Learn How

We need your help in 2018

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz is looking for 1,000 backers to help fund our 2018 projects that directly support jazz. You can make this happen by purchasing ad space or by making a donation to our fund drive. In addition to completing every project (listed here), we'll also hide all Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!

197

Various Artists: The Contemporary Records Story

By

Sign in to view read count
Lester Koenig (pronounced KAY-nig) was a Hollywood movie executive who was blacklisted for refusing to testify before the HUAC. Having founded the Good Time Jazz label in 1949 to record Dixieland jazz, he created the Contemporary imprint in 1952 for modern classical music and modern jazz to keep himself busy. With The Contemporary Records Story, Fantasy has released a 4-CD anthology of Contemporary recordings presented in chronological order. All CDs are at least 71 minutes long. Koenig was a stickler for sonic fidelity, and built his own recording studio on the premises. These recordings bear the fruits of his demands, particularly in the bass.

Fantasy's selections give each disc its own identity. As one might imagine, nearly all of the artists here were West Coasters; but there are a few selections by visitors to Los Angeles, including Ben Webster, Woody Shaw and Art Pepper's famous meeting with Miles Davis's rhythm section. Only four songs (by Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor, Woody Shaw and Chico Freeman) might be considered out of the mainstream.

The songs of disc one feature arrangements so dry they verge on being Third Stream. This is West Coast Cool without being relaxed. The music is often experimental, with unusual instrument combinations (including the use of the french horn or the oboe) or unusual harmonies. The revelation to this listener is the extent to which Lennie Niehaus sounded like Paul Desmond. Drummer Shelly Manne appears on twelve of the sixteen tracks. The disc's highlights are Manne's "You and the Night and the Music" and Lyle Murphy's "Blue Moon."

The music of the second disc is more emotional and less cerebral than that of the first, and the emotion is light and bouncing. The tempo is decidedly more upbeat and swinging. Disc two gets going early on with two Art Pepper tracks. The highlight is Harold Land's "Grooveyard."

The first two-thirds of disc three consist of a collection of pensive recordings, including a New York tape of Cecil Taylor. This mood is interrupted by Helen Humes' "Bill Bailey" and Shelly Manne's "Peter Gunn." The final third returns to the breezy style of disc two. The highlight is Manne's "Blue Daniel."

There is little trace of the West Coast Cool sound on disc four. A number of the tracks are melancholy ballads. The disc is made up of five songs from 1960-1962, one from 1970, and six from 1976-1977. The fidelity of the '70s recordings is noticeably superior. The highlight is Art Farmer's "My Funny Valentine." Koenig died in 1977, and the collection ends with his final project, Art Pepper's Village Vanguard engagement.

The Contemporary Records Story is an enjoyable collection. The album from which each selection is taken is noted, giving the listener plenty of ideas for future exploration.


Title: The Contemporary Records Story | Year Released: 2004


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Formidable CD/LP/Track Review Formidable
by Victor L. Schermer
Published: November 24, 2017
Read Cochonnerie CD/LP/Track Review Cochonnerie
by John Sharpe
Published: November 24, 2017
Read Threes CD/LP/Track Review Threes
by Glenn Astarita
Published: November 24, 2017
Read Smoke CD/LP/Track Review Smoke
by Joe Gatto
Published: November 24, 2017
Read Acknowledgement CD/LP/Track Review Acknowledgement
by Don Phipps
Published: November 23, 2017
Read Lessons And Fairytales CD/LP/Track Review Lessons And Fairytales
by Jerome Wilson
Published: November 23, 2017
Read "Living Tribute" CD/LP/Track Review Living Tribute
by Jack Bowers
Published: May 27, 2017
Read "Tied Together, Not to the Ground" CD/LP/Track Review Tied Together, Not to the Ground
by Geno Thackara
Published: July 9, 2017
Read "Wobbly Dance Flower" CD/LP/Track Review Wobbly Dance Flower
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: September 22, 2017
Read "Standards" CD/LP/Track Review Standards
by Karl Ackermann
Published: November 16, 2017
Read "Invisible Hand" CD/LP/Track Review Invisible Hand
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: February 12, 2017
Read "Bleak House" CD/LP/Track Review Bleak House
by Karl Ackermann
Published: September 15, 2017

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!

Please support out sponsor