Thirty years ago, renowned jazz musicians, producers and entrepreneurs Larry Rosen and Dave Grusin made music history as co-founders of GRP Records. The groundbreaking jazz label became known as the “Digital Master Company” and created a home for and launched the careers of countless artists, including Chick Corea, David Benoit, Lee Ritenour, George Benson, Larry Carlton, Michael and Randy Brecker, Arturo Sandoval, The Rippingtons, BB King, Dave Valentin, Diane Schuur and Special EFX. The label was first to adopt an all digital recording philosophy for all of its releases and was the first to market itself as a lifestyle brand—which led GRP to become Billboard’s #1 contemporary jazz label for five consecutive years. To mark this milestone, Universal Music released the 2 CD retrospective album GRP 30, along with 10 classic albums that were re-mastered and released digitally in the new Hi-Res audio format.
Larry Rosen’s diverse resume includes: being producer/executive producer of over 350 albums, with 80 Grammy nominations and 33 Grammy Awards; creator and producer of the PBS television HD series “Legends of Jazz with Ramsey Lewis”; recipient of Ernst & Young’s prestigious “Entrepreneur of the Year” Award in New Media and Entertainment; recipient of National Association of Recording Arts & Sciences (NARAS) Governor’s Award and inducted into the A&R Producers Honor Roll; and being named Forbes Magazine as an “Internet Icon” in their “Masters of the Universe” cover story. He currently serves on the boards of The Brubeck Institute, UM Frost School of Music Deans Visiting Committee, and along with Dave Grusin, co-founded the National Foundation for Jazz Education (NFJE), a philanthropic group which helps young jazz musicians. His current passion, JAZZ ROOTS – A Larry Rosen Jazz Series, a concert and educational program created for performing arts centers across America, is celebrating its fifth anniversary. Rosen is also currently producing a television series and multi-media performance program titled “Recording: The History of Recorded Music,” with hosts Quincy Jones and Phil Ramone.
JazzMonthly: Congratulations on the 30th Anniversary of GRP Records. What does this milestone mean to you personally and what do you think it means in terms of being part of contemporary jazz history?
LR: Thank you. Thirty years sounds like a long time! When we talk about 1982, I remember it being an interesting time of change both musically and technologically. What Dave and I did was took both those things and married them together. For many years, maybe up till Miles Davis went the fusion route and bands like the Mahavishnu Orchestra emerged, jazz was pretty much the straight ahead jazz you heard at jazz clubs. Recordings sounded like what the guys played in the club the night before. What we started doing in the 70s, first as Grusin-Rosen Productions and then as GRP/Arista in a deal with Clive Davis, was paint pictures with music—using a more creative production style. We drew on Dave’s writing and orchestration skills and the concept of painting a picture sonically – and applying those ideas to create a different style of contemporary jazz.
JazzMonthly: Do you see GRP as one of those jazz labels that defines a certain sound or era (or eras) like Prestige, Riverside, Blue Note and CTI? If so, what do you think that vibe is?
LR: Absolutely. Each of these labels has a history, and they define something in particular. Blue Note, Prestige and Riverside were straight ahead labels that covered the technology and music and artists of their time. With CTI, artists like Wes Montgomery started using string orchestral sounds and started to shape things a little differently. Dave and I picked up from there and moved forward, creating palettes for our artists with a lot of instrumental coloring. Musically, sonically and marketing wise, GRP was a brand like Blue Note or Motown. We expanded this to include GRP All-Star tours and big band concerts. Over time, the quality of our recordings inspired a high level of consumer trust. If someone didn’t know the artist but it was on GRP, that person would know it was of a certain quality and might be inspired to buy the album.