Bruce Lundvall, President/CEO of EMI Jazz & Classics, has for the 49 years of his career to date served as an extraordinary activist and advocate for jazz within the world-wide record industry. An aspiring saxophonist who began work in the marketing department of Columbia Records in 1960, he was originally drawn to jazz as a teenager collecting 78s of Swing Era greats. Unusually expansive in his enthusiasms and activities, Lundvall conceived and directed the historic Havana Jam of 1979, the first concerts held in Cuba by American artists in two decades, and brought Irakere (at the time featuring Paquito D'Rivera, Arturo Sandoval and Chucho Valdés) to Columbia Records and on tour of the U.S. Such international cultural diplomacy was well beyond the call and/or expectations of record executives, then or now. By 1981, having served as president of the domestic division of CBS Records, he'd built Columbia's jazz roster into the largest of any major label, powered by a stylistically-diverse array of artists including Stan Getz, Dexter Gordon, Return to Forever, Freddie Hubbard, Herbie Hancock, Bob James, Al di Meola and up 'n' coming Wynton Marsalis.
In 1982 Lundvall became president of the newly created Elektra/Musician label as well as senior vice president of Elektra/Asylum. Freed of may bureaucratic responsibilities, he pursued a&r opportunities, signing Bobby McFerrin, Bill Evans, Kevin Eubanks, Woody Shaw and Steps Ahead and initiating the promotion of a rising generation of "young lions." Two years later, when approached with an offer to create an East Coast-based pop music label, Manhattan, and revive the legendary, long-suspended Blue Note jazz label, he leapt at the chance. Among his first successes were Grammy Awards for the original soundtrack recording of August Wilson's Broadway play Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, a platinum album and four Grammy Awards for Bobby McFerrin, one Grammy for Dexter Gordon and recognition for having revived Blue Note.
In ensuing years, Lundvall has consistently been a leader in the recording industry and its related philanthropies, as chairman of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA); chairman of the Country Music Association (CMA); director of the National Association of Recording Artists and Science (NARAS); director of the T.J. Martell Foundation for Leukemia Research and most recently, the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation. In 1996, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Jazz Foundation of America and the Russ Sanjek Award for contributors to recording art who are not primarily a&r producers. He was also instrumental in establishing, in 1999, the industry-wide non-profit advocacy group Jazz Alliance International.
However, it's as a talent scout and tastemaker that Bruce Lundvall has most influenced the course of jazz and the rest of American vernacular music. Among musicians whose sounds he has championed, documented and disseminated are Stanley Jordan, Dianne Reeves, Rachelle Ferrell, Joe Lovano, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Max Roach, Cassandra Wilson, Jacky Terrasson, Greg Osby, Andrew Hill and Norah Jones. He has never been a purist who insists that genres remain separate from each other, but rather has approved musical cross-fertilizations that generate new pleasures for broad audiences. Heading Angel Records (classical) and Manhattan Records (adult pop) as well as Blue Note -- a label now celebrating the 70th anniversary of its origin -- Bruce Lundvall has been key in ensuring that jazz survives in the 21st Century. The JJA honors this consumate record man and looks forward to his future endeavors. -- Howard Mandel