Larry Rosen, one of the most influential and tech-savvy modern jazz producers who co-founded GRP Records with pianist Dave Grusin, died Friday, Oct. 9, his publicist said. He was 75.
Rosen, who had been battling brain cancer, died surrounded by his family at his home in Park Ridge, New Jersey, publicist Sheryl Feuerstein said.
Against the advice of their financial advisers and lawyers, Rosen and Grusin mortgaged their homes to borrow money to launch GRP as an independent label in 1982.
"It was two musicians who just believed in the music and merging technology with quality product," Rosen told Billboard in a 2012 interview on the 30th anniversary of the label's founding. "We wanted to see if audiences would like it and they did."
GRP, which embraced the jazz-fusion sound and enjoyed crossover success, was voted Billboard's No. 1 contemporary jazz label for five consecutive years and won 33 Grammys. Its catalogue included albums by many top jazz artists such as Chick Corea, Lee Ritenour, Diana Krall, Diane Schuur, Patti Austin, Dr. John and Ramsey Lewis.
On the technological side, GRP was noteworthy as the first record label to use digital recording technology for all its releases and issue every release on the new CD format.
More recently, Rosen's main focus was on producing concerts. In 2008, he created Jazz Roots, a popular jazz concert series with an education and mentoring program for music students, at the invitation of the new Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami. The series, which has presented world-class jazz artists such as Dave Brubeck, Sonny Rollins, Wynton Marsalis and Dee Dee Bridgewater, expanded to performing arts centers in Atlanta, Dallas, Las Vegas and other cities.
A Bronx native, Rosen performed as a drummer with the Newport Jazz Festival Youth Band in 1959. He got to know Grusin when they worked together with singer Andy Williams' band.
In 1972, the two formed a freelance production team Grusin/Rosen Productions that discovered and produced such artists as Earl Klugh, Patti Austin and Lee Ritenour. Six years later, GRP signed a production deal with Clive Davis' Arista Records. Rosen engineered Grusin's album Mountain Dance, the first digitally recorded non-classical album.
After enjoying success as an independent label, they sold GRP to MCA Records in a multimillion-dollar deal, with Rosen remaining as president and CEO of the label until 1995.
Rosen went on to found N2K, which not only released CDs but became one of the first online music sites with a music store and genre-based community sites, making available some of the first digital downloads in early 1996.
For television, Rosen created and produced the PBS series Legends of Jazz with pianist Ramsey Lewis in 2006. He also established the annual Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition in 2012 at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark.