The 'Great Columbia Jazz Purge' of 1973 was a sad moment in American music history—and looks even worse almost a half-century later
That list of 8 releases from the immediate period after the purge - I've never heard or even been curious to hear 7 of them, but I have to stick up for #1. I immediately bought E. Power Biggs Plays Scott Joplin when it first came out and loved it, the sound of the pedal harpsichord is wonderfully suited to that music.
Sorry for the late reply. I only just now got around to subscribing and reading many of the posts here. Before I go further, let's just say that, as with all online comments (perhaps even old-fashioned letters to the editor) some of us only pipe up when have we something negative to say, but that mere fact should not in any way suggest that such critiques apply to the other posts.
And so... this post is a perfect example of what blogging fails to do. That is, failing to provide the larger context for the topic at hand or consider alternate interpretations. Of course there's always the defense: it's just a blog post, the standards are lower, it's more like conversation than a finished piece of writing. Maybe.
The title seems to be purposeful hyperbole. Perhaps this mythical day was the worst in the history of Jazz at Columbia, perhaps even in the Seventies. But "worst day in Jazz history"? Also, apparently Brubeck got booted from the label in 1971. That's not mentioned, though he had been recording for Columbia for about two decades, I assume because it doesn't match the 1973 date of the others.
Do we know if anyone at Columbia really thought that Coleman and Jarrett would have long tenures at the label, or were certain executives experimenting? (After all, this was an era when major labels were willing to release some "out there" music, like Columbia's Music of Our Time series). And Mingus never recorded for Columbia for an extensive period.
The historical record overall shows that Columbia switched very hard and fast toward Fusion, and while I agree ideally they would have gone both ways and continued to support acoustic Jazz, were executives like Clive Davis really going to buck popular trends? When have executives at the "major" labels ever done that? Arguably you're overstating the extent to which Jarrett continuing on Columbia (instead of Impulse or ECM) or Coleman's Fusion work being on a major label could have made a big difference in their popularity. Columbia did at times try to sign avant-garde Jazz artists, like Tim Berne in the Eighties and David S. Ware in the Nineties.
Ever read Avakian’s thoughts about Hammond? Clive Davis as jazz boogie-man never really resonated with me. No doubt he isn’t a die hard, but Clive had his hands full for most of 1973 with legal issues and he was out by late Spring at Columbia. When Clive founded Arista in 1974, he brought over Steve Backer from Impulse, who proceeded to form Novus and Freedom, sign Anthony Braxton and more. If that wasn’t enough, Backer started that era’s Savoy (& still superlative) reissue series then as well.So whatever perceived damage Clive did to Jazz, the impact that Backer had on the music was more than a mea culpa. And to boot, even if it isn’t to one’s taste in the music, when Larry Rosen & Dave Grusin started GRP Records in 1978, it was an imprint of Arista.
I always thought Mingus surpassed Nugent without thinking much about it, but Theodore's Free For All did actually come out in 1976 - one year after his solo debut in 1975. Minor point, but . . . relevance?
The Tony Williams Lifetime recorded for Polydor.
I remember this. Clive Davis didn't survive it long himself, because Copperhead (a wonderful band, featuring friend and idol John Cipollina) had been a Davis signing, and soon found themselves adrift with no label support or interest.
I was at CBS when Bruce Lundvall was in charge, and he was a huge Jazz fan. It was "musical genius" Clive Davis who engineered the debacle
This was just at the same time I was discovering jazz, and how ironic, that the label that pulled me deeper into the music was ECM.
It is all the more ironic or maybe even tragic since the Japanese are such ardent jazz fans. Look at all the reissues and digital remasters of classic jazz made in Japan. These were not only on Columbia but on other labels as well.
I would like to know of the role of Bruce Lundvall in all of this. I can't recall if he was running the Columbia label at the time (1973). He later became president of parent company CBS Records in 1976, right around the time I became program director at NY's jazz radio station, WRVR-FM. I can assure you that he was the only major label president who ever paid us a call. Columbia made possible our live broadcast of Dexter Gordon from the Village Vanguard and a free concert by Woody Shaw at the Central Park bandshell. And of course he later went to Blue Note and helped to revive it.
Bruce was a jazz supporter through and through. If he had a role in the GJP, I would consider it a blip on an otherwise distinguished career.