Jimmy Jam takes Flyte to L.A.

  • Article by: JON BREAM , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 12, 2004 - 11:00 PM

The Timberwolves' most visible fan, Grammy-winning producer Jimmy Jam, won't be visible much longer.

This week, Jam invited Twin Cities friends to a "good-bye party" May 22 as he prepares to move to Los Angeles this summer with his wife, Lisa Harris, and their three children. He and his business partner, Terry Lewis -- who have produced more No. 1 hits than anyone except Beatles producer George Martin -- have put their Flyte Tyme Studios in Edina up for sale and are building a new studio in L.A.

"Whether people got to work at Flyte Tyme or not, just knowing they were here made us more of a big city," Twin Cities producer Bobby Z said. "It's a sad loss."

A spokeswoman said Jam was unavailable Wednesday to comment; he was in Sacramento to attend the Wolves playoff game.

"I've spent 44 winters here," Jam told the Star Tribune in January. "Lisa told me two or three years ago, 'If it wasn't for the Wolves, you know you'd get out of here.' I said, 'You're probably right.' I love my Wolves. That's the thing that makes winter tolerable."

For several years, Jam has divided his time between the Twin Cities and Los Angeles, maintaining homes in both cities. His family has spent the past few summers in L.A., his wife's hometown; their home on Lake Minnetonka is now for sale. Lewis moved to Malibu, Calif., in November 2002 but maintains a Twin Cities residence.

After recording 16 No. 1 pop hits and 25 No. 1 R & B hits in the Twin Cities with Janet Jackson, Usher, Boyz II Men and others, Jam and Lewis have shifted their base to the West Coast. Since February 2003, they have rented space at Village Recorders, a legendary studio in Santa Monica, Calif., where they recorded Jackson's new CD, "Damita Jo." Meanwhile, construction continues on a new studio in Santa Monica called Flyte Tyme West, which is expected to open this summer.

In a recent interview, Lewis said a changing climate in the music industry prompted the move. Flyte Tyme has focused more on film soundtracks -- including last year's hit "The Fighting Temptations" -- and advertising jingles.

"In those industries, it's out of sight, out of mind," Lewis said. "You have to be available to people."

Moreover, he said, being in the Twin Cities had become a liability, especially after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, when many companies curtailed discretionary travel. "What became a very good mystique for us, being in Minneapolis, actually started to work against us because we were off the beaten path," Lewis said. "Most artists and music people come [to L.A.] once a month anyway."

Although a private studio, Flyte Tyme has been a major force in the Twin Cities music business, and the studio's closing will take some shine off the scene's stature.

Jam and Lewis won musical credibility for Minneapolis and prompted people from all over the country to move here, said Bobby Z, the former drummer for Prince who produces recordings regularly at Echo Bay Studio in New Hope.

The loss of Flyte Tyme will have "a big impact artistically and financially," said Sounds of Blackness leader Gary Hines, who was on the Flyte Tyme staff in the early 1990s and whose group recorded there. "The good news is the quality and direction of the legacy they established will be a positive ripple effect for years to come."

Jon Bream is at 612-673-1719 or popmusic@startribune.com.

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