Bruce Lundvall, 1935 – 2015

May 20th, 2015

 

Bruce Lundvall, a record executive best known among fans of jazz music as Blue Note Records president for 25 years, died yesterday at the age of 79.  In addition to his work at Blue Note, Lundvall was president of CBS Records during the heyday of the LP business, and was responsible for signing many of that label’s major artists, and for expanding the jazz division of Columbia Records.

My own experience with him was always very favorable.  Although I hadn’t spoken to him for several years, whenever I did reach out to him, either as a record executive myself or as publisher of Jerry Jazz Musician, he always made himself available and was supportive of my work.

In 2003, I hosted a conversation on the state of the business of jazz with Lundvall, New York Times columnist Ben Ratliff, and saxophonist Joshua Redman.   Part of the discussion dealt with speculating about the future of jazz   In this excerpt from that conversation, Lundvall talks about how jazz artists could be successful in the record business.  (Keep in mind this conversation took place when there was still a CD consumer that supported a chain record store model like Tower Records).

But you know, I will tell you what…When Alfred Lion started Blue Note and all through the years that he had it, he was always one step ahead of the competitors. And when they had Lee Morgan’s “The Sidewinder,”  which was a major hit, distributors used to tell him to send them five thousand more of those, and Alfred would respond by saying, “Five thousand? I already sent you one hundred. Wait until you sell those!” Even the best jazz marketers didn’t understand how to deal with a hit. They were basically two guys sleeving records in their offices and sending them out. When I was at Columbia Records in the sixties, while we had Brubeck and Miles, we didn’t have a huge roster of jazz artists, maybe only a handful of major names, you know? So, jazz has never been a major part of the record business, and it is not today.

To be successful in the record business today you need someone in charge of your company who believes that the music is important. You have to have the best artists, and you have to experiment with new people. I am lucky because I have worked for people like that. Other people have not. When Michael Cuscuna started doing reissues for Blue Note, I asked him how he could work so hard since he was also running Mosaic at the same time. He told me not to worry, that the work won’t go on forever. After all, it is jazz and since it is part of a big record company, Blue Note will fold in three years. Of course, it is still going on eighteen years later, so we have been very lucky. But you have got to make a profit otherwise these corporate people are going to look at the red ink and tell you to cut back or discontinue the label. That has happened to classical music in recent times too. And it is not much different for jazz, because you are dealing with music that requires a degree of intelligence to listen to, it is an art form requiring real patience, as you said, and it is not something that you are immediately turned on to. People become listeners of jazz in steps and stages and only then become a fan. After that it is easy to become addicted and buy as much of it as you can afford. But it is not an instant gratification sort of entertainment like pop music.

Jazz is always going to be a minority repertoire. The future of it is entirely in the hands of the musicians, and we have some of the best young musicians playing today. I think it is a wildly exciting time, I really do. There is a lot of diversity in the music, a lot of very gifted young people playing the music, with new stars coming up. A record company is going to have to be really responsible in how it supports the music.

 

______

 

In 2007, in a volume of “Reminiscing in Tempo: Memories and Opinion, I asked a variety of people — including Lundvall — this question:

“What three or four songs best epitomize the era of the Civil Rights Movement?”

Here is Lundvall’s answer:

The following songs are all by brilliant artists who made the message their own and delivered songs so powerful you can actually feel it in the music:

“The House I Live In” — Sonny Rollins

“Alabama” — John Coltrane

“Strange Fruit” — Nina Simone

“Lift Every Voice” — Max Roach

“March on Selma” — Blue Mitchell

“Chattahoochee Red” — Max Roach

“Triptych:  Prayer/Protest/Peace — Max Roach

*

 

To read the entire conversation with Lundvall, Redman and Ratliff, click here.

To read the entire edition of “Reminiscing in Tempo” in which Lundvall appears, click here.

Read Billboard’s magazine obituary of Lundvall

 

Share this:

2 comments on “Bruce Lundvall, 1935 – 2015”

  1. I had been thinking about Bruce quite often over the past few weeks, knowing of his being institutionalized for Parkinson’s disease, and was seeking out folks who might have been interested in putting together a tribute to Bruce Lundvall. I was searching for Herbie Hancock’s publicist so I could start with him.

    I just got off the phone with my dear friend and fraternity brother, Jim Kaufman, who informed me that Bruce had recently died. I knew he was challenged by Parkinson’s, but thought he was still with us. Bruce, Jim, I, as well as hundreds of other Delta Upsilon Fraternity brothers at Bucknell University, loved music, but Lundvall made
    it his life. What an amazing obsession….

    What a great man.

    Bruce Lundvall was unique in his laser focus on America’s only original art form, jazz. He was a man who was committed to music, especially jazz, and to those people who were also committed to it. Bruce was one of a kind, and we are all better off because he spent his time making sure jazz didn’t die in America. It has more followers in other nations than here, so he worked tirelessly, diligently and so effectively for decades to preserve, promote and enjoy this amazing art form.

    And finally, understand that my friend knew that all of this happened and happens best through the commitment, love, and talent of the individual.

    Dick Boddie
    a.k.a.
    Richard Benjamin Boddie, J.D.
    Huntington Beach, California
    (via Rochester, New York}

    P.S. I still would like to proceed with organizing a well deserved tribute to the man
    who has made such a difference to so many, whom in turn continue to make such
    a positive contribution to the world. Any takers?

  2. I had been thinking about Bruce quite often over the past few weeks, knowing of his being institutionalized for Parkinson’s disease, and was seeking out folks who might have been interested in putting together a tribute to Bruce Lundvall. I was searching for Herbie Hancock’s publicist so I could start with him.

    I just got off the phone with my dear friend and fraternity brother, Jim Kaufman, who informed me that Bruce had recently died. I knew he was challenged by Parkinson’s, but thought he was still with us. Bruce, Jim, I, as well as hundreds of other Delta Upsilon Fraternity brothers at Bucknell University, loved music, but Lundvall made
    it his life. What an amazing obsession….

    What a great man.

    Bruce Lundvall was unique in his laser focus on America’s only original art form, jazz. He was a man who was committed to music, especially jazz, and to those people who were also committed to it. Bruce was one of a kind, and we are all better off because he spent his time making sure jazz didn’t die in America. It has more followers in other nations than here, so he worked tirelessly, diligently and so effectively for decades to preserve, promote and enjoy this amazing art form.

    And finally, understand that my friend knew that all of this happened and happens best through the commitment, love, and talent of the individual.

    Dick Boddie
    a.k.a.
    Richard Benjamin Boddie, J.D.
    Huntington Beach, California
    (via Rochester, New York}

    P.S. I still would like to proceed with organizing a well deserved tribute to the man
    who has made such a difference to so many, whom in turn continue to make such
    a positive contribution to the world. Any takers?

Comment on this article:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

In this Issue

photo courtesy John Bolger Collection
Philip Clark, author of Dave Brubeck: A Life in Time, discusses the enigmatic and extraordinary pianist, composer, and band leader, whose most notable achievements came during a time of major societal and cultural change, and often in the face of critics who at times found his music too technical and bombastic.

Greetings from Portland!

Commentary and photographs concerning the protests taking place in the city in which I live.

Poetry

Mood Indigo by Matthew Hinds
An invitation was extended recently for poets to submit work that reflects this time of COVID, Black Lives Matter, and a heated political season. 14 poets contribute to the first volume of collected poetry.

Poetry

photo by Russell duPont
The second volume of poetry reflecting this time of COVID, Black Lives Matter, and a heated political season features the work of 23 poets

Short Fiction

photo FDR Presidential Library & Museum
Short Fiction Contest-winning story #54 — “A Failed Artist’s Paradise” by Nathaniel Neil Whelan

Features

Red Meditation by James Brewer
Creative artists and citizens of note respond to the question, "During this time of social distancing and isolation at home, what are examples of the music you are listening to, the books you are reading, and/or the television or films you are viewing?”

Interview

Ornette Coleman 1966/photo courtesy Mosaic Images
In a Jerry Jazz Musician interview, Ornette Coleman: The Territory And The Adventure author Maria Golia discusses her compelling and rewarding book about the artist whose philosophy and the astounding, adventurous music he created served to continually challenge the skeptical status quo, and made him a guiding light of the artistic avant-garde throughout a career spanning seven decades.

Spring Poetry Collection

A Collection of Jazz Poetry – Spring, 2020 Edition There are many good and often powerful poems within this collection, one that has the potential for changing the shape of a reader’s universe during an impossibly trying time, particularly if the reader has a love of music. 33 poets from all over the globe contribute 47 poems. Expect to read of love, loss, memoir, worship, freedom, heartbreak and hope – all collected here, in the heart of this unsettling spring. (Featuring the art of Martel Chapman)

Publisher’s Notes

On taking a road trip during the time of COVID...

Photography

photo by Veryl Oakland
In this edition of photographs and stories from Veryl Oakland’s book Jazz in Available Light, Dexter Gordon, Art Farmer and Johnny Griffin are featured

Interview

A now timely 2002 interview with Tim Madigan, author of The Burning: Massacre, Destruction, and the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921. My hope when I produced this interview was that it would shed some light on this little-known brutal massacre, and help understand the pain and anger so entrenched in the American story. Eighteen years later, that remains my hope. .

Poetry

photo by John Vachon/Library of Congress
“Climate Change” — Ten poems in sequence by John Stupp

Book Excerpt

In the introduction to Dave Brubeck: A Life in Time – the author Philip Clark writes about the origins of the book, and his interest in shining a light on how Brubeck, “thoughtful and sensitive as he was, had been changed as a musician and as a man by the troubled times through which he lived and during which he produced such optimistic, life-enhancing art.”

Interview

NBC Radio-photo by Ray Lee Jackson / Public domain
In a Jerry Jazz Musician interview, acclaimed biographer James Kaplan (Frank: The Voice and Sinatra: The Chairman) talks about his book, Irving Berlin: New York Genius, and Berlin's unparalleled musical career and business success, his intense sense of family and patriotism during a complex and evolving time, and the artist's permanent cultural significance.

Book Excerpt

In the introduction to Maria Golia’s Ornette Coleman: The Territory and the Adventure – excerpted here in its entirety – the author takes the reader through the four phases of the brilliant musician’s career her book focuses on.

Art

Art by Charles Ingham
"Charles Ingham's Jazz Narratives" connect time, place, and subject in a way that ultimately allows the viewer a unique way of experiencing jazz history. This edition's narratives are "Nat King Cole: The Shadow of the Word," "Slain in Cold Blood" and "Local 767: The Black Musicians’ Union"

Interview

Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Carl Van Vechten Collection
Richard Crawford’s Summertime: George Gershwin’s Life in Music is a rich, detailed and rewarding musical biography that describes Gershwin's work throughout every stage of his career. In a Jerry Jazz Musician interview, Crawford discusses his book and the man he has described as a “fresh voice of the Jazz Age” who “challenged Americans to rethink their assumptions about composition and performance, nationalism, cultural hierarchy, and the racial divide.”

Jazz History Quiz #139

photo by William Gottlieb/Library of Congress
This bassist played with (among others) Charlie Parker, Erroll Garner, Art Tatum, Nat “King” Cole (pictured), Dexter Gordon, James Taylor and Rickie Lee Jones, and was one of the earliest modern jazz tuba soloists. He also turned down offers to join both Duke Ellington’s Orchestra and the Louis Armstrong All-Stars. Who is he?

Interview

photo unattributed/ Public domain
In a Jerry Jazz Musician interview with The Letters of Cole Porter co-author Dominic McHugh, he explains that “several of the big biographical tropes that we associate with Porter are either modified or contested by the letters,” and that “when you put together these letters, and add our quite extensive commentary between the letters, it creates a different picture of him.” Mr. McHugh discusses his book, and what the letters reveal about the life – in-and-out of music – of Cole Porter.

Interview

photo by Fred Price
Bob Hecht and Grover Sales host a previously unpublished 1985 interview with the late, great jazz saxophonist Lee Konitz, who talks about Miles, Kenton, Ornette, Tristano, and the art of improvisation...

Interview

photo by William Gottlieb/Library of Congress
Con Chapman, author of Rabbit's Blues: The Life and Music of Johnny Hodges discusses the great Ellington saxophonist

Humor

photo by William Gottlieb/Library of Congress
"Louis Armstrong on the Moon," by Dig Wayne

Pressed for All Time

A&M Records/photo by Carol Friedman
In this edition, producer John Snyder recalls Sun Ra, and his 1990 Purple Night recording session

Interview

photo by Bouna Ndaiye
Interview with Gerald Horne, author of Jazz and Justice: Racism and the Political Economy of the Music

Great Encounters

photo of Sidney Bechet by William Gottlieb/Library of Congress
In this edition of "Great Encounters," Con Chapman, author of Rabbit’s Blues: The Life and Music of Johnny Hodges, writes about Hodges’ early musical training, and the first meeting he had with Sidney Bechet, the influential and legendary reed player who Hodges called “tops in my book.”

Poetry

The winter collection of poetry offers readers a look at the culture of jazz music through the imaginative writings of its 32 contributors. Within these 41 poems, writers express their deep connection to the music – and those who play it – in their own inventive and often philosophical language that communicates much, but especially love, sentiment, struggle, loss, and joy.

“What are 4 or 5 of your all-time favorite Blue Note albums?”

"What are 4 or 5 of your all-time favorite Blue Note albums?"
Dianne Reeves, Nate Chinen, Gary Giddins, Michael Cuscuna, Eliane Elias and Ashley Kahn are among the 12 writers, musicians, and music executives who list and write about their favorite Blue Note albums

In the Previous Issue

Interviews with three outstanding, acclaimed writers and scholars who discuss their books on Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, and Cole Porter, and their subjects’ lives in and out of music. These interviews – which each include photos and several full-length songs – provide readers easy access to an entertaining and enlightening learning experience about these three giants of American popular music.

In an Earlier Issue

photo by Carol Friedman
“The Jazz Photography Issue” features an interview with today’s most eminent jazz portrait photographer Carol Friedman, news from Michael Cuscuna about newly released Francis Wolff photos, as well as archived interviews with William Gottlieb, Herman Leonard, Lee Tanner, a piece on Milt Hinton, a new edition of photos from Veryl Oakland, and much more…

Contributing writers

Site Archive