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Memorial for Steve Backer - May 24 at St. Peter's Church, NYC
(Published: May 13, 2014)

"Steve Backer opened a door for a generation of creative artists to connect to the greater culture (and planet). He is as much of an American pioneer as the creative artists he has championed. As for the idea of one person being able to change another person's life, I can say this: Steve Backer's decision to work with me would change my life on every level, and there are no words to properly thank him for that decision-except thank you sir." - ANTHONY BRAXTON


Memorial For Beloved Music Industry Veteran & Groundbreaking Jazz A&R Man - Steve Backer
(June 3, 1937 - April 10, 2014)
Saturday, May 24, 2014
4pm - 8pm
St. Peter's Church
619 Lexington Avenue @ 54th Street, NYC 10022
212 935 2200

Hosted by WBGO's Gary Walker and featuring music from some of Steve's friends including:
Don Braden
Randy Brecker
Steve Coleman
Dave Douglas
JD Allen
Mike Manieri
New York Voices

...and remembrances from Steve's Family & Friends including industry luminaries and friends:
Michael Cuscuna
Tommy LiPuma
Francois Zalacain
Ashley Kahn + others

------
New York Times Obit
Steve Backer, who ran successful jazz programs at several major record labels, shaping the careers of visionary avant-gardists like the saxophonist-composers Anthony Braxton and Henry Threadgill as well as potent crossover bands like the Brecker Brothers, died on April 10 in Englewood, N.J. He was 76.

The cause was pneumonia, said the artist manager Gail Boyd, a longtime friend.

During a highly productive career of more than 40 years, Mr. Backer conducted business with the sensitivity of an aesthete, the boldness of an entrepreneur and the calculation of a pragmatist. He held to a conviction that jazz's artistic vanguard deserved to be documented - and that it could be supported on a major label with proper promotion and by balancing the roster with more commercial acts.

"Steve Backer opened a door for a generation of creative artists to connect to the greater culture," Mr. Braxton said in a statement to the writer David Sokol, who has been working on Mr. Backer's memoirs. "He is as much of an American pioneer as the creative artists he has championed."

Stephen Alan Backer was born in Brooklyn on June 3, 1937, to Martin and Judith Backer. He grew up immersed in jazz, partly through the influence of his father, a saxophonist. But, after graduating from Hofstra University with a degree in business and holding a variety of jobs, he entered the record business during the Woodstock era, initially doing radio promotion for MGM and Elektra, whose rosters included Laura Nyro, Richie Havens and the Doors.

After moving to ABC Records in 1971 to do promotion and publicity, Mr. Backer developed a series of reissues for the company's Impulse label and organized a package tour of some of the label's artists, with avant-gardists like the saxophonists Pharoah Sanders and Archie Shepp playing at rock clubs and colleges. The tour's popularity led to Mr. Backer's advancement to general manager of Impulse. Among his first signings were the pianist Keith Jarrett and the saxophonists Sam Rivers and Gato Barbieri.

Mr. Backer left Impulse in 1974 at the invitation of Clive Davis, who had recently started Arista Records. As the head of that label's jazz division, Mr. Backer helped document some of the most adventurous music of the era. Down Beat magazine bestowed "album of the year" honors on three uncompromising Arista albums in the '70s, by the pianist Cecil Taylor, Mr. Braxton and the trio Air.

After leaving Arista in the early 1980s, Mr. Backer worked briefly at the Windham Hill label and then settled in at RCA, where he signed an array of young jazz talent to his Novus imprint, including the saxophonist Steve Coleman, the trumpeter Roy Hargrove and the pianist Danilo Pérez. He did something similar in the '90s at a revived Impulse, tapping into the scene around the Greenwich Village club Smalls on both a "Live at Smalls" compilation and a series of individual studio albums.

Mr. Backer, who lived in Englewood, was married and divorced twice. He is survived by his brother, Jeffrey; a daughter, Lee; a son, Matthew; and two grandchildren.

The body of work that Mr. Backer shepherded to release - notably the Arista albums of Mr. Braxton and the reed player and composer Henry Threadgill - has continued to win critical acclaim in reissue.

"Nobody else was doing this," he said of those albums in 2009, "and I'm proud that we were able to do it."

http://www.nytimes.com/20...

DONATIONS IN STEVE'S NAME MAY BE MADE EITHER ONLINE at http://jazzfoundation.org
or MAIL A CHECK IN HONOR OF STEVE BACKER:
Jazz Foundation of America · 322 West 48th Street, 6th Floor · New York, NY 10036 · 212 245 3999


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