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Acclaimed U.S. Jazz Producer George Avakian Dies At 98

Acclaimed record producer George Avakian in 2008.
Acclaimed record producer George Avakian in 2008.

George Avakian, an acclaimed Russian-born music producer who collaborated with U.S. jazz icons like Louis Armstrong and Miles Davis, has died at the age of 98.

Avakian, who was born to Armenian parents in southern Russia and moved to the United States shortly after his birth, died at his home in New York City on November 23, his daughter confirmed.

He served as an executive at major U.S. music labels, including Columbia Records and Warner Bros., and played a prominent role in popularizing industry innovations such as live and long-playing albums.

A graduate of Yale University who served in the Philippines during World War II, Avakian became a full-time member of the production staff at Columbia Records in 1946.

He brought Davis and Dave Brubeck to the label, helping to turn them into worldwide stars.

Armstrong also joined Columbia in the mid-1950s, and it was Avakian who introduced him to the German theater song Mack The Knife, which became one of the trumpeter's most famous hits.

Avakian was born on March 15, 1919, to wealthy Armenian parents in the southern Russian city of Armavir. His family left the country shortly thereafter amid the civil war that broke out following the 1917 revolution, eventually settling in New York.

Avakian was among the founders of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, which presents the Grammy Awards, and received numerous achievement awards in the United States and abroad.

The recording academy honored Avakian with a Trustees Award for lifetime achievement in 2009. He was also honored with France's Commandeur des Arts et Lettres and received the Soviet Union's highest state award, the Order of Lenin, in 1990.

Based on reporting by the New York Times and AP

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