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Ozzie Cadena

(9/26/1924 – 4/9/2008)

Ozzie Cadena

The first time I met Ozzie Cadena he was behind the counter at the little record store he owned in downtown Newark, N.J. After a few minutes I felt like I’d known him for years. Always upbeat, street smart and totally into the music: jazz, jump, swing, gospel-he knew the music. Ozzie grew up on those Newark streets. Like other neighborhoods in the New York area, mine being Brooklyn, in the ’40s and early ’50s it was music all the time. Ozzie had an unerring ear for it. He proved this over and over during his tenure as a producer for Savoy, the top jazz label at that time, and later for Prestige Records. Ozzie did not make producing jazz records rocket science. Ozzie very often would espouse his methodology: “Put good players, or good players from different schools, together, turn on the machine and hear the chemical reaction set in. Who worried if the bass player dropped a note? The feeling was there.” Ozzie was as much at home with gospel as he was with jazz. For Ozzie it was all about feeling. He had his style.

I worked for Prestige after “The Oz” had left the label but his influence was still there. Bob Weinstock, the owner of Prestige, and Ozzie stayed friendly through the years. Weinstock rarely went to the Prestige office in Bergenfield, N.J. He felt his privacy was compromised there. We would meet at his home in Englewood, maybe five miles away, for our monthly meetings. One time, Ozzie met with us and told Weinstock what he was doing wrong, who he should be recording, etc. There were no mincing words with the Oz. Weinstock shrugged it off and the dialog went on for about two hours. At the time it was a meeting of jazz giants. To me, it was interesting in the extreme.

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