Timeless – Savoy Jazz 60th Anniversary
(Savoy Jazz – 2002)
by Shaun Dale
The confluence of circumstance that brought Savoy Records into existence wasn’t completely happy. There was a war on in 1942, and rationing reduced the production capacity of major labels, leading them to cut their artist rosters. Not suprisingly, African American musicians took more than their share of those cuts. A recording strike against the same major labels reduced their output even further. Smaller labels, though, found an easier path to settlement with the union, and found many of the best jazz musicians in the country without recording homes. When Herman Lubinsky, who was selling records as a sideline to his business selling radios and tubes, decided to start a label he was able to assemble a lineup that’s so legendary today that their availability to a tight-fisted start-up label seems astonishing.
Among the artists who debuted as leaders with Savoy are Charlie Parker, Dexter Gordon, Miles Davis, Stan Getz, Fats Navarro and J.J. Johnson. Others, like Kenny Dorham, Lee Morgan, Nat and Cannonball Adderley and John Coltrane, cut important early sides for the label.
They’re all represented in the 32 tracks on this 2-CD celebration of the labels 60th anniversary, along with Lester Young, Billy Eckstine, Marian McPartland, Little Jimmy Scott and others of similar note. Though the label changed focus from jazz to R&B to gospel during 32 years as an independent, the emphasis here is on the early jazz years, with a good selection from the 1940s and nothing past the 1050s. A couple of R&B treasures are included from the later 50’s.
The label has changed hands multiple times since Arista bought it from the Lubinsky estate in 1974. Today it’s in the hands of Denon, who are giving it the respect it deserves with a thoughtful reissue series and with a wonderful tribute set like this. The careful remastering and 20bit digital recording provide an excellent presentation of these classic cuts.