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The Birka Jazz Archive
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Various US labelsPart 2
EPIC RECORDS was started in 1954 by CBC as a sister to Columbia. It became an important label for jazz and classical music the first ten years, before it went over to pop music.
Epic is known for its fine cover designs in the mid 1950s. Some of them were created by Ivan Chermayeff and his famous design studio in New York. Unfortunately much of their work was not credited. But the high art value as well as they were playful and austere, indicates that they were designed by Chermayeff.
EVEREST was started in 1958 by the electronic inventor and scientist Harry D. Belock and producer Bert Whyte. Also the famous designer Alex Steinweiss helped launch the company.
The label was devoted mainly to classical music but also some jazz records were issued. Alex Steinweiss designed the first ten covers, along with the logo and packaging, and by the early 1960s, and the label´s demise, he had designed nearly one hundred Everest covers.
FANTASY was established in 1949 in Berkely, California, by the brothers Max and Sol Weiss. The label is best known for recordings of the comedian Lenny Bruce in the 1950s, and for albums in the late 1960s and early 1970s by the rock group Creedence Clearwater Revival.
The company recorded jazz in the 1950s, but the label has been of only modest importance to jazz. Fantasy´s signifiance as a jazz company lies in its acquisition of other labels, and its programs of reissues. In the 1960s the company acquried the Debut label, and continued in the 1970s with labels such as Prestige, Riverside, Milestones and (in the early 1980s) Contemporary.
In the 1980s the subsidiary label Original Jazz Classic was established. OJC started a reissue program, offering the albums as facsimil reproductions of the classic jazz LPs from the 1950s and 1960s.
GNP RECORDS was founded in Hollywood in the early 1950s by the impressario Gene Norman. At first the label was used to release recordings of concerts he had arranged on the West Coast. The first name of the company was Gene Norman Presents, later shortened to GNP and in the 1960s changed to GNP Crescendo.
The first ten albums were 10" LPs, including the classic Clifford Brown - Max Roach In Concert-albums. GNP continued with around 90 albums in the 12" format into 1963. Some were jazz, but also popular and latin music. From 1963 the label concentrated on popular music.
HIFFI RECORD (also known as HiFi Jazz) was founded in Hollywood in 1958 by David Axelrod. He is best known for his work as producer and A&R man at Capitol Records in the 1960s, producing Cannonball Adderley and other black artists. The HiFi label issued some fine albums around 1960 before Axelrod went to Capitol in 1963.
IMPERIAL was started in 1946 in Los Angeles and is best known for its recordings of r&b artists in New Orleans in the 1950s. The label´s most important artist was Fats Domino.
Imperial recorded jazz only intermittenly, but produced some fine albums by Sonny Criss and Charlie Mariano. The label was sold to Liberty in 1964.
JARO was established in New York in 1959 as a jazz sister to Top Rank which was a US subsidiary of Rank Records in London. The label only existed for a couple of years. Some of the few LPs which were issued have been extremely hard to find and in demand among collectors. From the late 1970s the catalogue has been reissued by Xanadu.
JAZZLAND was started in 1960 as subsidiary label of Riverside. About 100 LPs were issued into 1963, some of them were reissues of Riverside recordings. The label was sold to Orpheum Production in 1964, which then started a reissue program of the Jazzland catalogue.
JAZZTIME was founded in 1961 by Fred Norsworthy. Involved in the project was also Duke Pearson and Dave Bailey. Three LPs were issued in 1961. Then the label changed name to JAZZ LINE. Another two LPs were issued, the last in 1962.
This output (including unissued materal) has during the years appeared under different names and titles on many labels, such as Polydor, Fontana, Onyx, Muse and Black Lions.
JAZZ WEST was a subsidiary label of Aladdin Records. The company released two 10" LPs in 1954-1955, and then continued with some few 12" LPs in 1956 and 1957.
JIHAD was formed by LeRoy Jones (Amiri Baraka) in 1967. The intention was to broadcast the work of the Jihad Cultural Center in Newark NJ. The label produced and issued only three LPs, all in 1968. The best known is the Sunny Murray LP with Albert Ayler and Don Cherry.
JUBILEE was founded in 1946 in New York by Herb Abramson. The company recorded mostly popular music in the 1950s and 1960s and had a speciality in comedy records. Also some jazz albums were issued in the fifties. The label went out of business around 1970.
LIBERTY was founded in 1955 in Hollywood by Simon Waronker. He liked lush orchestral music and the label´s catalog was in the beginning filled with movie music, big bands etc.
There was also some jazz, and Liberty´s first star was the singer Julie London. She made a string of successful albums in the 1950s. The biggest early rock and roll artist for Liberty was Eddie Cochran.
In 1957, Liberty acquired Pacific Jazz Records, and in mid 1960s they also acquired Blue Note Records. A few years later Liberty was sold to the owner of United Artists Records, who in 1971 dropped the Liberty name. But in 1980, a new owner, EMI, dropped United Artists name and revived the Liberty name...
LIMELIGHT RECORDS was established in 1962 as a subsidiary of Mercury. Its activities were directed by the producer Jack Tracy and the catalogue included some 50 jazz albums until 1966.
The albums is best known for their artistic cover designs. It was a nice try to expand the concept of the cover. They have intricate folds and cuts, with pop-ups between twofers and slanted booklets attached to the beautiful inside covers. Many of the albums were designed by Daniel Czubak.
MERCURY was formed in 1945. The company released their own recordings, but also much materials by other record companies. Best known are the Norman Granz recordings on Clef which were released on the Mercury label in the 1940s and early 1950s. These records have the trumpeter logo on the label, that distinguished them from Mercury´s own recordings (below).
Mercury soon became a major force in jazz and blues, classical, rock, and country recordings. Among the first jazz musicians to record for the label were Erroll Garner and Dinah Washington.
In 1954 Mercury established the subsidiary label EmArcy which was devoted exclusively to jazz (see special page). Some jazz were also released on the subsidiary Wing label.
When EmArcys jazz activities slowly declined in the late 1950s, the company issued a considerable amount of jazz on on the Mercury label itself. New subsidiary labels in the early 1960s were Limelight and Smash.
In 1962, however, Mercury was bought by the Dutch company Philips (which holds Phonogram label) and also merged with Deutche Polydor. It went forward in the early 1970s to the name of PolyGram.
METRO JAZZ was established in 1958 as a subsidiary of MGM. Around 15 LPs were issued in the late 1950s. Some of the albums were in the 1960s rereleased by Verve, which was then owned by MGM.
MODE RECORDS was a short lived west-coast jazz label. It´s known, and also collected, for its lavish painted LP covers by Eva Diana. Mode issued around 30 LPs, all in 1957. Almost all were produced by Red Clyde. The catalog now belongs to VSOP Records which have reissued them on vinyl and CD.
PROGRESSIVE was established in New York in 1950 by Gus Statiras. Some few albums were issued in the first half of the 1950s. The operations declined, and much of the material was sold to and reissued by Savoy.
The company became active again in the late 1970s, cooperating with the Japanese company Bainbridge. New recordings by J.R. Monterose and Al Haig among others were issued, supervised by the founder Gus Statiras.
Continued next page
Various US labels (3)
Cab Calloway Label: Epic 3265 12" LP 1956 Illustration: Sam Norkin
Various US labels ( 2 )
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