Impulse! Records

Last updated
Impulse! Records
Impulserecords.jpg
Parent company Universal Music Group
Founded1960 (1960)
Founder Creed Taylor
Distributor(s) Verve Records
Genre Jazz
Country of originU.S.
Location New York, New York
Official website www.impulserecords.com

Impulse! Records (occasionally styled as "¡mpulse! Records" and "¡!") is an American jazz record label established by Creed Taylor in 1960. John Coltrane was among Impulse!'s earliest signings. Thanks to consistent sales and positive critiques of his recordings, the label came to be known as "the house that Trane built". [1]

Contents

History

Impulse!'s parent company, ABC-Paramount Records, was established in 1955 as the recording division of the American Broadcasting Company (ABC). In the 1940s and 1950s, ABC benefitted from the U.S. government's antitrust actions against broadcasters and film studios who were forced to divest parts of their companies. In the early 1950s, ABC acquired the Blue Network of radio stations from NBC and later merged with the newly independent Paramount Theaters chain, formerly owned by Paramount Pictures.

The new recording division was located at 1501 Broadway, above the Paramount Theatre in Times Square. [2] Under the leadership of Leonard Goldenson, the former head of Paramount Pictures, the company "sought to establish itself as a cross-media force in television, theaters and sound recordings". [3] It enjoyed early success in TV with The Mickey Mouse Club , a joint venture with Disney.

To market music from the successful TV show, ABC-Paramount established the Am-Par Record Corporation and the ABC-Paramount label in early 1955, appointing Sam Clark, a Boston record distributor, as president, with Larry Newton as sales manager and Harry Levine the A&R director. The new recording company enjoyed Goldenson's full support. Sid Feller, a producer and arranger, was the first salaried employee on July 15, 1955. [4] The label achieved early success in pop music with Paul Anka.

In 1960, Am-Par established a jazz subsidiary and hired Creed Taylor, a producer and arranger who had worked with Bethlehem Records. Taylor became producer and A&R manager. He chose the name "Pulse" but then learned there was already a label with that name, so he added a prefix. In the mid-1960s, the headquarters of Impulse! were moved to 1130 Avenue of the Americas. [5]

Design

Impulse!'s albums are known for their visual appeal. The black, orange, and white livery was devised by Fran Attaway (then known as Fran Scott), whom Taylor also credits with establishing the label's tradition of using cutting-edge photographers for its covers. [6] The color scheme was chosen for its brightness and because no other label used this combination. [7]

The label's logo featured the Impulse! name in a heavy, sans-serif, lower-cased font, followed by an exclamation mark that mirrors the lower-case "i" at the beginning. For most of the 1960s, Impulse!'s album covers featured the logo in orange letters in a white circle, with black-and-orange exclamation marks above it, and the catalog number below it. One exception is the album A Love Supreme , which used the design in black and white. In 1968 the circular front-cover badge was replaced by a one-color design featuring a simplified Impulse! logo and the ABC Records logo side by side within a divided rectangular border.

Album covers often featured stylish, large-format photographs or paintings, usually in color, which were typically 'bled out' to the edges of the cover and printed on glossy laminated stock. Many of the best-known Impulse! covers were designed by art director Robert Flynn and photographed by a small group that included Pete Turner, who shot covers for Verve, A&M, and CTI; Chuck Stewart, Arnold Newman, Ted Russell, and Joe Alper, who was known for his early '60s photographs of Bob Dylan) The sparse black-and-white back covers bore the slogan, "The New Wave of Jazz is on IMPULSE!". Most Impulse! LPs were issued in a gatefold sleeve, with photographs and liner notes, in some cases, multi-page booklets.

Early success

Taylor achieved early success by signing Ray Charles, who had just ended his contract with Atlantic Records. Charles's Genius + Soul = Jazz gave the label its first hit and became the fourth-highest charting album of his career. [8] Other early successes included Out of the Cool by Gil Evans. Taylor also signed John Coltrane. [9]

Another significant early release was The Blues and the Abstract Truth by Oliver Nelson, who led an all-star group that featured Freddie Hubbard, Eric Dolphy, Bill Evans, Paul Chambers, and Roy Haynes. Nelson played an important role in the label's early years before relocating to Los Angeles, where he became an arranger for film and television.

Taylor left Impulse! in the summer of 1961 after being approached by MGM to become the head of Verve Records.

The Thiele Years: 1961-69

Bob Thiele, Taylor's successor, produced most of the albums in the 1960s. He had worked for Decca Records and its subsidiaries, Coral and Brunswick, where his production credits included Alan Dale, the McGuire Sisters, Pearl Bailey, and Theresa Brewer, whom he married. Despite resistance from Decca executives who were suspicious of rock and roll, Thiele signed Buddy Holly in 1957. [10]

Thiele's first Impulse! production was Coltrane's Live! at the Village Vanguard , released in March 1962. Although unfamiliar with the "new jazz" movement, Thiele backed his artists, afforded them unprecedented freedom in their repertoire, and gave leading acts like Coltrane carte blanche in the studio. Impulse! during the Thiele years is recognized as a key outlet for free jazz and the musical movement spearheaded by Coltrane, Freddie Hubbard, Archie Shepp, and McCoy Tyner. In addition to avant-garde releases, Thiele also produced collaborations between Coltrane and two of their mutual heroes, Duke Ellington and Coleman Hawkins. Other notable performers who recorded for Impulse! during this period included Charles Mingus.

Aided by good promotion and ABC-Paramount's well-established distribution chain, Coltrane enjoyed the highest profile and the strongest and most consistent sales of any Impulse! artist. In addition to its artistic influence, Coltrane's 1965 LP A Love Supreme became one of the most successful jazz albums ever released, selling over 100,000 copies [11] on its first release. By 1970 it had sold more than half a million. Roger McGuinn of the Byrds has stated that he listened to Coltrane extensively in this period, and that Coltrane's saxophone playing influenced his 12-string guitar playing on the hit "Eight Miles High".

Thiele severed his ties with Impulse! in 1969, setting up a short-lived deal to provide independently-produced recordings, before leaving the label entirely to establish his own imprint, Flying Dutchman Records. Thiele's departure was in part precipitated by the breakdown of his relationship with Larry Newton, the president of ABC Records.

One of Thiele's last productions was the Louis Armstrong song "What a Wonderful World", which Thiele co-wrote and produced for ABC's pop division shortly before Armstrong's death. Although the musicians were apparently unaware of the drama, the recording session is reported to have been the scene of a clash between Thiele and Newton. When Newton arrived at the session he became upset when he discovered that Armstrong was recording a ballad rather than a 'Dixieland'-style number like his earlier hit "Hello Dolly". According to Thiele's own account, this led to a screaming match; Newton then had to be locked out of the studio and he stood outside throughout the session, banging on the door and yelling to be let in. The single was released with little promotion from ABC and it sold relatively poorly in the U.S.. In Europe, it sold more than 1.5 million copies and went to #1 in the UK. Demand from ABC's European distributor EMI for an album forced ABC to issue one, but they did not promote the album and it did not chart in the U.S. Twenty years later, it became the most successful recording of both Armstrong's and Thiele's careers, thanks to its inclusion on the soundtrack Good Morning, Vietnam .

The 1970s

Under the guidance of Ed Michel, Thiele's successor, Impulse! continued to issue significant recordings, including the debut album by the Liberation Music Orchestra, the first of four collaborations between Charlie Haden and Carla Bley. The company also acquired LP masters that Sun Ra had recorded for his private label, making them more widely available for the first time.

In the early 1970s, ABC restructured its recording division, merging the ABC label with its other pop-rock subsidiary, Dunhill Records, whose roster included The Mamas & the Papas, Steppenwolf, Three Dog Night, and The Grass Roots. Impulse! was moved to share headquarters with ABC-Dunhill in Los Angeles. By this time, pop-rock acts dominated the company's output, with Impulse! releases accounting for only 5 percent of total sales. It was also during this time that Impulse! became the first all-jazz label to release a rock album when it issued Trespass , the second album by Genesis, in the U.S. in 1970.

In 1974, ABC acquired the Famous Music labels and catalog from Gulf+Western, and subsequently, that company's jazz recordings were incorporated into the Impulse! catalog. New recordings from the label ceased in the late 1970s, but ABC reissued titles until the company was sold to MCA Records in 1979. It is now part of Universal Music Group's jazz holdings, The Verve Music Group.

Discography

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Pharoah Sanders</span> American jazz saxophonist (1940–2022)

Pharoah Sanders was an American jazz saxophonist. Known for his overblowing, harmonic, and multiphonic techniques on the saxophone, as well as his use of "sheets of sound", Sanders played a prominent role in the development of free jazz and spiritual jazz through his work as a member of John Coltrane's groups in the mid-1960s, and later through his solo work. He released over thirty albums as a leader and collaborated extensively with vocalist Leon Thomas and pianist Alice Coltrane, among many others. Fellow saxophonist Ornette Coleman once described him as "probably the best tenor player in the world".

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Verve Records</span> American record label

Verve Records is an active American record label owned by Universal Music Group (UMG). Founded in 1956 by Norman Granz, the label is home to the world's largest jazz catalogue, which includes recordings by artists such as Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, Stan Getz, Bill Evans, Billie Holiday, Oscar Peterson, Jon Batiste, and Diana Krall among others as well as a diverse mix of other recordings that fall outside of jazz including albums from disparate artists like the Velvet Underground, Kurt Vile, Arooj Aftab, Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention and many more. It absorbed the catalogues of Granz's earlier label, Clef Records, founded in 1946; Norgran Records, founded in 1953; and material which was previously licensed to Mercury Records.

ABC Records was an American record label founded in New York City in 1955. It originated as the main popular music label operated by the Am-Par Record Corporation. Am-Par also created the Impulse! jazz label in 1960. It acquired many labels before ABC was sold to MCA Records in 1979. ABC produced music in a variety of genres: pop, rock, jazz, country, rhythm and blues, soundtrack, gospel, and polka. In addition to producing records, ABC licensed masters from independent record producers, and purchased regionally released records for national distribution.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Creed Taylor</span> American record producer (1929–2022)

Creed Bane Taylor V was an American record producer, best known for his work with CTI Records, which he founded in 1967. His career also included periods at Bethlehem Records, ABC-Paramount Records, Verve, and A&M Records. In the 1960s, he signed bossa nova artists from Brazil to record in the US including Antonio Carlos Jobim, Eumir Deodato, João Gilberto, Astrud Gilberto, and Airto Moreira.

Ashley Kahn is an American music historian, journalist, and producer. He was born in the Bronx, New York, and was raised in Cincinnati. Kahn graduated from Columbia University in 1983. While attending Columbia, he hosted a jazz and blues radio show on WKCR, and was known on the air as "The Cincinnati Kid."

Robert "Bob" Thiele was an American record producer who worked on numerous classic jazz albums and record labels.

<i>A Monastic Trio</i> 1968 studio album by Alice Coltrane

A Monastic Trio is the first solo album by Alice Coltrane. It was recorded in 1968 at the John Coltrane Home in Dix Hills, New York, and was released later that year by Impulse! Records. On the album, Coltrane appears on piano and harp, and is joined by saxophonist Pharoah Sanders, bassist Jimmy Garrison, and drummer Rashied Ali, all of whom were members of John Coltrane's last quintet. Drummer Ben Riley also appears on one track. The album was reissued on CD in 1998 with three additional tracks, one of which is a piano solo recorded in 1967.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Johnny Hartman</span> African American jazz singer (1923–1983)

John Maurice Hartman was an American jazz singer, known for his rich baritone voice and recordings of ballads. He sang and recorded with Earl Hines' and Dizzy Gillespie's big bands and with Erroll Garner. Hartman is best remembered for his collaboration in 1963 with saxophonist John Coltrane, John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman, a landmark album for both him and Coltrane.

<i>Ascension</i> (John Coltrane album) 1966 studio album by John Coltrane

Ascension is a jazz album by John Coltrane recorded in June 1965 and released in 1966. It is considered a watershed in Coltrane's work, with the albums recorded before it being more conventional in structure and the albums recorded after it being looser, free jazz inspired works. In addition, it signaled Coltrane's interest in moving away from the quartet format. AllMusic called it "the single recording that placed John Coltrane firmly into the avant-garde".

<i>Karma</i> (Pharoah Sanders album) 1969 studio album by Pharoah Sanders

Karma is a jazz recording by the American tenor saxophonist Pharoah Sanders, released in May 1969 on the Impulse! label, with catalog number AS 9181. A pioneering work of the spiritual jazz style, it has become Sanders' most popular and critically acclaimed album.

<i>Expression</i> (album) 1967 studio album by John Coltrane

Expression is an album by jazz saxophonist John Coltrane, recorded in early 1967 and released in late September of that year, around Coltrane's birthday, and two months after his death. This was the first posthumous release of a Coltrane recording, and the last album he personally authorized.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">John Coltrane discography</span>

This article presents the discography of the American jazz saxophonist and bandleader John Coltrane (1926–1967).

<i>John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman</i> 1963 studio album by John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman

John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman is a studio album by John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman which was released by Impulse! Records in July or August 1963. It was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2013.

<i>Coltrane "Live" at the Village Vanguard</i> 1962 live album by John Coltrane

Coltrane "Live" at the Village Vanguard is a live album by jazz musician John Coltrane, released in February 1962 on Impulse Records. It is the first album to feature the members of the classic quartet of Coltrane with McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Garrison, and Elvin Jones, as well as the first Coltrane live album to be issued. In contrast to his previous album for Impulse!, this one generated much turmoil among both critics and audience alike with its challenging music.

<i>Tranes Blues</i> 1999 compilation album by John Coltrane

Trane's Blues is a compact disc credited to the jazz musician John Coltrane, released in 1999 on Blue Note Records, catalogue 98240. It comprises recordings from sessions for Blue Note and United Artists Records with Coltrane as a sideman for Paul Chambers, Sonny Clark, Johnny Griffin, and Cecil Taylor. These recordings were issued respectively on their Whims of Chambers, Sonny's Crib, A Blowin' Session, and Hard Driving Jazz albums. Two selections are from Coltrane's own 1957 Blue Train, and "One for Four" had been previously unissued. "Trane's Blues" had been issued on the compilation High Step in 1975, previously known as "John Paul Jones" and named after himself, the bass player Chambers, and the drummer Philly Joe Jones. Like Prestige Records before them, as Coltrane's fame grew long after he had stopped recording for the label, Blue Note used varied recordings, often those where Coltrane had been merely a sideman, and reissued them as a new album with Coltrane's name prominently displayed. In this case, the Big Four conglomerate EMI continued that earlier practice.

<i>The Complete 1961 Village Vanguard Recordings</i> 1997 live album by John Coltrane

The Complete 1961 Village Vanguard Recordings is a box set of recordings by jazz musician John Coltrane, issued posthumously in 1997 by Impulse! Records, catalogue IMPD4-232. It collects all existing recordings from performances by the John Coltrane Quintet at the Village Vanguard in early November, 1961. Five selections had been issued during Coltrane's lifetime on the albums Live! at the Village Vanguard and Impressions. Additional tracks had been issued posthumously on the albums The Other Village Vanguard Tapes, Trane's Modes and From the Original Master Tapes.

<i>Cosmic Music</i> 1968 studio album by John Coltrane and Alice Coltrane

Cosmic Music is a jazz album by John Coltrane and Alice Coltrane released after John Coltrane's death. John Coltrane only plays on two tracks, "Manifestation" and "Reverend King".

<i>Coltrane for Lovers</i> 2001 compilation album by John Coltrane

Coltrane for Lovers is a compilation album of recordings by American jazz saxophonist-composer John Coltrane, released posthumously on January 23, 2001, by Impulse! and Verve Records. The 11 tracks compiled for the album are all romantic ballads from Coltrane's early years with Impulse!, being recorded during December 1961 to April 1963 at engineer Rudy Van Gelder's recording studio in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. Dominated by Coltrane's classic quartet, the sessions also included collaborations with vocalist Johnny Hartman and pianist Duke Ellington.

<i>Four for Trane</i> 1965 studio album by Archie Shepp

Four for Trane is a studio album by tenor saxophonist Archie Shepp released on Impulse! Records in 1965. Four of the five tracks were composed and originally recorded by John Coltrane and rearranged by Shepp and trombonist Roswell Rudd. The other featured players are trumpeter Alan Shorter, alto saxophonist John Tchicai, bassist Reggie Workman and drummer Charles Moffett. Coltrane himself co-produced the album alongside Bob Thiele. The album was Shepp's first release for Impulse!

<i>The New Wave in Jazz</i> 1965 live album by Various

The New Wave in Jazz is a live album recorded on March 28, 1965 at the Village Gate in New York City. It features groups led by major avant-garde jazz artists performing at a concert for the benefit of The Black Arts Repertory Theater/School founded by Amiri Baraka, then known as LeRoi Jones. The album was released on LP in 1965 on the Impulse! label, and was reissued on CD in 1994 with a different track listing.

References

  1. Ashley Kahn (2006) The House That Trane Built: The Story of Impulse Records, W.W. Norton, ISBN   0-393-05879-4
  2. Kahn, 2006, p.15-16
  3. Kahn, p. 16
  4. Kahn, 2006, p.16
  5. Original liner notes to The October Suite
  6. Birka Jazz - Impulse jazz album covers
  7. "The Impulse Records Story: The House That Trane Built - JazzTimes". JazzTimes. Retrieved 2017-09-07.
  8. Kahn, 2006, p.35
  9. "The House That Trane Built: The Story of Impulse Records - Various Artists | Songs, Reviews, Credits | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 2017-09-07.
  10. Kahn, 2006, p.63
  11. Kahn, 2006, p.5