Kenneth Ascher

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Kenny Ascher
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Kenny Ascher
Background information
Birth nameKenneth Lee Ascher
Born (1944-10-26) October 26, 1944 (age 74)
Washington, D.C.
Genres Big band, jazz, rock, film
Occupation(s)Jazz pianist, composer, arranger, studio musician
Instruments piano

Kenneth Lee Ascher (born October 26, 1944 in Washington, D.C.) is an American jazz pianist, composer, and arranger who is active in jazz, rock, classical, and musical theater genres in live venues, recording studios, and cinema production. [1] With Paul Williams, he wrote the song "Rainbow Connection" for The Muppet Movie . Both Williams and Ascher received Oscar nominations for the 1979 Academy Awards for Best Original Song ("Rainbow Connection") and Best Original Score ( The Muppet Movie Soundtrack). The song was also nominated for the Golden Globes for "Best Original Song" that same year.

Washington, D.C. Capital of the United States

Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington or D.C., is the capital of the United States. Founded after the American Revolution as the seat of government of the newly independent country, Washington was named after George Washington, the first President of the United States and a Founding Father. As the seat of the United States federal government and several international organizations, Washington is an important world political capital. The city is also one of the most visited cities in the world, with more than 20 million tourists annually.

Paul Williams (songwriter) American composer, singer, songwriter and actor

Paul Hamilton Williams Jr. is an American composer, singer, songwriter and actor. He is known for writing and co-writing popular songs performed by a number of acts in the 1970s, including Three Dog Night's "An Old Fashioned Love Song" and "Out in the Country," Helen Reddy's "You and Me Against the World," David Bowie's "Fill Your Heart" and the Carpenters' "We've Only Just Begun" and "Rainy Days and Mondays." Williams is also known for his musical contributions to films, including the Academy Award-nominated song "Rainbow Connection" from The Muppet Movie, and penning the lyrics to the #1 chart-topping song "Evergreen," the love theme from the Barbra Streisand vehicle A Star Is Born, for which he won a Grammy for Song of the Year and an Academy Award for Best Original Song. He wrote the lyrics to the opening theme for the television show The Love Boat, with music previously composed by Charles Fox, which was originally sung by Jack Jones and, later, by Dionne Warwick.

Rainbow Connection song originally appearing in the Muppet Movie

"Rainbow Connection" is a song from the 1979 film The Muppet Movie, with music and lyrics written by Paul Williams and Kenneth Ascher. The song was performed by Kermit the Frog in the film. "Rainbow Connection" reached No. 25 on the Billboard Hot 100 in November 1979, with the song remaining in the Top 40 for seven weeks total. Williams and Ascher received an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song at the 52nd Academy Awards.


His work

Ascher's work through the years has included keyboard parts and string arrangements on John Lennon's albums Mind Games , Walls and Bridges and Rock 'n' Roll and Yoko Ono's A Story , music for several songs from Barbra Streisand's remake of A Star Is Born (where he also served as music coordinator), and arrangements for portions of Jim Steinman and Meat Loaf's masterpiece Bat Out of Hell (produced by Todd Rundgren). Ascher's own rendition of The Rainbow Connection was featured in the closing credits of The Break-Up (starring Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston). Ascher is the pianist with the Birdland Big Band, which performs Fridays from 5:15 to 7 at Birdland in New York City. The Birdland Big Band performs The Rainbow Connection, arranged by Lew Anderson.

John Lennon English singer and songwriter, founding member of The Beatles

John Winston Ono Lennon was an English singer, songwriter and peace activist who co-founded the Beatles, the most commercially successful band in the history of popular music. He and fellow member Paul McCartney formed a much-celebrated songwriting partnership. Along with George Harrison and Ringo Starr, the group achieved worldwide fame during the 1960s. In 1969, Lennon started the Plastic Ono Band with his second wife, Yoko Ono, and he continued to pursue a solo career following the Beatles' break-up in April 1970.

<i>Mind Games</i> (John Lennon album) 1973 studio album by John Lennon

Mind Games is the fourth studio album by John Lennon. It was recorded at Record Plant Studios in New York in summer 1973. The album was released in the US on 29 October 1973 and in the UK on 16 November 1973. It was Lennon's first self-produced recording without help from Phil Spector. Like his previous album, the politically topical and somewhat abrasive Some Time in New York City, Mind Games received mixed reviews upon release. It reached number 13 in the UK and number 9 in the US, where it was certified gold.

<i>Walls and Bridges</i> 1974 studio album by John Lennon

Walls and Bridges is the fifth studio album by English singer-songwriter John Lennon. It was issued by Apple Records on 26 September 1974 in the United States and on 4 October in the United Kingdom. Written, recorded and released during his 18-month separation from Yoko Ono, the album captured Lennon in the midst of his "Lost Weekend". Walls and Bridges was an American Billboard number-one album and featured two hit singles, "Whatever Gets You thru the Night" and "#9 Dream". The first of these was Lennon's first number-one hit in the United States as a solo artist, and his only chart-topping single in either the US or Britain during his lifetime.

In the latter 1960s, Ascher played piano and arranged for the Woody Herman Orchestra. Herman hired Ascher on the advice of Frank Foster to replace Nat Pierce, who had departed. [2] [3] Ascher has been a member of ASCAP since 1968.

Frank Foster (musician) American jazz musician and bandleader

Frank Benjamin Foster III was an American tenor and soprano saxophonist, flautist, arranger, and composer. Foster collaborated frequently with Count Basie and worked as a bandleader from the early 1950s. In 1998, Howard University awarded Frank Foster with the BENNY GOLSON JAZZ MASTER AWARD.

Nat Pierce American musician

Nat Pierce(néNathaniel Pierce Blish Jr.; 16 July 1925 Somerville, Massachusetts – 10 June 1992 Los Angeles) was an American jazz pianist and prolific composer and arranger, perhaps best known for being pianist and arranger for the Woody Herman band from 1951 to 1955. Pieces by Pierce were predominantly created for use in big bands.

Selected compositions

Columbia University Private Ivy League research university in New York City

Columbia University is a private Ivy League research university in Upper Manhattan, New York City. Established in 1754, Columbia is the oldest institution of higher education in New York and the fifth-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. It is one of nine colonial colleges founded prior to the Declaration of Independence, seven of which belong to the Ivy League. It has been ranked by numerous major education publications as among the top ten universities in the world.

Joe Renzetti is an American Academy Award-winning film composer, and session musician.

You and Me Against the World (song) 1974 song performed by Helen Reddy

"You and Me Against the World" is a song written by Kenny Ascher and Paul Williams, recorded by Helen Reddy for her 1974 album Love Song for Jeffrey.

Selected discography

As leader

<i>Switched-On Rock</i> 1969 studio album by the Moog Machine

Switched-On Rock is an album of instrumental cover songs, popular songs from the mid-to-late-1960s, performed on the Moog modular synthesizer in an exaggerated electronic style. It was one of a spate of albums which capitalized on the success of 1968's Switched-On Bach by Wendy Carlos. Switched-On Rock was produced by Norman Dolph who also wrote the liner notes. Dolph worked in the studio with colleagues Kenny Ascher and Alan Foust; they billed themselves as the Moog Machine for this and one more project. The album reached number 170 on the Billboard Top 200.

Moog synthesizer analog synthesizer created by Robert Moog

Moog synthesizer may refer to any number of analog synthesizers designed by Robert Moog or manufactured by Moog Music, and is commonly used as a generic term for older-generation analog music synthesizers. The Moog company pioneered the commercial manufacture of modular voltage-controlled analog synthesizer systems in the mid 1960s. The technological development that led to the creation of the Moog synthesizer was the invention of the transistor, which enabled researchers like Moog to build electronic music systems that were considerably smaller, cheaper and far more reliable than earlier vacuum tube-based systems.

Columbia Records American record label; currently owned by Sony Music Entertainment

Columbia Records is an American record label owned by Sony Music Entertainment, a subsidiary of Sony Corporation of America, the North American division of Japanese conglomerate Sony. It was founded in 1887, evolving from the American Graphophone Company, the successor to the Volta Graphophone Company. Columbia is the oldest surviving brand name in the recorded sound business, and the second major company to produce records. From 1961 to 1990, Columbia recordings were released outside North America under the name CBS Records to avoid confusion with EMI's Columbia Graphophone Company. Columbia is one of Sony Music's four flagship record labels, alongside former longtime rival RCA Records, as well as Arista Records and Epic Records.

As arranger

Woody Herman American clarinetist

Woodrow Charles Herman was an American jazz clarinetist, saxophonist, singer, and big band leader. Leading various groups called "The Herd", Herman came to prominence in the late 1930s and was active until his death in 1987. His bands often played music that was cutting edge and experimental for its time; they received numerous Grammy nominations and awards.

Monterey Jazz Festival annual music festival in California

The Monterey Jazz Festival is an annual music festival in Monterey, California that was founded on October 3, 1958 by jazz disc jockey Jimmy Lyons.

Verve Records American record label

Verve Records, also known as The Verve Music Group, founded in 1956 by Norman Granz, is home to the world's largest jazz catalogue and includes recordings by artists such as Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, Stan Getz and Billie Holiday, among others. It absorbed the catalogues of Granz's earlier labels, Clef Records, founded in 1946, Norgran Records, founded in 1953, and material previously licensed to Mercury Records.

Woody's Boogaloo, arranged by Ascher
B3 You Know Me, by Ascher and Williams

As sideman or band member, on keyboards

A4 The Sands of Time and Changes (Ascher, piano)
B2 A Song for You (Ascher, piano)
B2 Sweet Misery (Ascher plays clavinet and organ)
A1 A Little Bit of Love, by Ascher
A4 Sunday, by Ascher
B2 She Sings for Free, by Ascher
B5 Loneliness, by Ascher
B6 Sad Song, by Ascher
B4 I Don't Have to Do What I Don't Want to Do (Ascher plays melletron on this track)
B1 You and Me Against the World , arr Don Hannah, written by Ascher and Williams
A1 Watch Closely Now, by Ascher
A5 Hellacious Acres, by Ascher
B1 The Woman in the Moon, by Ascher and Williams
B4 Finale: With One More Look At You / Watch Closely Now, by Ascher and Williams
A2 You and Me Against the World, by Ascher and Williams
A4 Loneliness, by Ascher and Williams
B2 With One More Look at You, by Ascher and Williams
(Ascher produced tracks: A2, A4, B4, B5)
A3 Heaven Can Wait (string arrangement by Ascher)
B1 Two Out of Three Ain't Bad (string arrangement by Ascher)
A2 Smoothin' On Down (Ascher plays clavinet on this track)
B It Happened (Ascher, keyboards on the flipside only)
2-15 Back by the River (Ascher plays keyboard)
1 Morning Much Better, Ascher piano
6 Running Out of Fools – If You Gotta Make a Fool of Somebody, Ascher piano
10 Time, Ascher piano
11 When the Sun Comes Shining Through (The Ladder), Ascher piano
5 Unscheduled Departures
8 M.A.P.S. (Bob Mann, Kenny Ascher, Don Payne, Allen Schwartzberg)
10 When She Loved Me (Ascher, keyboards)
14 Baby Mine , (Ascher, keyboards & string arrangements)
4 One Less Bell to Answer (piano, Ascher; arr Bacharach; strings arr, Ascher)
11 Close to You (Ascher, piano)
12 A House is Not a Home (Ascher, piano)

OCLC   271753259)

Awards & award nominations



Past Grammy Nominations
17th Annual (for recordings released between Oct 16, 1973 and Oct 15, 1974)
March 1, 1975
Paul Williams
Kenneth Ascher
Songwriters Award Song of the Year You and Me Against the World Helen Reddy
20th Annual (for recordings released between Oct 1, 1976 and Sep 30, 1977)
February 23, 1977
Kenny Ascher, Alan Bergman,
Marilyn Bergman, Rupert Holmes,
Leon Russell, Barbra Streisand,
Donna Weiss, Paul Williams,
Kenny Loggins
Composers and Arrangers Best Album of an Original Score
Written for a Motion Picture or a TV Special
A Star is Born Motion Picture
22nd Annual (for recordings released between Oct 1, 1978 and Sep 30, 1979)
February 27, 1980
Paul Williams
Kenneth Ascher
Composers and Arrangers Best Album of an Original Score
Written for a Motion Picture or a TV Special
The Muppet Movie Motion Picture

Critically acclaimed live performances

Jingle writing

Ascher has composed (or co-composed) jingles for:

  1. Applause
  2. Gotcha
  3. Larry
  4. Mr. Calm
  1. The Beer
  2. Combined
  1. Brilliant Idea/ GE Brings Good Things to Life
  2. Cooking
  1. Never Underestimate
  2. Canned Chef
  3. Hockey
  4. Makes Itself
  5. Red Dress
  6. Snowman
  7. Stay Young
  8. Storm Radio Winter
  9. Superhero
  10. Superman
  11. Tennis Anyone?
  12. Wild Ride
  1. Herman Joseph Polo, revised arr by Kenny Ascher (1981)
  2. Herman Joseph Tennis, comp. & arr. by Kenny Ascher (1981)
  3. Sailboat music and arr. by Kenneth Ascher (1980)
  4. Billiards, music and arr. by Kenneth Ascher (1980)

Many of Ascher's jingle compositions were (i) produced by Sunday Productions (Hilary Jay Lipsitz, born 1933, president), (ii) published by Ahoskie Music, Inc. (Hilary Jay Lipsitz, president), and (iii) licensed by ASCAP.

Academic education

Ascher holds three diplomas from Columbia University:

While at Columbia, Ascher studied composition with Otto Luening, Jack Beeson, and Vladimir Ussachevsky and piano with William Albert Beller [8] [9] (1900–1986). Ascher graduated from William F. Dykes High School in Atlanta, as valedictorian, and entered Columbia College, Columbia University on a math scholarship. In 1966, while in college, the Kenny Ascher Quintet performed live in WKCR's Stone Soup at midnight. [10]

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  1. Who's Who in Rock Music, by William York, Charles Scribner's Sons (1982); OCLC   8034627
  2. Woody Herman & Stuart Troup, The Woodchopper's Ball: The Autobiography of Woody Herman, pg. 121, Hal Leonard Corporation (1994)
  3. Gene Lees (1928–2010), Leader of the Band: The Life of Woody Herman pg. 266, Oxford University Press (1995)
  4. "Jazz: Vital Creativity by Stamm Group", by John Steuart Wilson (1913–2002), New York Times , February 25, 1973
  5. "Going Out Guide: You're Not Alone", New York Times , May 14, 1973
  6. "In Performance: Cabaret; Celebrations Without Tinsel", by Stephen Holden, New York Times , December 12, 2000
  7. "Cabaret Guide", New York Times, July 13, 2001
  8. ASCAP Biographical Dictionary, 4th ed., compiled for the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers by Jaques Cattell Press, New York, R.R. Bowker (1980); OCLC   7065938
  9. The Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz, the late Leonard Feather (ed.) & the late Ira Gitler, Oxford University Press (1999), pg. 110; OCLC   38746731
  10. "Radio: Music", New York Times , pg. 77, col. 2, December 16, 1966