MATT DENNIS (1914 - 2002)
Composer, Pianist, Vocalist, Arranger, Musical Director
Matt Dennis came from a vaudeville family and nurtured his musical talents in multiple directions. In 1933, when only 19, he signed with Horace Heidt’s band as pianist/vocalist. He developed his own popular lounge act and performed around the Los Angeles area in the ‘30s and ‘40s.
He gained a reputation arranging for other vocalists and, on the recommendation of Jo Stafford, became composer/arranger for Tommy Dorsey’s band in 1940. Dorsey performed over a dozen of Dennis’ songs, all composed with lyricist Tom Adair. “Will You Still Be Mine?” and “Let’s Get Away from It All” (1940), “The Night We Called It a Day,” “Everything Happens to Me,” and “Violets for Your Furs” (1941) became hits for Dorsey’s vocalist, Frank Sinatra, who would later take “Angel Eyes,” written with Earl Brent in 1946, to the charts in 1953.
After service in WWII and a brief stint with the Glenn Miller Band, Dennis became musical director for vocalist Dick Haymes’ radio show, made nightclub appearances, and recorded under his own name. He was a guest on several TV shows, hosted his own program on local television, and during the summer of 1955 had a show on NBC-TV.
An accomplished jazz pianist, Dennis wrote two tutorials, Introduction to the Blues and You Can Teach Yourself Piano, designed to teach as well as to encourage improvisation.
Interestingly, a 2003 CD release by Mark Winkler, …Sings Bobby Troup, has turned up a 1984 collaboration with Matt Dennis, “Learn to Love,” a never-before-recorded ballad.
-- Sandra Burlingame
Courtesy of JazzStandards.com