Verve / Clef/ Norgran

Verve and it’s predecessor’s record labels, Norgran and Clef

Verve-Clef-Norgran-Cheat-Sheet].jpg

Verve Records  founded by Norman Granz in 1956, absorbing the catalogues of his earlier labels, Clef Records (founded in 1946) and Norgran Records (founded in 1953), and material which had been licensed to Mercury previously.

Granz sold Verve to MGM in 1961 for $3 million. Creed Taylor was appointed as producer, with the brief to adopt a more commercial approach, thereby ensuring he would leave very little music of any lasting merit. In the seventies, the label became part of the PolyGram label group, at this point incorporating the Mercury/EmArcy jazz catalog, which Philips, part owners of PolyGram, had earlier acquired. Verve Records became the Verve Music Group after PolyGram was merged with Seagram’s Universal Music Group in 1998

Reflecting its serial corporate merger and aquisition history, VMG today is owner of a huge historic catalogue of recordings, most of which it has absolutely no idea what to do with and for which there exists precious little commercial market.

1. Norgran Records – (Norman Granz) mid-Fifties, predating Verve

Norgran label foto 1 JohnnyP 800

(Photo credit: Johnny P)

Norgran-Label-1000-LJC

2. Clef Records pre-1956, mono DG, predating Verve

clef-1000

2B Verve Popular 2000 series  Red label Yellow T circa 1955

verve-Red-label-yellow-T-1954

3.Verve 8000 series –  Clef Trumpeter – Yellow – mono DG (1956-60)

yellowclef-x1000

4 Verve Trumpeter (1958)

Black label, deep groove, hand-inscribed catalogue number and matrix number

A beautiful original first pressing with very fine sound, that was fiercely fought over on eBay. And won without paying to much over the odds.

5. Verve “T”  mono DG (1956-60) no registered trademank

vervemono-x1000

Clef, Verve and MGM mono and stereo labels courtesy of JoeL

6. Verve “T” MGM mono (1960-66)

(Note the appearance of the registered trademark “R” after “Verve”) Footer now adds “MGM RECORDS”

mgmmono-x1000

7. Verve Stereo (1956-60)

(No “R”)

vervestereo-x1000

8. Verve  MGM Stereo (1960-66)

With “R”

mgmstereo-x1000

9.  Verve Japan 1980’s

japaneseVerve-x1000

Photos (various) : courtesy of Joe L

Postscript: American recording Society Discography

(For more see dedicated post)

Catalogue Title
G 401 Giants Of Jazz ‎(LP, Comp)
G 402 Count Basie And His Band That Swings The Blues ‎
G 403 The Swinging Jazz Of Lionel Hampton ‎
G 404 Jam Session ‎
G 410 The Progressive Big Band Jazz Of Woody Herman ‎
G 412 Art Tatum And Buddy DeFranco – The Flying Fingers Of Art Tatum And Buddy DeFranco ‎
G 413 The Urban Jazz Of Roy Eldridge And Benny Carter ‎
G 418 The Swinging Guitar Of Tal Farlow
G 419 Jazz Scene
G 421 Johnny Hodges And The Ellington All-Stars ‎
G 425 Battle of The Saxes
G 433 Ella Fitzgerald And Billy Holiday – At Newport ‎
G-405 Jazz Creations Of Dizzy Gillespie ‎
G-406 Kings Of The Keyboard ‎
G-407 The Cool Jazz Of Stan Getz ‎
G-408 The Dixieland Jazz Of Bob Scobey ‎
G-409 Billie Holiday Sings ‎
G-411 Jazz Rhythms of Gene Krupa ‎
G-415 An Oscar For Peterson ‎
G-416 The Oscar Peterson Trio, The Gene Krupa Quartet, JATP All Stars – Jazz at the Philharmonic ‎
G-417 Lester Young, Teddy Wilson – Pres And Teddy ‎
G-422 Basie’s Best ‎
G-423 Dizzy Gillespie’s Big Band Jazz ‎
G-426 Anita Sings For Oscar ‎
G-429 Dizzy Gillespie, John Lewis, The Modern Jazz Sextet, Sonny Stitt – Cross Currents ‎
G-431 Lady Sings The Blues
G-432 Jazz Looks Ahead ‎
G-434 Gerry Mulligan Quartet, The And The Teddy Wilson Trio – At Newport ‎
G-435 Mainstream Jazz: Swing ‎
G-437 The Cecil Taylor Quartet / The Gigi Gryce – Donald Byrd Jazz Laboratory Quintet – Modern Jazz ‎
G-438 The Oscar Peterson Trio At Newport ‎
G-439 Ruby Braff Octet And Bobby Henderson – Ruby Braff Octet And Bobby Henderson At Newport ‎
G-441 Now’s The Time ‎
G-442 Count Basie / Joe Williams – Count Basie Swings and Joe Williams Sings ‎
G-443 Stan Getz ’57
G-444 Lester Young, Vic Dickenson, Roy Eldridge, Teddy Wilson, Freddie Greene*, Gene Ramey, Jo Jones – Giants Of Jazz, Vol. II ‎(LP, Comp)
G-445 Hey, Ruby! ‎
G-450 The Fletcher Henderson All Stars Big Reunion ‎
G-452 Jazz A La Midnight
G-607 Cole Porter, Irving Berlin – Moods With Cole Porter / Moods With Irving Berlin ‎

34 thoughts on “Verve / Clef/ Norgran

  1. I’ve got a question about the yellow vs. black Norgran labels. There seems to be some consensus among collectors that the yellow labels are earlier, but none of the guides I’ve seen define that. In fact it looks like the labels were often used simultaneously. Any thoughts on this?.

    • And specifically I’m thinking of Ellis In Wonderland. I’ve seen both black and yellow labels on this one.

  2. Hi it would be great if this track could be heard from someone at Verve. (snip)
    ……………………………………………………………………….
    Sorry but rules of this site do not permit commercial advertising and promotion. Good luck with your album.
    LJC

  3. Suggestion: How about having similar coverage of the American Recording Society jazz catalog. Most of the issues came from Norman Granz, although he was not affiliated in anyway with ARS. Rudy Van Gelder mastered most of the tapes provided by Granz. I learned this in talking with Van Gelder himself. Apparently Abbey pressed the ARS records. They look good and sound good, and contain a lot of interesting recordings. The early, lower-numbered albums appear regularly on E-bay, but not so with the upper end of the catalog numbers, some of which I have never seen. I have most of the catalog but am missing several of the highest numbers.

  4. Hello and thanks again for a quick overview of Norman Granz labels
    I know that Norman Granz recording aren’t quite popular among jazz collectors, but personally I think there are quite a few records one should own.
    So, there’s one little, but important thing I wanted to add
    Norgran and Clef label designs vary in the size of the trumpeter – there is a large and a small trumpeter (similar to Emarcy designs). The design with the large trumpeter is definitely the older one. To distinguis the large one from a small one there is a word TRADEMARK under the trumpeter logo, which can easily be seen under a large logo, but appears like little circles under the small logo.

    What’s important about this is that the large trumpeter label design was pressed on very heavy shellac and usually features the loud hissing sound on modern sound systems, which really can interfere with the music. Later small trumpeter design was pressed on still heavy, but lighter vinyl and one can find a pressing without above mentioned hissing sound much easier.

    • Alexander, some time ago already that we met at the Bielorusskaya Voksal café. A pleasure to browse through your wonderful website.
      Re the size of the trumpeter on the Granz labels, do you notice the size difference on 25 and 30 cm albums, or only on 30 cm albums? I never noticed any difference. Do you have a specific album in mind?

      • Rudolf, very glad to hear from you!
        As I know, all 10-inch Clef and Norgran albums were issued with the large trumpeter logo on shellac, but 12-inch ones do vary.
        For example, here’s a picture of an old one

        word TRADEMARK can be seen under the trumpeter logo and it’s pressed on very heavy shellac, non-flexible

        And here’s a small trumpeter logo

        Record is flexible, lighter, definitely vinyl or some vinyl-shellac mix

        I’ve noticed that vinyl appears in around Clef 650s, but I’m not sure..unfortunately I don’t own any of the first 30 Norgrans, but I think the situation is quite the same with them.

        I’m still not sure if there were any reissues on the same label (I mean if some records from Clef 600-650 were issued on shellac and later on vinyl-shellac mix).

        • There is also one thing I’ve noticed while adding photos here
          It’s written Jazz At The Philharmonic Inc. at bottom (instead of Clef or Norgran), on shellac ones

        • Thanks for the illustrations. I must admit that I never paid attention to this manifest difference. As you rightly mention, there is the mention “Jazz at the Philhormonic” which becomes later Clef Records or Norgran Records Inc. Another difference is the black: early pressings were shiny, later ones mat. May we assume that the change from big trumpeter into small coincided with JATP < Clef and shiny < to mat? I have had certain catalogue items in both versions: for me the distinctive difference was the shiny versus mat question and I have always, instinctively, favoured the shiny ones.
          I will pull out a few Norgrans (and Clefs) to see if our theory is right.

          • You’re certainly right about this shiny/mat thing!
            One more coincidence I’ve noticed while looking through Clefs – there’s clearly a difference in cover designs and I suppose the change is made at the same time that this shiny/mat shellac/vinyl change happens.


            Here’s a quick example – a photo is printed directly on the cardboard at the front and text is glued at the back of the cover

            And later they started doing quite the opposite – photo is glued at the front and the text is just printed on cardboard at the back, what remained to be the design for the next many years on Clef, Norgran and Verve till the early 60s (with some rare exclusions like gatefold albums).


            So it’s not only the color tone that changed from Clef/Norgran covers to Verve Trumpeter label reissues, but also the design

            Here’s an original Clef cover

            And this one is a Verve reissue where a white rim can be noticed, since it’s glued

            • I have not had the time to pull out a few Clefs. What you say about the manufacturing process of the sleeves is absolutely right. Also note the “HI FI RECORDING” sticker on the early HAMP qrt.
              I will revert to you later.

          • I was writing a long reply, but suddenly after pressing reply everything was lost :/
            Anyway, you’re certainly right about this shiny/mat thing – it’s quite a way to distinguish an older pressing
            I noticed one change in cover design, which seems to have happened at the same time this shiny/mat story – I’ll try to write this long story again in some time 😉

            • Aleksandr: this is most interesting stuff! I discovered a few interesting things:
              both the big and the small trumpeter logos have “trademark” printed underneath. This is well visible on the Norgran labels since they are yellow.. My copies of:
              -MG-N 1000. This Getz album sold very well. Thus my second pressing copy has a label mentioning Norgran Sales Corp. – small trumpeter and trade mark in very small characters.
              -MG-N 1001 Webster. Mine has JATP, big trumpeter and, of course, trademark.
              Now for the few Clefs remaining on my shelves.
              -MG-C 610. Bud Powell. JATP, big trumpeter, trademark. Shiny black.
              -MG-C 646. Bird. Clef records. Small trumpeter, trademark. Shiny black.
              -MG-C 732 Brookmeyer (re-issue of Clef 644): Clef Records, small trumpeter, trademark, mat black.
              So I learnt that “trade mark” on all issues featuring the trumpeter logo; shiny labels may have small trumpeter logo.
              The vinyl looks similar whether big or small trumpeter. There may be different weights. I did not check that. This unflexible shellack is common for the 25 cm issues.

              • Rudolf, great share!
                I’ve been digging more and unfortunately it’s much more complicated as I thought at first.
                This is what I found about Clef
                – large trumpeter changed to small around MGC 637 (Flip Phillips Quintet still had the large trumpeter label).
                – shiny label changed to mat after MGC 685 (that’s the last one I have with shiny label), I think even some 700s were issued with shiny label
                – JATP inc. changed to Clef Inc. after MGC 660

                • Further my last, I decided to check the few Clef albums I still have. There are no surprises:
                  633- Basie – small trumpet, TM, Clef Records, shiny black label
                  644- Brookmeyer – ditto, as # 633
                  666- Basie – ditto
                  671- Roy and Diz – ditto
                  682- Lawrence Brown – ditto
                  743- Metronome 1956 – mat labels, rest same as above.

                  As an added bonus:
                  Norgran 1071 Pres – yellow small trumpeter label, TM, Norgran Sales Corp.
                  Norgran 1086 Buddy Rich – mat black labels, rest as # 1071.

                  So the bigger trumpet logo labels, first pressings in the lower 600 series.

                  Granz switched to uniform mat black labels for Clef and Norgran at the end of their life cycle, just before merging everything into the composite Verve label.

                  I am glad you raised the subject. It was a nice occasion to deepen our knowledge.
                  Poka.

  5. Hello, I have a question about a label. I bought a record at the local record store of Stan Getz (Jazz Samba) in stereo. Although the record came out in 1962, the label is identical to the pre-1960 stereo label. Adding to the intrigue is the fact that the record was made in Canada. Any ideas or input about the label? I’m sure time travel can safely be ruled out.

  6. Hello, where do red Vervel labels with a yellow T come in? I just picked up a copy of Anita O’Day Verve-‎MG V-2000 from 1956 which has red/yellow instead of black/silver label.
    Kind regards,
    Peterjan

    • Not seen the red/yellow T label before, but as far as I can tell from the Verve discography, the label is found on recordings released around 1955/6, onwards – the Verve Popular 2000 series. I’ve put a picture in at 2B above. If anyone can add any more info, I’m glad to be corrected.

  7. I have three question regarding what is commonly referred to as the Norman Granz’ Jam Session series. Regarding the original 12″-LP edition, can you confirm that it went (i) Mercury; (ii) Cleff; (iii) Verve trumpet; and (iv) Verve – T. Second question, did all of the series come out in a 7″ edition? And lastly, I’ve heard rumor that there was a 10″ of the Jam Sessions, like the JATP but I’ve never seen a listing for one.

  8. Question about the mid 60s Verve VSP pressings. I have a few…fairly heavy vinyl..these are reissues …but we’re the special quality or budget at the time? ,Thanks

  9. Hi all.
    Recently I have purchased some Verve German pressings sold as first pressings.
    Any info about the year of reléase in the label or outer jacket.
    But in the label you can read:
    MGM RECORDS-A DIVISION OF LOEW’S INCORPORATED
    And follows below in another line:
    MFD BY DEUSTCHE GRAMMOPHON GESELLSCHAFT

    For instance, Jimmy Smith “Who’s afraid of Virginia Wolf?” title, V 6-8583 Stereo recording.
    Does anyone know something about the year of reléase of these recordings?
    Any help is really welcome.
    Thanks so much.

      • Thanks Aaron. But any date is stamped there. Only: Made in Germany – V6=8583=2 A , and this other: M6 OK F1. I don’t know what means.
        A bit strange.

        • I keep a note of the original Verve catalogue number along with local reissue number. I have V6-8578 Bill Evans Trio 64 – with in five titles of your number, recorded in 1964, so 1964-5 would seem a reasonable guess for release. I’ve seen the M6 stamp before on similar pressings, another guess, something to do with pressing plant, mother or stamper number, or something else. (Leaves the door wide open for others)

          • Thanks, I agree with you. Buyer told me they were first pressings and I think so. First half of 60s seems to be right. Anyway these German recordings sound really fine and I’ve not noticed any difference between them and my other 1st USA pressings. But perhaps I own wooden and not golden ears…

        • Hi folks,
          first time post here – great site!
          I think I can help a bit with the runout info on L.Sánchez copy:
          It’s definetely a pressing and lacquer cut by Deutsche Grammophon Gesellschaft. M6 is a code for the date when the lacquer was cut, in this case December 1966.
          DGG used a date code for their cuts from 1954 to 1972 (quoted from Discogs):
          “The letter symbolises the month (A = January, B = February, C = March, D = April, E = May, F = June, G = July, H = August, J = September, K = October, L = November, M = December) and the figures the year of the mastering, e.g. 3 = 1953 or 1963, 4 = 1954 or 1964, 9 = 1959 or 1969.
          Since 1970 the systematic is 70, 71, until it was given up in June 1972.”
          V6=8583=2 means it’s the second lacquer cut from the tape.
          1 should be the sequential mother number.
          F should be the stamper number (provided the stamp is rotated by 90 degrees in the runout), meaning it’s stamper number 6. (A=1, B=2, etc.)

  10. Hello, I have been a lurker on your site for awhile. I have a Verve specific question. I have 2 copies of Getz Meets Mulligan in Hi-Fi; one with a deep groove trumpeter logo (shown above as used in 1958), and a copy with the usual “T” label (shown above as used from 1956-1960). Which is the earlier pressing ? Thanks !

  11. The label typesetting would be grouped as follows:
    – 1 (Norgran) – Apparently a pressing by RCA Victor’s Indianapolis, IN plant; I saw this typesetting on many a 45 and LP pressed by them in the mid-’50’s to early ’60’s period. Can’t say who typeset the label, though
    – 2 (Clef), 4 (Verve Trumpeter), 7 (Verve Stereo) – all printed by Bert-Co Press of Los Angeles, CA.
    – 3 (Verve Clef Trumpeter) – in-house type from RCA’s Indianapolis plant, circa 1956-57 (top-heavy with Varityper fonts)
    – 5 (Verve T) – a Columbia pressing from Bridgeport, CT, with their trademark fonts gracing the label
    – 6 (Verve T / MGM mono) – with 1.25″ deep groove, pressed by MGM’s own Bloomfield, NJ plant, with label fonts from Pace Press, Inc. of New York City.
    – 8 (Verve T / MGM stereo) – pressed by H.V. Waddell Co., Burbank, CA, with a collection of Ludlow fonts in the Tempo family that were characteristic of pressings from that plant. Waddell pressed 45’s for MGM / Verve through 1966, and LP’s right up to the end of the line for MGM itself as a record label in 1976, when by-then parent PolyGram transferred the remaining MGM artists to Polydor.

    It should also be noted that up to MGM’s acquisition of Verve, the bulk of lacquer mastering for Verve was handled by Radio Recorders in Hollywood. I.I.N.M., after Creed Taylor assumed A&R duties for Verve upon MGM’s takeover, was one of the earliest associations between him and the legendary Rudy Van Gelder – which would continue well into Taylor’s founding of CTI Records (first as an A&M subsidiary, then as an indie).

    • I am speechless… (and you can quote me on that)
      Are samples of these fonts available in the public domain I wonder? Could make an interesting “Advanced class in label recognition”.

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