Jazz Summers, the legendary music manager, has died aged seventy-one. He had been living with lung cancer for over two years. The music industry has lost one of its most vibrant, most notorious and most brilliant characters. A champion of new music, a non-conformist and a visionary, Jazz Summers will be greatly missed.It wasn't, naturally, all clambering up the ladders - in 1999, the Big Life record label went into receivership and was eventually purchased by Universal. But before they folded, they released Mega City 4 and KMFDM records, and anyone would be happy with that.
Jazz Summers was a master of artist development. His ability to hear a song and recognize its power and potential brought him huge success across several decades.
Jazz managed Wham!, Lisa Stansfield, Soul II Soul, The Verve, Badly Drawn Boy, Snow Patrol, Klaxons, La Roux, Scissor Sisters and London Grammar among many others.
His artists have sold over sixty million albums and seventy two million singles around the world including over one hundred Top 40 hits in the past forty years.
Jazz was born on March 15th 1944. He enrolled in military school aged twelve and joined the army aged fifteen. He served as a radiographer, spending time in Hong Kong and Malaysia.
In 1985, in partnership with Simon Napier-Bell, Jazz helped Wham! to become the first western pop group to tour China. Summers was crucial in breaking the band in America and established a reputation as an expert in the American market. A reputation that would be strengthened by his work with Snow Patrol and La Roux.
Summers formed his own management company Big Life in partnership with Tim Parry in 1986. They also ran Big Life Records, which featured hundreds of releases from artists including The Orb, Yazz, Coldcut, De La Soul and The Soup Dragons.
In 2003, Jazz was awarded the prestigious Peter Grant Award and in 2007, the Strat Award at the Music Week Awards.
Big Life will celebrate its 30th anniversary next year. It continues to prosper.
Summers was an active campaigner for artists’ rights. As chairman of the MMF (Music Managers’ Forum) he was vocal in many issues affecting artists, including the extension of copyright, secondary ticketing, and VPL. He was also prominent in setting up the Featured Artists’ Coalition and Julie’s Bicycle, a not-for-profit organisation working on sustainability in the creative industries.
In September 2013 Summers’ autobiography ‘Big Life’ was published to critical acclaim.
Jazz is survived by his wife Dianna, his daughters Katie, Rio and Georgia, his granddaughters Claire, Lila and Rose and his brother Don.
And while 'taking Wham to China' might not sound very much of a big deal, it's worth recalling what a huge coup that was at the time (one minute in):