01/19/06

Prestige Founder Bob Weinstock Dies

Bob Weinstock, founder of Prestige Records, died Saturday in Boca Raton, Fla. of complications from diabetes. He was 77.

Weinstock was a lifelong jazz fan. As a teenager, he managed a small record shop, which was frequented by many New York jazz players. In 1949, Weinstock used a family loan to rent rehearsal space in his native New York City. He recruited young jazz musicians to record for him. Barely 20 years old, Weinstock founded New Jazz Records with a recording session with pianist Lennie Tristano. The label quickly turned into Prestige Records.

Some of the earliest Prestige releases included albums by The Modern Jazz Quartet, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Kenny Burrell and Thelonious Monk. Over the years, Stan Getz, Coleman Hawkins and Sonny Rollins all recorded for Weinstock.

Weinstock supervised and produced most of Prestige’s early releases, even though he couldn’t read or write music. He was known for organizing and recording jam sessions and urging musicians to write their own music.

By 1956, after the release of four acclaimed Davis records - Relaxin’, Steamin’, Workin’ and Steamin’ - Prestige was on par with jazz-label giants Columbia and Blue Note.

Prestige’s success resulted in the creation of several subsidiary labels, including Tru-Sound, Moodsville, Bluesville, Swingville and Par.

After 23 years and 1,000 recording sessions, Weinstock sold Prestige and its sister labels to Fantasy Records in 1972. By the age of 43, Weinstock was retired and living in Florida. He came out of retirement in the 1990s, however, to produce several jazz albums for Contemporary Records, a Fantasy subsidiary.

Survivors include a companion, Roberta Ross of Deerfield Beach, Fla.; three sons; and three grandchildren.

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