Bruce Lundvall, CEO Of Blue Note Records
AAJ: What is the role of the producer in this process?
BL: The producer is usually the one that's in the studio, making the record, advising the artists on the right takes, and also suggesting songs, tempos, etc. and even conceptual ideas for albums. Less so today, because the jazz artists themselves know what they want to do. I just listened last night to the most extraordinary new Pat Martino record which will be coming out late this summer. This is the best record he's ever made and it's so unpredictable for him- he used Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Lewis Nash on drums, Christian McBride on bass, and Joe Lovano on tenor. It's quite a configuration, and it is just so fresh and exciting. And that was really Pat's concept.
AAJ: So you really dialogue with the musicians.
BL: Well we do that all the time. And with Lovano, he's got a new idea every two minutes. So we sit down, and he's got four or five projects, so I say, 'Joe, how many projects can we make this year?! Let's go with the one that makes the most sense.
AAJ: Which engineers are you using these days?
BL: We still use Rudy. James Farber. We use many good engineer-producers.
AAJ: What are your goals for Blue Note Records in the next decade? What would you like our readers- fans, musicians, historians, scholars- to know?
BL: I would like the label to represent the most important artists in jazz. Whether they are older artists or new ones coming up. I want the artists that will push the music ahead. When I'm dead or retired, I'd like people to say, that Lundvall was able to support Alfred Lion's vision and be true to it. Even though it's quite different, for example we have many more vocalists than he. I think the label has to represent the culture we're in today. If we can be representative of the best in jazz, and have the best artists, the ones who really make a difference. We'll never have them all- of course not. But I'm so proud of the roster that we have now. We've just signed Wynton Marsalis. He joined us, he said 'You're the only jazz label! And I want to be with you.' I signed Wynton to Columbia Records. So he's joined the roster.
AAJ: So it's about pushing the envelope'
BL: Well, not only that- there's a tradition in this music also. It's just that you want to have the most exemplary and influential artists in jazz on your label. And I also want to have the ones who I think are moving the music ahead in a fresh way. You've also got to keep the label profitable so that no one tampers with it- that can happen when you're part of a large corporation. As long as we deliver a good bottom line, which we've done every year. That being the case, the company has supported the whole operation. And I've been with seven or eight different bosses since I've been here! I've been very lucky, because they've supported the music.
AAJ: I've thoroughly enjoyed this interview, but I know that you're very busy'
BL: The last thing I should say is that I'm really supported by a staff here who are all musicians. Yeah, I've got a very musical climate. I've got the best general manager in Tom Evered. He's a total musicologist. He knows everything about classical music and jazz. He graduated from music school, a trombone player and pianist. I've got the greatest A&R man in the world here, not for Blue Note as much as the Manhattan label, Arif Mardin. He produced the Norah Jones record, and just completed a wonderful Dianne Reeves record for Blue Note. He's a man with forty gold and platinum records, Grammies, etc. He works for me! It's a miracle.
It's a whole team of people, a small team, but there all big fans of jazz. So, when an artist is performing in town, they're there. Sometimes, the musicians complain that the people at the record companies never show up. But I go all the time, including hearing the new people. So does Michael Cuscuna . He still produces records for us. He just did the Terence Blanchard record for us. And he does all of our re-issue programs, of course.
AAJ: Thank you, Bruce, for a very informative and reflective interview.