for its pioneering use of studio technology."[10] Some of the controversy at the time also stemmed from the use of the word bitches in the title. Macero recalls that when Davis told him that he wanted to call it Bitches Brew, "I thought he was kidding."[11] The album became the best-selling jazz album of its time, selling 500,000 copies by 1976, when most successful jazz albums sold less than 30,000 copies.

It took a force like Teo to splice together a cohesive album out of so many inspired pieces. Not only did Teo have the balls to stand up to Miles on creative decisions, he had the right. And Miles knew it. And while his ego rebelled against any producer messing with his music, Miles knew that incredibly great records were borne out of the conflict and compromise of his relationship with Teo.[9]

Some listeners and critics have complained that Macero overproduced Davis' recordings, and cut too much. But after hearing the unedited tapes from the In A Silent Way sessions, jazz critic John Ballon wrote that the original editing and production "attests to the producing genius of Teo Macero." Ballon continues:

Behind the scenes, Miles and Teo took the tapes of the In A Silent Way sessions and transformed some beautiful, folk-tinged, melody-driven sets into two exquisite, beguiling and otherworldly pieces of music. Using techniques that pre-dated the proliferation of tape loops, cut-ups, edits and sequencing in rock, pop, hip hop and dance music, Miles and Teo took apart the original recording and reassembled them outside of any traditional or accepted jazz structure or melodic framework. This idea of taking jazz away from its birth, genesis and flowering as a live art and into the studio would soon become standard practice, but in 1969 it was groundbreaking.[8]

Taking his cue from Tingen, Nick Southall described the impact of Macero's work on In a Silent Way in a 2003 Stylus Magazine article: