Most famous for his work as composer and arranger especially for Woody Herman and Count Basie.
Began arranging professionally in his teens for Nat Towles. Played trumpet in the early '40s with Bob Astor, Les Lieber, Charlie Barnet, Bobby Byrne, Charlie Spivak, and Horace Heidt. He joined up with Woody Herman in 1944 and gained a strong reputation for composing (e.g. "The Good Earth" and "Wild Root") and arranging (e.g. "Woodchopper's Ball" and "Blowin' Up a Storm") while still playing trumpet. He married Herman's vocalist Frances Wayne in 1945.
From 1950 he wrote dozens of songs for Count Basie including "Li'l Darlin'", "Cute", "Whirly Bird", "Little Pony" and "Kid from Red Bank". He also led his own band intermittently for a few years in the '50s but from the '60s concentrated on writing TV and film scores, e.g. themes from Batman, Barefoot in the Park, and The Odd Couple.