Phil Moore (jazz musician)

For other people with the same name, see Phil Moore.
Phil Moore and John O. Levy, c. 1947

Phil Moore (February 20, 1918 – May 13, 1987) was an American jazz pianist, orchestral arranger, band leader, and recording artist.


Phil Moore was orphaned and placed in a county hospital in Portland, Oregon. He attended the Cornish School and the University of Washington in Seattle. When Moore was 13, he played piano at speakeasies[1] and small venues in Portland.[2] Later, he supported Lena Horne, Frank Sinatra,[3] Bobby Short, Marshal Royal, Irving Ashby,[4] Julie Wilson, Gene Sedric,[5] Les Hite, and Helen Gallagher.[6] He arranged big-band music for the Tommy Dorsey and Harry James orchestras.[7]

In 1946, he played the role of a band leader in a short B movie, Stars on Parade.[8] About this time, his relationship with Dorothy Dandridge helped bring her success in a nightclub singing career.[9] Moore served as vocal coach for other performers in Hollywood, including Marilyn Monroe.[10]

Phil Moore worked at MGM and Paramount studios as an arranger. He worked on scores for over 30 films, although rarely receiving screen credit, presumably due to his race. These included Ziegfeld Girl, Dumbo, Three Cheers for the Boys, Panama Hattie, Presenting Lily Mars, Cabin in the Sky, the 1944 production of Kismet, and This Gun for Hire.[11]

During the late 1940s, Moore toured with his group, the Phil Moore Four: Milt Hinton (bass guitar), Marty Wilson (drums), Johnny Letman (trumpet), and Jimmy Lyons (saxophone? guitar?). He recorded for RCA Victor [w/Doles Dickens (bass guitar), Walter Bishop (drums), Edward Leroy Gibbs (guitar), and Remo Palmieri (electric guitar)], Musicraft [w/Doles Dickens or John Levy (bass guitar), Walter Bishop (drums), unknown (guitar), and Johnny Letman (trumpet)], and Black & White Records [w/Billy Hadnott (bass guitar), Lee Young (drums), and Irving Ashby (electric guitar)] during this time. From the late 1950s until his death, he was active in teaching singing and stagecraft, and gained a wide reputation in the grooming and coaching of aspiring black and white singers; he started a school in New York named "For Singers Only".[12]

In 1953, he recorded two bebop Christmas songs for RCA Victor — "Blink Before Christmas" and "Chinchy Old Scrooge".[13] Created in the heyday of the "beat" era, these songs were thick with 1950s hipster slang, in the style of jazz-based pre-rap songs. This recording has become a rare collector's item.[14]


As leader

As sideman

With Gil Fuller


  1. Bright Boulevards, Bold Dreams: The Story of Black Hollywood by Donald Bogle (Random House, Inc., 2009) chapter: Phil Moore: The Man Who Made Music, pg 88
  2. Only The Strong Survive: Memoirs of a Soul Survivor/ Jerry Butler & Earl Smith Indiana University Press, 2000. pg 87–88
  3. Put Your Dreams Away: A Frank Sinatra Discography, by Luiz Carlos do Nascimento Silva (Greenwood Publishing Group, 2000) pg 164
  4. Marshal Royal: Jazz Survivor by Marshall Royal and Claire Gordon, (Continuum International Publishing Group, 2001) pg 83
  5. Who's who of jazz: Storyville to Swing Street, by John Chilton pg 296
  6. The Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz, Leonard Feather, page 573
  7. Obituary , The New York Times, May 19, 1987
  8. American Film Institute Catalog by Alan Gevinson (University of California Press, 1997) pg 1341
  9. Everything and Nothing: The Dorothy Dandridge Tragedy by Dorothy Dandridge and Earl Conrad, (Harper Collins 2000) pg 83-85
  10. Dorothy Dandridge: A Biography by Donald Bogle, (Amistad 1999)
  11. Bright Boulevards, Bold Dreams: The Story of Black Hollywood By Donald Bogle (Random House, Inc., 2009) pg 113
  12. Ebony Magazine, November 1960, pg 120–123
  13. Billboard Magazine, Nov 28, 1953, pg 37
  15. Togashi, Nobuaki; Matsubayashi, Kohji; Hatta, Masayuki. "Clef Records Catalog 600 series". Retrieved 2012-08-04.
  16. Togashi, Nobuaki; Matsubayashi, Kohji; Hatta, Masayuki. "Verve Records Catalog Popular 2000 series". Retrieved 2012-08-04.
  17. Togashi, Nobuaki; Matsubayashi, Kohji; Hatta, Masayuki. "Mercury Records Catalog 20700/60700 series". Retrieved 2012-08-04.
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