Tuesday, April 07, 2009

The Very Best of Prestige Records

While I can pretend fairly well that I know what I'm talking about when it comes to the big names in jazz, truth be told my knowledge doesn't run as deep as it does in other genres. That's not to say that I don't enjoy it any less, because sometimes there's nothing better than groovin' out chill like with your feet tappin', fingers snappin', and head boppin' to some laid back jazz numbers. Just like with any other genre, there are some labels who instantly come to mind as the treasure troves of good tunes, and one of the first labels that (should) come to mind when discussing jazz is Prestige Records.

First started in 1949 (originally named New Jazz) by Bob Weinstock, a New York City jazz music store owner and music collector, the label would record many well known giants of the genre including Thelonious Monk, Sonny Rollins, Miles Davis, Coleman Hawkins, John Coltrane, Bud Powell, Dexter Gordon, and many, many others, artists not as ingrained in the public conscious, but consummately skilled artists never the less. Their stable of artists ran deep, artists who ran across the spectrum of instruments.

In celebration of Prestige's 60th anniversary, the Concord Music Group (who now owns the Prestige label along with many other classics) released The Very Best of Prestige Records a few weeks ago. It's a double disc release that has culled twenty five gems from the catalog (and with a label like Prestige, one can imagine the immense task of choosing just twenty five) from artists like those named above to ones lesser known outside jazz circles. Accompanying the discs are some beautifully written (and informative) liner notes that share not only the history of the label, but the stories behind the songs here as well.

I'm not going to lie to you; if you're not a jazz fanatic the two and a half hours of music is probably more than you can handle in one sitting. Don't let that turn you off though. Take it one disc at a time and enjoy each ones subtleties. If you're like me, you won't recognize half of the artists here, which is why a collection like this is so enjoyable: to turn you on to new artists which would otherwise remain buried. To start you on your way I've included one track from each of the two discs below. One is from an artist that will probably be recognizable, Thelonious Monk (pictured above and one of my personal favorites), and one that probably won't be, Yusef Lateef (who'll prove to you that jazz isn't all about the loud horns with his middle-eastern influenced flute work).

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