Larry Rosen, an entrepreneur whose many credits include co-founding the GRP Records label with musician Dave Grusin, co-founding the Internet e-commerce and content company N2K, and establishing the Jazz Roots concert series and educational program, died at his Park Ridge, N.J., home on Oct. 9. Rosen, who was 75, died of brain cancer.
Born in the Bronx on May 25, 1940, and raised in New Jersey, Rosen began his career in music as a drummer. By 1972 he had moved into production, teaming with Grusin, whom he’d met while they both worked with singer Andy Williams, to form Grusin/Rosen productions, whose clients included Earl Klugh, Lee Ritenour and Patti Austin. In 1978, the company inked a deal with Clive Davis and Arista Records, placing albums by artists such as Angela Bofill and Tom Browne on the label. Rosen also co-produced Grusin’s music, including the 1979 album Mountain Dance–the first- digitally recorded non-classical album.
In 1982, Grusin and Rosen established GRP Records, pioneering digital recording and releasing their entire catalog on the then-emerging compact disc format. According to a press release, GRP Records was “recognized as Billboard Magazine’s number one Contemporary Jazz label for five consecutive years while its artists were nominated for over 80 GRAMMY Awards, winning 33.” The label’s roster at various times included Chick Corea, Lee Ritenour, Diana Krall, Diane Schuur, Patti Austin, Dr. John, Dave Grusin, Spyro Gyra, the Rippingtons, David Benoit, the New York Voices, Tom Scott, Gary Burton, B.B. King, Ramsey Lewis, Arturo Sandoval, Michael Brecker, Randy Brecker, Larry Carlton, Yellowjackets, Don Grusin, Kevin Eubanks and the GRP All-Star Big Band. In 1990, Rosen and Grusin sold GRP to MCA Records with Rosen remaining as President & CEO of the label.
After leaving GRP in 1995, the release says, Rosen co-founded “one of the first Internet e-commerce and content companies,” N2K, Inc., serving as its chairman and CEO. According to the release, “In addition to its online music store, Music Boulevard, N2K produced a number of genre-based community sites (Rocktropolis, Jazz Central Station, Classical Insites) and artist sites including Leonard Bernstein, Miles Davis, David Bowie, and the Rolling Stones.” N2K also offered the first digital downloads in late 1996. In 1999, Rosen merged N2K with one of its competitors, CDNow, Inc.
Later, as chairman of Larry Rosen Productions, Rosen created and produced the PBS television series Legends of Jazz, with pianist Ramsey Lewis, and the seven-part TV series Recording: The History of Recorded Music, with hosts Quincy Jones and Phil Ramone.
In 2008, Rosen created Jazz Roots, a concert and educational program for performing arts centers. The series first launched at the Adrienne Arsht Center For the Performing Arts of Miami Dade County, expanding to Dallas, Atlanta, Indianapolis, Las Vegas and Orlando. In 2012, he established the annual Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition (SASSY Award), at NJPAC in Newark, N.J., which is now entering its fourth year.
For further information, read Lee Mergner’s 2010 JazzTimes feature on Rosen here.