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Seattle's Royal Room hosts tribute to pianist Bob Hammer

Bob Hammer performing at The Royal Room on May 9, 2018
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Bob Hammer performing at The Royal Room on May 9, 2018

Composer, arranger, and pianist Howard Robert Hammer was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, and spent his teen years hanging out with the Montgomery Brothers jazz trio — Monk the bassist, Buddy the pianist and Wes the guitarist. Hammer also worked with trombonist Slide Hampton, whose family had a popular band in Indianapolis.

After studying at Michigan State University and the Manhattan School of Music, Hammer worked as an arranger for bassist Charles Mingus on several recordings. The notoriously hard to please Mingus was so impressed with Hammer's work that he called Hammer "my Beethoven."

Hammer's career included tours and recording dates with Johnny Hartman, Gene Krupa, Clark Terry, Elvin Jones and others. He also served as an arranger for television show bands, like "The Merv Griffin Show." Hammer wrote and arranged for several Las Vegas productions from 1967 through 1982, before moving to Los Angeles in 1983.

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After arriving in Seattle in 1995, Hammer was best known for his innovative work with the Full Circle Jazz Ensemble. The band released the album "The Wheels Are Turning" in 2017, to critical acclaim.

Hammer's arrangements for The Full Circle Jazz Ensemble reflected his love for the many styles of jazz.

Hammer died on December 26, 2021 at age 92. Members of both the Full Circle Jazz Ensemble and the Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra will pay tribute to the master arranger and pianist at the Royal Room on April 12.

More information and tickets for "A Celebration of Bob Hammer's Life Concert" available here.

Originally from Detroit, Robin Lloyd has been presenting jazz, blues and Latin jazz on public radio for nearly 40 years. She's a member of the Jazz Education Network and the Jazz Journalists Association.
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  • Composer-arranger-pianist Bob Hammer had a long and successful career in New York and Los Angeles before coming to the Pacific Northwest. He passed on December 26 at the age of 92 and we'll hear some of his arrangements played by The Full Circle Jazz Ensemble on today's episode.