THE AX FALLS AT GRP

22 staffers cut as jazz label loses acts, execs

Venerable jazz label GRP Records axed 22 of its 59 employees Wednesday as part of a move to streamline the label and focus on its core artists. Execs in its urban promotion, business affairs and international departments, including a handful of veeps, were shown the door.

GRP, which for the past two years has been under the aegis of industry vets Tommy LiPuma and David Steffen, boasts George Benson, McCoy Tyner and Diana Krall on its roster.

But while Krall is one of the label’s bright spots, some insiders have questioned the label’s direction as it moved away from jazz fusion and leaned toward more pop or even dance flavored offerings.

Revival cut short

A full-fledged revival of the Blue Thumb Records has stalled, and discs from several artists, such as Acoustic Alchemy, struggled for recognition.

While LiPuma had some successes in his early days at the helm with discs from George Howard and GRP staple the Rippingtons, landing chart and radio spots, sources said the label’s fortunes have dwindled.

A compilation disc, “Nuyorican Soul,” was heavily promoted, but failed to catch fire. The disc, produced by (Little) Louie Vega and Kenny (Dope) Gonzalez, sported a Benson-led track and was intended to become a dance club staple.

The label also is usually a big Grammy nomination grabber, frequently landing a dozen or so noms. But while it nabbed a handful in this year’s listings, last year it boasted just three.

Overstaffed

Industry observers note that a 59-person staff was unusually large for a label with GRP’s release slate. Some are even questioning the future of the venerable label, which was started in 1969 by Dave Grusin and Larry Rosen.

Universal Music Group sources downplayed the layoffs and said the label was merely restructuring to take better advantage of its resources as it markets its core artists.

The layoffs were expected by staffers, but it was originally scheduled for later this month.

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