Bill Graure & Orrin Keepnews
Here is a brief introduction to the Riverside Records label and its establishment by Bill Grauer, Jr. and Orrin Keepnews.
Grauer succeeded his father as publisher of the magazine, The Record Changer, after World War II. He was an avid record collector, and became acquainted with and hired Keepnews as editor-in-chief. Keepnews also was an enthusiastic jazz fan whose ambition was to be a writer. The teaming of Grauer and Keepnews improved the quality of the magazine and also led to the production of jazz records. The recording side of their business became so successful that Grauer sold the magazine in 1956. At that time, its list of writers was very prestigious and included Martin Williams, Kenneth S. Goldstein, George Avakian, Rudi Blesh, Peter Drew, Nesuhi Ertigan, Ross Russell, Charles Edward Smith, and Paul Bacon. Paul Bacon was not only a reviewer but also the main designer of the highly artistic Riverside album covers.
In early 1950, Keepnews had disclosed the famous bootleg case at RCA Victor and won the trust of that label. He began producing the label's unreleased recordings for its subsidiary, Label “X,” in 1951. Grauer and Keepnews bought out the catalogues from Paramount in 1952 and Gennett in 1953 and started their own 10” LP Archive Series. This was the beginning of Riverside Records. The label grew steadily by releasing recordings from Circle, Empirical, and Solo Art on a licensing basis. By the end of 1955, the company became one of the more influential jazz labels with its Contemporary 10”, Archive 12”, Contemporary 12”, and Folklore Series.
One of the milestones for the label was to give a recording opportunity to Thelonious Monk who was uncomfortable with his relations with the Prestige label. The artistic and business success of Monk's albums drew attention and support from modern jazz artists and jazz fans. This helped to establish Riverside as one of the major modern jazz labels.
One of Keepnews' major achievements as and A&R man was to discover and record talented but unknown young musicians like Bill Evans, Cannonball Adderley, Wes Montgomery, and others. They recorded many of the masterpiece albums in modern jazz history on Riverside and became jazz giants and big stars.
Bill & Jane Grauer, Orrin Keepnews, Paul Bacon and Harry Crawford.
The 1st.Office:125 La Salle Street New York
The 2nd.Office:418 West 49th Street New Yorkreet New York
The 3rd.Office:553 West 51st Street New York
The 4th.Office:235 West 46th Street New York
A Pictorial History of Jazz
A Pictorial History of Jazz (Record Changer: The Summer Issue 1951)
Changer Publication Inc. 125 La Salle St. New York 27, N. Y.
A Pictorial History of Jazz (October 1955)
Crown Publisher Inc. 419 Fourth Avenue New York City 16, N. Y.
A Pictorial History of Jazz (1966)
The Hamlyn Publishing Group Limited. Hamlyn House, Feltham, Middlesex, England.