Just one recommendation of sorts for April 2021’s Bandcamp Friday – but it’s a big one: 61 great albums from Prestige Records are now available to stream and download on the service.
Founded by Bob Weinstock in 1949, Prestige was an early home for some of the mid-century’s most revolutionary jazz figures, including Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Stan Getz and Thelonious Monk. The label’s output, much of it impeccably recorded by engineer Rudy Van Gelder, was a haven as hard bop gained prominence in the ’50 and free jazz helped define the early ’60s.
While the titles available today are nowhere near the label’s complete discography, it’s an incredible start – and we’re pulling six favorites out for you today. Remember, anything you buy from Bandcamp today goes wholly to the artists and labels, with the service waiving its cut – so today’s the day to check these out!
Thelonious Monk, Monk (1956)
An early Thelonious Monk 12″ album (the Reid Miles-designed cover is from a later issue) featured highlights from two unique sessions in 1953 and 1954 featuring a cast of great sidemen including trumpeter Ray Copeland, French horn master Julius Watkins, Sonny Rollins on tenor sax and Art Blakey on drums. Monk’s distinctive piano approach is the star here, of course.
Miles Davis, Cookin’ with The Miles Davis Quintet (1957)
“After all,” the iconic trumpeter later said, “that’s what we did – came in and cooked.” The first of four albums from two breakneck 1956 sessions with the “first great quintet” (John Coltrane on tenor sax, pianist Red Garland, bassist Paul Chambers and Philly Joe Jones on drums) showcase Miles’ unbelievable talent as a bandleader that squeaked into record stores just after ‘Round About Midnight, his debut for Columbia Records.
Gil Evans, Gil Evans & Ten (1958)
Already noted as an arranger for Miles Davis (their partnership would only heat up through the end of the ’50s and start of the ’60s), this is Gil Evans’ first work as a leader, featuring him on piano aside (you guessed it) another 10 luminaries in an unusual arrangement: two trumpets, two trombones (standard and bass), French horn, soprano and alto saxophone, bassoon, bass and drums. A fascinating early sound from the man who’d help push jazz into new directions in the years to come.
Funk Inc., Funk Inc. (1971)
A late-period gem from around the label’s sale to Fantasy Records, the self-titled debut from this Indianapolis combo is exactly what it advertises: unyielding, lengthy exercises in dance floor attitude. Lead track “Kool is Back” is arguably its best known; more than a decade later, Trevor Horn ran a drum fill and a burst of horns from the tune into a sampler and created the insistent sound stab heard on Yes’ chart-topping “Owner of a Lonely Heart” and countless other dance tracks.
Patrice Rushen, Shout It Out (1977)
Before she signed to Elektra and became a notable voice in R&B (particularly with 1982’s “Forget Me Nots”), Patrice Rushen started out as a jazz fusion keyboardist on Prestige. Shout It Out, her third and final album for the label, is where she sung for the first time, backed by a brace of R&B session cats including Al McKay of Earth, Wind & Fire on guitar and soul drum legend James Gadson. It’s a clear signpost to where she was headed – and incidentally, those Elektra recordings are now under her purview and available on Bandcamp as well.
John Coltrane, Coltrane ’58: The Prestige Recordings (2019)
37 tracks of Trane’s output from 1958 – the one after his debut album, though much of this material captures him finding his sound as a sideman. Before the “sheets of sound,” this is where he was as a saxophonist.