Verve Music Singing Different Tune

NEW YORK (Variety) - With sales of jazz records on the wane, newly promoted Verve Music Group CEO Ron Goldstein plans to scale down the company's roster and emphasize acts with mainstream appeal -- especially rising star Diana Krall.

Goldstein, who is taking on a new role as chief executive along with his current title of president, expects to trim the lineup to between 30 and 35 artists, spread over three divisions: Verve, GRP and Blue Thumb. A fourth imprint, the storied Impulse label, remains as a brand only. By contrast, the group boasted 40-45 acts when parent Universal Music merged GRP and Verve two years ago.

"The instrumental jazz business is pretty weak these days; sales on even some of the biggest records have dropped dramatically," Goldstein told Daily Variety. "It is very important that we continue to record this music, but from a business standpoint we can't record everyone we'd like to."

Verve chairman Tommy LiPuma retains his title, but will focus more intently on producing records and running the A&R department for the group. Among LiPuma's upcoming production projects is a record with new Verve signup Natalie Cole, set for release this fall. LiPuma collaborated with Cole and pop producer David Foster on the megahit "Unforgettable," the singer's collaboration with her late father, Nat "King" Cole.

Also on deck are projects aimed at bringing new jazz artists to a broader audience. Trumpeter Roy Hargrove, for example, is slated to go into the studio with several stars of the hip-hop and R&B worlds making appearances, including singer D'Angelo and rapper Common.

Goldstein hopes to put more emphasis on Verve's deep catalog as well, through new series and compilations. The label had major chart success last year with a series of CDs released jointly with Sony to accompany Ken Burns' PBS documentary "Jazz."

He has been president of Verve since December 1998, and briefly ran GRP beginning in July 1998. Before that, he ran his own adult-contemporary music imprint, Private Music, home to New Age star Yanni, as well as blues stars Etta James and Taj Mahal.

Previously Published by Reuters/Variety REUTERS

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