He was a pianist, organist, composer, conductor and arranger born Douglas Clare Fischer in Durand, Michigan, who began performing on tuba and violin in grade school and when he was seven years old he started playing the piano and taking lessons.
His family moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan, and it was after this, when he was about 12, he began to compose and arrange instrumental works for bands. After entering high school he progressed to playing the saxophone, cello and clarinet and his instructor gave him free tuition in harmony, orchestra and music theory. This was in return for him playing any instrument in the concert band when there was nobody else available to fill that position and copying and doing orchestrations.
When he was 15 he formed his own band and in 1947 he entered Michigan State University to study theory and composition, and largely taught himself the piano due to lack of funds. In 1951 he took a year of graduate composition work but this was halted when he was signed up for military service in 1952. While in the army he performed in the band on the alto saxophone and progressed to becoming an arranger for the US Military Academy Band. After he returned to civilian life he went back to Michigan State University to continue his studies and graduated in 1955 with a Master of Music.
He moved to Detroit and while there he began working as an arranger and pianist for The Hi-Los, who he performed and recorded with for the next five years.
Moving to Hollywood in 1958 he worked with many bands in East L.A. and began performing with and leading the group Charanga. He also developed an interest in Brazilian music and bossa nova and composed his “Elizete” for the Elizete Cardoso. The 1960s appeared and his piano skills were called upon for music for commercials on film and television. He did this for eight years and at the same time started making his own recordings from 1962, which included his compositions “Morning” and “Pensativa”.
Constantly in demand as an arranger and also as a keyboardist and then after pioneering the electronic keyboards he joined Cal Tjader’s band. This led him to forming his own Latin-American group called Salsa Picante and after adding the vocal group 2+2 they saw success in 1981 with the Grammy Award winning album 2+2. Later they saw further success with three Grammy nominations and the award for “Best Jazz Album by a Vocal Duo or Group”.
The 1970s came around and he found himself doing arrangements for many of the popular artists of the day, partly due to the fact that his son, Andre, was the drummer for Rufus with Chaka Khan. It became an extremely successful era for him and resulted in him receiving many gold and platinum records, countless awards and several Grammy Award nominations.
Going down a new route in 1983, he was commissioned by clarinettist Richard Stoltzman to write a symphonic work on themes of Billy Strayhorn and Duke Ellington. The resultant “The Duke, Swee’pea and Me” has since been performed the world over. He would later record his own classical CD in 2001.
The hundreds of artists he worked with during the course of his career come from many different genres of music and all gained from his keyboard, compositional and arranging abilities. A few of them include Paula Abdul, Alex Acuna, Tori Amos, Atlantic Starr, Brandy, Debarge, Chanticleer, Natalie Cole. Celine Dion, Dizzy Gillespie, Lesley Gore, Michael Jackson, Howard Jones, Peggy Lee, The Manhattan Transfer, Branford Marsalis, John Pizzarelli, Brenda Russell, George Shearing, Shotgun , A Taste of Honey, Tony! Toni! Tone! And Usher.
The recordings he worked on are countless but a select few include his own After the Rain, Extension, First Time Out, Free Fall, Just Me, Lembrancas, Manteca and Rockin’ In Rhythm, So Danco Samba, Surging Ahead and Sympiosis as well as Give Me the Night by George Benson, Full Circle by Boyz II Men, Snowflakes by Toni Braxton, Headed For the Future by Neil Diamond , Joao (I Really Samba) by Joao Gilberto, Home for Christmas by Amy Grant, And All That Jazz by The Hi-Los, Dollar$ by Quincy Jones, Flowers in the Dirt by Paul McCartney , Big Screen, Little Screen by Henry Mancini, Destiny by The Jacksons, Crazy for You by Earl Klugh , Everybody Loves Somebody: The Reprise Years 1962-1966 by Dean Martin, Great Arrival/Beat of Brazil by Sergio Mendes, Addictions, Vol. 2 by Robert Palmer, Graffiti Bridge by Prince, Symphonic Boleros by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra , Oneness: Silver Dreams Golden Realities by Carlos Santana, Sweetest Days by Vanessa Williams and the soundtracks to Batman, Do The Right Thing, Girl 6, Havana and Prince of Egypt.
In the field of musical education he held clinics and masterclasses as well as gave solo concerts at educational music establishments all over the United States and throughout Europe.
He arranged music for Prince and many other artists and musicians, ran his company Clare Fischer Productions and also led his own bands such as Clare Fischer’s Jazz Corps and the Clare Fischer Big Band.
A few days after having had minor surgery he suffered a cardiac arrest in Los Angeles on 8th January 2012. He was put in an ICU ward on life support after his wife had given CPR but passed away nearly three weeks later.
Here he is playing solo piano…