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

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. Continue reading “Jazz Loses a Class Act: Bruce Lundvall, Who Revived Blue Note Records, Dies at 79”

Bruce Lundvall On Playing By Ear

Bruce Lundvall at Recording Academy hosted Special Merit Awards Ceremony in 2011

My January Wall Street Journal Cultural Conversation with Don Was, president of Blue Note Records, began with a sincere tip of the hat—via onstage hat-tips from pianist Jason Moran and Robert Glasper—to Bruce Lundvall, who ran that company for 25 years and who continues to provide guidance as chairman emeritus.
Lundvall’s story is a great one, about a singular man, maybe the last of his breed of music executive, whose work spanned a few important eras at a few major record labels, companies that also may be the last of their breeds.
In a July post, I interviewed writer Dan Ouellette, who was then working on “Playing by Ear,” a book documenting Lundvall’s half-century career.
Now that book is available. You can find it at Amazon, or by going to the ArtistShare page.
As he did with a previous biography of bassist Ron Carter, Ouellette pursued an interesting path, developing this book through the fan-funded Artistshare website. Besides forgoing a traditional publisher and offering readers various forms of participation in the process, Ouellette worked in a nontraditional biography form, he says, inserting “snapshot” chapters within the narrative of Lundvall’s life story. “A reader can choose to read the entire story on Bruce’s Elektra experience,” he says, “or choose to read the focused sections on Bobby McFerrin or Whitney Houston or Ruben Blades. This whole setup offers the reader options. Most people read a book cover to cover without skipping around. This format allows people to skip around at their leisure, kind of like someone listening to a CD and selecting different tracks to play versus the entire album.”
Here’s a brief excerpt, courtesy of the author: Continue reading “Bruce Lundvall On Playing By Ear”