The Contemporary Records Story

COMPOSERS: Various
LABELS: Contemporary
WORKS: The Contemporary Records Story
PERFORMER: Various artists
CATALOGUE NO: 4CCD 4441-2

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Like most independent jazz labels that came of age in the Fifties and Sixties, the California-based Contemporary Records gave voice to some of the era’s most respected and creative stylists and session players (like Art Farmer, Phineas Newborn Jr, Shelley Manne, Teddy Edwards, Barney Kessel and André Previn), as well as taking risks with emerging visionaries such as Ornette Coleman and Cecil Taylor.

A high sonic standard and propensity for tight (but never rigid) arrangements characterise most of the 57 tracks culled from the label’s bountiful catalogue that make up The Contemporary Records Story. So do countless moments of pure, improvisational joy, from pianist Hampton Hawes’s hard-driving early-Fifties bop and looser mid-Seventies modal leanings to alto master Art Pepper’s harrowing, unaccompanied ‘Over the Rainbow’.

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More than anything, the selections reflect the devotion and integrity of the late label owner and producer Lester Koenig, as do the excellent annotations.