With 15 Grammy Nominations, Nonesuch Records Is Thriving In Its Eclectic Groove

David Visor I have something on my mind. Sitting at a desk in his group’s office for Warner Music in midtown Manhattan, he retrieves a recording he heard the night before on his channel The Beatles on Sirius XM. Adept Jazz His pianist Brad Mehldau plays “I Am the Walrus” solo from his upcoming album. The Beatles cover his February 10th cover. It’s the final moment of the song that Bither keeps coming back to. How Mehldau pulls the melody out and takes the song to new places that seem completely disconnected from the acid-infused silliness of John Lennon’s original, while also retaining its pop essence. I’m here.

It was a Friday afternoon, and these post-pandemic days mean few, if any, other people in the building. Here you are, like you’re steering a ship with a highly artistic roster of musicians. His office is full of vinyl records and his plaques and posters line the walls and floor. Artists such as Emmylou Harris, Velvet Underground and Steve Reich who have deeply influenced him both personally and professionally. No wonder he’s always focused on music. Music streams out of his open office door into the building’s corridors.

That focus on music and the sheer variety of ways it can be expressed has paid off this year more than ever. At the upcoming 65th annual Grammy Awards, Nonsuch—Bizar is his label, officially since 1995 and unofficially since 1986. and took over as president in 2017, receiving his 15 nominations, the most in the label’s 59-year history. And those nominations are rock (The Black Keys), blues (Rye Cooder and Taj Mahal), folk (Punch Brothers), jazz (Cecil Macrolyn Salvant), Joshua Redman, Brad It covers all genres, including Mehldau, Christian McBride, and Brian Blade. ), Contemporary Instrumental (Mehldau), Chamber Music (Caroline Shaw), Historical (Wilco’s 20th Anniversary Edition) Yankee Hotel Foxtrot) and bluegrass (Molly Tuttle). Nominated for Non-Classical Producer of the Year, reflecting the label’s dedication to both musical and physical presentation (and Auerbach), best arrangements, instrumental and vocals (McLorin Salvant), best album notes (Bob More in order to YHF box; Fernando Gonzalez For Astor Piazzolla box set american clave recordings). Most shocking of all, Tuttle was nominated for Best New Artist.

That’s impressive for a label that employs only 12 staff in the US and 3 in the UK, and rarely moves in and out of the music mainstream.But it’s also a testament to Visser’s role as the person who preceded him. Bob Hurwitz It provides a platform for artists to express themselves in many ways, regardless of how many streams they have or how many records they sell.

“It’s about listening to what’s going on, realizing there’s a lot of doors you have to open, and being open to it, and casting the net as wide as you can,” he says, adding that the width of those Look back at the width. name. “But given the kind of music we’ve been involved with, I don’t think we would have been nominated in all these categories 20 years ago. We weren’t making records everywhere, and I don’t think there are any off-limits categories for us now.”

Such are rarely favored in a particular lane. Founded in 1964 by legendary executives Jack Holtzman For over 10 years, Imprint has been an affordable classic label Tracy Stern, established its classical authenticity while expanding into indigenous music around the world. The label he sold to Warner Bros. Bob Krasnow, hired Hurwitz to run the newly reimagined Nonesuch. It quickly expanded into a home for contemporary composers, jazz his artists and musicians around the world. Bither, who had a background in music journalism and performance arts centers like the Brooklyn Academy of Music, was working at WMG’s parent company, Warner Communications at the time, and had a trusting relationship with Hurwitz and his chief of marketing. was building. peter clancy — so much so that when Krasnow needed a new international head for Elektra, Hurwitz recommended Visor despite the fact that he had no record business experience.

“There were certainly some people who raised their eyebrows, but we will forever credit Bob Krasnow for taking that risk,” says Visser. “They hold a launch event for all their labels every year and within two weeks I was at a big international conference in Montreux. was going on roadshows to Tokyo, Hong Kong and Sydney, and I was going to introduce Elektra’s 1987 release, so that’s how it started.”

Bither was a quick learner and worked internationally for several years before moving into domestic marketing and then a GM role, working on projects such as Metallica, Tracy Chapman and 10,000 Maniacs. However, he still maintains an informal advisory role at Nonsuch, and Hurwitz said that before he started working for Elektra, he would pay him $1 a year, and Vizor would bring artists to Nonsuch over the years. I was. So when Warner experienced management turmoil in his mid-1990s, Hurwitz hired Bizar full-time. This partnership continues to this day, even after Hurwitz returned to his chairmanship in 2017, handing over the label’s presidency to Bisar.

That period coincided with some of the most significant Nonesuch deals in the label’s history, releasing three albums through Buena Vista Social Club in partnership with World Circuit Records and Hurwitz asking Bither what music is. Established after asking emanating from his office on that particular day. Signed by Harris and Laurie Anderson, major his label his system artists who needed a creative outlet to explore different forms of expression. He brought with him two acts that would go on to have a major impact on rock and alternative music, Black He Keyes and Wilco.Brian Wilson’s smile, is the culmination of a 50-year journey to release one of the most mythical projects in music history. Nonsuch has become home to artists who say something beyond the ordinary that fits nowhere else.

“Maybe it’s because of my international background, but the idea of ​​this music coming from all these different places felt like Nonsuch had a home for a lot of different ideas.” “It was different from what the big mainstream labels were doing,” says Visser. We’re not trying to compete with the big labels, that’s not what we do, but thanks to the way the business has evolved, to music that’s authentic and has original voices, there’s probably more now than ever before. I think there is an opportunity for

“This label is the most quaint label in a very good way. It aims to follow the growth and changes of artists, and rather than relying on hits, it’s a mix of country, folk, bluegrass, soul, gospel, Beginning a career that spanned jazz, R&B, opera and ballet: “It’s hard to imagine any other home where I could be so completely. He has been an incredible support, mentor, and all-around great friend to me, and without him I wouldn’t be where I am today.

These authentic and original voices and musicians are on display with Nonesuch Grammy nominees this year. Tuttle is a highly talented guitarist, singer and songwriter who became the first woman to win Guitarist of the Year at the International Bluegrass Music Association Awards. When Visor met her in Manhattan in 2019. Her band Golden Highway’s album, crooked treebrings bluegrass to the modern conversation with lyrics and evocative musicianship that reflect the reality of 2022 rather than the art form of 100 years ago. (“When we met David Visor, we connected immediately. I was impressed with how much thought and care he put into the albums Nonsuch would release,” says Tuttle. [and] I look forward to working with the Nonsuch team for many years to come. ”

“Did you think she was going to be the best new artist? I had no idea it was the day the nominations were announced,” says Visser. “But there was something special about her. It’s really exciting to see what happens next. I’ve come to realize how much it means to artists. It has since been surgically attached to their names forever. I think it will be something that will inform everything that happens on the next record.The sky is the limit and what she now has is the ability to decide for herself.It is as an artist. It’s about her in the car, it’s not about her driving and figuring out a lane to continue driving there.”

There’s something about the longevity of Nonsuch’s mission and the long-standing leadership that guides it that tends to bring artists back. Rye His Cooder has worked with the label since his Vista days in Buena in the late 1990s. Brad Mehldau says he’s been working with them since 2004. The Black Keys said that when he signed to Nonesuch in 2006, he could choose from any label in the world. 17 years later, after 18 Grammy nominations and 7 wins, they’re still here. Wilco launched his own business after spending his decade with the label. Yankee Hotel Foxtrotthey came back to Nonesuch to get it done.

“If we were doing this ourselves, it wouldn’t have been nearly as good or nearly as extensive. Josh Greer, Wilco’s former attorney and current manager. “They could have made this easier on their own and probably still managed to sell a fair amount of records and make some money. Jeff [Tweedy], like most musicians, does not like to look back. He likes to focus on his new record. David made it look fresh and showed a lot of energy in the project getting Tweedy involved again.

A lot has changed since Bither first worked for Nonesuch. For one, the shift from sales to streaming, and mainstream preferences. (The nature of the streaming service, which mostly caters to mega-hit singles, makes it more difficult to break through the noise, he points out.) And this weekend’s Grammy Awards aren’t necessarily set to reward that. It could be the pinnacle of a place that continues to thrive with its particular artistic flair in a non-existent ecosystem.

“I don’t do a lot of interviews because it’s not about us, it’s about all the artists we’re here to support,” says Bither. “But with all these nominations, I felt like I said something about us as an important label to say. We’re all struggling to speak up in the noise of 100,000 tracks being uploaded a day, but I think there’s always a place for what we’re doing. We’ve never seen it as a niche thing, we’ve seen it as a kind of quality thing, and the world of music is a big world.”

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