|This article needs additional citations for verification. (February 2013)|
|Parent company||Universal Music Group|
|Country of origin||US|
|Location||Santa Monica, California|
Verve Records is an American jazz and adult music record label now owned by Universal Music Group. It was founded by Norman Granz in 1956, absorbing the catalogues of his earlier labels, Clef Records (founded in 1946) and Norgran Records (founded in 1953), and material which had been licensed to Mercury previously.
Jazz and folk origins
Verve was created just as the twelve-inch long playing album became the industry standard, its ten-inch counterpart for the most part discontinued. Granz, the manager at the time of Ella Fitzgerald, had signed the singer away from Decca Records and inaugurated the jazz 4000 series with Fitzgerald's first album release on Verve, Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Cole Porter Songbook. Indeed, Granz created the label in part for the very purpose of a new series of recordings by Fitzgerald, among those the famed Songbooks commenced with the Porter set and lasting for an additional seven volumes through 1964.
The Verve catalog grew throughout the 1950s and 1960s to boast an impressive roster of major figures in jazz, apart from Fitzgerald also eventually including Bill Evans, Stan Getz, Billie Holiday, Oscar Peterson, Ben Webster, and Lester Young. It also recognized the potential of comedy albums, producing Spike Jones' first LP, Dinner Music for People Who Aren't Very Hungry, in 1956 and several best-selling albums featuring live performances by Shelley Berman beginning in 1960.
Granz sold Verve to MGM in 1961 for $3 million. Creed Taylor was appointed as producer, and adopted a more commercial approach, cancelling several contracts. Taylor brought the bossa nova to America with the Stan Getz/Charlie Byrd LP Jazz Samba as well as Getz/Gilberto and Walter Wanderley LP Rain Forest . Several arrangers of note worked for the Verve label too in the 1960s, including Claus Ogerman and Oliver Nelson. Claus Ogerman, by his own admission in Gene Lees' Jazzletter publication, arranged some 60-70 albums for Verve under Creed Taylor's direction from 1963-1967.
In 1964, Taylor supervised the creation of a folk music subsidiary named Verve Folkways (later renamed Verve Forecast) by Verve executive Jerry Schoenbaum. Taylor left Verve in 1967 to form his own CTI Records. But by now there were fewer new recordings and they would cease altogether in the early 1970s.
Besides its main focus on jazz, Verve did host a handful of rock artists in the 1960s, including The Righteous Brothers, Frank Zappa & The Mothers of Invention, The Velvet Underground, and The Blues Project. These recordings were usually released on blue Verve labels, which helped to distinguish them from Jazz releases, which used black labels.
In the seventies, the label became part of the PolyGram label group, at this point incorporating the Mercury/EmArcy jazz catalog, which Philips, part owners of PolyGram, had earlier acquired. Verve Records became the Verve Music Group after PolyGram was merged with Seagram's Universal Music Group in 1998. The jazz holdings from the merged companies were folded into this sub-group.
The label was revived in the mid-1980s for new releases and more focus on reissuing its back catalogue in ever more imaginative ways. Between 1990 and 1997 as a part of PolyGram Classics and Jazz, Verve Records also saw a major resurgence creatively with artists signings Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Joe Henderson, Roy Hargrove, John Scofield, Shirley Horn, Betty Carter, Abbey Lincoln, Chris Botti, Jeff Lorber, Gino Vannelli, Art Porter, Will Downing, Incognito and many others. During this period (1991-1997) Verve was recognized by Billboard Magazine as the #1 Jazz label in the world. The “Verve by Request” label began to reissue many original Verve bossa nova titles on CD in the late 1990s, and the Elite series revived many obscure albums which had languished for many years.
When Universal and Polygram merged in 1998, Verve's holdings were merged with Universal's GRP Recording Company to become Verve Music Group. This was run by producer Tommy LiPuma. Ron Goldstein was named President of the merged companies. After ill-fated forays into Americana, and Adult Contemporary genres, Verve was then corporately aligned with Universal Music Enterprises (UMe), and no longer a stand alone label within UMG. During this era, the label has released a series of Verve Remixed compilation discs where classic tracks by Verve artists are remixed by contemporary electronic music DJs and had success with Diana Krall. By the mid-2000s, there was an extensive “Verve Vault” section on iTunes.
As of 2012, David Foster is the Chairman of Verve Music Group. In December 2014, all of Verve's employees were terminated other than Foster, and Verve became an imprint within Interscope Records, and once again no longer a stand alone label within UMG. Forgoing its jazz roots Verve is attempting to re-brand as an "adult label" signing many legacy artists who have had success in the distant past. The active roster of artists include: Andrea Bocelli, Smokey Robinson, Natalie Cole, Carla Bruni, Natalie Duncan, Yuna, Agnetha Faltskog, Lou Doillon, Blake Mills and Cody Karey.
The Verve imprint itself manages much of the jazz catalog that once belonged to PolyGram (not including recordings by Herb Alpert for his A&M Records label which Alpert acquired in a legal settlement with Universal Music and are licensed to Shout! Factory), while the Impulse! Records imprint manages the portion of Universal's catalog that was acquired from ABC Records, which itself includes the jazz catalog of the Famous Music Group, once owned by Paramount Pictures/Gulf+Western, but was sold to ABC in 1974. Meanwhile, GRP manages the rest of MCA/Universal's jazz catalog, including releases once issued on the Decca and Chess labels.
- "The Work of Claus Ogerman". Bjbear71.com. Retrieved 2013-02-28.
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- "It's Official: David Foster Named Chairman of Verve Music Group". Billboard. December 15, 2011. Retrieved June 4, 2012.