Monday, November 28, 2011

The Loss of a Musical Legend

Uan Rasey (1921-2011) 
Photo by Tony Gieske

Whenever a celebrated film director or actor dies, the authors of film blogs write their appropriate tributes. But it's rarely that way when a cinematographer, editor or other technician passes away. I'd like to remedy that with this post, as I note the recent death of Uan Rasey.

I realize that few of you reading this post have ever heard of Uan Rasey, but you have certainly heard him perform. Rasey played trumpet for hundreds - perhaps thousands - of films, with perhaps his most famous performances in the films An American in Paris (1951) and Chinatown (1974). If he only played on those two films, his reputation would be forever remembered, but add to that his performances on the soundtracks for such movies as Singin' in the Rain (1951) and Gigi (1958), when he was first chair trumpeter for the MGM orchestra as well as West Side Story (1961), My Fair Lady (1964) and Taxi Driver (1976) and you have a remarkable body of work.

Rasey, who taught himself how to play trumpet with the help of a $9 instruction booklet from Montgomery Ward, was also a celebrated teacher of trumpet. Among his most famous students were the jazz trumpeters Arturo Sandoval and Jack Shelton.

As I'm not a musician, I can only say so much in this tribute, so let's have his playing do the talking, so to speak. Here is his solo from Chinatown, as he plays the main theme, composed by the great Jerry Goldsmith.

I've read several descriptions of this performance by Rasey, with terms such as "sexy", "steamy" and "smoky" to describe his playing of this gorgeous theme. Call it what you want, it's certainly one of the most memorable solo trumpets I've ever heard in a film score!

Rasey passed away in late September of this year and as I mentioned earlier in this post, that news was largely ignored by film bloggers. Thankfully, we have the soundtracks of so many great films Uan Rasey performed on to recall his influence as one of the greatest trumpeters ever to work in Hollywood.


  1. He made important contributions -- glad you paid him this much-deserved tribute!

  2. Thanks, Jacqueline. His work was sublime!

  3. You're right. Composers are rarely mentioned. Thanks for your short tribute

  4. You're welcome, Maurice. Thanks for the comment.

  5. 1/4/2014 I had heard about uan racy via late night talk show - the host (name I don't remember) gave a very moving description of mr. racy- in a documentary just shown again on TCM a vocal arranger, Saul Chaplin, also praised Racy --your tribute is obviously well deserved..