For many, orange and black are the hues of jazz. Those were the distinctive colors on the spines of LPs issued by Impulse Records, the label that midwifed some of the most important new jazz of the 19
For many, orange and black are the hues of jazz. Those were the distinctive colors on the spines of LPs issued by Impulse Records, the label that midwifed some of the most important new jazz of the 1960s and '70s.
The orange and the black will be back in a big way in June. Universal's Verve Music Group, which controls the Impulse catalog, will mount a celebration of the label's 45th anniversary that will see the release of a comprehensive Impulse history, a four-CD historical overview, 10 compilations of the label's best-known artists, a one-hour syndicated public radio show and the start of a tour featuring keyboardist McCoy Tyner, one of Impulse's central '60s performers, playing selections from the label's repertoire.
The book and four-CD set bear the same title: "The House That Trane Built," reflecting saxophone visionary John Coltrane's role in Impulse's development. The book, published by W.W. Norton, is by music journalist and radio essayist Ashley Kahn; it's an outgrowth of his 2002 work about the making of Coltrane's "A Love Supreme," the seminal 1965 work that became the label's bestselling title.
Kahn says that as he researched the Coltrane album, "The stories I was discovering [about Impulse] were too good to be true -- a Hollywood screenplay couldn't have made it better."
Revolutionary talents like Coltrane, his wife Alice, Charles Mingus, Archie Shepp, Pharoah Sanders, Albert Ayler and Charlie Haden recorded for Impulse, but so did jazz classicists like Duke Ellington, Earl Hines, Coleman Hawkins and Pee Wee Russell. Impulse's first big hit was "Genius + Soul = Jazz," an instrumental album by Ray Charles.
The wave of new retrospective Impulse compilations, and the radio hour, produced by Josh Jackson of WBGO-FM in Newark, N.J., should hip both older listeners and a new generation to the riches in the label's catalog.
"It's definitely reminding people about it, and, through the artist compilations, introducing artists people may have just heard about," says Verve Music Group VP of marketing Ken Druker. "There are a lot of young people who would like this music very much who may not have heard about the music."
And Tyner, the pianist in Coltrane's "classic quartet" of the '60s and an Impulse solo artist, will bring the music alive with an all-star septet that will tour the U.S., Canada and Europe this summer. The "Impulse Tribute" trek starts with a June 5 gig at the Blue Note in New York.