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Irving Townsend (1920-1981) was an American record producer and author. He is most famous for having produced, in March 1959, the Miles Davis album Kind of Blue, which at #12, is the highest-ranked jazz album on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, and according to the RIAA, is the best-selling jazz album of all time. He later served as president of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences of the United States.
Townsend, a former jazz bandleader, became an advertising copywriter for Columbia Records. He then convinced George Avakian to have him assist on recording sessions, and by the mid-1950s he was a full-time producer. He became Davis's producer after the departures of Avakian and Cal Lampley.
From Music Is My Mistress, an autobiography by Duke Ellington:
"Irving Townsend is a very sensitive musician. He plays clarinet in a trip symphony, one of those groups that includes doctors, lawyers and accountants who worked their way through college as professional musicians and who like to get together once or twice a week to try out their chops. He is now executive producer for Columbia Records on the West Coast.
"As an a. and r. man he is wonderful. He has full knowledge of the mechanics of the business, and he also has such understanding that he seems to know what the artist is trying to get without going into long-winded rigamarole of rules and regulations, and without being swayed by what some other artist did last week. I love him and his whole beautiful family. We are indebted to him for having produced many of our favorite and most satisfactory records."
- Hank Mobley
- Billie Holiday
- Miles Davis
- Mahalia Jackson
- Leonard Bernstein
- Duke Ellington
- André Previn
- Johnny Mathis
- Percy Faith
- Wayne Shorter
- Jimmy Rushing
- Dave Brubeck
- Doris Day
- Ada Moore
- Flatt & Scruggs
- Frankie Laine
- John Hammond On Record: An Autobiography (co-author)
- The Less Expensive Spread
- The Tavern
- Separate Lifetimes
- Articles in various publications including Atlantic Monthly as well as numerous liner notes.
- Kahn, Ashley (2001). Kind of Blue: The Making of the Miles Davis Masterpiece, p. 91. Da Capo Press.
- Ellington, Duke (1973; 1976 reprt). Music Is My Mistress, pp. 247-48. Da Capo Press.
- The Columbia Records back catalogue