A farewell to Blue Note’s Bruce Lundvall, Sept. 13, 1935–May 19, 2015

by Kyle Eagle

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Bruce Lundvall

Bruce Lundvall’s passing was a sad occasion and a great loss to jazz and the music community as a whole. In fond remembrance, I’d like to share a “New York minute” I experienced one night when I had the pleasure of picking up his tab.

In the spring of 2004, the great Jackie McLean and Bobby Hutcherson performed at the Iridium jazz club with the their old Blue Note colleague Grachan Moncur III. Mosiac Records had recently released Moncur’s entire Blue Note catalog, and this performance marked the occasion, and Lundvall, being the head of Blue Note Records, was in attendence, as well as Michael Cuscuna, the man behind Mosaic.

I just began my tenure with Moncur at the time of this concert and the Mosaic box set project in the eleventh hour. One of the perks of the job were front-row seats plus one, including comped dinner and drinks, all the trimmings for a great cultural evening.

To my surprise, sitting next to my table less than three inches away was Michael Cuscuna and Bruce Lundvall. Both titans in keeping jazz alive and relevant and with a body of work that is awe inspiring. I soaked in the moment and smiled and thought, “Only in New York.”

The show was magnificent and the band stormed through an avalanche of the classic tunes they created together during their Blue Note years. Beautiful, cerebral, and swinging numbers like “Blue Rondo,” “Riff Raff,” and “Air Raid” filled the Iridium. It was an occasion to behold for any serious lover of jazz.

After the show, the waiters came around to settle the tabs. Due to some mixup, Lundvall’s house account couldn’t be accessed and he and Cuscuna didn’t have their wallets on them. After a brief discussion between Lundvall and the waiter, I interjected and gave the waiter my card and said I’d pick up the tab. It was the least I could do to give something back after a no-cost night of music, food, and spirits—and legends.

At first, he declined, and then I told him it would be an honor, especially for all the work he’d done for the cause—from one jazz fan to another. He smiled and expressed his gratitude, and then opened up with a conversation that went on for about an hour between us and my guest. A wonderful experience.

Later, when Grachan came around, Lundvall congratulated him on the performance, and we all had another round. When Lundvall made his exit, he thanked me again, we shook hands and traded business cards.

Grachan asked me what the thanks was all about and I told him what happened, in which Grachan began laughing and pointed his finger at me in mock ridicule. His response was, “You paid the tab for someone like Bruce Lundvall! He should’ve paid yours!” I reminded him, I didn’t have one and that I felt it was a wonderful karmic moment to pay it forward. An improvised gesture….something jazz musician’s do.

Salute!

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