On Friday, European Union regulators granted approval for Universal Music Group to complete its $1.9 billion acquisition of EMI. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission already gave the deal the nod. But the new deal came at a stiff price for Universal. While the U.S. Federal Trade Commission green-lighted the deal with a no-strings unanimous 5-0 vote, Europe's blessing came with the stipulation that Universal had to sell off many of EMI's best-known labels as well as the global rights (they will retain the Beatles).
Universal agreed to Europe's terms and will sell off a third of EMI's assets, which includes Parlophone (a big deal in Europe), a gaggle of important independent labels, nine national subsidiaries of EMI across Europe and other rights. Universal also has to divest some of its own assets and allow for market controls on its digital music contracts.
How does the new Universal-EMI entity stack up? In a word—big. When the deal closes next week, the company will own a 36% chunk of the world's recorded music pie, followed by Sony (about 22%) and Warner Music Group (15%). And look for Sony to buy Warner, or Warner to buy Concord.
What does this mean? Let me make a few assumptions: When a company spends $1.9 billion, consolidation often follows, which means job losses, surviving employees having to take on more work for the same salaries, and smaller budgets for the back catalogues of genres like jazz. And when corporate belts tighten, jazz matters only when the fewest dollars are needed to get the job done.
Here are my predictions: In the wake of Universal-EMI, look for the CD to disappear completely within the next two years. Look for a rise in the number of downloads, including the launch of retail platforms set up by record companies to pull revenue away from Amazon and iTunes. And look for the quality of remastering to remain stagnant—exactly where it is now—since the development and implementation of new remastering technology requires an investment of capital. Besides, they will argue, it's not like anyone is listening to music on a decent system anyway. [Pictured above: Radar, by Pat Brassington, 2009]
Yes, expect more out-of-print jazz albums to surface as downloads. Expect liner notes to be downloadable as well. The bad news is that prices won't likely come down and the fidelity of albums probably won't improve much either. That's what happens when you spend a ton of dough to own the biggest house on the block. You squeeze every dollar, and there isn't much left over for furniture.
John Coltrane radio. On Sunday, WKCR in New York will present its annual John Coltrane Birthday Broadcast. Tune in at midnight (EDT) on Saturday night and dig 24 hours of 'Trane around the clock. You can listen on your computer from anywhere in the world by going here.
Mat Domber (1928-2012), the jovial and maverick founder of the jazz label Arbors Records who recorded who and what he pleased provided he enjoyed what he heard, died on September 19 after a short illness. He was 84. [Pictured above: Mat and Rachel Domber]
I worked on two projects for Mat—liner notes for Carol Sloane's We'll Meet Again and Johnny Mandel's The Man and His Music. In both cases, Mat was easy-going and kind, traits that I'm sure dated back to at least 1989, when he founded the label with his wife and business partner Rachel.
To me, Mat's primary purpose, like most music-business entrepreneurs, was to give artists creative freedom, pay them for their efforts, and become friendly with them. The venture was equal parts business venture and a means of watching the magic of a recording session unfold. And isn't that why we all do what we do—to grow close to the mystery called music and those who can make it?
I still recall a spectacular steak dinner in New York that included Johnny Mandel [pictured] and his wife Martha as well as a handful of others who were associated with the project. Mat, of course, didn't have to invite everyone to the restaurant, but he did. That was his generous way. Surrounding himself this way and watching others enjoy an evening out gave him and Rachel, enormous joy and pleasure.
Mat released more than 300 albums on the Arbors label. For the label's releases, go here. A toast to Mat, who loved recording jazz and loved even more the proximity to musicians that such recordings afforded.
Clark Terry. JazzWax reader Tom Fine sent along a link to a trailer for the following documentary on trumpet great Clark Terry now in the works. If this clip doesn't choke you up, nothing will. I'm not sure when the film is rolling out. If you know, please let me know...
Terry Teachout's play, Satchmo at the Waldorf, will be transferring directly from Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven to Philadelphia's Wilma Theater, one of America's top regional companies, where it will open on November 16 and run through December 2. Congrats!
Clifton Anderson is showcased in a new video by Bret Primack. Clifton has a new album out And So We Carry On...
Hoagy and Bix. David Brent Johnson, host of Night Lights, a jazz radio show that's broadcast on WFIU weekly from the University of Indiana in Bloomington, just posted an article about Hoagy Carmichael and Bix Beiderbecke’s time together in Bloomington during the spring of 1924. Beiderbecke and the Wolverines were there for a few weeks, playing fraternity dances and gigging around town. You'll find David's article here. The Night Lights home page and schedule can be found here.
Hal McKusick remembered. A memorial will be held for Hal McKusick on October 1 at 7 p.m. at Saint Peter's Church in New York (619 Lexington Ave. at 54th St.). The saxophonist died in April and was a dear friend. A day doesn't pass when I don't think back to the almost weekly conversations I had with Hal about jazz, his career, my work and life in general. There will be performances and speakers.
Raymond De Felitta this week put up a terrific YouTube clip at his blog, Movies Til Dawn. It's the gala in Hollywood for the premiere of Grand Hotel in 1932. What's particularly interesting is how many stars on the red carpet that night were completely forgotten just a few years later. Which probably tells you something about today's stars and where most of them will be in a short period of time. Fame is life's great practical joke. You feel immortal—until people forget why you were famous in the first place.
Edie Adams could do it all back when you had to be extraordinarily talented and flawless to even get near a camera, stage or microphone. JazzWax reader Alan Meeks reminded me of how exceptional Adams was when he sent along the following clip, from the last episode of I Love Lucy (yes, that's Ernie Kovacs, Edie's husband at the time)...
CD dicoveries of the week. There are no bad Etta James recordings. Further evidence of this is a new box from Legacy: Etta James, The Complete Private Music Blues, Rock 'n' Soul Albums Collection. The seven-disc set documents her recordings for the Private Music and RCA labels between 1997 and 2006. As James aged, her voice grew warmer and richer, surrounding the sass that made her famous in the early '50s. Sample any of these tracks and hear for yourself how James managed to be well-produced almost right up to her death earlier this year.
Guitarist Ed Cherry has a sound I love. Distinct picking and hard swinging. He's joined on It's All Good (Posi-Tone) by gorgeous organist Pat Bianchi and tasteful drummer Byron Landham. All of which adds up to an organ-trio album that is as pretty as can be. Sample Cherry's own Mogadishu or his Something for Charlie (dig the effortless way in which he slips into Wes Montgomery octaves). Cherry has an enormously promising future ahead of him. I would just advise that he keep this group together as long as possible. They're absolute magic together.
Pianist Roberto Magris hails from Trieste, Italy, and has a powerful keyboard technique. On Aliens in a Bebop Planet (JMood), a two-CD set recorded last year in Kansas City, Roberto delivers a fascinating range of moods and inventive originals. Restless and eager to run, Roberto takes on a few standards, including Fats Navarro's Nostalgia (with a funky shuffle beat), The Gypsy as a soft samba, and John Coltrane's Giant Steps as a stride ballad. These two discs are loaded with surprises, and no two tracks are alike. Best of all, Roberto never over-plays. One of my favorite piano albums of the year. I wish you could hear samples. You'll have to take my word for it.
Oddball album cover of the week. Back before the web and the lightbulb, houses were spaced hundreds of miles apart. For recreation, an entire family would come together and entertain themselves with a line dance—from kids all the way up to the grandparents. Then Lawrence Welk came along and everything changed.