Jazz Loses a Class Act: Bruce Lundvall, Who Revived Blue Note Records, Dies at 79

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Photo by Noel Vasquez/Getty Images

Tuesday night, I was saddened to hear of the passing of Bruce Lundvall, perhaps the last of the great jazz music-business executives, who, among his other credits, led Blue Note Records back from dormancy to a period of profoundly influential activity.
Bruce, who died on Tuesday at 79 from complications of Parkinson’s Disease, was a gentleman, a scholar, a true music lover and a friend whose stories kept me enraptured and taught me a great deal. He always looked dapper in his well-tailored suits and he lent positive meaning to the term “suit” as used by musicians.
In an obituary in today’s New York Times, Nate Chinen summarizes Lundvall’s impressive half-century in the recording industry and gets it right with this comment:

In an industry rife with egos and sharp elbows, Mr. Lundvall generated an unusual amount of good will. 

I’m sure to write more about Bruce soon. For now, I’ll post again, below, this excerpt from Bruce’s introduction to “Playing by Ear,” Dan Oulette’s Lundvall biography published by ArtistShare last year. My interview with Oulette about Lundvall and that project can be found here.

I’m 78 and I’m still doing what I started doing in 1960. Why? I don’t know. It’s like the mob—once you’re in, you can’t get out….

When I started out, it was the record business. Now it doesn’t seem like it’s a business at all. In the short term, we’ve reached the end of a format, and the music business will become smaller. In the long term, there will be a new generation that will be exploring a different way of doing business, and I’m not sure what that’s going to look like.
The information world is changing by the minute. The future of the music business is all tied up with that, so there will be major changes. Maybe there won’t be record companies anymore. Already a lot of young people don’t even know what a CD looks like—let alone an LP. They receive their music from a cloud.
But one thing is certain: There are still artists who have great things to say in every field, and you still need people to find the talent. In jazz, the music has become international so you have talented artists from everywhere who are important. There are more and more originals who deserve to be heard, and artist development needs to be kept alive.
In the future we’ll need people who have a passion for the music in addition to having intelligent computer skills to be able to spread the music, to get it heard. No one in the business is a star. We have to remember that we are the middlemen to get creative music to market, even when you have a young generation that believes the music should be free—and treats it that way.
Those who are passionate need to seek out mentors who can help them bring the music into the future. They can’t do it alone.

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