Michael Cuscuna, Who Unearthed Hidden Jazz Gems, Dies at 75

Michael Cuscuna, who brought an artist’s level of devotion and a scientist’s attention to detail to the work of exhuming and producing archival jazz recordings — work that vastly expanded access to the buried treasures of American music’s past — died on Saturday at his home in Stamford, Conn. He was 75.

The singer and songwriter Billy Vera, a friend of more than 60 years, said the cause was complications of esophageal cancer.

Mr. Cuscuna may have been the most prolific archival record producer in history. Starting in an era when midcentury jazz experienced a resurgence of interest, his name showed up in the fine print on over 2,600 albums, most of them reissues, many of which included his painstaking liner notes.

The Mosaic label, which he founded with the music-business veteran Charlie Lourie 41 years ago, has become the gold standard of archival jazz releases. Its first issue was an exhaustive boxed set of old material that Mr. Cuscuna had found in the vaults of the famed Blue Note label.

Soon after that, he helped to revive Blue Note, which had been dormant for years. Working with Bruce Lundvall, who became Blue Note’s president in 1984, Mr. Cuscuna took charge of the label’s back catalog. He released unissued gold by John Coltrane, Art Blakey and numerous others, ultimately combing through the entire catalog and putting out virtually every lost track that seemed fit to be heard.

Mr. Cuscuna in the 1970s with Bruce Lundvall, center, who was the president of CBS Records at the time, and the saxophonist Dexter Gordon. When Mr. Lundvall took over the venerable jazz label Blue Note, Mr. Cuscuna took charge of its back catalog.Credit…via Cuscuna family
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