NEW YORK, 30 APRIL 2007—The late Turkish jazz, R & B and rock and roll impresario and
record producer Ahmet Ertegun (1923 - 2006) is the subject of a television
documentary entitled, Atlantic Records: The House That Ahmet
Built. Part of the American Masters series produced for PBS by
Thirteen/WNET New York, the two-hour film explores the career and
contribution to American culture of the co-founder of the famous
label and features interviews with prominent contemporary musicians and industry
specialists as well as rivetting performance clips and studio sessions of some
of America's greatest jazz, blues and rock and roll musicians.
Under Ertegun’s direction, Atlantic Records evolved
from a groundbreaking, independent R&B and jazz label into one of the
world’s preeminent music companies. The artists Ertegun discovered and the
music he pioneered led a revolution in R&B, soul, and rock music that
reshaped the modern cultural landscape – forming a legacy that includes
such seminal artists as Ray Charles, Big Joe Turner, Ruth Brown, LaVern
Baker, The Clovers, The Drifters, John Coltrane, Ben E. King, Bobby Darin,
Sonny & Cher, Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, Solomon Burke, Wilson
Pickett, Led Zeppelin, Eric Clapton, Crosby Stills Nash & Young, The Rolling
Stones, Bette Midler, Roberta Flack, Phil Collins, and many others.
Based on recorded interviews with Ertegun over a
period of four years, the documentary also conveys the social context in
which Ahmet Ertegun's career and personal life evolved: his arrival
in America as the multi-lingual and cosmopolitan son of a distinguished
Turkish diplomat; the cultural ignorance and lack of sophistication of his
classmates at an American elite school; racial segregation in Washington,
D.C. and the US nightclubs of the
1940s; the practice of payola (bribes) and American radio stations and the
impact of African-American music on European rock musicians from Johnny Halliday in France to
Mick Jagger in England.
In fact, one lengthy segment in the last third of the film
examines the phenomenon whereby young British groups like the Rolling
Stones, Cream, Led Zeppelin and Genesis absorbed and later transformed the
R & B of American black artists—only to re-export this hybrid genre or
"white sound" to America via Atlantic Records in the 1960s. Later, some
jazz musicians and historians would attribute the waning of jazz in
America to the popular success of British and West Coast American rock.
Nevertheless, once asked by the online magazine Slate what
he wanted for his legacy, Ertegun responded, "I'd be happy if people said
that I did a little bit to raise the dignity and recognition of the
greatness of African-American music."
The House That Ahmet Built premieres Wednesday, 2 May at 9 p.m. (ET) on