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"I think you guys are a little late."
——Norman Granz on turning down a NARAS lifetime achievement award in 1994
DEATH OF A JAZZ LEGEND
Verve Founder, Producer, Impresario Norman Granz Dies
Verve Records founder, famed producer, jazz impresario, art collector and civil-rights pioneer Norman Granz died last Thursday (11/22) of complications from cancer. The Los Angeles native, living in Geneva, Switzerland, was 83.

Granz began his career in the early '40s promoting small jazz shows. After Billie Holiday complained to him that the owner of a club where she was performing wouldn't allow her black friends to enter, the hard-nosed Granz struck a deal with the club owner, effectively breaking the color barrier years before Branch Rickey would do the same in professional sports. Granz put on an afternoon concert at L.A.'s Philharmonic Auditorium in July, 1944 with Nat King Cole, Les Paul and Benny Carter.

The afternoon concert became the blueprint for Granz's long-running touring show, Jazz at the Philharmonic, which integrated clubs nationwide. In 1946, Granz began releasing live Jazz at the Philharmonic recordings through Asch Records. He started the Clef label in 1946 and Norgran in 1953 before folding them into Verve Records in 1956. He signed Ella Fitzgerald, whom he'd been managing for two years, as the label's first artist. Verve also inked Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Bill Evans, Count Basie and numerous other jazz notables. Granz sold Verve to MGM in 1960, a year after moving to Switzerland. He continued to manage Fitzgerald and Oscar Peterson, while promoting concerts by Basie, Ray Charles and Dave Brubeck, among others.

A Jazz at the Philharmonic reunion concert produced by Granz in 1972 that featured Fitzgerald and Basie led to the formation a year later of Pablo Records, named for Picasso, Granz's favorite artist. He sold Pablo, whose catalog by then included Fitzgerald, Peterson and Sarah Vaughan, to Fantasy Records in 1987.

Granz turned down a lifetime achievement award from NARAS in 1994, saying, "I think you guys are a little late."

Commented DreamWorks' Mo Ostin, who worked as an accountant at Verve Records: "One of the most important influences on my career and a brilliant record executive, certainly ranking with the greatest I've ever known.  He had a great sense of social consciousness and responsibility.  A great human being.  The music world and I shall miss him."

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