(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
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.”MORE