Sunday, August 28, 2016

Listening to Prestige 202: Prestige All-Stars

Starting in 1954, virtually every Prestige recording session bore the words "Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, NJ." Later it would be Englewood Cliffs. But always Rudy Van Gelder, He's the one whom Miles Davis calls out to, when tension is rising between him and Thelonious Monk, and Monk is mockingly asking him when Miles wants it to play, "Hey Rudy, put this on the record, man – all of it!". 

Rudy put all of it on the record...all that belonged. Because of his innovative engineering genius, jazz musicians sounded, on record, the way they really did sound. Jazz music, all music, owes him an incalculable debt. Goodbye, Rudy, who died this week at age 91, and the angels are finally getting their mikes adjusted right.

I don't really remember ever seeing a record by the Prestige All-Stars, perhaps because all of them were re-released later under the name of one or more of the musicians on the session. And maybe that was the idea all along--to get two releases out of each album. Bob Weinstock was known to have a good head for marketing.

The groups who recorded under that name fluctuated from album to album, and are generally described today as musicians who were under contract to Prestige, but surely Frank Foster couldn't have been? Foster is best known for his many years with the Basie band, and for assuming its leadership after the Count passed away, and by 1957, although he did make other records, he was a well-established Basie-ite, since 1953.

He had recorded for Prestige, with Monk in 1954 and as co-leader with Elmo Hope in 1955, and he would lead another session ten years later, but that doesn't exactly seem to make him a contract player. I'm not sure Tommy Flanagan really fits the picture, either, athough he had made a fairly solid debut in the New York recording scene for Prestige, accompanying Miles Davis, Phil Woods and Sonny Rollins (on the classic Saxophone Colossus album)

Still, who's complaining? Foster brings his Basie swing and his grasp of modernity, and Flanagan joins Kenny Burrell in another Detroit reunion. Actually, the whole session is a Detroit reunion, with Art Taylor the only New York outsider (although he's the only one to have a tune dedicated to him, Foster's "A.T."). Foster wasn't a native Detroiter, but he cut his musical teeth there.

Like the previous All-Stars a week earlier, this one was anchored by a Kenny Burrell composition that encompassed one whole album side. Foster took Jerome Richardson's place, doubling on flute and tenor sax, but unlike Richardson, he concentrated on tenor. He contributed one tune to the second half of the session, which also featured two originals by Donald Byrd.

All Day Long is the title of both the original Prestige All-Stars issue and the Kenny Burrell reissue. The original vinyl can also be found offered for sale as by the Frank Foster Sextet, perhaps because Foster's name is first on the lineup of musicians strung across the cover under the Verrazzano Narrows Bridge.

And a subsequent CD release included the final Foster composition, "C.P.W.," left off the All-Stars and Burrell vinyl, but included in a Status low-budget compilation album.

 Order Listening to Prestige, Vol. 1 here.

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