February 17, 2021- Today's Bebop Era Topic: Savoy Records
Savoy Records was founded in Newark New Jersey in late 1942 by Herman Lubinsky. He was an early pioneer of community radio in Newark and decided to start his own record company to record jazz, blues and gospel.
The strike between the musicians union and the recording industry was underway when Lubinsky started Savoy but like a few other small independent companies, Savoy was able to work out a deal with the union to begin recording.
They did a few sessions in 1942 and 1943 and by 1944 began producing records with a number of swing era stars including Ben Webster, Lester Young, Hot Lips Page, Pete Brown and Tiny Grimes.
Things at Savoy began to change when Lubinsky hired Teddy Reig as a producer in 1945.
Reig had gotten involved in the music scene in New York at an early age by being a band boy for various leaders. By the early forties he was a regular on 52nd Street and had evolved into somewhat of a street hustler. One of his schemes got him busted and sent away to prison for nine months. He got out in 1943 and headed back to the street where he produced the Trummy Young session for Continental that included Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker.
In 1945 he began to produce records for Savoy. His first few sessions were with established swing stars including Pete Brown, Ike Quebec, Charlie Ventura and Don Byas. At that point he decided to begin recording the young modern jazz musicians that were just coming on to the scene.
His first bebop session was Dexter Gordon on October 30, 1945. His next was Charlie Parker’s first session as a leader that produced the classics Now’s the Time, Billie’s Bounce and Koko.
In 1946 he recorded leader dates with Dexter Gordon, Allen Eager, J.J. Johnson, Sonny Stitt, Kenny Dorham, Fats Navarro, Gil Fuller, Ray Brown and Eddie Lockjaw Davis.
In 1947 he continued to record the artists just mentioned and also added Serge Chaloff, Kenny Hagood, Leo Parker and Tadd Dameron. Also, Charlie Parker returned to New York from California and recorded more classic dates for Savoy.
Although he didn’t record for Savoy as a leader, Bud Powell was the pianist on a number of sessions and they feature some of his finest work.
On the West Coast, Ralph Bass began producing modern jazz musicians for Savoy, most notably Roy Porter’s Big Band. Bass also leased some sessions to Savoy including the Elk’s Auditorium concert that included Dexter Gordon and Wardell Gray.
Reig continued recording modern jazz in 1948 and 49 but he was also recording lots of rhythm and blues during this period. Johnny Otis was handling the R and B dates on the west coast. Hits like Hal Singer’s Cornbread and Paul Williams Hucklebuck convinced Lubinsky to forget bebop and focus more attention on the bigger selling rhythm and blues.
The 1945-49 Bebop dates done for Savoy are extremely important because it was one of the only record labels that documented modern jazz in its infancy.