Is GRP Records going mainstream?
Until now, the independent, New York-based label has been famous for predominantly jazz-fusion records by such artists as guitarist Lee Ritenour, keyboardists Dave Grusin, Chick Corea and David Benoit, and the groups Spyro Gyra and the Yellowjackets.
But a look at the line's spring release schedule shows that the bulk of the new titles are mostly acoustic, straight-ahead projects. Though the label has always recorded mainstream albums, they've been far outnumbered by contemporary items.
Larry Rosen, GRP's president, acknowledged that while fusion put his label on the map, the mood of the jazz world seems to be leaning toward acoustic concepts, hence GRP's current emphasis. "When we started in 1982, a straight-ahead record would only sell 8,000 units," Rosen said. "Now we're anticipating some of our new albums will sell in the 60,000 unit range."
But jazz-fusion fans need not abandon hope yet. GRP isn't giving up what been its bread-and-butter sound, as evidenced by a new contemporary jazz album due in March by the Yellowjackets, recorded in November at the Roxy.
Of the new mainstream projects, the one with the highest profile will no doubt be "The GRP All-Stars Big Band," a session that was recorded Saturday and Sunday in Hollywood. The album's May release will kick off a celebration of GRP's 10th anniversary.
The large ensemble's line-up was indeed stellar. Among the featured players were trumpeters Arturo Sandoval and Sal Marquez; saxophonists Tom Scott, Ernie Watts and Eric Marienthal; pianists Grusin and Kenny Kirkland; bassist John Patitucci; and drummer Dave Weckl. Guest soloists included Ritenour, vibist Gary Burton, clarinetist Eddie Daniels and flutist Dave Valentin.
The material, arranged by Scott, Grusin, Russell Ferrante and others, ranged from be-bop classics such Charlie Parker's "Donna Lee" to modern era works, among them Corea's "Spain."
Upcoming March albums in the mainstream mode include singer Diane Schuur's "In Tribute," featuring tunes made famous by female jazz singers, and Sandoval's "I Remember Clifford," where an all-acoustic band that includes Watts and Kirkland performs tunes recorded by trumpet giant Clifford Brown.
Due out in late April is "Benny Rides Again," with Daniels and Burton playing selections associated with Benny Goodman.
In addition to the May big band release, other straight-ahead albums are due that month by Los Angeles-based players Scott and Marquez, the latter an ex-Crusaders hornman who just signed a multi-album deal with GRP.