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Music Arranger Billy May Dies at Age 87 - 2004-01-26

Billy May, a music arranger best known for his work with Frank Sinatra, has died at age 87 in California.

For years, May was one of the most sought-after arrangers for big-band music and popular American standards. He could arrange almost any type of tune, but had a signature style featuring so-called "slurping" saxophones on top of a swing rhythm.

May worked with a long list of stars that includes Peggy Lee, Nat King Cole and Ella Fitzgerald. But he made his biggest impact with several Sinatra albums, most notably "Come Fly With Me" in 1957 and "Come Dance With Me" in 1959.

The first album reached number one on the Billboard music charts; the second one received a Grammy award for album of the year.

Early in his career, May was a trumpeter with the Charlie Barnet Band and the Glenn Miller Orchestra. The Barnet band recorded his arrangement of the song "Cherokee," which became a standard of the big-band era.

May died of a heart attack last Thursday at his home in San Juan Capistrano, California.