The Contemporary Records Story

The Contemporary Records Story


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Usually, jazz label retrospectives -- particularly those issued as multiple-disc boxes -- are very mixed affairs. At least with one disc the listener knows upfront that there is a boatload of stuff missing. But these affairs can be wrenching exercises for jazz fans because of idiosyncratic, subjective selection by producers. The four-disc Contemporary Records Story issued by Fantasy is, happily, one of the exceptions. The ultrafastidious jazz fanatic Les Koenig (pronounced KAY-NIG) founded and operated the Contemporary label from 1952 until his death in 1977. A Dartmouth and Yale law graduate, he had been working as a screenwriter and as an assistant and co-producer to William Wyler in Hollywood. He was blacklisted during the McCarthy era because he was unwilling to testify in front of the House of Un-American Activities Committee. He began producing sessions for the JazzMan label before founding his own Good Time Jazz imprint. Contemporary was an offshoot of the classic jazz-centric Good Time trademark, but it quickly took over. The four CDs contained here follow, essentially, a chronological unfolding of Contemporary's offerings. And while the label continues to issue recordings, the set is concerned with the catalog as it was created and left by Koenig. Disc One is an amazing testament to West Coast jazz beginning with the two cuts "Big Girl," from Volume Three, and "Viva Zapata," from Sunday Jazz à la Lighthouse, from Howard Rumsey's Lighthouse All-Stars, which showcases, among its ranks, Maynard Ferguson, Jimmy Giuffre, Shorty Rogers, Shelly Manne, Barney Kessel, and Bob Cooper. There is another Lighthouse All-Stars track here, a radical yet legendary read of Milt Jackson's "Bag's Groove" from 1954, which features Max Roach sitting in on drums, and a frontline consisting of Bud Shank on flutes, and Bob Cooper playing flute and oboe. Other artists on the disc are a who's who of jazz greats: Shelly Manne (who had a young saxophonist in his band named Art Pepper), Hampton Hawes, Lennie Niehaus, Buddy Collette, and even Duane Tatro and Lyle Murphy. But the disc ends with a burning new direction for West Coast jazz as the Curtis Counce group burns down the house with "A Fifth for Frank," with Carl Perkins, Jack Sheldon, Harold Land, and Frank Butler hard bopping the hell out of the blues. Disc Two begins to show the outlying directions Koenig was interested in with the music, from trio dates by Gerald Wiggins to early solo sides by Pepper and Red Norvo to Sonny Rollins (from his Way Out West LP). Leroy Vinnegar and Benny Golson make appearances, but so do André Previn and Ornette Coleman (whose first recordings were for Contemporary). This is the kind of vision Koenig had, to be able to put all these talents on one label and nurture them all. The sequencing is astonishingly tight and seamless on all four discs, but discs two and three, in particular, play like a dream. And speaking of Disc Three, the Hampton Hawes Quartet's amazing For Real! session from 1958 with Harold Land -- another hard bopper in his own right featured on the label -- Scott LaFaro and Butler are referenced as the disc opener. This has to be the only place on earth where Benny Carter, Shelly Manne, Cecil Taylor, Teddy Edwards, Elmo Hope, Pepper, André Previn, and Helen Humes would appear in the same collection. Disc Four begins in 1969 and follows albums by Ben Webster, Phineas Newborn Jr., Woody Shaw, Art Farmer, Chico Freeman, and Ray Brown, as well as Manne, Art Farmer, and Pepper, whose solo rendition of Harold Arlen's "Over the Rainbow," from the complete Live at the Village Vanguard, closes this collection. When one tolls the leaders and sidemen here, and takes into account the multi-dimensional and directional music here, all on one label, produced by one man, and articulated over 25 years, one has a portrait of a well-known but undercelebrated American institution and jazz monolith. Combine the selection with the design, featuring complete session notes, rare photographs, and a very fine historical essay by Richard S. Ginell, and one has one of most beautifully assembled and historically essential label box sets ever.

Product Details

Release Date: 05/25/2004
Label: Contemporary
UPC: 0025218444125
catalogNumber: 4441


Disc 1

  1. Big Girl
  2. Viva Zapata!
  3. You and the Night and the Music
  4. Lullaby of Birdland
  5. Bags' Groove
  6. Day by Day
  7. Flip
  8. Billie's Bounce
  9. The Champ
  10. Blues the Most
  11. Blue Moon
  12. Easy Terms
  13. Collard Greens and Black-Eyed Peas
  14. Ruby
  15. I Could Have Danced All Night
  16. A Fifth for Frank

Disc 2

  1. Serenade in Blue
  2. All the Things You Are
  3. Star Eyes
  4. Paying the Dues Blues
  5. I'm an Old Cowhand
  6. Jordu
  7. Scrapple from the Apple
  8. Old Fashioned Love
  9. On the Sunny Side of the Street
  10. Whisper Not
  11. I Could Write a Book
  12. Grooveyard
  13. Serpent's Tooth
  14. Invisible

Disc 3

  1. Hip
  2. Stablemates
  3. African Violets
  4. Autumn in New York
  5. I've Told Ev'ry Little Star
  6. Someone to Watch Over Me
  7. Bill Bailey
  8. Peter Gunn
  9. Barfly
  10. Greensleeves
  11. Airegin
  12. Down Among the Sheltering Palms
  13. Blue Daniel
  14. Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise
  15. The Sermon

Disc 4

  1. Stardust
  2. Misty
  3. Summertime
  4. Oleo
  5. Exodus
  6. A Deed for Dolphy
  7. My Funny Valentine
  8. Morning
  9. Will You Still Be Mine?
  10. Beyond the Rain
  11. Love Walked In
  12. Over the Rainbow

Album Credits

Performance Credits

James Cleveland   Trombone
Gary Bartz   Alto Saxophone,Soprano Saxophone
Frank Butler   Drums
George Cables   Piano
Conte Candoli   Trumpet
James Clay   Flute
Buddy Collette   Flute,Tenor Saxophone
Bob Cooper   English Horn,Oboe,Tenor Saxophone,Soloist
Curtis Counce   Bass
Art Farmer   Trumpet,Flugelhorn
Victor Feldman   Piano,Violin,Vibes
Maynard Ferguson   Trumpet
Chico Freeman   Flute,Tenor Saxophone
Russ Freeman   Piano
Red Garland   Piano
Herb Geller   Alto Saxophone
Jimmy Giuffre   Clarinet,Baritone Saxophone,Tenor Saxophone,Soloist
Joe Gordon   Trumpet
Gigi Gryce   Alto Saxophone
Jim Hall   Guitar
Louis Hayes   Drums
Earl Hines   Piano
Bill Holman   Tenor Saxophone
Helen Humes   Vocals
Elvin Jones   Drums
Hank Jones   Piano
Philly Joe Jones   Drums
Sam Jones   Bass
Richie Kamuca   Tenor Saxophone
Wynton Kelly   Piano
Barney Kessel   Guitar
Harold Land   Tenor Saxophone
Shelly Manne   Drums,Soloist
Bennie Maupin   Bass Clarinet,Tenor Saxophone
Red Mitchell   Bass
Walter Norris   Piano
Red Norvo   Vibes
Art Pepper   Alto Saxophone,Tenor Saxophone
André Previn   Piano
Max Roach   Drums
Sonny Rollins   Tenor Saxophone
Jimmy Rowles   Piano
Hilton Ruiz   Piano
Howard Rumsey   Bass
Bud Shank   Flute,Alto Flute
Woody Shaw   Trumpet
Cecil Taylor   Piano
Cedar Walton   Piano
Julius Watkins   French Horn
Ben Webster   Tenor Saxophone
Gerald Wiggins   Piano,Trumpet
Gerald Wilson   Trumpet
Harry Babasin   Bass
Ronnie Ball   Piano
Joe Castro   Piano
Bob Enevoldsen   Trombone,Valve Trombone
Lorraine Geller   Piano
Clint Houston   Bass
Stan Levey   Drums
Abe Most   Clarinet
Lennie Niehaus   Alto Saxophone
Arnold Ross   Piano
Ed Thigpen   Drums
Viola   Guitar
Lenny White   Drums
Claude Williamson   Piano
Stu Williamson   Trumpet
Max Albright   Drums
Jack Marshall   Guitar
Lyle "Spud" Murphy   Celeste
Howard McGhee   Trumpet
Shorty Rogers   Trumpet,Soloist
Jimmy Cobb   Drums
Tony Bazley   Drums
Milt Bernhart   Trombone,Soloist
Ray Brown   Bass
Monty Budwig   Bass
Red Callender   Bass
Ornette Coleman   Alto Saxophone
Joe Comfort   Bass
Jack Dumont   Alto Saxophone
Teddy Edwards   Tenor Saxophone
Rolf Ericson   Trumpet
Addison Farmer   Bass
Gary Frommer   Drums
Benny Golson   Tenor Saxophone
Jewell L. Grant   Baritone Saxophone
Earl Griffith   Vibes
Hampton Hawes   Piano
Roy Haynes   Drums
Jack Sheldon   Trumpet
Scott LaFaro   Bass
Joe Maini   Alto Saxophone
Marty Paich   Piano,Conductor
Jack Montrose   Tenor Saxophone
Buell Neidlinger   Bass
Phineas Newborn   Piano
Frank Patchen   Piano,Soloist
Don Payne   Bass
Ralph Pena   Bass
Charlie Persip   Drums
Frank Rosolino   Trombone
Jumma Santos   Percussion
Sahib Shihab   Baritone Saxophone
Chuck Thompson   Drums
Ben Tucker   Bass
Carlos Vidal   Conga,Soloist
Leroy Vinnegar   Bass
Jimmy Bond   Bass
Jackie Mills   Drums
Joseph Eger   French Horn
Russ Cheever   Soprano Saxophone
Wayne Marsh   Tenor Saxophone
Ernie Freeman Combo   Piano
Don Cherry & Ed Blackwell   Trumpet
Bill Airey Smith   Clarinet

Technical Credits

George Gershwin   Composer
Sigmund Romberg   Composer
Henry Mancini   Arranger,Composer
Hoagy Carmichael   Composer
Miles Davis   Composer
Victor Feldman   Arranger
Chico Freeman   Composer
Erroll Garner   Composer
Jimmy Giuffre   Composer
Elmo Hope   Arranger,Composer
Milt Jackson   Composer
James P. Johnson   Composer
Duke Jordan   Composer
Harold Land   Arranger
Shelly Manne   Composer
Oscar Pettiford   Composer
Sonny Rollins   Composer
Woody Shaw   Composer
George Shearing   Composer
Cecil Taylor   Composer
Gerald Wiggins   Composer
Matt Dennis   Composer
Lennie Niehaus   Composer
Bill Russo   Arranger
Jimmy McHugh   Composer
Lyle "Spud" Murphy   Arranger
Duane Tatro   Arranger,Composer
Harold Arlen   Composer
Richard Rodgers   Composer
David Axelrod   Producer
Vernon Duke   Composer
Shorty Rogers   Arranger,Composer
Carl Perkins   Composer
Jerome Kern   Composer
Johnny Burke   Composer
Sammy Cahn   Composer
Ornette Coleman   Composer
Gene DePaul   Composer
Howard Dietz   Composer
Roy DuNann   Engineer
Nesuhi Ertegun   Producer
Dorothy Fields   Composer
Ira Gershwin   Composer
Ernest Gold   Composer
Benny Golson   Composer
Mack Gordon   Composer
Earl Griffith   Composer
Oscar Hammerstein   Composer
Hampton Hawes   Composer
E.Y. "Yip" Harburg   Composer
Lorenz Hart   Composer
Nat Hentoff   Producer
Howard Holzer   Engineer
John Koenig   Producer,Engineer
Lester Koenig   Producer,Engineer
Alan Jay Lerner   Composer
Marty Paich   Arranger
Johnny Mercer   Composer
Ronnie Olsen   Engineer
John Palladino   Engineer
Mitchell Parish   Composer
Charlie Parker   Composer
Don Raye   Composer
Frank Rosolino   Composer
Arthur Schwartz   Composer
Bob Simpson   Engineer
Axel Stordahl   Composer
Val Valentin   Engineer
Harry Warren   Composer
George David Weiss   Composer
Paul Weston & His Orchestra   Composer
Dave Wiechman   Engineer
Frederick Loewe   Composer
Jamie Putnam   Art Direction
Ralph Kaffel   Producer
Tommy Nola   Engineer
Richard Simpson   Engineer
DuBose Heyward   Composer
Lewis Merritt   Engineer
Art Becker   Engineer
Tom Adair   Composer
Cecil Mack   Composer
Heinz Roemheld   Composer
James Brockman   Composer
Richard S. Ginell   Liner Notes
Tom Brown   Engineer
Traditional   Composer
Robert D. Kirstein   Producer
Bill Airey Smith   Arranger
Abe Olman   Composer
Cecil Charles   Engineer

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