Re Person I Knew

OK: 1923-2015

Orrin Keepnews (1923-2015)

Except I didn’t know him. This is the title of a Bill Evans piece dedicated to jazz producer Orrin Keepnews, who died last week just shy of his 92nd birthday. It’s an anagram of his name*, and seems an appropriate heading for an obituary.

Keepnews was a contemporary with Jack Kerouac at Columbia, later a journalist, and eventually in ’53 was ambitious enough (or as he himself later put it, amateur and foolish enough) to co-found the record label Riverside.

The label made classic recordings of the greats – Monk, Rollins, Wes, Wyn Kelly, Cannonball, Bill Evans, to name just a few. Riverside soon came to be regarded as “the other Blue Note”. Basically, if you don’t have at least a dozen Riverside recordings, you ain’t got much of a jazz collection…

In ’63 Keepnews’ business partner Bill Grauer dropped dead suddenly and Grauer’s unorthodox approach to accountancy was laid bare. Riverside was underwater. But Keepnews was back a few years later with a new label, Milestones – you really should have a few of those too. The old gang flocked back and were joined by new signings including McCoy Tyner and Joe Henderson. Milestones was later folded into Fantasy and then Concord, with Keepnews retained as Great Jazz Panjandrum. In the ’80s he launched Landmark, and you should have a few of those as well.

Five decades’ worth of top musicians enjoyed working with him, basically because he was practical and organised, but ultimately just provided the space for them to do what they wanted to do. He was a very unproducerly producer.

And his liner notes (sigh, remember those?) displayed a detailed understanding of and passion for the music. None of this “So-and-so has the socks of Brecker, the elbows of Coltrane and the velvety underpants of Coleman Hawkins” idiocy…

He was a wiser penner, OK.

* Evans was fond of anagrams. There was also a piece called NYC’s No Lark, his tribute to the sadly short-lived Sonny Clark.

Advertisements
Tagged with: , , , , ,
Posted in e) Rants & Ramblings, i) Reviews
3 comments on “Re Person I Knew
  1. Adam Cole says:

    A wiser penner than Jan only, so? Say it ain’t so.

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Books for Sale
...appetising young books for sale...
Wednesday Gig/Jam


We play every Wednesday night, 9 to 12.30, at Toulouse Lautrec in Kennington, South London. It starts as a gig then becomes a jam. We welcome and accommodate all, but please do have a squizz at Thoughts from the Piano Chair of a Jam Session.
Illustration by Sue Harding

June guest soloists
7 Sara Dowling voc
14 Ed Riches gtr
21 Duncan Eagles tenor
28 Tom Ridout tenor

More info on guests here


For London-wide jazz llistings see

%d bloggers like this: