When impresario Norman Granz launched Verve Records late in 1955, he couldn't have come up with a better word connoting vigor, spirit and enthusiasm in the jazz world. He had already founded the pioneering Jazz at the Philharmonic concerts and recordings series (1944-1983) that were, in essence, jam sessions that melded swing with bebop. In the midst of that, he founded Clef Records in 1946 and Norgran Records in 1953. But when he began to manage Ella Fitzgerald, known today as the First Lady of Song, he folded the catalogs of those labels into Verve Records.
His first releases were This Is Anita by big-band singer Anita O'Day, a veteran of Clef/Norgran, and followed by the 1956 ear-opener Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Cole Porter Songbook. Granz went on to record the seminal jazz artists of the day, from Dizzy Gillespie to Oscar Peterson. He sold the label to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1961 with Verve becoming an imprint that recorded jazz as well as the Velvet Underground, the Righteous Brothers and the Blues Project, among other pop acts.
Creed Taylor took over as the label head from 1961-67, attracting not only the top talents but also introducing bossa nova to the world. The Verve Label Group continues to adhere Norman Granz's vision of championing emerging talent in the jazz world and is home to such artists as Diana Krall, Jon Batiste, Betty LaVette and Joey Alexander.
With his first releases in 1956, Norman Granz made jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald a crossover star with a monumental songbook series of albums where she sang the standards of such prominent songwriters as Cole Porter, Richard Rodgers & Lorenz Hart, Duke Ellington, Irving Berlin, George & Ira Gershwin, Harold Arlen, Jerome Kern and Johnny Mercer. Many of Granz's stars from the Jazz at the Philharmonic concerts were signed to Verve and produced classic albums.
MGM bought Verve in 1961 and quickly transformed the label into an across-the genres operation with Creed Taylor at the helm. The biggest success came when tenor saxophonist Stan Getz collaborated with Brazilian guitarist and songwriter Joao Gilberto on the 1964 albu Getz/Gilberto. It was not only a hit with the Antonio Carlos Jobim tune "Girl From Ipanema" but also fully introduced bossa nova worldwide. It won Album of the Year at the 1965 Grammy Awards. Other jazz artists such as Wes Montgomery, Jimmy Smith, Bill Evans and Cal Tjader were signed during this period. Also of note, the label broadened its musical range and recorded, most notably, the first two Velvet Underground albums.
1990s & 2000s
Verve was revitalized as a jazz-exclusive label, recording albums by Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Joe Henderson, Roy Hargrove, John Scofield, Chris Botti and such top-tier vocalists Shirley Horn, Betty Carter and Abbey Lincoln.
As the flagship imprint of the Verve Label Group, Verve Records embraces jazz as well as other ground- breaking genres. The current roster includes:
Harry Connick Jr.