Granz in 1947
August 6, 1918|
Los Angeles, California, United States
November 22, 2001 (aged 83)|
|Labels||Clef, Norgran, Down Home, Verve, Pablo|
|Associated acts||Ella Fitzgerald, Cannonball Adderley, Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Louie Bellson, Ray Brown, Benny Carter, Buck Clayton, Paulinho da Costa, Buddy DeFranco, Roy Eldridge, Duke Ellington, Herb Ellis, Tal Farlow, Stan Getz, Dizzy Gillespie, Lionel Hampton, Bill Harris, Coleman Hawkins, Johnny Hodges, Billie Holiday, Milt Jackson, Illinois Jacquet, Hank Jones, Barney Kessel, Gene Krupa, Howard McGhee, Thelonious Monk, Bill Evans, Gerry Mulligan, Anita O'Day, Charlie Parker, Joe Pass, Oscar Peterson, Flip Phillips, Bud Powell, Buddy Rich, Charlie Shavers, Sonny Stitt, Art Tatum, Ben Webster, Lester Young, among many others.|
Granz was a fundamental figure in American jazz, especially from about 1947 to 1960. He was the founder of five record labels: Clef, Norgran, Down Home, Verve and Pablo. Granz was acknowledged as "the most successful impresario in the history of jazz". Granz is also known for his anti-racist position and for integrating audiences.
Born in Los Angeles, Granz was the son of Jewish immigrants from Tiraspol. After school, he began work as a stock clerk on the Los Angeles stock exchange. When America joined the Second World War, he was drafted into the U.S. Army Air Force. Subsequently, he was posted to the Morale branch, the department charged with troops' entertainment". He then emerged into the public view when he organised desegregated jam sessions at the Trouville Club in Los Angeles, which he later expanded when he staged a memorable concert at the Philharmonic Auditorium in Los Angeles on Sunday, July 2, 1944, under the heading of "Jazz at the Philharmonic".
The title of the concert, "A Jazz Concert at the Philharmonic Auditorium", had been shortened by the printer of the advertising supplements to "Jazz at the Philharmonic". Only one copy of the very first concert program is known to exist. Norman Granz had organised the first Jazz at the Philharmonic concert with about $300 of borrowed money.
Later known as JATP, the ever-changing group recorded and toured extensively, with Granz producing some of the first live jam session recordings to be distributed to a wide market.
After several JATP concerts in Los Angeles in 1944 and 1945, Granz began producing JATP concert tours, from late fall of 1945 to 1957 in USA and Canada, and from 1952 in Europe. They featured swing and bop musicians and were among the first high-profile performances to feature racially integrated bands. Granz actually cancelled some bookings rather than have the musicians perform for segregated audiences. He recorded many of the JATP concerts, and from 1945 to 1947 sold/leased the recordings to Asch/Disc/Stinson Records (record producer Moses Asch's labels).
in 1948 Granz signed an agreement with Mercury Records for the promotion and the distribution of the JATP recordings and other recordings. After the agreement expired in 1953 he issued the JATP recordings and other recordings on Clef Records (founded 1946) and Norgran Records (founded 1953). Down Home Records was intended for traditional jazz works. Jazz at the Philharmonic ceased touring the United States and Canada, after the JATP concerts in the fall of 1957, apart from a North American Tour in 1967.
Many of the names that made history in jazz signed with one of Norman Granz's labels, including Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie, Louie Bellson, Benny Carter, Buck Clayton, Buddy DeFranco, Roy Eldridge, Herb Ellis, Tal Farlow, Stan Getz, Dizzy Gillespie, Lionel Hampton, Coleman Hawkins, Johnny Hodges, Billie Holiday, Illinois Jacquet, Hank Jones, Gene Krupa, Anita O'Day (the first artist to sign with Verve), Charlie Parker, Joe Pass, Oscar Peterson, Flip Phillips, Bud Powell, Buddy Rich, Sonny Stitt, Slim Gaillard, Art Tatum, Ben Webster and Lester Young.
Granz saw to it that his musicians were well paid. In the segregated society of the 1940s, he insisted on equal pay and accommodation for white and black musicians. He refused to take his hugely popular concerts to places which were segregated, even if he had to cancel concerts, thereby sacrificing considerable sums of money.
In 1944, Granz and Gjon Mili produced the jazz film Jammin' the Blues, which starred Lester Young, Illinois Jacquet, Barney Kessel, Harry Edison, Jo Jones, Sidney Catlett, Marlowe Morris, and Marie Bryant, and was nominated for an Academy Award.
It was in 1956 that the popular singer Ella Fitzgerald finally joined Norman Granz's label. Granz had been her manager for some time, and unified his activities under the common label of Verve Records. Granz became Fitzgerald's manager, and remained so until the end of her career. Fitzgerald's memorable series of eight Songbooks, together with the duet series (notably Armstrong-Peterson, Fitzgerald-Basie, Fitzgerald-Pass and Getz-Peterson) achieved wide popularity and brought acclaim to the label and to the artists. Granz was also the manager of Oscar Peterson, another lifelong friend. In 1959, Norman Granz moved to Switzerland. In December 1960, Verve Records was sold to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.
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Norman Granz opposed racism and fought many battles for his artists, many of whom were black. In 1955, in Houston, Texas, he removed signs that would have designated "White" and "Negro" seating areas in the auditorium where two concerts were to be performed by Ella Fitzgerald and Dizzy Gillespie. Between the two shows Ella and Dizzy were found playing cards in the dressing room and arrested by local police. After some negotiations, the artists were allowed to perform the second show and later were formally released. Granz nevertheless insisted on fighting the charges, which cost him a $2,000 fine.
Oscar Peterson recounted how Granz once insisted that white cabdrivers take his black artists as customers while a policeman pointed a loaded pistol at his stomach. Granz also was among the first to pay white and black artists the same salary and to give them equal treatment even in minor details, such as dressing rooms.
Granz also spearheaded the fight to desegregate the hotels and casinos in Las Vegas, arguing that it was unfair that black artists could perform on the stages, but could not stay or gamble at the hotels, or even enter through the front doors.
A detailed look at Granz, his career, and his legacy can be found in Tad Hershorn's book Norman Granz: The Man Who Used Jazz for Justice (2011).
- Richard Severo (November 27, 2001). "Norman Granz, Who Took Jazz Out of Smoky Clubs and Put It in Concert Halls, Dies at 83". New York Times.
- "Norman Granz" (obituary), The Telegraph, November 26, 2001.
- Michael Freedland, "Norman Granz: Verve record label founder who gave jazz respectability and integrated audiences", The Guardian, November 26, 2001.
- Obituary Norman Granz, The Independent, November 25, 2001. Retrieved November 20, 2008.
- Tad Hershorn, Norman Granz: The Man Who Used Jazz for Justice (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011), 324.