“Playing By Ear” is the name of Bruce Lundvall‘s biography which came out last year, written by Dan Ouellette. And that’s what Bruce did when he started a marketing job at Columbia Records back in 1960. He was later responsible for signing acts like Herbie Hancock, Dexter Gordon, Stan Getz, and Wynton Marsalis and in 1984 was called to revitalize the famed Blue Note label which at the time was almost non-existent. Bruce took the chance and asked old Blue Note cats to join the revived label, among them Jimmy Smith, McCoy Tyner, Freddie Hubbard, and Joe Henderson. He then brought new acts like Dianne Reeves, John Scofield, or Cassandra Wilson to the fold.
In recent years, Bruce was suffering from Parkinson’s disease and it was last August, when he invited several artists to his assisted-living home where he was struggling against the illness. And they all came in numbers: Renee Rosnes, Reeves, Ravi Coltrane, Bill Charlap, Norah Jones, Chucho Valdes, and many more.
Bruce Lundvall steered the Blue Note ship for almost 30 years and was responsible for establishing acts like Norah Jones, Bobby McFerrin, Al Green, Us3, Jason Moran, Joe Lovano, Robert Glasper, Don Pullen, Terence Blanchard, Jacky Terrasson, and many more. The current Blue Note president Don Was is cited on the Blue Note website: “His Joie de Vivre was equaled only by his love for music, impeccable taste and kind heart. He will be sorely missed by all of us who loved and admired him but his spirit will live forever in the music of Blue Note Records.”
We’ve crossed paths several times over the years. Both in Berlin and New York. Always the perfect gentleman, always generous and down-to-earth. The last time I saw him was at the JazzConnect conference in New York in January, 2014.
“Life is short, art is long, jazz is forever.”
Rest In Peace.