The author with her father, Ray Conniff
Ray Conniff was digging ditches in Reseda, a suburb of Los Angeles. It was 1949. Up until then, he had been the most sought-after swing trombonist and arranger on the circuit. He had been working full time for the Harry James Orchestra, but when James requested arrangements that were bebop, a sound that relied more on a floating, sometimes inaudible beat, my dad gracefully resigned. He was a hot jazz arranger, where beat was defined and the rhythm section was strong and loud.
As a result, he could not get work. All of his contacts had already taken on full-time arrangers while he was working for James.
My father, who passed away seven years ago, recounted this time in his life to me many times because it was one of his most defining moments. Each time I listened to him intently, trying to suck the wisdom and the pain out of every word. This story occurred long before I was born, during his second marriage—I'm the daughter of his third and last wife.