I know everyone has to die, but it still comes as a shock when one of the great names in rock ‘n’ roll passes away. Jazz Summers was one of the greats, born in 1944 and passing away only a few days ago at the age of 71 from lung cancer. I first met Jazz in the mid 1980s when he was managing up and coming Northern soul singer Lisa Stansfield, who I tour managed all too briefly. Our paths crossed again when his record company, Big Life Records, was the UK record company for De La Soul who I tour managed on their Three Feet High and Rising tour. In 2003, Jazz published his enthralling autobiography Big Life. I love any book that contributes to the myth and legend of rock ‘n’ roll. Big Life tracks his transportation from the monsoon drains of sixties Boogie Street to the smoke-filled folk clubs of seventies New York. He became a soldier and formed a band. Smoked lots of dope in Malacca and attended meetings in the coke-sprinkled boardrooms of eighties Los Angeles. Managed the band Wham! Drank expensive wine. Wore ridiculous primary coloured baggy suits. Ate at uptight banquets in pre-Tiananmen Square Beijing. Heard Punk’s first screech. Drunk heavily. Wore make-up. In the year of Acid House, he managed Yazz and her Plastic Population. Married Yazz. Met Roy Orbison. Outstared Puff Daddy. Lobbied the Rolling Stones for ‘Bittersweet Symphony’. Managed: Snow Patrol, The Verve, La Roux. X-Rayed an Egyptian princess. Witnessed Jazz Summers reflect, with shocking and inspirational candour, on his search for music and balance. Big Life is a hysterical and heartbreaking account of one man’s struggle with the Universe, his riotous dance to the music of time. Boy this book would make a great screenplay.
Jazz Summers was a soldier, who became a musician, who became a radiographer, who became a musician (again) and who became one of the music industry’s most successful artist managers. Jazz managed Wham!, Lisa Stansfield, Yazz, Soul ll 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 thirty years. In 2003, Jazz was awarded the prestigious Peter Grant Award and, in 2007, the Strat Award at the Music Week Awards, UK. Summers’ was an active campaigner for artists’ rights. As chairman of the Music Managers’ Forum (MMF) he was vocal on 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. Jazz was one of the most important names in music management and its sad to see him depart this world.