Prestige Records Celebrates 65th Anniversary with Reissues, Videos
Concord Music Group is commemorating the 65th anniversary of revered jazz label Prestige Records with a plethora of digital and vinyl reissues, an online video series and special concert events.
Among the iconic jazz artists who recorded for Prestige are Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, Eric Dolphy and Stan Getz.
Prestige founder Bob Weinstock started out as a traditional jazz fan but soon found himself at the cutting edge of what was then called “modern jazz.” Known for its distinctive bop, hard-bop and soul-jazz, Prestige fostered a spirit of spontaneity and honest self-expression. The label prospered through the introduction of the free-jazz movement in the ’60s and into the sound of fusion in the latter part of the decade.
This year’s special anniversary festivities will culminate this fall with a 90th birthday celebration honoring legendary recording engineer Rudy Van Gelder, whose work was not only integral to the success of Prestige but also to the evolution of jazz.
Throughout 2014, Concord will release hi-resolution digital reissues of 60 Rudy Van Gelder Remasters series titles, along with more than 30 vinyl reissues of Prestige classics.
Digital releases include Davis’ Cookin’ With The Miles Davis Quintet, Rollins’ Saxophone Colossus, Coltrane’s Soultrane, Dolphy’s Outward Bound and the trio recording We Three (by Roy Haynes, Phineas Newborn and Paul Chambers), as well as At Ease With Coleman Hawkins.
Vinyl reissues include Thelonious Monk Trio, Mose Allison Sings and The Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis Cookbook, Vol. 1.
Several classic titles, the first of which were released in April, are being made available each month through the end of the year.
“These are not only some of the most influential artists and important recordings on the Prestige label, they’re also some of the most iconic artists and recordings in the history of jazz, period,” said Nick Phillips, Concord Music Group’s vice president of catalog development/A&R and co-producer of the Rudy Van Gelder Remasters series. “It’s a pleasure to be reintroducing this timeless music and legendary label to jazz fans, old and new.”
“I was recording the music that I loved,” Van Gelder said, reflecting on his early work with Prestige, which was done at his recording studio. “During that time, there were only three major record companies: RCA, Columbia and Decca. Bob Weinstock, a music lover like myself, wanted to record albums that could compete sound-wise with the majors. I felt that now I had a mission: to allow small private labels to sound as good as the three big labels. That was my goal from then on.”
The partnership between Van Gelder and Prestige yielded incredible results. “I was in awe of the musicians who were coming to me,” Van Gelder recalled. “I opened the door one day, and there was Coleman Hawkins! Bob would call me and say we were going to record Miles Davis on Thursday afternoon.”
Van Gelder has vivid memories of those years: “John Lewis of The Modern Jazz Quartet didn’t like my piano, so I had to go into New York to record him on someone else’s piano. John was right, too. Most of the musicians in the beginning were kind of suspicious of me, not sure whether I could do the job. I had the feeling that what I was doing was important—more important than the politics of the time or anything else that was going on.”
In the early ’70s, Weinstock sold Prestige to Fantasy Records, which was acquired by Concord Music Group in 2004. Concord continues to honor the jewels of the label through its Original Jazz Classics series.
Concord has produced a video series titled Prestige Lives!, which presents artists discussing the label’s influence and the impact of Van Gelder’s work. The videos, created by Bret Primack, are posted at a special website developed in collaboration with DownBeat.