"Things flowed very naturally."
-- Larry Rosen
The first task of the new Arista jazz label was to build an artists roster. Dave Grusin and Larry Rosen both scouted for material. A Dave Valentin album was already scheduled, but amazingly, with records about to be released, they still hadn't an official name. Having gone over a number of possibilities, they finally settled on Spectrum Records - even had a logo designed.- only to find out at the last minute that they couldn't legally use that. Needing a quick decision, they reverted back to the name of their production company, and called the new label Arista-GRP.
The roster of musicians grew. Through Earl Klugh came trumpeter Tom Browne who brought pianist Bernard Wright on board. Then came another Queens resident, guitarist Bobby Broome. And there was also Jay Hoggard.
The focus was on new young artists, and in so many cases, as with the first ventures of Grusin Rosen Productions, their performers stood slightly aside from traditional jazz. Dave Grusin points out, “We've been dealing with all the exotic instruments from the beginning. We haven't specifically gone after that, but It has something to do with the sound we've emerged with.” He believes this early serendipity had a lot to do with GRP's commercial as well as artistic success, adding, “because one of the things that made GRP last and endure through all these weird changes and market situations was that we didn't sound like anybody else.”
Larry Rosen adds, “this is how the label just kept on growing and expanding. We met so many new young artists that were just coming out to the scene. For young artists there weren't a lot of places to go and a lot of labels weren't looking for these people. We felt they were very very talented.”
GRP fit perfectly into the Arista scheme of things. Arista's Savoy label reissued classic jazz. Their Novus label was avant-garde, what Dave Grusin describes as “sort of a black conservatory jazz-Arista's version of ECM.” He explains that GRP's function was “to cover that other place, somewhere in between, more popularly oriented. [Avant-garde multi-reed player] Anthony Braxton would not be an artist for us, but [saxophonist] Grover Washington would.”
Thus, from the beginning, Arista-GRP was a label run by musicians with an appreciation of artistic issues. Citing his performer's understanding of the engineering elements, Larry Rosen explains that development of each artist's `sound' was done “together with the production style, Dave's writing, his musical direction and our choice of material. Dave and I would sit and listen to our songs and figure which is the best way to go.”
Arista-GRP's success was phenomenal, including Tom Browne's super hit, “Funkin' For Jamaica,” both a gold single and album as well.
"We started becoming a more total operation. We started thinking about the artists and the music industry in much broader terms,” he continues, describing their development from the days when they were just responsible for producing a master tape. They were now suddenly concerned with things like marketing concepts to project their artists' style and image, how to get their records to the most buyers, graphic design, etc. Dave Grusin approached such decisions with a philosophy that has held him in good stead throughout his career: when in doubt he always finds “the music tells you what to do.”
Go to: Producing Philosophy