When Fantasy Records was sold to the Concord Music Group this past year, serious jazz fans had concerns regarding the fact that Fantasy’s extensive label subsidiaries, i.e. Original Jazz Classics, Contemporary, Swingville, Prestige, etc. might have their discographies from the Golden Age of Jazz (1955-1965) go out of print.
Well, worry no more… Concord has made it clear that they have no intention of abandoning this treasure chest of material that is only rivaled in its classic value by releases during the same time period by Blue Note Records.
Witness Concord’s new Prestige Profile Series, their attempt to reintroduce to a new younger audience some of the best work from the jazz masters of the 1950’s to 1960’s. Although largely a direct reissue of their “Best of” Series of a few years back, Concord has now sweetened the pot by including a bonus Collector’s Edition free CD with each of the CDs in the Prestige Profile series. The bonus disc is presented in a classy cardboard sleeve and attempts to turn listeners on to other Prestige artists who play in a similar genre to the lead artist being profiled. Most have from 45 to 55 minutes of music, and lean toward older sessions – some of which are mono – but definitely worth hearing. For example, the disc accompanying the Coltrane Profiles CD presents tracks by Miles, Red Garland, Sonny Rollins, Mal Waldron, Eric Dolphy, Hank Mobley, Yusef Lateef and Steve Lacy and runs 47:18.
The Prestige Profile roster of 10 CDs includes nine jazz musicians, and one bluesman: Lightnin’ Hopkins. The Prestige Profile artists are as follows: Miles Davis, Red Garland Quintets, Sonny Rollins, Coleman Hawkins, Eric Dolphy, Jackie McLean, Kenny Burrell, Lightnin’ Hopkins, John Coltrane, and Eddie Lockjaw Davis.
You might get an argument from jazz purists that these 10 artists represent the top 10 of all Prestige artists, but there is no disputing their significance and the fact that they deserve to be profiled. With the addition of a free bonus disc, with EACH of the Profiles, it makes their purchase a real “no brainer” proposition, especially at the under $12.00 list price for each artist.
A survey of the 10 sets in this series goes as follows:
MILES DAVIS – PRESTIGE #PRCD 5801-2 10 TRACKS/ 68:17 ****:
Miles Davis’ period with Prestige spanned 1951-1956, which included time spent with John Coltrane, pianist Red Garland, bassist Paul Chambers, and drummer, Philly Joe Jones. Miles’ use of the trumpet mute was highlighted during this period. Original versions of Walkin’, Airegin, and Doxy are featured on this Prestige Profile #1. The bonus disc with the Miles Davis issue highlights other Prestige trumpeters such as Kenny Dorham, Art Farmer/Donald Byrd, and Chet Baker. Gil Evans’ composition, Jambangle. from Gil Evans Plus 10 is a nice treat as well.
Tracks – A Night in Tunisia, I’ll Remember April, Surrey With the Fringe on Top, Doxy, Walkin’, I Could Write a Book, Airegin, Oleo, the Theme, When Lights are Low
– Jeff Krow
Prestige Profile #2 – RED GARLAND QUINTETS Featuring JOHN COLTRANE PRCD# 5802-2 6 tracks 54:27 ****:
Most of pianist Red Garland’s recordings for Prestige in the late 50’s to early 60’s featured Red in a trio setting concentrating on blues and pop songs. Garland’s Prestige Profile compilation is a welcome change as it concentrates on quintet recordings featuring either Donald Byrd on trumpet and John Coltrane on tenor or the team of underrated trumpeter, Richard Williams, and tenorist, Oliver Nelson.. Features on this set are the long jam sessions of Billie’s Bounce and Soul Junction, both with Byrd and Coltrane; and the Fletcher Henderson composition, Soft Winds, where Williams’ cut mute and Peck Morrison’s plucked bass are notable. The bonus disc for the Garland set is a nice mix of primarily piano led tracks led by leaders such as Billy Taylor, Tommy Flanagan, Thelonious Monk, Mose Allison, and Ray Bryant. Coleman Hawkins’ Red Beans, from Garland’s trio with Hawkins on the Swingville label is an added treat on this bonus disc.
Tracks – Billie’s Bounce, Solitude, Soft Winds, Soul Junction, On Green Dolphin Street, Our Delight
– Jeff Krow
SONNY ROLLINS – Prestige Profile #3 Prestige #PRCD 5803-2 10 Tracks 66:28 ****:
Sonny Rollins’ Prestige Profile compilation covers a period from 1951-1956, a time in which Rollins developed from an up and coming hot newcomer to an established superstar with a confident swagger and boundless energy. Rollins classic calypso rendering of St. Thomas is found here as well as his legendary tenor dual with John Coltrane, Tenor Madness, from 1956. Sonny’s meeting with the Modern Jazz Quartet in 1953 is documented on In a Sentimental Mood, as is Rollins’ tenure with the Max Roach/Clifford Brown group on I Feel a Song Coming On. For Rollins completists, you can find his entire Prestige discography on the 7 CD box set, The Complete Prestige Recordings. The Rollins Profile bonus disc is highlighted by the 11:05 issue of Tenor Conclave, played by Hank Mobley, Al Cohn, John Coltrane and Zoot Sims. This tenor rich bonus disc also features Benny Golson, Dexter Gordon, and Oliver Nelson. Tracks-St. Thomas, More Than You Know, I Feel a Song Coming On, On a Slow Boat to China, My Ideal, It’s All Right with Me, In a Sentimental Mood, Moritat, Mambo Bounce, Tenor Madness
– Jeff Krow
COLEMAN HAWKINS – Prestige Profile #4 Prestige PRCD #5804-2 11 Tracks 64:59 ****1/2:
Coleman Hawkins’ Prestige Profile issue involved sides recorded at the beginning of the last decade of Hawkins’ storied recording career. His recording was done for two of the Prestige label smaller subsidiaries, Swingville and Moodsville. Hawkins mainstream blowing sessions were done for Swingville, while his rapturous full bodied ballads were found on the softer Moodsville label. Hawkins’ work found on this compilation have the added distinction of being engineered by the incomparable Rudy Van Gelder at his Hackenstack, and Englewood, NJ recording studios.
Some of my favorite tracks on this compilation include Hawkins All Star led sessions of I’m Beginning to See the Light and Since I Fell for You. Master sidemen on these two tracks are Joe Thomas, Vic Dickenson, Tommy Flanagan, Pepper Adams, Jerome Richardson, and Ray Bryant. Hawkins has several ballad tracks as well and Smoke Gets in Your Eyes is the topper here. Even Greensleeves with accompaniment by guitarist, Kenny Burrell, gets the Hawkins treatment.
The bonus disc offered with the Hawkins Profile is another largely tenor sax special with Gene Ammons, Illinois Jacquet, Buddy Tate, Stan Getz/Zoot Sims, and Wardell Gray all having soulful contributions.
Tracks-I’m Beginning to See the Light, Greensleeves, Since I Fell for You, I’ll Get By, Soul Blues, I’ll Never Be the Same, The Sweetest Sounds, I Want to be Loved, In a Mellow Tone, Make Someone be Happy, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes
– Jeff Krow
ERIC DOLPHY – Prestige Profile #5- Prestige PREC #5805-2 10 Track 78:13 ****:
As with the Coltrane CD profiled below, these tracks tend to present a more tonal Dolphy than I’ve been used to hearing. Dolphy, Coltrane and Ornette Coleman were the three great saxists who pushed the experimental side of the genre, taking it out of the bebop area and into what came to be known as free jazz or loft jazz. But Dolphy doesn’t have the stature of the other two vital figures in jazz. Part of the reason was his early death at age 36 due to insulin shock during a diabetic coma. Dolphy was adept on many different wind instruments and practiced unceasingly, as did Coltrane. Hearing him variously on alto sax, flue and bass clarinet contributes to the great variety of the tunes on these tracks. On the latest of the tracks he plays more dissonantly and experimentally. One of these was recorded live at a club in Copenhagen and three others at the Five Spot in NYC. Assisting artists on the tracks – all recorded during 1960 & 1961 – are Ron Carter, Jaki Byard, Richard Davis, Roy Haynes, Freddie Hubbard, Booker Little, Mal Waldron and others. The visionary art of Dolphy is well captured in this reissue, making his shortened life seem even more of a tragedy.
The 49-minute Bonus Disc with the Dolphy CD is highlighted by Sonny Rollins’ extended Blue 7. Booker Ervin and Coltrane are included, and Don Ellis’ expressive trumpet is heard on Tragedy. Plus there’s an additional Dolphy track – with Ron Carter and Mal Waldron: Rally.
Tracks: Out There, On Green Dolphin Street, Far Cry, Serene, Miss Ann, Fire Waltz, G.W., Glad to be Unhappy, Booker’s Waltz, Status Seeking
– John Henry
JACKIE MCLEAN – Prestige Profile #6 Prestige PRCD #5806-2 8 Tracks 70:56 ****1/2:
Alto saxophonist Jackie McLean’s discography with Prestige covered a brief period-mid-1950’s- and has never received the accolades that his 1960’s tenure with Blue Note brought. His Prestige recordings were made as he was breaking out of the shadow of Charlie Parker. McLean’s hard charging astringent tone finds able partnership on the Prestige Profile from the likes of Curtis Fuller, Bill Hardman, John Jenkins, Hank Mobley, Mal Waldron, and Louis Hayes, just to name a few. Rudy Van Gelder again is on hand for engineering duties. McLean’s alto duel with John Jenkins on Alto Madness; the Mal Waldron composition, Mirage, featuring trumpeter Bill Hardman; and McLean’s Light’s Out from the same titled 1956 Prestige session, are all reasons to pick up this compilation. The McLean bonus disc is among the most special of the 10 bonus discs, as it offers more rarities than the other bonus discs. Examples include: Lee Konitz’ Subconscious Lee, Sonny Criss’ Steve’s Blues and the Phil Woods Septet on Pairing Off.
Tracks – Strange Blues, Mirage, Embraceable You, Alto Madness, Sentimental Journey, What’s New, Our Love is Here to Stay, Light’s Out
– Jeff Krow
KENNY BURRELL- Prestige Profile #7 Prestige PRCD #5807-2 8 Tracks 61:00 ****:
Guitar master, Kenny Burrell, spent the years between 1956-1963 recording for Prestige, largely at the studio of Rudy Van Gelder. In the best sense of the word, Burrell is an all purpose guitarist, equally at home in jam sessions as well as performing as a leader on lyrical standards. On this Profile, the 18+ minute jam of All Day Long with Donald Byrd, and Frank Foster, is balanced with the lyrical, I’ll Close My Eyes, with the Mal Waldron Trio from 1957. Burrell can do it all and his Prestige Profile shows off his myriad of skills. The Burrell bonus disc is noted for featuring other Prestige guitarists such as Tal Farlow, George Benson, Jimmy Raney, and Pat Martino.
Tracks – I’ll Close My Eyes, Montom Blues, All of You, It’s a Wonderful World, I Never Knew, Boo Lu, Minor Mishap, All Day Long
– Jeff Krow
(Prestige Profiles #8 is Lightnin’ Hopkins)
JOHN COLTRANE – Prestige Profile #9 – Prestige PRCD-#5809-2 11 Tracks 75:17 ****:
The general feeling in the jazz world today seems to be that Coltrane has replaced Charlie Parker as the No. 1 Hipster Saint of Jazz. There’s a wonderful essay by Joe Goldberg in the note booklet which points out that when Coltrane joined the Miles Davis Sextet it already included pianist Bill Evans – so though we didn’t realize it at the time, these were the three most influential jazz musicians of the second half of the century. Coltrane also was in the middle of three of the most important small groups ever: Miles’, Monk’s, and his own.Coming from the early party of Coltrane’s career, these 11 tracks are more diatonic than some of his later work, even to some gentle and melodic ballads. For many the situation will be similar to that with Miles – a preference for the style he espoused early on. Among the top jazzman heard with Coltrane on these tracks are Pepper Adams, Donald Byrd, Tadd Dameron, Red Garland, Philly Joe Jones, Mal Waldron and Paul Chambers.
Tracks – Russian Lullaby, The Way You Look Tonight, On a Misty Night, Come Rain or Come Shine, Dakar, I’ll Get By, Theme for Ernie, Bahia, Lover Come Back to Me, I Hear a Rhapsody, Trane’s Slo Blues
– John Henry
EDDIE LOCKJAW DAVIS – Prestige Profile #10 Prestige PRCD-#5810-2 12 Tracks 78:16 ****1/2:
Prestige Records tenor saxophonist, Eddie “Lockjaw’ Davis, closes out the Prestige Profile series. Davis was a journeyman tenor sax player, both comfortable in a big band setting with Count Basie, as well as in the Hammond B-3 groups of Shirley Scott and Don Patterson. Lockjaw’s Prestige sessions range from 1958-1962.
Four of the compilation numbers feature tracks from the Davis/Shirley Scott “Cookbook” sessions, including the appropriately titled, The Chef, and In the Kitchen. Oliver Nelson’s Trane Whistle, arranged by both Nelson and Ernie Wilkins, and featuring an allstar big band, is another winner in this compilation. Another favorite is Goin to the Meetin’ with the superb Horace Parlan on piano.
The Lockjaw compilation is a cooking way to complete the 10 CD Prestige Profiles, and the final free bonus disc is the dessert to the fine soul dinner that Davis serves up. The bonus disc is stocked with soul jazz staples by Willis Jackson, Brother Jack McDuff, Jimmy Forrest, Houston Person, and other soul jazz stars.
Track list: Intermission Riff, Willow Weep for Me, Last Train from Overbrook, Robbin’s Nest, Body & Soul, Trane Whistle, I Only Have Eyes for You, Goin to the Meetin’, Rev
– Jeff Krow