Support Local Journalism. Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club.

Various Artists 

The Contemporary Records Story (Contemporary)/Happy Birthday Newport! Fifty Swinging Years (Legacy)

Lester Koenig probably would've worked his way up in the movie business if he hadn't been blacklisted for refusing to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee in the early '50s. Instead, he started Contemporary Records and became an industry model. Koenig was honest, generous, supportive, and even altruistic, as his willingness to record iconoclasts like Ornette Coleman and Cecil Taylor demonstrated.

At the other end of the spectrum were commercially successful efforts, such as André Previn's jazz versions of the music from the Broadway smash My Fair Lady, a spur-of-the-moment notion that had the musicians learning the tunes off the record and taping them all in a matter of hours. This four-CD set shows what a great label Contemporary was, prominently featuring such West Coast favorites as Art Pepper, Shelly Manne, and Hampton Hawes, but also giving space to some very hard hard-bop.

Meanwhile, Columbia Legacy has coordinated with George Wein to celebrate Newport's golden anniversary, a festival launched by Wein back when, as he puts it, "jazz was a dirty word." The music on these three discs is for the most part extroverted (as is the rule on such occasions) and features great performances from masters of every style, from Willie Smith to Louis Armstrong to the Ellington and Basie bands to Dizzy, Monk, Miles, and Coltrane. But one track above all others will get the attention of jazz fans: Davis's previously unissued "Round About Midnight" performed with Thelonious Monk in 1955. Why this famous performance has never been released until now is anyone's guess, but it certainly is the icing on this 50th birthday cake.

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Cleveland Scene. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Cleveland Scene, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club for as little as $5 a month.

Read the Digital Print Issue

December 1, 2021

View more issues

Most Popular

No recently-read stories.

Visit the archives…


Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.


Staff Pick Events

  • Open Turntable Tuesday @ The Winchester

    • Tuesdays
  • Ryan Sickler @ Hilarities Comedy Club

    • Thu., Dec. 9
  • Sebastian Maniscalco @ Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse

    • Thu., Dec. 9

© 2021 Cleveland Scene: 737 Bolivar Rd., Suite 4100, Cleveland, OH 44115, (216) 505-8199
Logos and trademarks on this site are property of their respective owners.

Website powered by Foundation