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Fresh Sound Records and the Legacy of Recorded Jazz

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If the importance and the contributions of jazz are measured by its recorded legacy, then Fresh Sound Records—and its founder, Jordi Pujol—must be duly recognized for rescuing a legacy that might otherwise be lost or nearly impossible to find, and for making it available to the public.

Specifically, this legacy includes recorded works by saxophonist Charlie Parker
Charlie Parker
Charlie Parker
1920 - 1955
sax, alto
, trumpeter Louis Armstrong
Louis Armstrong
Louis Armstrong
1901 - 1971
trumpet
, bandleader and composer Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
1899 - 1974
piano
, and literally hundreds of other major, semi-major and lesser known jazz artists who recorded commercially before 1962. Many of these releases might be called "reissues," but Pujol and Fresh Sound make them virtually new by remastering the original tracks if necessary, adding unreleased tracks—sometimes from private recordings, concerts or television tracks—finding newly discovered photographs, conducting interviews with any surviving principals, and commissioning beautifully written and meticulously detailed booklets.

Fresh Sound and Pujol have been doing this since 1983. And while a confessed fan of west coast jazz, as evidenced by his issues of material on labels like Contemporary, he's also released dozens of items from the catalogs of Verve, Riverside, Prestige, RCA (almost 200 releases), New Jazz, Argo, Royal Roost, and almost every other label of every size that recorded jazz.

Because many of Fresh Sound's products are by little-known players by today's standards, these releases cannot be expected to make even a little bit of a profit. It therefore seems that Pujol's criteria for issuing something is simply: He likes it.

That's called integrity. Fresh Sound's newly-released titles stand as a good overview of what the label does and what the label stands for. And though some of these artists may be considered obscure and don't have what we'd call "name value," their musical value is, without exception, considerable.

Vocalists Beverly Kenney, Lucy Ann Polk, Jane Fielding, Helyne Stewart and Marilyn Moore
Marilyn Moore
b.1931
aren't the most recognizable names in jazz, but each of their CDs are very well worth listening to. Repeatedly.

For the most part, these singers came out of the Anita O'Day
Anita O'Day
Anita O'Day
1919 - 2006
vocalist
/June Christy
June Christy
June Christy
1925 - 1990
vocalist
tradition, not without overtones of Doris Day
Doris Day
Doris Day
b.1922
vocalist
, and all demonstrated a jazz orientation, with "orientation" being the key word. These are not ske-daddling scatters or lyric twisters, but subtle interpreters who improvise by way of inflection and phrasing.

Enter the album name here Beverly Kenney was a sensitive, lyrical and individual jazz stylist who was well on her way to fame when she took her own life at the age of 28 in 1960. Sadly, she sometimes gets more attention for that than she does for her singing. Beverly Kenney: The Complete Decca Recordings is a two-CD set that captures the singer's many unique sides in a number of settings, some blatantly commercial—hey, you've got to sell records—and others in stark surroundings with accompaniment only by the superb piano of Ellis Larkins
Ellis Larkins
Ellis Larkins
1923 - 2002
piano
and bassist Joe Benjamin
Joe Benjamin
b.1919
. Kenney's sound was sort of a Stacey Kent out of Joanie Sommers, little-girlish type of approach that, under the right circumstances—and knowing her tragic history—can really get to you. This one will grow on you. Particularly late at night.

Talk about obscure. Singer Jane Fielding recorded only two albums in her lifetime, both made in 1956 when she was 21 years old. Little is known about Fielding—some contend she was actually a pro ice skater who hung up the skates due to an injury—but it's clear that, had she stayed in the jazz game, there was a bright future at hand. Her youth comes through at times—let's call her sound "smolderingly youthful"—but her maturity on material that's often difficult is incredible. On tunes like "Embers Glow," "Right Boy for Me" and, believe it or not, "Round Midnight," she is more than confident and clearly feels the lyric. Some of her accompanists aren't too shabby, either, and include saxophonists Teddy Edwards
Teddy Edwards
Teddy Edwards
1924 - 2003
sax, tenor
and Joe Maini
Joe Maini
b.1930
, bassists Paul Chambers
Paul Chambers
Paul Chambers
1935 - 1969
bass, acoustic
and Red Mitchell
Red Mitchell
Red Mitchell
b.1927
bass
and pianist Kenny Drew, who also penned some of the charts. Sound-wise? Think one-half of "Jackie and Roy," Jackie Cain
Jackie Cain
Jackie Cain
b.1928
.

Love Moods, first recorded for Contemporary in 1956, highlights singer Helyne Stewart, a protégé and discovery of Teddy Edwards, who led the accompanying group. Stewart, another little-known singer who seemed to have disappeared from the scene after this outing, is a soulful and secure stylist who must have listened to a bit of Carmen McRae
Carmen McRae
Carmen McRae
1920 - 1994
vocalist
and Sarah Vaughan
Sarah Vaughan
Sarah Vaughan
1924 - 1990
vocalist
. Stewart has a refreshing purity about her that avoids excess or clichés. The overdone "The Man I Love" is not overdone in Stewart's hands, nor are "How Deep is the Ocean or "That Old Feeling."

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