Teo Macero, producer, Miles Davis collaborator

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Jocelyn Y. Stewart
Los Angeles Times / February 26, 2008

LOS ANGELES - Teo Macero, a producer of jazz albums in the 1960s and 1970s who helped to define the recorded sound of artists such as Miles Davis, died Feb. 19 at a hospital in Riverhead, N.Y. He was 82.

Mr. Macero - who lived in Quogue, N.Y. - had been ill for some time, said his stepdaughter, Suzie Lightbourn of Morristown, N.J. The cause of death was not given.

The thousands of recordings produced by Mr. Macero include the original cast album of "Chorus Line," Simon and Garfunkel's album "The Graduate," and numerous gold records.

Beginning with his work at Columbia Records in the mid-1950s, Mr. Macero helped make some of the most enduring jazz recordings of the era. He was musical editor for Duke Ellington, pianist Thelonious Monk, and bassist Charles Mingus.

Later, as a producer he exerted an even greater influence on the music and redefined the meaning of studio production.

For many years, he produced Davis, including the albums "Bitches Brew," "In a Silent Way," and "Sketches of Spain." While Davis had the final say, Mr. Macero was given wide latitude, and he used all the space given him to express his creativity.

"I mean, Miles never came to the editing room," Mr. Macero said in an interview posted at the website of Perfect Sound Forever magazine. "In 25 or 30 years, he was there, maybe four or five times. So I had carte blanche to maneuver, do things with his music that I couldn't do with other people's."

Mr. Macero spliced tape, used overdubbing and pitch manipulations, and employed electronic effects. Columbia Records sometimes had to create the equipment Mr. Macero needed in production. The "instant playback" allowed a passage to be played back in defined intervals. In those days, such techniques were not the common fare they are today.

"Even back then, we were always experimenting," Mr. Macero said in a 2007 edition of Remix magazine. "That was half the fun, to see what you could do with some of this stuff. It didn't matter if it was a monaural or a two-track tape machine. If I could help make the music sound different or adventurous, I was right there."

Mr. Macero sometimes had to weave in bits and pieces of music that Davis had recorded on cassettes.

"Miles would say, 'Put this in that new album we're working on,' " Mr. Macero said in the Perfect Sound Forever interview. "I'd say, 'Look, where the hell is it going to go? I don't know.' He says, 'Oh, you know.' "

Their collaboration was legendary. But in later years, when the unedited recordings of some of Davis's works were released, some critics complained that Mr. Macero had been too heavy-handed.

Mr. Macero was born in Glens Fall, N.Y.. His parents owned a restaurant, said his sister, Lydia Edwards. Early in his life, he took up the saxophone and music became his passion.

After serving in the US Navy in the mid-1940s, Mr. Macero earned a bachelor's degree in 1951 and a master's degree in 1953 from Juilliard School of Music. He received a Guggenheim Fellowship twice in the 1950s and played saxophone with Mingus and many others. The list of artists he worked with as producer includes Dave Brubeck, Mahalia Jackson, and Leonard Bernstein.

After more than 20 years at Columbia, Mr. Macero left and continued to work as a producer. He also composed for several ballet companies and was a composer and conductor with several symphony orchestras.

In more recent years, he worked with artists such as trumpeter Wallace Roney, pianist Geri Allen, and singer-songwriter Robert Palmer and composed music for television and film.

In addition to Lightbourn and Edwards, Mr. Macero leaves his wife, Jeanne.

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