Contemporary Records

Contemporary Records

(Est. 1951) Two years after establishing his Good Time Jazz label as an outlet for traditional jazz, Lester Koenig ventured into modern jazz with Contemporary Records. The Los Angeles-based company quickly set industry standards with its superb audio, quiet pressings, striking album graphics, and informative liner notes. In 1956, it was the first label to record jazz in stereo. Contemporary Records not only captured the cream of the Southern California jazz scene, including such musicians as Hampton Hawes, Barney Kessel, Shelly Manne, Art Pepper, Andre Previn, and Howard Rumsey's Lighthouse All-Stars, but also cut two albums by East Coast tenor titan Sonny Rollins and launched the recording career of jazz revolutionary Ornette Coleman. In 1984, seven years after Koenig's death, Contemporary was acquired by Fantasy, Inc., which maintained the label's legacy by signing such artists as Frank Morgan, Carol Sloane, Terry Gibbs, Buddy DeFranco, Bud Shank, Chris Connor, and the Art Farmer/Benny Golson Jazztet.


CONTEMPORARY RECORDS FEATURED ARTISTS

Hampton Hawes

Hampton Hawes

Hamp’s story is phenomenal. Raised in a strict, religious environment, Hamp taught himself piano as a child. By the time he was a teenager, he was playing professionally. His enormous talent brought him into contact with great players, not the least of whom was Charlie Parker.

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Shelly Manne

Shelly Manne

As a jazz drummer and studio musician, bandleader and businessman, Shelly Manne (1920-1984) was one of the most prolific instrumentalists of the 20th century. “I’ve really had the best of both worlds,” he said in 1983. “I’ve kept busy playing jazz, and between engagements I’ve had the studios to fall back on.”

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Art Pepper

Art Pepper

There was nothing halfway about alto saxophonist Art Pepper (1925-82). He claimed to have never studied or practiced his horn; disdained inevitable comparisons with Charlie Parker yet embraced the later expressive discoveries of John Coltrane in advance of most of the jazz world.

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Terry Gibbs

Terry Gibbs

Terry Gibbs’s career as a vibraphonist and bandleader spans a full 50 years, nearly 50 albums, and hundreds of concert, club, and TV appearances. The Brooklyn-born child prodigy, who went on his first national tour at age 12, became a professional musician in 1946.

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