Last week, Bruce Lundvall and Bob Belden died on back-to-back days, May 19 and 20. Lundvall was 79 years old; his death was due to complications of Parkinson’s disease. Belden was just 58. He suffered a massive heart attack earlier in the week and was on life support systems until his death three days later.
Lundvall’s career in the record business spanned more than fifty years. In his youth he was a frustrated saxophonist, and after serving in the Army he wanted nothing other than to work in the music business, specifically jazz music. He managed to obtain an entry level position at Columbia Records in 1960, and by the mid-seventies he ascended to the presidency of the label, overseeing its operations during Weather Report’s heyday. His love of jazz lead him to sign Natalie Cole, Wynton Marsalis and saxophonist Dexter Gordon, resulting in Gordon’s late-career renaissance. He also signed Herbie Hancock, whose second Columbia album, 1973’s Head Hunters, became the biggest selling jazz album up to that time.
In 1979, Lundvall spearheaded the Havana Jam, a three-day series of concerts in Havana, Cuba featuring American and Cuban musicians. Weather Report led off the first night’s concert. Lundvall later started the Elektra Musician label and then moved to Blue Note, where he presided for 25 years and revitalized the historic but then-dormant label. By all accounts, Lundvall was beloved by musicians of all genres.
Bob Belden was a saxophonist, producer and historian. With respect to Weather Report, he is probably best known for producing the Forecast: Tomorrow boxed set, as well as remastering and reissuing several Weather Report titles for Sony Legacy. Belden also produced the Miles Davis The Complete In A Silent Way Sessions and The Complete Bitches Brew Sessions boxed sets. He had an encyclopedic knowledge of Miles’ recording sessions, as well as a deep appreciation for Cannonball Adderley, Joe and Wayne. (He also produced the Cannonball Adderely compilation Cannonball Plays Zawinul for Capital.) Those of us who are fans of Weather Report, Cannonball and late-sixties/early-seventies Miles Davis have lost a true champion and scholar of their work.
Belden also composed and recorded his own music, notably the ambitious Black Dahlia–probably his signature work–and his collaborations with trumpeter Tim Hagans and keyboardist Scott Kinsey. Most recently, he performed in Iran with his group, Animation, playing tunes by Miles, Herbie Hancock, and Belden himself. It was the first time an American had played in Iran since 1979.
RIP, Bruce Lundvall and Bob Belden.
Head Hunters was not Herbie’s first Columbia album, Sextant was.
Thanks for the correction. I have updated the post.