Remembering Michael Cuscuna

September 20, 1948 – April 20, 2024

A tribute to the influential jazz record producer

Michael Cuscuna passed away on April 20, 2024 at the age of 75.

He was born on Sept. 20, 1948 in Stamford, Connecticut.

Early in life he played drums, flute, alto sax and tenor sax but decided to work behind the scenes instead of being a performing musician.

Cuscuna picked up early experience hostng a jazz radio show on WXPN, working for the ESP label in the late 1960s, and writing reviews for Jazz & Pop Magazine and Downbeat.

He worked as a record producer with Atlantic (including for a classic Dave Brubeck album), Motown, ABC (where he reissued Impulse! Jazz albums), Arista/Freedom, Muse, Elektra , and Novus.

During 1975-81, Cuscuna had a job he particularly loved, going through the vaults of the inactive Blue Note label and putting together sets of previously unreleased jazz sessions; the releases kept the name of Blue Note alive and helped lead to the comeback of the label that he spearheaded with Bruce Lundvall.

In 1983 with Charlie Lourie, Lundvall founded the Mosaic label; their more than 100 Lp-size box sets became famous for the brilliant music (some of which was previously unreleased),impeccable packaging and sound, and very informative booklets.

Cuscuna, who was a hero to virtually every jazz record collector, helped spur an interest in many unheralded jazz artists (most notably Herbie Nichols), made a countless number of formerly rare sessions available, and not only helped to preserve jazz history but helped to rewrite aspects of it.

In addition to Mosaic, he was responsible for most of the Blue Note reissues during the past 50 years and also did valuable work for other labels.

Michael Cuscuna was simply one of the most important non musicians in jazz history.

Here is Michael Cuscuna, in an insightful interview from 2015 filmed by the Jazz Video Guy (Bret Primack), talks about the art of reissuing jazz sessions.

-Scott Yanow