Gary McFarland was one of the more significant contributors to orchestral jazz during the 1960s. He had an unfortunately short career. But he was surprisingly productive in the brief decade he was captured on record (1960-70). An adult prodigy, as Gene Lees once noted, McFarland was an ingenious composer whose music revealed shades of complex emotional subtlety and clever childlike simplicity.
While in the army, he became interested in jazz and attempted to play trumpet, trombone and piano. In 1955 he took up playing the vibes. Displaying a quick ability for interesting writing, he obtained a scholarship to the Berklee School of Music. He spent one semester there in 1959 and with the encouragement of pianist John Lewis, concentrated on large-band arrangements of his own compositions.