Hommage á Nesuhi

In 1955 Nesuhi Ertegun joined his brother, Ahmet, and producer Jerry Wexler at Atlantic Records to form one of the greatest triumvirates the music business has ever seen. Ahmet and Wexler were already known for their R&B successes; Nesuhi was brought on to give jazz a real foothold at the label. HOMMAGE A NESUHI (Rhino Handmade), a sprawling five-CD set, celebrates the one-of-a-kind roster that Nesuhi oversaw: talents like Charles Mingus, John Coltrane, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, and of course, Fort Worth’s Ornette Coleman, whose thrilling Atlantic recordings are legendary (though, sadly, criminally underrepresented here). Other Texans dot the landscape as well: saxophonist David “Fathead” Newman, clarinetist and composer Jimmy Giuffre (curiously featured only as a sideman), screaming saxophonist King Curtis, and boisterous Mingus tenor Booker Ervin. Famed producer Joel Dorn, who pestered Nesuhi for a job and eventually took over his duties, lovingly helped assemble this set before passing away last year (his mentor died in 1989). Dorn’s personality-filled liner notes are a major highlight, and despite some puzzling omissions, the music is stunning (Coltrane’s “Giant Steps,” Coleman’s “Ramblin’,” Ray Charles’s “Drown in My Own Tears”). Nesuhi had a gift for speaking the artists’ language. They clearly responded in kind.

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