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John Guerin: 1939-2004
John Guerin
drums, percussion, keyboards

Born: October 31, 1939 in Hawaii
Died: January 7, 2004 in Los Angeles, California

Crossover drummer, producer, arranger

by Todd S. Jenkins
Copyright © 2004 Todd S. Jenkins

Drummer John Guerin died of pneumonia on January 7, 2004 at the age of 64. Self-taught on drums, percussion and keyboards, Guerin was an extremely successful "crossover" artist, frequently bridging the gaps between jazz and rock with his expansive drum vocabulary.

Guerin first came into the jazz consciousness in 1961, working with the Buddy DeFranco/Tommy Gumina Quartet and later George Shearing. Within a few years he began to establish strong relationships on the crossover edge, some of which endured for decades: Frank Zappa (Hot Rats, 1969, Bizarre/Reprise), Tom Scott's L.A. Express (self-titled, 1973, Ode), Roger Kellaway, Mike Wofford, Howard Roberts, Jean-Luc Ponty. He appeared on Thelonious Monk's 1968 big-band album Monk's Blues (Columbia). He became involved in studio work in the late 1960s and continued in that field until his death.

In the 1970s Guerin's CV became seriously eclectic as he logged service with Joni Mitchell, John Klemmer, Kenny Rankin, Blue Mitchell, Michael Franks (all of whom called on Guerin time and again for session work), Stephen Bishop, Ray Brown, Gerry Mulligan, Eric Andersen, Harry Nilsson, Peggy Lee, Victor Feldman, Roger McGuinn, Ben Sidran, Don Ellis, Todd Rundgren, Phil Everly, Larry Carlton, Art Garfunkel, and lesser-known bands like the Alessi Brothers and the California Earthquake. He even backed the Brady Bunch kids on several LPs.

Guerin became more active as an arranger and producer in the 1980s and appeared on soundtracks like Clint Eastwood's Bird (1988) and the 1994 remake of Miracle on 34th Street. He assisted Sheena Easton and Linda Ronstadt in their standards projects and continued to back jazz artists like Bobby McFerrin, Milt Jackson and singer Steve Tyrell. His most recent session to be released was Lou Rawls' Rawls Sings Sinatra (2003, Savoy). Though he never led a session of his own and often worked anonymously, John Guerin was an indispensable asset to American music for four decades.

Todd S. Jenkins
Todd S. Jenkins is a member of the JJA, author of Free Jazz and Free Improvisation: An Encyclopedia (Greenwood Press, 2004) and I Know What I Know: The Music of Charles Mingus (Praeger, 2006), and a contributor to Down Beat, All About Jazz, American Songwriter and Route 66 Magazine.


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