George Avakian, jazz producer and scholar, dead at 98

12:00 • 23.11.17



George Avakian, a Russian-born jazz scholar and architect of the American music industry who produced essential recordings by Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis and other stars has died at age 98.


Avakian's daughter, Anahid Avakian Gregg, confirmed that her father died Wednesday morning at his home in Manhattan. No further details were immediately available, according to the New York Times.

 

Avakian, an executive at Columbia Records and Warner Bros. among other labels, helped popularize such consumer standards as liner notes, the long-playing album and the live album.


Few could claim as many milestones as Avakian, who started out as an Ivy League prodigy rediscovering old jazz recordings and became a monumental industry figure and founder of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, presenters of the Grammys. Through the artists he promoted and the breakthroughs he championed, Avakian helped shape the music we listen to and the way we listen to it.


"The innovations Avakian brought or helped bring to the recording industry are so fundamental and taken for granted today that most people under the age of 70 would find it hard to imagine there was ever a time when they didn't exist," DownBeat magazine declared in presenting Avakian a lifetime achievement award in 2000.


His contributions date back to the late 1930s, when he was an undergraduate at Yale and a jazz fan frustrated by the limited availability of his favorite music. He wrote to numerous companies and finally convinced Decca to let him compile "Chicago Jazz," widely regarded as the first jazz album and among the first jazz records to include liner notes, written by Avakian.


"Decca said in essence, 'We don't know quite what jazz in those cities is about but you seem to know so why don't you go ahead and produce them,'" Avakian told JazzWax in 2010.


Avakian was soon working on new and old music, documenting and making history, and jazz's stature was changing from popular entertainment to art. He prepared a series of reissues at Columbia that featured recordings by Armstrong, Ellington and Bessie Smith and helped launch the inclusion of alternate takes of individual songs. He produced the classic "Louis Armstrong Plays W.C. Handy" and one of Dave Brubeck's most popular albums, "Dave Digs Disney." He also signed up Davis for Columbia and co-produced "Miles Ahead," the 1957 album that began Davis' collaborations with arranger Gil Evans and established him as among the first jazz superstars of the post-World War II era.


"I saw him as the best trumpet ballad player since Louis Armstrong," Avakian told The Wall Street Journal
in 2005.


The music business was rapidly changing in the 1940s and '50s, thanks in part to Avakian. Columbia was the industry leader in issuing classical recordings as albums and Avakian, as head of Columbia's pop division, oversaw the landmark 1948 release of 100 long-playing records for pop and jazz. Featuring Frank Sinatra, Dinah Shore and other artists, they were pressed on vinyl that was thinner than the traditional 78 rpm "shellac" records and played at what became the standard speed, 33 1-3 rpm.


In the 1950s, Avakian supervised two historic live recordings: "Benny Goodman Live at Carnegie Hall 1938" and "Ellington at Newport." The Goodman concert, released in 1950, was among jazz's first double albums, first live albums and first to sell a million copies. "Ellington at Newport," featuring a sensational 27-chorus solo by tenor saxophone player Paul Gonsalves on "Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue," captured the 1956 performances that revived the middle-aged Ellington's career.


Avakian's other achievements ranged from producing Bob Newhart's Grammy-winning debut "The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart" and Sonny Rollins' comeback album "The Bridge" to managing Keith Jarrett and teaching, at Columbia University, one of the first courses on jazz. In 1958, he was among the founders of the recording academy, which in 2009 presented him a Trustees Award for lifetime achievement. His other honors included an advocacy award from the National Endowment for the Arts, a Commandeur des Arts et Lettres from France and the Soviet Union's highest honor, the Order of Lenin.


Avakian, essentially retired from the music industry since the 1970s, was a breeder of race horses in recent years, notably the champion pacer President Ball. Avakian was married to the violinist Anahid Ajemian, with whom he had three children. She died on June 13, 2016, at age 92.


He was born in 1919 in the Russian city of Armavir, the child of wealthy Armenians who fled from the civil war that followed the 1917 revolution. Once settled with his family in New York, Avakian fell in love with jazz listening to the radio, on low volume, so his parents wouldn't know he was still awake. When he entered Yale, jazz was still a relatively new and popular genre and few sensed it had lasting value.


Avakian was barely out of his teens when he met Armstrong. While at Yale, he helped unearth tracks from Armstrong's foundational Hot Five and Hot Seven sessions from the 1920s. After serving in the infantry during World War II, when Avakian was based in the Philippines, he was hired by Columbia and was soon back in touch with Armstrong.


"Louis remains the artist I most admired and most enjoyed recording, by a distinct though relatively narrow margin," Avakian told JazzTimes in 2000, "narrow because it was also an enormous pleasure working with Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Mahalia Jackson, Erroll Garner, Sonny Rollins, Dave Brubeck and a host of others who were not just great artists, but among the best friends I have ever had."


 
 

 





LATEST NEWSAll Today news

15:05 • 20/10

Nikol Pashinyan in Lebanon for two-day working visit  

14:44 • 20/10

Armenian writer wins Golden Knight literary award in Russia

14:22 • 20/10

Bako Sahakyan congratulates Catholicos Aram I on 50th anniversary of ordination

13:40 • 20/10

Doctors pluck 11 live worms from a five-month-old's eyeball

11:18 • 20/10

Macedonia votes to start name change process

10:41 • 20/10

Trump advisor Rudy Giuliani 'planning trip Armenia'

09:19 • 20/10

Afghanistan holds parliamentary election amid threats of violence

09:10 • 20/10

Khashoggi case: Saudi TV says missin g journalist 'died after fight'

18:12 • 19/10

Kocharyan lawyers to file appeal with European court

17:10 • 19/10

No prison overcrowding in Armenia, says acting minister

16:21 • 19/10

Australian family's terror as bull shark jumps into tinny during fishing trip

16:07 • 19/10

Aliyev travels to Turkey for working visit  

15:35 • 19/10

Turkish violin virtuoso plays Komitas to commemorate Ara Guler (video)

15:07 • 19/10

eBay revenues up to take on Auto Trader in car ads

15:03 • 19/10

Azerbaijan rescues Iranian sailors 'poisoned by chemicals'

14:38 • 19/10

October 24 marks National Assembly's latest date to elect prime minister  

13:46 • 19/10

Facebook sued over video viewing figures

13:02 • 19/10

Russian animators producing screen version of Saroyan’s 'The Summer of Beautiful White Horse'

12:07 • 19/10

Park dedicated to 2,800th jubilee of Yerevan to open in spring  

11:42 • 19/10

Customs beagle sniffs out pig head in luggage

11:30 • 19/10

Republican Party’s Executive Board discusses electoral reform

11:15 • 19/10

Jenna Bush Hager convinced the White House is haunted

10:43 • 19/10

Forthcoming elections will be the most important in the history of modern Armenia, says international expert

10:16 • 19/10

US-led coalition strikes civilian homes in Deir ez-Zor 

10:11 • 19/10

Apple announces iPad Pro and Mac event for October 30

09:38 • 19/10

Mexico sends police to southern border

09:15 • 19/10

ISIS take 700 hostages including US and European nationals and will 'execute 10 people a day', Putin says

18:04 • 18/10

UK minister steps out of Saudi summit

17:52 • 18/10

Hamilton says chasing Schumacher's record was never the plan

17:33 • 18/10

Republican politician 'confident' about party's future success

17:02 • 18/10

100-year-old woman in wheelchair gets married to 74-year-old man 

16:46 • 18/10

ECHR fines Armenia over procedural violations in March 1, 2008 criminal cases

16:04 • 18/10

Washington Post publishes Saudi journalist's final column

15:22 • 18/10

Kocharyan vows to create political party after 'comeback'

12:22 • 18/10

ADB to offer $50m worth budgetary assistance to Armenia

12:06 • 18/10

168 Zham: EU and Russia have different political expectations from Armenia

11:10 • 18/10

Hraparak: Koharyan stepping aside

09:52 • 18/10

Elon Musk ‘planning to buy’ $20 million of Tesla stock

09:22 • 18/10

Venezuela arrests military officers over Maduor assassination attempt

09:12 • 18/10

World-renowned Turkish-Armenian photographer Ara Guler passes away

09:02 • 18/10

Norway issues apologies to WW2 'German girls'

17:54 • 17/10

Google unshackles Android-device firms

17:06 • 17/10

Ariana Grande takes social media break

16:36 • 17/10

Armenia improves positions on Global Competitiveness Index

16:29 • 17/10

Huawei Mate 20 Pro launches with in-screen fingerprint sensor

16:09 • 17/10

Crimea terrorist attack: 13 killed, dozens injured in Kerch college explosion

15:34 • 17/10

Turkey closed border with Armenia for Azerbaijan, says former envoy

15:10 • 17/10

World stocks extend rise after blockbuster US earnings

14:37 • 17/10

Pashinyan introduces new acting minister of economic development and investments

14:09 • 17/10

Fabregas in Guinness World Records for reaching 100 PL assists

13:50 • 17/10

Turkey ‘hopes to enter Saudi consul's residence’ on Wednesday  

13:29 • 17/10

Chinese woman kills herself and two kids after husband fakes death

12:43 • 17/10

Armenia's position on Karabakh 'clearly enshrined' in government program – Foreign Ministry

12:15 • 17/10

Kourtney Kardashian jumps with joy as she ignores sister Kim’s most exciting comment

11:33 • 17/10

Hraparak: Anti-Armenian status for Karabakh 'unnegotiable'

11:01 • 17/10

Man who illegally crossed Armenia- Turkey border 'identified as ethnic Kurd'

10:48 • 17/10

Nations League: Armenia beat Macedonia 4-0

10:15 • 17/10

Kocharyan critical about plan to hold snap elections

09:42 • 17/10

Pashinyan tenders resignation to pave way to snap elections

09:32 • 17/10

At least 30 killed by hurricane Michael

09:12 • 17/10

Canada legalizes marijuana and cannabis

18:09 • 16/10

Thirty years in a metal container damaged by enemy firings

17:41 • 16/10

Moody’s assigns B1 rating to Inecobank

17:26 • 16/10

Russian expert slams Moscow’s weapons trading with Azerbaijan  

16:59 • 16/10

All Ucom TV Subscribers to Enjoy 4 Most Demanded TV-Series’ Channels

16:29 • 16/10

ARF-D not 'not planning to nominate' prime ministerial candidate

15:57 • 16/10

Outgoing US ambassador to Armenia speaks of 'occupied terrritories' surrounding Karabakh

15:34 • 16/10

Google pulls out of Saudi investor conference

14:49 • 16/10

Turkey gets representation in IMF executive directorate

14:44 • 16/10

Bulgaria not to join Eurovision 2019 Song Contest

13:23 • 16/10

Armenian president signs decrees to appoint new cabinet ministers

13:03 • 16/10

Armenian arm wrestling athlete named world champion in Turkey

12:40 • 16/10

Armenia: Three new regional governors appointed

12:04 • 16/10

2018 marked period of unique democratic reforms in Armenia, Zohrab Mnatsakanyan says at EaP ministerial summit

11:08 • 16/10

Mike Pompeo to meet Saudi Arabia's king

10:47 • 16/10

CSTO Parliamentary Assembly 'to conduct session in Moscow' instead of Yerevan

10:09 • 16/10

Hraparak: European institutions 'against' early elections in Armenia

09:44 • 16/10

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen dies at 65

09:31 • 16/10

Australia to recognize Jerusalem as Israeli capital by moving embassy from Tel-Aviv

09:13 • 16/10

Facebook to ban misinformation on voting in upcoming US elections

18:18 • 15/10

New sports minister pledges 'systemic reforms'

17:45 • 15/10

Beatles’ ‘Sgt. Pepper’ named top album in UK

15:36 • 15/10

Trump called for plan to remove all US diplomats from Turkey in frustration over detention of American pastor

15:12 • 15/10

Bloodhound 1,000mph car goes into administration

14:29 • 15/10

Pashinyan 'not to tender resignation' on Oct. 15, press secretary confirms

13:33 • 15/10

Aznavour family shocked by mocking cartoon portraying late singer

13:08 • 15/10

Rouhani accuses US of seeking “regime change” in Iran

13:02 • 15/10

Alec Baldwin urges ‘overthrow’ of Trump government via voting

12:54 • 15/10

Russian border guards apprehend trespasser on Armenia-Turkey border

12:41 • 15/10

Harry and Meghan announce they are expecting their first child together next spring

11:29 • 15/10

1 dead, 1 unjured after shots fired outside Banquet Hall in Glendale

11:19 • 15/10

Plane crashes into crowd in Germany, several people killed

10:43 • 15/10

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle arrive in Sydney for 16-day tour

10:20 • 15/10

Magnitude 2.5 earthquake strikes Armenia’s south

09:47 • 15/10

Oil prices rise as Saudi Arabia vows to hit back against sanctions

09:17 • 15/10

Trump: Climate change scientists have agenda

15:29 • 13/10

We must rule out theft from Yerevan city funds – Nikol Pashinyan

14:32 • 13/10

Armenian president ‘conducted trip to Moscow recently’, Russian paper claims

13:50 • 13/10

New mayor of Yerevan sworn into office

12:49 • 13/10

Pashinyan hails positively developing Armenian-Canadian relations