Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter

Sunday, October 17, 2010

I finally got around to Ashley Kahn's "The House That Trane Built: The Story of Impulse Records".  It's not quite the history-of -jazz-as-told-through-the-labels that I've always wanted to read, but it's an engaging look at an interesting time and an interesting label.  Impulse is an odd label: it had indie taste-- avant-garde taste, really-- and major label money, by virtue of the fact that it was a subsidiary of ABC. (Check this set of Impulse album art.) Kahn elects to tell the story by describing the tenure of it's major producers, with occasional sidebar pieces about specific sides larded in.  I'm not crazy about this technique, which gives the book the feel of a long magazine article, but it is possible I'll find I like it better once the book finds its way onto my reference shelf. I'd have also liked more about the economics of the business.  ABC found itself going into the record business by reason of the antitrust prosecution that obliged NBC to divest itself of, inter alia, the Blue Network. More on that would have been good.  I'd also have liked to know more about the differences in revenue generated by the Impulse releases versus the pop and rock releases on the ABC/Dunhill side of the operation, then and now.  What's the value of the Coltrane catalog relative to that of the James Gang, or Steppenwolf (or Steely Dan)?

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