By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
|photo by Douglas Quackenbush|
One original was Bob Weinstock, who was 20 in 1949 when he embarked on the business that would become the subject of the four-CD The Prestige Records Story. Naive enough to start his own label, weird enough to eventually come out, in 1988, with "the most far-out erotic romance ever published" (personally dubbing his innocent beatnik-throwback novel "wacky," "serious" and "bad"), Weinstock showcased the bluesy improv he favored, and his taste became ours. With the gutty saxist Gene Ammons as the perennial Prestige artist from 1950 to 1971, the label churned out often unrehearsed sessions by most of the era's top talent: Eric Dolphy, Stan Getz, Etta Jones, Thelonious Monk, George Benson, Sonny Rollins and a ton more. Needless to say, the box's pace is unflagging, and the booklet's copious eyewitness interviews splash vivid color on the New York scene.
"The story of Prestige Records is largely the story of Bob Weinstock." "The story of Savoy Records is largely the story of Herman Lubinsky." Those booklet quotations aren't the only parallels between the Prestige box and the three-CD The Savoy Story: Volume One -- Jazz, though Lubinsky was less a fan than a money man who relied heavily on the ears of Teddy Reig. The labels shared the services of producer Ozzie Cadena, and also of writer Bob Porter, who composed the notes for this lean-and-mean Savoy box. And, oh yeah: Both organizations employed musicians such as Gene Ammons, Dexter Gordon, Milt Jackson, Coleman Hawkins and Miles Davis. Under the perspicacious guidance of another label entrepreneur, Orrin Keepnews (who put together his own The Riverside Records Story a couple of years ago), Atlantic has gone reissue crazy with the monumental Savoy catalog, which had been previously treated in fragmentary, un-CD-friendly fashion by the Denon label. Charlie Parker's live broadcasts minus host Symphony Sid's chatter; John Coltrane's complete sideman work with low-simmering trumpeter Wilbur Harden, who subsequently disappeared; Dexter Gordon's conversion to blazing bop in 194547; thorough minings of Kenny Dorham, Erroll Garner and Art Pepper -- the discs are pouring out faster than your paychecks are trickling in. Especially worth the coin, though, is the triple-CD Little Jimmy Scott: The Savoy Years and More, which includes rare and previously unreleased material. Despite some cornball arrangements, it clarifies why Scott's anguished, womanlike voice lit up the phone lines when it first pierced the airwaves at the turn of the '50s. Possibly, thanks to the almost unbearable drama Scott's delivery has gained from the decades of neglect he experienced prior to his '90s Warner epics, he's an even greater artist today. But when a record man of Keepnews' stature says, "I'm especially happy" with this box, one is inclined to pay attention.
I can't think of any singer who really reminded me of Jimmy Scott before I heard Fruit by Marie Bergman, on the Danish label Stunt (just introduced to U.S. distribution). It's not the rhythm -- she's usually on top of the beat, not miles behind like Scott -- so it must be that fabric of naked emotional honesty. Almost every other jazz vocalist is theatrical or technical or stylized or detached. But when Bergman's rough-silk soprano frays a little on the high notes of Irma Thomas' "Wish Someone Would Care" . . . I do. (29 W. Maple Ave., Bellmawr, NJ 08031; 609-931-6441)
Also out of Northern Europe (Munich's ECM Records) via North America (the players and a New York studio) comes Not Two, Not One by pianist Paul Bley, bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Paul Motian. Trying to imagine why this successful and influential trio hadn't recorded together since 1970, I could only guess that the group was too perfect: Maybe three players with this level of mutual understanding and common aesthetics didn't find it challenging enough. The nearly rhythmless sensuality and balance they achieve through most of this record -- Bley lightly discursive, Peacock sparse and big, Motian whispery -- would've been enough, but the 9:34 opening track, "Not Zero: In Three Parts," invents a whole new world of subliminal drive and texture that you won't want to end.
Someday the members of The Los Angeles Jazz Quartet might start thinking their arrangement is overperfect, too. Five-plus years in, though, tenor saxist Chuck Manning, guitarist Larry Koonse, bassist Darek Oleszkiewicz and drummer Kevin Tullius are still involved, and involving. Without breaking much new ground, their new Conversation Piece, on Naxos Jazz, shows precisely why they stick together. From the first note, you're in dreamland, swept downstream by the warm beauty and unforced intelligence of the members' compositions -- and they also pull off a rare feat: a credible (and original) cover of "'Round Midnight." If it's possible to get rich by playing only for people who like good music, these guys can go to the bank.