Dale Dixon Oehler (born 1 October 1941) is primarily known as an arranger. His style contributed to the success of much of the music he was involved with over his career. Leonard Feather once described Oehler, in his Los Angeles Times Jazz column, as "an adaptable writer".
Oehler was able to fuse various elements to enhance several genre of music he worked on, including jazz, pop, country, R&B or easy listening. His credits include artists such as Marvin Gaye, Freddie Hubbard, Joni Mitchell and Andre Kostelanetz.
1 Early career,
2 Later career,
3.1 As producer,
3.2 As arranger,
3.3 As player,
His early childhood was influenced by his father, Ray Dixon Oehler, and his mother, Ann, whose love of music was inspiring. Ray, who played under the professional name of Ray Dixon, played piano with Ray Anthony, Jimmy Dorsey, Barrett Deems and Sidney Bechet. Some of his father's other associates were Jimmy Raney and Al Haig. (One of Dale's early memories was sitting on a barstool singing Dizzy Gillespie's "Salt Peanuts" for them.)
In his early childhood, Dale received formal piano training in the Classics. His father encouraged the awareness of classical music during Sunday sessions listening to radio broadcast concerts featuring the New York Philharmonic Orchestra as well as recordings by Vladimir Horowitz and Walter Gieseking.
While in his teens, Oehler started playing jazz gigs in the Springfield, Illinois area after he discovered his love of Bud Powell, Horace Silver, Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker. He later played at clubs in the Chicago area while attending Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. It was then that he became aware of Gil Evans' work with Miles Davis which became a lifelong influence.
After graduation he went to Cedar Rapids, Iowa to play with J.R. Monterose at the Tender Trap. Other notables that came through the club were Al Jarreau, Dave Sanborn, Freddie Waits and Cecil McBee. He segued from playing in Cedar Rapids to attending the University of Iowa at Iowa City where he pursued his master's degree in Composition and was able to establish the first Jazz Program at that university. While going to school, he represented the University of Iowa at the University of Notre Dame Jazz Festival in 1965 where he received Best Arranger and Best Pianist awards, as judged by Quincy Jones and Clark Terry.
Oehler also played on, what has now become, a collector's item, J.R. Monterose (Studio 4 Records, 1964). While at the University of Iowa, he arranged his first professional record for Bugsy Maugh (Dot Records, 1968), which received a Grammy Award nomination the following year.
In 1969, Oehler, now married, moved to the Los Angeles, California area to pursue a career in music. In the early 1970s, Oehler again met up with J.J. Johnson, whom he had met in the early 1960s when Johnson was with the Miles Davis band. Johnson was responsible for introducing Dale to Marvin Gaye, with whom he subsequently arranged "Trouble Man" (1972), which was the main title for the movie of the same name. Also during this period, he reconnected with Tom McIntosh, whom he had first met in 1962 while Tom was with the Art Farmer and Benny Golson Jazztet. Tom was instrumental in providing the opportunity to write various film cues, which included "Shaft's Big Score." It was on that film that Dale met Freddie Hubbard, following which Freddie asked Dale to arrange his first Columbia record, entitled "High Energy" (1974). He also worked on "You Light Up My Life," arranging the title tune for Andre Kostelanetz.
The next major period in Oehler's career began at Blue Note Records. Beginning in 1975, he worked with Bobby Hutcherson, Carmen McRae and Horace Silver. His Warner Bros. Records work included Al Jarreau, Randy Crawford and Jennifer Holliday. He also worked on Joni Mitchell's "Hissing of the Summer Lawns" (Elektra/Asylum).
In 1978, Oehler produced and arranged the Freddie Hubbard album, Super Blue, which featured Joe Henderson, Hubert Laws, Ron Carter, Jack DeJohnette, Kenny Barron and George Benson. This album was designed to provide a return to Freddie's jazz roots while still being commercially viable.
During the 1990s, Oehler's credits included work on albums for Dolly Parton, Kirk Whalum, Joe Sample, Diane Schuur and Mark Whitfield (featuring Diana Krall).
Dale currently resides in Southern California and plays golf as often as the weather allows.