Bob Alcivar

Biography by Ed Hogan

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Arranger Bob Alcivar studied piano and composition with Stephen Balough at The Cornish College in Seattle, WA. With jazz promoter and Seattle jazz DJ Norm Bobrow, he formed a vocal group called the Signatures,…
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Artist Biography by Ed Hogan

Arranger Bob Alcivar studied piano and composition with Stephen Balough at The Cornish College in Seattle, WA. With jazz promoter and Seattle jazz DJ Norm Bobrow, he formed a vocal group called the Signatures, performing in Bobrow's Sunday Jazz Concerts and with his Little Big Band. Later, Alcivar played piano on a Northwest tour that included Stan Getz, Wardell Gray, and Zoot Sims. Bandleader Stan Kenton picked the Signatures for one of his tours. Sid Garris of Anthon Management (The Four Freshmen) heard the Signatures during an after-hours set at Jazz City in Hollywood and promptly signed them with Gene Norman's subsidiary label, Whippett Records. Garris produced their first album, The Signatures, Their Voices & Instruments. While performing in New York, the group came to the attention of George Avakian, head of the East Coast division of Warner Bros. Their first Warner Bros. album, The Signatures Sign In, was released. A second Signatures LP, Prepare to Flip, was produced by composer/arranger Bob Prince. The group performed at the first Playboy Jazz Festival in Chicago and received rave reviews. They earned a number of Critic's Choice Awards from Downbeat Magazine and were spotlighted in Metronome. Dayton, OH, DJ Gary Owens (later of NBC's '60s hit comedy Laugh In) also wrote an article in Radio/TV Magazine. The group's admirers included Lord Buckley, Blossom Dearie, Sylvia Syms, Count Basie, the Hi-Los, and Sonny Rollins. They shared billing with Anita O'Day, Dizzy Gillespie, Sammy Davis Jr., Peggy Lee, Bob Newhart, and Cal Tjader. When record companies shifted their priorities to rock music and jazz rooms closed all over the country, the Signatures disbanded in Las Vegas. Alcivar shifted his arranging skills from vocal to orchestral and worked on various Vegas acts and shows. At the same time, he wrote arrangements for local rehearsal bands and eventually organized his own ten-piece jazz ensemble, inspired by his mentor, Hollywood arranger Marty Paich. Sid Garris asked Alcivar to come to New York to do arrangements for Columbia Records act the New Christy Minstrels. He ended up working with the group on three LPs. On one album, Alcivar was paired with Hugh Montenegro, who, along with Russ Garcia, shared arranging and orchestral tips with the up-and-coming arranger. After moving to Los Angeles, Alcivar was hired by producer Bones Howe to work with the Association and later the 5th Dimension. On arrangements for both groups, Alcivar collaborated with Bill Holman who added orchestral laying to Alcivar's vocal and rhythm section arrangements. The two received Grammy nominations for their arrangements for the 5th Dimension LP Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In (gold, number two pop for two weeks in summer 1969). Five gold albums and five gold singles have a prominent place in the Alcivar home recording studio. Later, a platinum single was awarded for "Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In." Alcivar's arranging and/or producing duties include Bud Shank and the Bob Alcivar Singers (Pacific Jazz), Tim Weisberg, the Sandpipers, Seals & Crofts (the duo's first album), the group Carnival, Jack Jones, Sergio Mendes, David Allen, Tom Waits, the Beach Boys, Ronnie Montrose, the Hudson Brothers, and Michael Sembello. He began scoring movie soundtracks, including: Butterflies Are Free, The Crazy World of Julius Vrooder, Olly Olly Oxen Free, Francis Ford Coppola's One From the Heart, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, and the Hanna-Barbera animated feature Forever Like a Rose with songs by Seals & Crofts. Producer/director Ron Dunn signed Alcivar as the music director of the 1985 Ford Introduction Show. During the show's six-month run, Alcivar wrote songs, orchestral arrangements, and conducted a 56-piece orchestra. Performed on stage in Las Vegas, the show featured actor Hal Linden (ABC's Barney Miller) and 45 dancers. Later, Alan Paul and Tim Hauser of the Manhattan Transfer, fans of Alcivar's work with the Signatures, contracted him to write the vocal and orchestral arrangements for their appearance on Liberty Weekend, a David Wolper/ABC special honoring the newly refurbished Statue of Liberty. Ron Dunn's Creative Center Productions signed Alcivar as the L.A. firm's music director, using the veteran arranger's skills on the 1987 Golden Eagle Awards Show for PBS. Ten years later, he scored the 1997 Golden Eagle Awards Show for the company. During the '80s, Alcivar composed background scores for three seasons of Universal/NBC's crime series Quincy starring Jack Klugman. Around the same time, he wrote his first TV movie score, which was for That Secret Sunday on CBS; it starred James Farentino and Parker Stevenson. He also scored the award-winning documentary and educational video Reforestationthat featured William Shatner. Other network movies Alcivar scored for NBC were Roxanne: The Prize Pulitzer, Deadly Medicine, Sparks: The Price of Passion, Blind Witness, Naked Lie, and Web of Deception. In 1988, Alcivar's first book was published, The Vocal Arranger (A Comprehensive Guide for Instructors, Singers, Musicians and the Arranger-Composer). The text was inspired by numerous requests from universities throughout the country who have vocal-jazz programs but few text books. Diane Varge, jazz promoter and booker for the Biltmore Hotel introduced Alcivar to the Cunninghams, a jazz-singing husband and wife team who were preparing a second album for the Albert Marx Discovery label. An ideal musical rapport was quickly realized, so Alcivar, with Alicia and Don Cunningham, began plans to incorporate string arrangements to what became the Grammy-nominated Strings 'n' Swing ('I Remember Bird') with thoughtful liner notes by Leonard Feather. One From the Heart: Sax at the Movies was a musical assignment from longtime friend Bones Howe. A jazz-rooted concept, the album of movie themes was released by Discovery Records and featured Ernie Watts, Gary Foster, Rickey Woodard, and Bill Cunliffe. Upon release, the album rose quickly to number nine on the Billboard jazz charts. Alcivar worked with actress/speaker Lisa Janti; as a tem, they create spoken word interpretations with new age music underscores composed by the arranger. In 1996, Alcivar was contacted by producers Kuni Murai and Harvey Mason to do all vocal charts to an instrumental jazz album that featured pianist Randy Kerber and Dave Grusin. The arranger taped the vocal skills of former Take Six member Mervyn Warren. The resulting album was Beneath the August Moon. In 1998, Bruce Johnston of the Beach Boys brought Alcivar to London to arrange, orchestrate, and conduct the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra for the CD Symphonic Sounds: Music of the Beach Boys. Besides working in the studio and on the stage, Alcivar can be found teaching at universities, sometimes with Tom Kubia.