Record producer and journalist

Born: August 22, 1945

Died: January 4, 2017

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GLASGOW-born Elliot Meadow, who has died aged 71, was a record producer, agent, journalist and broadcaster who was obsessed with the world of jazz from an early age and later wrote jazz reviews and features for The Herald, The List and Jazz Journal.

As a teenage fan of this jazz music sweeping in from America, the young Elliot Meadow would race to the record store in Duke Street in Glasgow to buy the latest Blue Note and Verve Record label releases on import.

Aged just nine, he met his hero, record producer and Verve founder, Norman Granz, on a holiday in France and asked for the impresario’s autograph. His request was received with an off-hand rebuttal – “You don’t want my autograph, you don’t know who I am, you want their autograph” pointing to his musicians. The truth was that he did know who Granz was, and he had examined the liner notes of all his Verve records. This was the side of jazz he wanted to work in.

Having made the decision not to follow in his father’s footsteps in the family-run clothing business, the 18-year-old jazz fanatic headed to America on his own to be near the music.

He could not have got any nearer if he had tried, managing to sweet talk his way in to being a “band boy”, now called roadie, for the mighty Count Basie Orchestra which set him on the path of working in jazz touring all over America and learning first hand from the masters.

This young white kid was immediately accepted into his new black family. It was with Basie in 1966 that he met his other great hero Frank Sinatra, who stood side of stage with him “digging” the Basie Band, before stepping on stage for his own set which was later released as the iconic Frank Sinatra Live At The Sands LP – two fans together appreciating jazz at its peak. Some 24 years later Elliot managed to convince Ol’ Blue Eyes on behalf of the Glasgow City Council to come and play Ibrox Stadium, despite the $1million performance fee.

In his new home of America, Elliot would continue to be a tour manager for the likes of Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters and Marlena Shaw. He started managing and producing records for artists including Sonny Stitt, Sonny Fortune, Grady Tate and Buster Williams. The jazz drummer Billy Hart was convinced by him to record a solo album which Elliot negotiated a contract for with A&M Records. The result was the 1977 Enchance album, which Hart claims was more Elliot’s record than his and was impressed that “Elliot thought that much of me, he convinced me I could do an album as a leader”.

Now based in New York, Elliot started writing reviews for Downbeat Magazine, and developed the writing bug. In the eighties he returned to Scotland more and more and flitted between New York and Glasgow.

He talked Radio Forth into a jazz programme and found a sponsor in Tower Records. He recorded the shows either in Edinburgh or New York giving his insider’s view of the jazz scene.

At this time he started a fruitful relationship with Scottish based Linn Records and produced records by then up and coming jazz artists like Martin Taylor, Stacey Kent, Claire Martin and Carol Kidd.

Claire Martin says she “owes the career she’s had to the encouragement Elliot gave her on those early recordings”. Nurturing these new artists in the studio was where he came in to his own, emulating his hero Norman Granz as an accomplished record producer. He also started his own label GFM Records, producing records by a young saxophone protege Tommy Smith and saxophone legend Lee Konitz.

Alongside writing jazz reviews and features for The Herald, The List and Jazz Journal, in the nineties he was a regular contributor to BBC Radio Scotland’s jazz programme Be-Bop To Hip-Hop. Every month he presented an hour long feature on a jazz great like Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis and once a dramatised tribute to troubled pianist Andrew Hill.

It was unorthodox radio, but somehow Elliot’s imagination found a natural home in the radio medium. He would go on to present and produce radio documentaries with Dean Martin’s daughter Deana and on his specialist subject, impresario Norman Granz. The Granz story was told by Elliot on NPR in America, BBC Radio 2, BBC Radio Scotland and an unfinished television documentary.

When diagnosed with cancer in 2015, for the television version he turned from producer to contributor, giving an insight into the character and career of Norman Granz – irascible, stubborn, and single-mindedly determined to get the job done – and yes, Elliot Meadow was all of these too. The last ever filmed interview with the great pianist Oscar Peterson, conducted by Elliot, lies un-broadcast, to be included in the film when it finds a broadcaster to take it on.

Latterly, Elliot hosted his own internet jazz channel JazzMoodsPlus constantly uploading his favourite jazz tracks at all hours of the night and day. His encyclopaedic knowledge of the music would see him quote recording dates, line-ups, instrumentations, and record catalogue numbers quicker than Google. A talent lost in this internet age.

Elliot Meadow was a real character, but being a character comes at a price. Not everyone got him, but if you did, his humour, warmth, and charm certainly enriched your life; he was one of life’s great conversationalists. He died aged 71, after a two-year battle with prostate cancer, leaving his mark on the jazz scene here in Scotland and in America.

NICK LOW