Michael Cuscuna, Grammy-award winner known for works with Buddy Guy, Bonnie Raitt and Lou Rawls, dies aged 75

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Cuscuna was known for working with Buddy Guy, Bonnie Raitt and handling box sets for Billie Holiday, Nat King Cole and many more legacy acts.

Three-time Grammy winner Michael Cuscuna, known for his archival work producing hundreds of reissues from the golden era of jazz, has died at the age of 75. The producer was battling cancer at the time, with longtime friend Billy Vera announcing his death.

Nine-time nominee Cuscuna won Grammys in 1993, 1999, and 2002 for producing box sets of music by Nat King Cole, Miles Davis and Billie Holiday.

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Blue Note Records took to Instagram shortly after the announcement to write: “It is not easy to bid farewell to a best friend, knowing that it’s a final goodbye. Michael Cuscuna was one of the best friends this music has had.”

Born on September 20, 1948, in Stamford, Connecticut, Cuscuna was a musician who played drums, saxophone, and flute. He worked in a local record shop and was initially drawn to R&B music before jazz became his greatest love. 

He used to work as a radio DJ and his signature song was the novelty hit "Rubber Biscuit" by The Chips, which was later covered by The Blues Brothers. Whenever someone asked him about his favourite type of music, he would always answer, "Atlantic singles and Blue Note albums."

Cuscuna produced the 1970 album "Buddy & the Juniors" for Vanguard Records, which featured Buddy Guy, Junior Wells, and Junior Mance. In 1972, he produced "Give It Up," which was Bonnie Raitt's only gold album during her time at Warner Bros.

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But it was as a jazz historian that Cuscuna made his name, trawling the Blue Note archives for unreleased recordings by jazz legends like Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, Dexter Gordon, Horace Silver, Art Blakey, and Jimmy Smith, as well as lesser-known artists including Quebec, Hank Mobley, and Tina Brooks.

In later years, he obtained ownership of Blue Note's extensive photographic collection and licensed images for use in books and movies.

Cuscuna is survived by his wife, Lisa, children Max and Lauren and grandchildren Nicolas and Penelope.

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