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Savoy Jazz Reaches 60, But Looks Beyond

R.J. DeLuke By

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AAJ: Your strategy, these ideas, are also to push Savoy itself into prominence

SV: It seems to me it's a label that deserves it. Verve has a tremendous brand. Columbia has a tremendous brand that jazz buyers respond to. When you look at the history of Savoy and the seminal recordings that were made by so many artists for this little label based in Newark, NJ, it deserves to have a more prominent place in people's front-of-mind thinking. I think we'll accomplish correcting that in the next six to nine months

But really, where we can connect with new listeners in the most positive way is to come up with one of those new artists that captures the people's imaginations and you have 100,000 or 200,000 people buying the record.

AAJ: You're going to return to new recordings. Is that happening this year?

SV: We hoped to have some things out this fall, but I don't want to rush us and we've been so busy. There's only four or five of us running the company on a US basis. I also handle some European things and work with our Japanese mother company [Nippon Columbia]. So we're spread a little thin. We want to make sure that these things are done properly; that the A&R is done right; that the recording environment, all of those elements are in place before we pull the trigger. So we've elected to do things in the first quarter of next year, which for new things is actually not a bad time.

AAJ: Do you have anybody signed yet?

SV: We're about ready to commit eight to paper. As soon as that's done, we'll be making some announcements. It's going to be a nice interesting mix of things.

AAJ: New artists? Older?

SV: Steve and I have some real strong feelings about some lions that are around that we think still have tremendous voices in jazz that need to be heard. We're actually finding some new artists in jazz that we like a lot as well. Because we don't have the pressure from a large corporate parent about instant profitability, we're in the happy position of being able to operate like an old-line jazz label, where we're going to be able to find people we believe in and know that we can commit ourselves to a number of recordings to try and put this artist on the path of being recognized and accepted. We're much more like Prestige in the 50s was than, say, Columbia is today.

We're actually having a really good time. If we weren't do darn busy, we'd probably be enjoying it a whole lot more. But it's pretty satisfying. We had our first record on the Billboard charts two weeks ago —the Miles Davis timeless release cracked the top 30 for us —so we're real happy about that. And the series overall is selling very nicely. Everything's moving right on schedule.

We have two areas we're releasing records under. timeless is for the neophyte, the new jazz consumer. We have what we call the Jazz Platinum Editions, those are more aimed at the jazz aficionado, someone who's more experienced in their jazz. Both of those will have the spotlight thrown on them this fall in retail and with reviewers. We're pursuing some editorial both in web environments like yours and in magazines. Both of those two lines, as distinct as they are, are going to get their hearing and will have a lot written about them, because I think they're both pretty unique.

At that point, it's up to the consumer which one you'd like to sample and what you'd like to experience. timeless, from an audio standpoint, gets the same level of studio production and digital enhancement that we do on the full-price recordings. There's no degradation in quality by buying a mid-price record, as far as we're concerned.

We're having a pretty good time here. There's a bit of passion. We're pretty committed. I've been a jazz enthusiast. I've produced jazz records. I was lucky enough to have worked with Gerry Mulligan and Dizzy and those guys before they passed on. It's really a part of me.

I've stood in the studio and held the acetate to "Parker's Mood," and to know that very disc was cut the day they made that magic over 50 years ago' If the music means anything to you, it can't help but touch you. Our job, as stewards of this catalog, is to make as many people connect with it as we possible can.

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