Melissa Walsh

Mack Avenue Records Achieves High-Style Kudos in Jazz

Grosse Pointe Magazine | March 2018 | MAC Grammys

Mac grammys

Mack Avenue Records Achieves High-Style Kudos in Jazz By Melissa Walsh

Harper Woods-based Mack Avenue Records can boast numerous jazz accolades since its founding 20 years ago, but none as grandiose as a record eight Grammy nominations at the 60th Grammy Awards January 28, 2018, resulting in three wins.

“We had eight nominations in five categories,” says Mack Avenue Records CEO Tom Robinson. “In three of the categories we were competing against ourselves.”

The label had two nominees in the categories of Best Jazz Vocal Album, Best Jazz Instrumental Album and Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album. Cecile McLorin Salvant won Best Jazz Vocal Album for “Dreams and Daggers.” Billy Childs won Best Jazz Instrumental Album for “Rebirth.”  Christian McBride won Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album for “Bringin’ It.”

This year’s nominees were Raul Midon for Best Jazz Vocal Album, “Bad Ass and Blind”; John Beasley for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album, “MONK’estra Vol 2,” and for Best Arrangement, Instrumental or A Capella, “Ugly Beauty/Pannonica”; Joey DeFrancesco & the People for Best Jazz Instrumental Album, “Project Freedom”; Billy Childs for Best Improvised Jazz Solo, “Dance of Shiva.”

“This is a result of Gretchen Valade’s dedication to produce the best quality jazz music that we could possibly produce,” says Robinson.

The label was borne June 8, 1998, out of Farms resident Gretchen Valade’s love for jazz and her desire to give young jazz talent and seasoned jazz veterans from across the nation high quality recording production and distribution.

The label was conceived with several songs written by Valade, when her daughter, Gretchen Garth, played demos of her mother’s songs for boyfriend and music producer Stix Hooper. Beginning with “When I Need to Smile,” performed by Eugene Maslov, Hooper suggested Valade launch her own label.

“I was stunned by our success,” says Valade. “I thought we would stay in there but never thought we’d be much above average.”

The label includes the imprints Artistry Music, Rendezvous Music, Sly Dog Records, and Detroit Music Factory – the latter directed by Valade as a means of opening up opportunity to local jazz talent.

Other Mack Avenue Records distinctions include NAACP Image and American Association of Independent Music Libera awards. The label’s previous Grammy nominees include; Stanley Clarke and Alfredo Rodriquez in 2015; and Cecile McLorin Salvant, Jimmy Greene, Kirk Whalum, and Christian McBride in 2016.

A momentous force in Detroit’s jazz business, Valade, 93, became primary sponsor of the annual Detroit Jazz Festival in 2005. She has also donated $9.5 million to jazz programs and performing spaces at Wayne State University.