Fresh Sound Records and the Legacy of Recorded Jazz

Bruce Klauber By

Sign in to view read count
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, trumpeter Louis Armstrong, bandleader and composer Duke Ellington, 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 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/June Christy tradition, not without overtones of Doris Day, 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 and bassist Joe Benjamin. 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 and Joe Maini, bassists Paul Chambers and Red Mitchell and pianist Kenny Drew, who also penned some of the charts. Sound-wise? Think one-half of "Jackie and Roy," Jackie Cain.

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 and Sarah Vaughan. 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."


More Articles

Read Inner Circle Music: Creativity and Community Spirit Record Label Profiles Inner Circle Music: Creativity and Community Spirit
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: February 17, 2016
Read HOOB Records: Ten Years Young Record Label Profiles HOOB Records: Ten Years Young
by James Pearse
Published: December 22, 2015
Read Kuai Music: Moving Jazz Forward Collectively Record Label Profiles Kuai Music: Moving Jazz Forward Collectively
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: July 10, 2015
Read Real World Records: Passion and Authenticity are Fundamental Record Label Profiles Real World Records: Passion and Authenticity are Fundamental
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: February 8, 2015
Read 7Dreams: The Story of a Country, a Friendship and a Sound Record Label Profiles 7Dreams: The Story of a Country, a Friendship and a Sound
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: January 28, 2015
Read Schema Rearward: The Reward of Visiting the Past Record Label Profiles Schema Rearward: The Reward of Visiting the Past
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: January 19, 2015
Read "Louis Smith: Here Comes Louis Smith – 1957" My Blue Note Obsession Louis Smith: Here Comes Louis Smith – 1957
by Marc Davis
Published: September 12, 2016
Read "The Westerlies: New Music For Brass In Hi Res" Hi-Res Jazz The Westerlies: New Music For Brass In Hi Res
by Mark Werlin
Published: December 12, 2016
Read "Procol Harum: Novum" Extended Analysis Procol Harum: Novum
by Doug Collette
Published: April 22, 2017
Read "The Zombies at NYCB Theatre at Westbury" Live Reviews The Zombies at NYCB Theatre at Westbury
by Mike Perciaccante
Published: June 4, 2016
Read "Background Gigs, Small Fonts, and Incestuous Quotes" Mr. P.C.'s Guide to Jazz Etiquette... Background Gigs, Small Fonts, and Incestuous Quotes
by Mr. P.C.
Published: July 22, 2016
Read "Nick Brignola: Between A Rock And The Jazz Place" Interviews Nick Brignola: Between A Rock And The Jazz Place
by Rob Rosenblum
Published: April 16, 2017

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus


Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!