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Jazz Label Savoy Celebrates 60th Anniversary - 2003-01-18

Many of jazz's greatest players got their start on a small label known as Savoy Jazz. Specializing in the new sound of be-bop, Savoy recruited up-and-comers from that era's most popular big bands, including Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis and Lester Young.

In honor of its 60th anniversary, Savoy is releasing a series of compilation albums by these and other legendary artists, as well as albums by emerging new jazz talent.

Saxophonist Charlie Parker was only 28 when he recorded Parker's Mood for Savoy Jazz in 1948. Parker's arrival in New York City nine years earlier ushered in a new era in jazz. Along with trumpeters Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis, Parker helped revolutionize the be-bop movement characterized by complex, improvisational solos.

Savoy Jazz Vice President of Audience and Repertoire Steve Backer says Savoy was in the right place at the right time to capture the music of these young pioneers. "There are probably a dozen artists that fall into that category, like Charlie Parker's first recordings; Dexter Gordon's very first recordings; Dizzy Gillespie; Miles Davis' first recordings; Stan Getz's first recordings. He [Getz] was a teenager, probably 17 or 18-years-old," he said. "George Shearing's first recordings in America; Fats Navarro's first recordings; J.J. Johnson's first recordings. And then a whole bunch [of artists] in incubational stages, like the Adderley Brothers, all done by this group of [writer] Damon Runyon guys."

Savoy Jazz was founded by record store owner Herman Lubinsky in Newark, New Jersey. Having scored a hit with its first release in 1942 Savoy's expansion was under way.

Over the years, the label recruited classic acts from jazz, gospel and R&B. It opened a West Coast branch in 1948, and continued to focus on groundbreaking new artists. Steve Backer says while Lubinsky's death marked the end of an era, the company continued to flourish under new ownership and a campaign to re-issue its finest recordings. "When Lubinsky died in the mid 1970s, I was the one who generated the purchase of Savoy for Arista Records for [Arista CEO] Clive Davis," said Steve Backer. "And we put all of this material, or a lot of it, out in different conceptual approaches but with similar artists. The artists were the same artists but we approached it differently, conceptually. And we had a lot of success. So I was familiar with the ingredients of the catalog."

Steve Backer and famed producer Orin Keepnews are directing Savoy Jazz's current re-issue series, including single CDs, multi-disc collections and DVDs. In addition, Savoy recently acquired the catalogues of the Muse and Landmark jazz labels. New signings to Savoy include saxophonists James Moody and Mark Turner, flutist Hubert Laws, and vocalists Andy Bey and Carol Welsman.

A new CD to mark Savoy Jazz's 60th anniversary Savoy At 60 features some of the label's most popular artists, including legendary tenor saxophonist Lester Young with Jump Lester Jump.

Images courtesy of Savoy Jazz