Former Blue Note Records supremo Bruce Lundvall dies

Bruce Lundvall

The man credited with resurrecting and revitalising a once dormant Blue Note Records, the much loved and respected Bruce Lundvall, has died aged 79.

Bruce Lundvall, the former CEO of Blue Note Records, died on Tuesday May 19th aged 79. Lundvall had been in care suffering from Parkinson’s. He is regarded as a key figure in jazz, much loved and respected. His signings which included Norah Jones, Herbie Hancock, Bobby McFerrin, Wynton Marsalis and many more produced several Grammy Awards. 

Lundvall was born and died in New Jersey. As well as a clever record company marketing man for Columbia Records in the 1960s, he was a life long jazz fan. In his peak at Columbia he signed jazz greats including Dexter Gordon, Stan Getz and Herbie Hancock. His short tenure at the newly formed Elektra/Musician  label in the early 1980s also produced critically acclaimed jazz music until in 1984 he headed up the rebirth of the iconic Blue Note Records, then a dormant label. Here he partnered with producer Michael Cuscuna, in what was his dream job. He set out to bring the label’s former star names like McCoy Tyner, Freddie Hubbard and Joe Henderson back into consciousness with re-issues plus new artist releases including vocalists Dianne Reeves and Cassandra Wilson, saxophonist Greg Osby, guitarists John Scofield and Charlie Hunter, pianist Michel Petrucciani and groove band Medeski Martin & Wood.

Steering Blue Note records for nearly 30 years he enabled it to become the longest running jazz music label in history. Last year it celebrated 75 years. His legacy includes some of todays most respected and commercially successful jazz artists including Joe Lovano, Jason Moran, Ambrose Akinmusire, Robert Glasper, Terence Blanchard, Jacky Terrasson, and many others. He stepped down as president of Blue Note in 201, a role now occupied by hands-on producer Don Was.

Bruce Lundvall also recognised talent in other territories outside the US. British hip-hop outfit Us3 enjoyed great commercial success and were given carte blanche to sample the label's catalogue, an innovative way to forge new sounds using much loved classic Blue Note grooves. Lundvall's Blue Note gave a World platform to British musicians too, Scottish saxophonist Tommy Smith and vibes player Orphy Robinson in particular. Robinson, who made two albums and two E.Ps for the label said,  "There I was meeting this famous jazz music man and he was really complimentary and informed about me. He was just so down to earth, cool and made you feel welcome to the Blue Note family. He was just a lovely guy. I'm really sad to see him go."

On her Twitter feed vocalist Dianne Reeves said, "My friend #BruceLundvall rest was not your thing so...eternal joy with all your homies. Love honor and respect."

Saxophonist Greg Osby posted, "Goodbye, Chief. Much #gratitude to you for "getting it" and for having my back for so long. #BruceLundvall #OneOfAKind"

Joshua Redman said, "Is there any US record executive who did as much for jazz music over the past 40 years as did Bruce Lundvall? A great man. A good man. RIP."

Neil Portnow, Recording Academy president said, “Our music community has lost an influential, trailblazing and dynamic friend and his passion for music will forever live on. Our deepest condolences go out to his family, friends, and to all who have had the pleasure and good fortune of having known or worked with him."

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