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The Prestige Labels

Prestige Records, founded in 1948 by Bob Weinstock, began in New York at 446 West 50th Street. In the early years, Weinstock used a variety of recording studios around the city -- Nola Studios, Beltone Studios, among others. In the 1950s, most of the recordings were made by Rudy van Gelder in his home studios in Hackensack, NJ; when van Gelder moved to Englewood Cliffs in July 1959, Weinstock continued to use the studio. In 1957 or 1958, he moved the Prestige office to nearby Bergenfield, NJ, at 203 South Washington Avenue, and the address listed on the yellow-and-black label was changed. (The first label to bear the new address was PRLP 7141, The Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis Cookbook, recorded in June 1958.) The offices remained in Bergenfield until 1971 when the label was sold to Fantasy Records in San Francisco. Although a number of new sessions were recorded in San Francisco studios in the 1970s, by this time most of the Prestige releases were reissues of various sorts.

Prestige employed several superb producers in addition to Weinstock: among them, Chris Albertson, Ozzie Cadena, Esmond Edwards, Ira Gitler, Cal Lampley, Bob Porter, and Don Schlitten. Rudy van Gelder's expertise as a recording engineer, plus the designs of a variety of photographers, artists, and graphics studios, contributed to the "Prestige look and sound" which was in its own way as distinctive as Blue Note's.

Unlike Alfred Lion at Blue Note, Weinstock did not offer his musicians paid rehearsal time; he also preferred a less rehearsed and more club-like sound. His parsimony extended into the recording studio, leading him to rewind the recorder after bad takes. As a consequence there are many fewer extant alternate takes for Prestige sessions than there are for other labels.

Many of the outstanding jazz artists of the postwar years had Prestige contracts. Among the "regulars" were: Gene Ammons, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Eric Dolphy, Booker Ervin, Art Farmer, Red Garland, Wardell Gray, Milt Jackson and the MJQ, Jackie McLean, Thelonious Monk, Sonny Rollins, Sonny Stitt, and Mal Waldron. In addition, "hard bop" and "soul jazz" ensembles flourished, headed by the likes of Richard Groove Holmes, Brother Jack McDuff, Don Patterson, and Shirley Scott. Some of the more "modern" sessions were released on a subsidiary label, New Jazz, begun in the late 1950s; more "mainstream" sessions, including an important series of blues recordings, were issued on the Bluesville, Moodsville, and Swingville labels in the early 1960s.

In the 1960s, Prestige began licensing recordings from important European labels such as Metronome (Sweden), Gramophone and Ultraphone (France), and MPS (Germany), as well as lesser-known American labels such as Argo and Progressive.

The lists below include most of the jazz recordings released on the Prestige family of labels. One of the things Prestige, and later Fantasy, was famous (or infamous) for is reissues. Many items appear several times in the lists below. Some titles begin as 78 rpm singles, then appear on 7" 45 rpm EPs, then on 12" LPs -- and some of these LPs are issued multiple times, often with different titles and covers. I've tried to indicate, especially with the later 10" and 12" LP issues, which numbers are reissues, and which prior titles they duplicate.

I am indebted to Michel Ruppli's excellent discography The Prestige Label: A Discography (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1980), and to Toyoki Okajima's The Prestige Book (Discography of All Series) (Tokyo: Jazz Critique, 1996).

Prestige SP series (78 rpm)
New Jazz SP series (78 rpm)
Prestige 1300 EP series (45 rpm)
New Jazz 1700 EP series (45 rpm)
Prestige PRLP series (10" LP)
New Jazz PRLP series (10" LP)
Prestige 16-2/3 rpm LP
Prestige 7000 series (12" LP)
New Jazz 8000 series (12" LP)
Prestige 16000 series (12" LP)
Moodsville label (12" LP)
Swingville label (12" LP)
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