Editorial – Verve/Impulse Merger

Jazz Talk
(Ma! Look What They’ve Done To My Record Label!)
The VerveImpulse merger

An Editorial by Sidney Bechet-Mandela

By the time you read this, whatever fallout is left from the great jazz merger of Verve and Impulse should begin to shake out. Rumors abound and many folks have left rather than wait for the outcome. Personally (and this is not the opinion of management, but mine) I would have preferred to have Verve President Chuck Mitchell survive the fight than eventual winner Tommy LiPuma.

Mitchell not only had a true jazz vision, both contemporary and mainstream, he had a diverse roster and staff. LiPuma and his boys club on the other hand has done nothing since the late 60’s but inherit situations only to destroy them and try to rebuild them in his image. Don’t worry about your favorite Impulse artist, it’s the Verve artists, (not to mention women and African-American staff) that will be walking.

If you’re a fan of GRP Records, and is wondering where it went, LiPuma destroyed it in what seems like a move of a total ego-maniac. To understand the situation, one needs to know the history of LiPuma. Granted, I don’t know everything about the man, but anyone with a head this big is going to make sure even the most casual industry watcher knows where he’s working.

Dave Grusin and Larry Rosen built GRP and sold it to MCA for $40 million dollars. The company that owned MCA that week was a Japanese conglomerate that decided to hire LiPuma supposedly, one would think, to make more money on GRP. For years, MCA has been buying up record companies, including one that LiPuma had a stake in in the late 60’s, early 70’s, Blue Thumb.

Ever since LiPuma came in he’s done everything to disparage the Grusin/Rosen imprint and everything to re-invent Blue Thumb. He even officially changed the name of the company from Grusin/Rosen Productions to Great Records, Period. This week MCA is owned by a Canadian conglomerate and it has bought Verve and turned it over to LiPuma.

LiPuma is also given credit for re-activating Impulse. He didn’t. Ricky Schultz did it first in the mid 80’s, Larry Rosen did it again right after the GRP acquisition gave him access to the legendary jazz label that MCA negligently let lie dormant for years.

LiPuma even gets credit for Diana Krall’s six-figure record sales and her run at the top of the jazz charts for half a year. . It’s like Ronald Reagan getting credit for the Berlin Wall coming down, like all the work that Presidents Truman through Carter did before Reagan came along meant nothing.

Sorry, Larry Rosen and his staff signed Krall to GRP and developed her. All LiPuma did was made sure she changed labels to Impulse and reap the benefits just in time for the next shareholders meeting. That’s the same thing he did to gain power at Warner Brothers in the mid 70’s, he held up a cardboard George Benson figure every quarter in Burbank.

Here’s a rumor I believe, some Verve Forecast artists will be on Blue Thumb, but most will be dropped. Here’s another, no one on i.e. music survives, that includes guitarist and co-owner Lee Ritenour. Ironically, i.e.’s most recent signing, Al Jarreau, will be kept. He’ll have a hit, and LiPuma, who also produced him at Warners will get the credit for saving Al Jarreau, when Mark Wexler and Ritenour did the work. Reached out to him. (ed. note- archive our Al Jarreau story on record labels)

Here’s another rumour I believe- some classic Verve titles will appear on Impulse. Where are you Bob Thiele and Norman Granz?