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JT Notes: Behind the Music

Lee Mergner pays tribute to the late Bruce Lundvall

Bruce Lundvall

Personally and professionally, a recent week hung heavy in my heart. In the space of about 24 hours, we lost two men who helped to transform the contemporary jazz scene, albeit mostly from behind the scenes. Longtime record exec Bruce Lundvall and musician/producer/arranger Bob Belden passed in mid-May, the former of debilitating Parkinson’s disease, the latter suddenly of a heart attack. Trumpeter Tim Hagans wrote for us a personal tribute to Belden, reflecting Bob’s ebullient personality and wide-ranging talent, and that piece is posted at

For those not familiar with Lundvall’s life and work, you can find all sorts of obituaries and eulogies on the Web and social media. Bruce had a deep affinity for the history of the music and a visceral and often infectious excitement for new artists, ventures and frontiers. Suffice it to say, he was a true “record man” in every sense of the word, and through his stints with the Columbia/CBS, Elektra/Musician and Blue Note labels, he signed and supported a virtual who’s who of jazz. His greatest legacy will no doubt be the revival of the Blue Note label, which he transformed from a dormant and well-nigh moribund brand into one of the most influential record companies in current jazz. A few years ago, with his health ailing, he passed the torch to pop producer Don Was, who has publicly and privately voiced his commitment to honoring Bruce’s mission.

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