Prestige Records  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Prestige Records was founded in 1949 by Bob Weinstock (October 2, 1928January 14, 2006). The label's name was initially New Jazz, but changed to Prestige Records the next year. Its catalog contains a significant number of jazz classics, including renowned works by Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Thelonious Monk and many other giants of the idiom. Weinstock was known for encouraging the performances to be unrehearsed for a more authentic, exciting sound. To this effect, Prestige Records, unlike Blue Note Records, would not pay musicians for rehearsals. Another Weinstock practice, of rewinding the tapes after "bad" takes, has resulted in very few alternate takes from the classic Prestige years surfacing.

For most of the 1950s and 1960s, the recording engineer Rudy Van Gelder was responsible for recording the company's releases and Ira Gitler occasionally fulfilled the role of producer in the early 1950s. Around 1958, Prestige began to diversify, reviving the "New Jazz" name, usually for recordings by emerging musicians, and introduced the Swingsville and Moodsville lines, though these were relatively shortlived, many albums being re-released later in the 1960s on Prestige itself. Bluesville Records was also a subsidiary label of Prestige.

During this period, Weinstock ceased supervising recording sessions directly, employing Chris Albertson, Ozzie Cadena, Esmond Edwards, Don Schlitten, and producer/music supervisor Bob Porter, among others, to fulfil this function. Musicians recording for the label at this time included Jaki Byard and Booker Ervin, while Prestige remained commercially viable by recording a number of soul jazz artists like Charles Earland.

Bob Weinstock has been criticized over the years for allegedly sharp business practices. Jackie McLean in A.B. Spellman's Four Lives in the Bebop Business (1966) is particularly outspoken, but others, including Albertson and Miles Davis in his autobiography, have defended him. The "junkies label" tag has also been applied to Prestige, although the problem of drug addiction was so widespread in the jazz world that this reputation may not be justified.

The company was purchased in 1971 by Fantasy Records, and original releases on the label have formed a significant proportion of their Original Jazz Classics line.


  • Prestige albums often had five tracks (three on side A, two on side B) and were almost always under forty minutes.
  • They tended to consist mostly of Great American Songbook standards and very little original material (because there wouldn't have been any time to rehearse or arrange new tunes - and also, because Prestige did its own publishing, so performers wouldn't keep the rights to material performed on Prestige LPs).
  • They often contained a ten-to-fifteen minute basic blues on the second side (e.g., Saxophone Colossus; Kenny Burrell and John Coltrane). Less often this long blues appeared on the first side (e.g., Oliver Nelson's Screamin' the Blues, a rare Prestige album consisting mostly of original material). Sometimes an equally long version of a standard was used instead (e.g., Coltrane's Lush Life). On an early Modern Jazz Quartet 10" album, the same song ("Two Bass Hit"), originally intended as a drum feature, was performed four times in a row, each time centred on a different instrument. The result was given a new title: "La Ronde Suite". Weinstock admitted that strategies such as these were means of filling out records that might have otherwise not had enough material to go to print.

See also

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