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New in Town
Lincolnshire, Illinois
I came across this today in my search for the remaining members of the JATP.
Anyone interested in jazz or the social history of mid-20th century America will enjoy this.

Norman Granz, 83; Visionary of the Jazz World Was Producer, Promoter and
Social Conscience



November 24 2001

Impresario Norman Granz, who set the agenda for the business of jazz
through most of the 20th century by producing legendary recordings and
making the music accessible to a wider audience, has died. He was 83.

Granz died Thursday in Geneva, Switzerland, of complications from cancer,
according to Virginia Wicks, an L.A.-based publicist who had a long
association with Granz.

A native of Los Angeles whose family lost much of its wherewithal in the
Depression, Granz became an astute businessman who made a fortune from the
music he grew to love as a young man collecting records in Boyle Heights.
Armed with a unyielding social conscience, a discerning ear and a
hard-nosed take-it-or-leave-it approach to business, Granz is credited by
many historians with bringing first-rank jazz performers in integrated
bands into concert halls across America through a series called Jazz at the

"Granz was a true visionary, plain and simple--as a manager, a producer and
a promoter," said jazz critic Don Heckman. "Today, at a time when marketing
and promotion are an intrinsic part of the jazz world, it's hard to
contextualize what a visionary he was. A half-century ago, when bebop's
primary appeal was to a relatively small niche of dedicated fans, Granz
dramatically expanded the audience for what was a seemingly difficult
music, both domestically and internationally, via his Jazz at the
Philharmonic concerts."

Decades before the most productive days of the civil rights movement, Granz
helped end the two-track system in which white players generally earned far
more than blacks. He paid his performers equally and so would anyone who
hired them through him. In Granz's world, there also was no discrimination
in dining or accommodations for his musicians on the road. If the face of
bigotry came up at a concert, he canceled the performance. It happened more
than once.

Granz, who was of Ukrainian-Jewish ancestry, "made a statement that went
beyond jazz," said Tad Hershorn, an archivist at the Institute of Jazz
Studies at Rutgers University who is writing a biography of the impresario.
"He held the U.S. accountable for the notion of freedom. and he did this
years before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball."

At one time or another, Granz recorded most of the major names in jazz on
the four labels that he owned--Clef, Norgran, Verve and Pablo. His roster
was a who's who of the genre, including Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Duke
Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker
and Oscar Peterson.

He also was a manager. He is credited with making Fitzgerald a far more
accessible performer by expanding her repertoire through the "Song Book"
series, featuring the work of most of the master composers of American
song. He presented Peterson in his first major U.S. appearance--at Carnegie
Hall in New York in 1949, and generally directed the pianist's career.

In recording those great names in jazz, Granz amassed an enormous catalog
of music, much of it still in demand today as the lifeline of an industry
that in later generations lost much of its commercial and popular appeal.

Born on Aug. 6, 1918, Granz initially lived in South-Central Los Angeles,
not far from what in later years was a happening jazz scene on Central
Avenue. But the family moved to Long Beach not long after Granz was born to
be closer to the department store that his father owned.

The family business was lost during the early years of the Depression and
the Granzes ended up in the Boyle Heights section of Los Angeles. Young
Granz went to Roosevelt High School and UCLA, taking a minor job in a
brokerage house to finance his education.

Demanded Equal Rights for Black Club Patrons

During World War II, Granz served in the Army Air Corps and then the
special services branch of the Army, which was charged with entertaining
the troops. After receiving his final discharge, Granz had a succession of
odd jobs before finding work as a film editor at MGM.

His interest in jazz had started in the 1930s as a minor hobby collecting
records. But by the time he came out of the military, he was interested in
promoting the music.

"Black musicians were playing all over Los Angeles in the early '40s,"
Granz recalled years later, "but almost entirely to white audiences. This
was because there were very few places that welcomed blacks as patrons. I
was particularly aware of this because in addition to my day job as a film
editor at MGM I [had] been putting on occasional jam sessions at the
Trouville Club in the Beverly Fairfax area. One day Billie Holiday came to
me and complained that Billy Berg, who owned the club, wouldn't admit some
of her black friends."

Granz offered Berg a proposal. He wanted to promote Sunday night, which
under existing union rules was a night off for the club's regular
musicians, as a jam session. Granz told Berg he would assure him a good
crowd of paying customers, but he added some conditions.

First, tables were to be placed on the dance floor so there would be no
dancing. This would become a listening experience.

Second, musicians would be paid a set rate; this arrangement would allow
Granz to know in advance who would show up and thus be able to promote the
jam sessions to help fill the club.

Third, and most important, African American patrons would no longer be
barred--on any night of the week. The color barrier would be broken.

Granz's Sunday-night jam sessions became the hot ticket around town and
featured leading names from well-known bands, including Illinois Jacquet, a
young tenor sax player of the Lionel Hampton and Cab Calloway bands who
became the major attraction of the hot jazz scene that soon moved to a v
enue called Music Town in South L.A.

By July 1944, Granz was ready to ratchet his notions of promotion up a
notch and he found the perfect opportunity in what came to be billed as Los
Angeles' "first full-scale jazz concert." It was held at Philharmonic
Auditorium, which for decades had been the home of the staid L.A.

The Sunday afternoon concert was anything but staid. The lively jam session
was a fund-raiser for the Mexican youths wrongly convicted of murder and
sentenced to San Quentin in the notorious Sleepy Lagoon case.

The performers that day included Nat King Cole, who had yet to find his
career as a singer and was making a living as an influential pianist and
leader of a trio. Les Paul, then known as a jazz guitarist, saxophonist
Benny Carter, pianist Teddy Wilson and Jacquet were also on hand, among

And while the concert netted just over $500 for the fund, it became the
framework for Jazz at the Philharmonic, a touring series of jam-session
concerts that Granz produced, and later recorded, with some of the top
names in the business.

Within a month of the first Philharmonic concert, Granz branched out into
film production with "Jammin' the Blues," one of the finest short jazz
films ever made. Directed by the noted photographer Gjon Mili, the short
featured saxophonist Lester Young, trumpeter Harry "Sweets" Edison,
guitarist Barney Kessel and other jazz greats and was nominated for an
Academy Award.

JATP, as Jazz at the Philharmonic was called, came to be another vehicle
for integration.

"The whole reason for Jazz at the Philharmonic was to take it to places
where I could break down segregation," Granz explained in Dizzy Gillespie's
book "To Be or Not to Bop."

Known for providing his touring jazz musicians with first-class travel and
hotel accommodations, Granz once said: "I insisted that my musicians were
to be treated with the same respect as Leonard Bernstein or [Jascha]
Heifetz because they were just as good, both as men and musicians."

"With Norman everything was first class," trumpet player Clark Terry told
jazz critic Nat Hentoff some years ago. "The travel, the hotels,
everything. He had deep pockets. The others had short pockets."

Granz would heavily promote the shows by buying newspaper ads of equal size
in major black- and white-owned newspapers and establishing the prices for
every level of seating.

In Kansas City, JATP played the first mixed-race dance in the city's
history. In Charleston, S.C., the first mixed-race concert featured JATP.

But Granz encountered resistance in other parts of the country. He once
pulled his band out of a sold-out concert in New Orleans when he found that
the seating was segregated.

Recording History With 'Jazz at Philharmonic

After renting an auditorium in Houston, Granz removed the signs that said
"White toilets" and "Negro toilets." And for those white Texans who balked
when they learned they'd have to sit next to blacks, he told them, "You sit
where I sit you. You don't want to sit next to a black, here's your money

In 1947, Granz told Down Beat magazine, he lost $100,000, then a sizable
figure in the entertainment business, by turning down bookings in
segregated concert halls across America.

Over the years, Granz had tried to sell various record companies on
releasing live material from his Jazz at the Philharmonic concerts, which
by 1946 had been banned at Philharmonic Auditorium in Los Angeles, where it
started. Armed with a stack of records, he went to New York City, opened
the phone book and, starting with the A's, found Asch Records, owned by
Moses Asch.

"Asch flipped," Granz said later in an interview with noted jazz critic
Leonard Feather. "He put the records out as Volume One 'Jazz at the
Philharmonic,' and it was incredibly popular. I imagine it sold 150,000
copies." "Jazz at the Philharmonic, Volume I" became the first jazz concert
recording ever issued.

Granz established two record labels, Clef in 1946 and Norgran in 1953, both
of which he incorporated into Verve Records, the powerhouse label he
launched in 1956. The first artist signed to his new company: Fitzgerald,
whom Granz considered the world's greatest jazz singer and who had been
recording exclusively for Decca since the 1930s.

Granz had added Fitzgerald to his Jazz at the Philharmonic roster in 1949
and became the singer's personal manager in 1954. Many consider the
professional pairing the most productive artist-manager partnership in jazz

Under the Verve label, Fitzgerald recorded "The Cole Porter Song Book,"
which became the 11th biggest LP of the year. It was the first in a series
of albums produced by Granz featuring the singer's versions of works by
Harold Arlen, Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, the Gershwin brothers and other

Feather credited Granz with bringing Fitzgerald "to a whole new plateau and
a whole new audience with those records. He broke her into a much broader
market--she wasn't just in the jazz market anymore."

Fitzgerald recalled years later that "Norman thought I could do more
different types of songs; and how right he was! I'll always be grateful for

With Verve, Granz was now in the commercial music market for the first
time. The company was soon turning out 150 albums a year, recording
everyone from Jane Powell and Mitzi Gaynor to Bing Crosby and Ricky Nelson.

The record label also produced spoken-word albums with well-known names
such as Evelyn Waugh, Linus Pauling and Dorothy Parker. And there were
big-selling albums with comedians Mort Sahl, Shelley Berman and Jonathan

As Verve was succeeding, the success of Granz's JATP concert tours began to
decline: Expenses were high and he could no longer afford many of the
artists, including Fitzgerald. The rise of rock n' roll was also a factor.
Although Granz continued to produce the European tours, his last JATP tour
in America came in the fall of 1957.

But as Verve grew, Granz's interest in running the company waned. He moved
to Switzerland in 1959 and sold the record company to MGM for $2.8 million
a year later.

Granz continued to manage Fitzgerald and Peterson as well as produce
European JATP tours and promote appearances by Basie, Ellington, Dave
Brubeck, Ray Charles and others over the next decade.

'Cream of the Crop' Is Treated Accordingly

He returned to the recording business when he produced a JATP reunion
concert in Santa Monica in 1972 with Fitzgerald, Basie and several guest
artists. The recording, which he originally released through mail order,
led to the formation of Pablo in 1973.

Pablo Records--named after Granz's favorite artist, Pablo Picasso--built an
impressive catalog of some 350 albums by Fitzgerald, Peterson, Basie,
Gillespie, Carter, Sarah Vaughan, Zoot Sims and many other artists. Granz
sold the Beverly Hills company in 1987 to Fantasy Records of Berkeley for
an undisclosed sum.

After JATP quit touring in America, Granz took on some additional work. He
managed Marlene Dietrich's tumultuous return to West Germany in 1960 and
battled the State Department to bring Yves Montand, an avowed communist, to
New York City for his first appearances in the United States in 1959.

"Time and time again, Norman stated that his three goals were to promote
integration, present good jazz and to show that good money could be made
from promoting good jazz," said biographer Hershorn. "He succeeded in all

"Musicians who worked for him were the cream of the crop over decades, and
with Norman, they had the best opportunities in terms of pay, exposure and
time and time again, what you hear from musicians was that he insisted that
their dignity be recognized."

But Granz was also a hard-nosed man and had a simple credo, "If you don't
get substantially what you want, be ready to walk. And don't look back."

Nat Cole, once recalling the early days of their friendship said: "Even in
those days he would not knuckle down to anybody. A lot of people dislike
him, but I understood his attitude; he just knew exactly what he wanted and
exactly how he was going to get it.

Granz turned down a lifetime achievement award from the National Academy of
Recording Arts and Sciences in 1994, saying simply: "I think you guys are a
little late."

He is survived by his wife, Greta.

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