Author to speak on jazz impresario, activist Norman Granz

March 23, 2015

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Tad Hershorn, author of “Norman Granz: The Man Who Used Jazz for Justice” (University of California Press, 2011), will speak from 3 to 4:30 p.m. Thursday, April 16, in Foster Auditorium, 102 Paterno Library, in conjunction with the current library exhibit "Jazz Riffs: Breaking Boundaries and Crossing Borders." Hershorn, an archivist at the Institute of Jazz Studies, Dana Library, at Rutgers University-Newark, will highlight the life and work of groundbreaking jazz impresario, record producer and civil rights activist Granz, who improbably combined the financial and popular success of his Jazz at the Philharmonic concerts to promote an uncompromising agenda of civil rights dating from the early 1940s. A question and answer session will follow the presentation.

Through video and sound clips, historical photographs and personal reminiscences, Hershorn will explore Granz’s relationships with Ella Fitzgerald (for whom he produced the seminal "Song Book" series in the 1950s), Oscar Peterson, Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, Count Basie, Charlie Parker and many other jazz luminaries.

“In the hundreds of recordings he produced between 1942 and 1989 on Verve Records and his other labels, is a body of work for posterity that is unique and unmatched in its quality and scope,” said Hershorn.

Granz was the creator and producer of Jazz at the Philharmonic. According to the Library of Congress, which added Jazz at the Philharmonic recordings to the National Recording Registry in 2010, this series of concerts was especially significant because it took jazz music from the club to the concert hall, introducing it to a much wider audience. The first concert was held in 1944 in Los Angeles and included Illinois Jacquet, Nat King Cole, Les Paul and many others.

“Norman Granz was a lifelong advocate of the jam session, where jazz musicians engage in friendly but intense competition as a way to develop their styles and prepare themselves for a music that has always thrived on the individual sounds of its greatest practitioners,” said Hershorn. “He saw the jam session as a paradigm of democracy itself where, regardless of skin color, a musician earned his or her place on the bandstand by surpassing artistry.”

Ever the provocateur, Granz did not merely encounter segregation on the road with his musicians, he strategically confronted it, noted Hershorn. “That was the source of his greatest pride,” he added.

Granz is a featured personality in the library exhibit, which examines three major story elements in the history of jazz: gender, race and world, focusing on a few musicians or groups from each of these categories. The exhibit is on display in the Diversity Studies Room, 203 Pattee Library, through July 1.

This event is sponsored by the University Libraries, and is free and open to the public. For more information, or if you anticipate needing accommodations or have questions about the physical access provided, contact Eric Novotny, at ecn1@psu.edu or 814-865-1014, in advance.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated March 26, 2015