01 Apr 1997

Managing a Master

Edward C. Arrendell (MBA'80) with Wynton Marsalis, "an unbeatable combination."
by Jeff Lazar


It's the night before the presidential inauguration and Washington's cavernous National Cathedral is packed to capacity. The crowd applauds enthusiastically as seven young men walk down an aisle and take their places on a center stage specially constructed for this evening's event. Stepping forward from the group, Wynton Marsalis, wearing a gentle smile and holding his gleaming Monette trumpet, nods appreciatively to the audience. For the next two hours, he and his Wynton Marsalis Septet perform his original composition, "In This House, On This Morning," in honor of the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The music is superb and the evening unforgettable. It is another in a series of triumphs for an artist who seems destined to become a legend.

Edward C. Arrendell (MBA '80), a Boston-based consultant at the time, was in Seattle, Washington, working on the turnaround of a company in that city. An avid jazz fan, he dropped into a local club to check out a young trumpeter he'd heard about. Arrendell remembers, "I was impressed - Wynton was hot. Since we were the only two black guys in the place, he came up to me after he'd played. We talked, and he soon told me that his career was being poorly managed." The two men arranged to meet again. A month later in New York City, they shook hands over dinner and agreed to work together.

"I was shocked when I discovered how much the music industry favored the record company to the detriment of the young artist," Arrendell recalls. "And there were virtually no standards or requirements for managers. It's no wonder you'd hear about famous musicians dying penniless."

Arrendell renegotiated Marsalis's contract, hired a new booking agent, and laid out a long-term career plan for his new client. "Before Ed, I didn't have anyone who understood what I was trying to do," says Marsalis, currently the artistic director of jazz at Lincoln Center, who has 30 recordings under his belt, holds 8 Grammy Awards (including a pair in both the jazz and classical categories), and performs 120 concerts annually all over the world.

Arrendell manages a number of other jazz musicians, including Wynton's father, pianist Ellis Marsalis. Arrendell's company, The Management Ark, Inc., in Santa Fe, New Mexico, is his headquarters for negotiating clients' contracts, record and publishing deals, TV and radio appearances, and concert dates. The concert at the National Cathedral was also a chance for Arrendell to work with an old friend, HBS classmate Dodge Thompson (MBA '80), chief of exhibitions at the National Gallery of Art and the organizer of the Marsalis concert. "It was a phenomenal evening, a total success," says Thompson. "Ed Arrendell and Wynton Marsalis make an unbeatable combination."


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