The story of East Coast jazz in the post-war era very largely revolves around three legendary New York based independents: Prestige, Blue Note, and Riverside. This four-CD set traces the history of the one that, in the words of Orrin Keepnews, was the "feisty kid brother" in that jazz family - Riverside Records, the last to start and the first to stop, but in some ways the most aggressive of the trio, a company that in barely a decade of activity (1952-1964) initiated and developed the careers of a remarkably broad range of significant major artists.
This collection of Riverside highlights is very much a tale from the inside, having been compiled and annotated by Keepnews, the veteran producer, historian, and record executive whose extensive career began as co-founder and creative head of the label. Opening with a track from the initial album by the company's first and most celebrated star, Thelonious Monk, the producer touches on the music of 43 of Riverside's most memorable performers, drawn from a roster of more than a hundred and fifty leaders.
The list boasts such cornerstones of modern jazz as Bill Evans and Wes Montgomery (both of whom made their first LPs for Riverside), Cannonball and Nat Adderley, Sonny Rollins, Milt Jackson, Gerry Mulligan, Art Blakey, Clark Terry, Jimmy Heath, Johnny Griffin, Philly Joe Jones, Wynton Kelly, and Kenny Dorham, but also touches on previous jazz forms with late efforts by giants like Coleman Hawkins and Ben Webster. Although primarily focused on instrumentalists, it also includes such notable jazz vocalists as Mark Murphy, Abbey Lincoln, and Eddie Jefferson.
Entertainment Weekly - 12/12/97, p.84
"Between 1952 and 1964, Riverside was one of the small-but-tough indie lables helping to guide jazz's evolution. The story is told in fragmented form on this four-CD set...jazz history in the making." - Rating: B
Down Beat - 2/98, p.604 stars (out of 5)
- "In this retrospective boxed set, [Orrin] Keepnews attempts to capture, on four jam-packed discs, the essence of his work..."
Recorded between 1952 and 1964.
Personnel: Eddie Jefferson, Abbey Lincoln, Mark Murphy (vocals); Barry Galbraith, Wes Montgomery, Sam Herman (guitar); Kenny Burrell, Charlie Byrd (acoustic guitar); Margaret Rose, Betty Glamann (harp); Ron Carter , Sam Jones (cello); Jerome Richardson (flute, piccolo, alto saxophone, tenor saxophone); Oliver Nelson (flute, clarinet, tenor saxophone); Pat Patrick (flute, saxophone, alto saxophone, baritone saxophone); James Moody , Leo Wright, George Dorsey (flute, alto saxophone); Herbie Mann, Raymond Beckenstein (flute); Romeo Penque (clarinet, English horn); Walter Levinsky (clarinet); Eric Dolphy (bass clarinet, alto saxophone); Danny Banks (bass clarinet); Yusef Lateef (oboe); Phil Bodner (woodwinds); Bobby Capers (saxophone); Ernie Henry, Johnny Hodges, Cannonball Adderley (alto saxophone); Coleman Hawkins, Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis , Eddie Williams , Frank Foster , Harold Land, Jimmy Heath, John Coltrane, Johnny Griffin, Sonny Rollins, Wayne Shorter, Zoot Sims, Ben Webster, Benny Golson, Budd Johnson (tenor saxophone); Gerry Mulligan, Tate Houston, Pepper Adams, Sahib Shihab, Cecil Payne, Charles Davis , Arthur "Babe"Clarke (baritone saxophone); Clark Terry (trumpet, flugelhorn); Chet Baker , Don Ellis, Ernie Royal, Freddie Hubbard, Harry "Sweets" Edison , Idrees Sulieman, Joe Gordon, Joe Newman , Kenny Dorham, Lee Morgan, Marty Sheller, Ray Nance, Art Farmer, Bernie Glow, Nick Travis, Blue Mitchell, Burt Collins, Bobby Bryant , Charlie Shavers (trumpet); Nat Adderley (cornet); Dick Berg, Julius Watkins, Willie Ruff (French horn); Curtis Fuller, Arnett Sparrow, J.J. Johnson , Jimmy Cleveland, Julian Priester, Matthew Gee, Melba Liston, Quentin Jackson, Tom McIntosh, Urbie Green, George Matthews , David Baker , Britt Woodman (trombone); Paul Faulise (bass trombone); Don Butterfield (tuba); Dick Hyman, Don Friedman, Elmo Hope, George Handy, George Russell, Hank Jones , Harold Mabern, Hugh Lawson, Joe Zawinul, Junior Mance, Kenny Drew, Randy Weston, Rodgers Grant, Thelonious Monk, Tommy Flanagan, Barry Harris , Wynton Kelly, Bill Evans , Billy Strayhorn, Bobby Timmons, Cedar Walton (piano); Eddie Costa (celesta, xylophone); Milt Harris (organ); Johnny Lytle, Milt Jackson (vibraphone); Connie Kay, Frank Hernandez, Bill Reichenbach , Peppy Hinnant, Jimmy Cobb , Jo Jones , Joe Hunt , Kenny Clarke, Albert "Tootie" Heath, Lex Humphries, Louis Hayes, Max Roach, Osie Johnson, Paul Motian, Pete La Roca, Philly Joe Jones, Sam Woodyard, Art Blakey, Shadow Wilson, Ben Riley, Herb Lovelle, Charlie Persip (drums); Mongo Santamaria, Ray Barretto (congas); Willie Rodriguez (percussion).
Liner Note Author: Orrin Keepnews.
Recording information: Bell Sound Studios, NY (01/25/1955-09/20/1963); Birdland, NY (01/25/1955-09/20/1963); Fugazi Hall, San Francisco, CA (01/25/1955-09/20/1963); Jazz Workshop, San Francisco, CA (01/25/1955-09/20/1963); Plaza Sound Studios, N.Y.C., NY (01/25/1955-09/20/1963); Reeves Studios, N.Y.C., NY (01/25/1955-09/20/1963); Tsubo's, Berkeley, CA (01/25/1955-09/20/1963); Van Gelder Studios, Hackensack, NJ (01/25/1955-09/20/1963); Village Vanguard, NY (01/25/1955-09/20/1963); WOR Recording Studios, NY (01/25/1955-09/20/1963).
Editor: Joe Tarantino.
Photographers: Jim Marshall ; Esmond Edwards; Jerry Stoll; Chuck Stewart; Steve Shapiro.
Unknown Contributor Roles: Michael Olatunji; Bobby Capers.
Arrangers: Ernie Wilkins; George Handy; George Russell; Jimmy Heath; Jimmy Jones ; Johnny Griffin; Kenny Dorham; Melba Liston; Mercer Ellington; Norman Simmons; Tadd Dameron; Benny Golson; Budd Johnson.
The Riverside Records Story is essentially Orrin Keepnews' baby -- and why not, for the grizzled jazz producer/journalist co-founded the label, ran it from day one in 1952 until it suddenly went bankrupt in 1964, and produced almost all of the original sessions. Riverside's current custodians at Fantasy had Keepnews select and sequence four CDs' worth of the label's output, which over the span of less than nine years made a big splash in the cloistered world of hard bop. Keepnews also writes a voluminous set of notes that settles old scores, crows about What Went Right, offers often self-deprecating analyses of What Went Wrong, and generally keeps the reader riveted to the pages. The box is loosely organized around four topics instead of the usual chronological rundown; indeed, the earliest track, Randy Weston's "Zulu," comes last. And Keepnews devotes lots of time to four major figures whose extensive recordings for Riverside form the cornerstones of their reputations: Cannonball Adderley, Bill Evans, Thelonious Monk, and Wes Montgomery. There are some imaginative sequences that give the collection extra star power -- like Monk performing his standards with Coleman Hawkins, John Coltrane, Gerry Mulligan, and Clark Terry, respectively -- and there is a welcome touch of the bizarre, too, like Philly Joe Jones' hammy "Blues for Dracula." Moreover, gratefully defying some of his holier-than-thou pronouncements elsewhere, Keepnews does not shy away from his own ventures into the commercial sphere, including Montgomery with strings on "Tune Up," Charlie Byrd likewise on "Meditation," Mongo Santamaria's Top Ten hit "Watermelon Man," and some soul-jazz singles. The first two discs by and large are consistently strong, while some of the lesser tracks on the remaining discs may be there more to represent the artist than to thrill the listener. ~ Richard S. Ginell