Verve Records

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Not to be confused with The Verve or The Verve Pipe.
Verve Records
Parent company Universal Music Group
Founded 1956
Founder Norman Granz
Distributor(s) The Verve Label Group
(in the US)[1]
Genre Jazz and various others
Country of origin US
Location Santa Monica, California
Official website

Verve Records is an American record label 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 previously licensed to Mercury Records. Today, Verve Music Group now operates via an association with Interscope Records.


Jazz and folk origins[edit]

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, eventually including Charlie Parker, 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.

By 1960, Granz was looking to retire and move to Europe. His attorney, Milton Rudin, also represented Frank Sinatra, and knew that Sinatra was interested in having his own record label. Sinatra and Granz made a handshake deal for the singer to purchase Verve, but negotiations broke down over the final price of the deal, as well as Sinatra's insistence that Granz remain as the head of the label, in spite of his intention to leave the recording industry altogether. With talks with Sinatra stalled and seemingly at an impasse, Granz sold Verve to MGM in 1961 for $3.1 million. (Sinatra went on to form Reprise Records, and lured a top Verve executive, Mo Ostin, to run it.) 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's 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 to 1967.[2]

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. In America, 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.[3]

1990s revival[edit]

The label was revived in the mid-1990s 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 was no longer a stand-alone label within UMG. During this era, the label has released a series of Verve Remixed compilation discs in which classic tracks by Verve artists were 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. The active roster of artists include: Andrea Bocelli, Barry Manilow, Sarah McLachlan, Diana Krall, Melody Gardot, Yuna, Blake Mills, Third Story, Michelle Branch, and Fairground Saints.[4]

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),[5] 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, which was once owned by Paramount Pictures/Gulf+Western, but which 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 Verve Music Group has expanded its output beyond jazz to include crossover classical music, progressive pop and show tunes.[6][7]



External links[edit]