I was listening to the Verve "Porgy and Bess" several days ago, and I
agree with everything Tom says about Granz. The results speak. He
doesn't get the respect he's due. The Verve catalog is sometimes
dismissed by people who have an "it's too white" attitude about the
content (which is stupid and racist at the same time). They then go on
about Blue Note and Prestige. Blue Note and Prestige, the labels and
their artists, were for a niche audience. Granz knew what the masses
would like, but didn't water it down. That fact that he sold so many
records doesn't mean it was dumbed down for the Perry Como crowd (not
that there's anything wrong with Como). Granz had the best talent (for
the most part), great sound, good vinyl, great album art and he treated
his artists fairly. It's too bad that Granz didn't run all the labels.
About that "Porgy and Bess": it blows my socks off. With all due
respect to Ella, Louis Armstrong steals the show. His performances are
so frickin' strong and authentic, it's an emotional let down to listen
to anyone else. He's like Mozart: it sounds real easy, but it's not.
Everything he does sounds like it's off the cuff and natural. "There's
A Boat Dat's Leavin' Soon For New York" should be a "Jazz Music 101"
recording. Oh, Russ Garcia did a great job; the band rocks; the sound
is first rate. It's been a favorite since I was a toddler.
Tom Fine wrote:
> One man's opinion here -- Norman Granz never gets the credit he
> deserves. I think there were some animosities with the self-appointed
> "experts" and "critics" back in the Verve days, and that might have
> something to do with it. He also didn't write an autobiography (at
> least that I know of), unfortunately. This guy built three distinct
> and great catalogs of jazz -- 1) the Jazz at the Philharmonic live
> recordings, and the related in-studio jam sessions (first released
> through Mercury and then through Norgran/Verve), 2) the excellent
> Verve studio recordings of the 50's that continued even after Granz
> sold the label to MGM, 3) and then, out of retirement, the Pablo
> catalog, which has some weak spots but also proves the amazing
> longevity of some of the jazz greats.
> There was a biography of Granz in the works but it was pulled from
> publication for some reason a couple of years ago and seems to be a
> not-for-soon-release project.
> Granz was of course Ella's long-time manager, so in his universe she
> was the central star. The fact that we are discussing her legend and
> legacy today is partly due to the excellent promotion and advise she
> got from Norman Granz.
> Very worthwhile listening are the multi CD sets covering the complete
> JATP recordings, the complete Norman Granz Jam Session recordings and
> the 4-CD "The Verve Story."
> -- Tom Fine