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George Avakian: Producer, Talent Scout & Past Academy Chair Dies
Esteemed record producer, talent scout, manager, and past Recording Academy Chairman/President George Avakian has died, according to The New York Times. While no cause of death was given, the news was confirmed by his daughter, Anahid Avakian Gregg. He was 98 years old.
Born in Armavir, Russia, Avakian immigrated with his family to the United States as an infant. Growing up an avid jazz fan, he was already a published jazz critic by the time he was a sophomore at Yale University.
Avakian's career as a producer and talent scout began in 1939 when he convinced Decca Records to let him record prominent jazz musicians on the Chicago scene, which became a six-set of recordings titled Chicago Jazz. According to critics and historians, this is considered as the first jazz album.
Throughout his storied eight-decade-plus career with labels such as Decca, Columbia Records, Warner Bros. Records, RCA Records, and Sony Legacy, Avakian worked with the likes of Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, Dave Brubeck, Sonny Rollins, Bob Newhart, Johnny Mathis, John Cage, and Ravi Shankar, among other music legends.
In the process, he helped cultivate influential recordings such as Armstrong's Louis Armstrong Plays W.C. Handy (1954), Ellington's Ellington At Newport (1956), Brubeck's Brubeck Plays Brubeck (1956), and Davis' Miles Ahead (1957), and Rollins' On The Outside (1966).
Also heralded for popularizing liner notes, he earned one career GRAMMY at the 39th GRAMMY Awards for Best Album Notes for The Complete Columbia Studio Recordings by Davis and Gil Evans. He was honored with the Recording Academy's Trustees Award in 2009 for his outstanding contributions to the music industry during his lifetime.
A great friend to the Academy, Avakian served as the seventh Chairman/President of the organization from 1966–1967.
"In a career spanning more than 40 years, George achieved several notable milestones including popularizing liner notes, helping establish long-playing albums as the industry standard, and developing the first jazz reissue series," said Recording Academy President/CEO Neil Portnow. "We have lost an integral member of our creative community. Our condolences go out to George's family, friends, and fellow collaborators."