The recent history of storied jazz labels does not inspire awe. All have undergone unsought market pressure to get with the program of pop devolution. A sad, sad story. Yesterday, it was Blue Note—the once mighty powerhouse label of Thelonious Monk and Lou Donaldson (rather something else currently). Today, it is Verve Records. Recently, it was quietly announced that Verve Records would decimate its existing staff and come under the umbrella of Interscope Geffen A&M. The latter produces pop sensations like Lady Gaga and Robin Thicke.
Once upon a time, Verve sat atop the throne of the jazz kingdom. Norman Granz, the jazz impresario, as this essay recounts, made Verve into an energetic platform for the rejuvenation of Ella Fitzgerald’s career by using sophisticated compositions from the Great American Songbook as artistic fodder. By marrying two vastly dissimilar organizations, the music industry puts incoherent commercial interest above artistic integrity—disgracing itself, snubbing its customers, and the purposeful distinction between real and faux art. So R.I.P. Verve, the last of a kind.