IMPULSE! 1961-1974 BOX SET.

IMPULSE! 1961-1974 BOX SET.

In 1955, the American Broadcasting Company decided the time was right to diversify into the record business. So on June 14th 1955 as Am-Par Record Corporation was incorporated. Samuel H. Clark became the Am-Par Record Corporation’s first president. He oversaw the birth of what would become one of the biggest record companies in America.

Soon, the nascent label was producing and releasing records, licensing masters from independent record producers and purchasing records that had been regionally. These were then distributed nationwide by Am-Par Record Corporation. Some of the singles and albums proved popular and indeed profitable for the new label. 

Over the next five years, the Am-Par Record Corporation continued to expand. New artists joined their roster, as success began to come the Am-Par Record Corporation’s way. Soon, the label was looking at expanding. One genre they were particularly interested in, was jazz.

So in 1960, Am-Par Record Corporation decided to form their own jazz label. This they decided to call Impulse! Arranger and producer Creed Taylor was hired and became the nascent label’s A&R manager. 

One of the earliest signings made by Creed Taylor was Ray Charles. Another of Impulse!’s early signings was Oliver Nelson. He released his post bop album The Blues and the Abstract Truth in February 1961. It sported Impulse!’s distinctive black, orange, and white livery. A month later, in March 1961, Ray Charles released His Genius + Soul = Jazz was released in March 1961, and gave the label it’s first successful album. The decision to appoint Creed Taylor as Impulse!’s A&R man had paid off. 

Despite the success of Ray Charles’ His Genius + Soul = Jazz Creed Taylor decided to leave Impulse! in the summer of 1961. He had been approached to run Verve Records. Replacing Creed Taylor was the man who would be synonymous with Impulse!, Bob Thiele.

He would play a huge role in the rise and rise of Impulse! Bob Thiele ran Impulse! between 1961 and 1968. During that period, he produced many groundbreaking jazz albums. This includes many that feature in the Impulse 1961-1974 box set. It features twenty-five CDs including Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers, Charles Mingus, McCoy Tyner, Chico Hamilton Quintet, Earl Hines, Keith Jarrett, John Coltrane Quartet, Shelly Manne, Charlie Haden and Tom Scott. There’s everything from big bands to trios, quartets and soloists. Similarly, a variety of sub-genres of jazz are represented on the Impulse 1961-1974 box set. It was recently released by Decca and celebrates the first thirteen years of the Impulse! story.  

With Bob Thiele now in charge of Impulse!, he began to expand the label. He had two very different roles, A&R and production. Somehow, he was to juggle the two roles. This he managed to do successfully. Soon, Bob Thiele was adding some of the biggest names in jazz to Impulse!’s roster. Then he would produce their albums for Impulse!

Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers-Jazz Messengers!!!!!

The first album Bob Theile produced at Impulse was Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers’ album Jazz Messengers!!!!! This was a landmark recording, as it was the first time the group had recorded as a sextet.

The result was Jazz Messengers!!!!!, an impressive album of hard bop. Critics hailed Jazz Messengers!!!!! as one of Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers best albums of recent years. This was the perfect way for Bob Thiele to open his account at Impulse!

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Max Roach-Percussion Bitter Sweet.

Not long after producing Jazz Messengers!!!!!, Bob Thiele returned to the studio to produce Max Roach’s album Percussion Bitter Sweet. It was recorded over five days where Max Roach and his band fused Cuban rhythms with post bop and hard bop on what was a emotionally charged album with political themes. Playing a starring role was a trumpeter Booker Little.

Sadly, two months after the recording of Percussion Bitter Sweet, Booker Little passed away. He never lived to see Max Roach’s ambitious, genre-melting album released to critical acclaim in late 1961. This was the second successful album Bob Thiele had produced since his arrival at Impulse! S

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The Gil Evans Orchestra-Into The Hot.

As 1962 dawned, Impulse! were preparing to release Into The Hot, the album The Gil Evans Orchestra had recorded in September and October 1961. This time, though, the album had been produced by Creed Taylor. He was responsible for producing an album tha featured the great and good of New York jazz.

The Gil Evans Orchestra featured some of the top New York jazz musicians. They featured on three of the tracks, while Cecil Taylor’s band featured on the other three tracks. Sometimes they played as a quintet, other times as a septet. 

When Into The Hot was released in 1962, it found favour with critics. They had been won over The Gil Evans Orchestra switched between bop and a much more contemporary jazz sound on Into The Hot. However, it’s not the only orchestra album in the Impulse! 1961-1974 box set.

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Quincey Jones and His Orchestra-The Quintessence.

While many artists spent a decade at Impulse!, Quincey Jones only released the one album for the label. This was Quincey Jones and His Orchestra’s 1962 album The Quintessence. It had been recorded in November and December 1962 and featured an offshoot of the band that were used on Free and Easy Broadway show. This includes some familiar faces, including Freddie Hubbard, Clark Terry, Oliver Nelson and Thad Jones. 

Given the quality of the personnel that played on The Quintessence, and that it was produced by Bob Thiele, it was no surprise that album was well received by critics on its release in February 1962. They were impressed by what was an album of big band music and hard bop. This was interesting combination. However, one wonders if The Quintessence is worthy of its place in the Impulse! 1961-1974 box set? Surely, there are more worthy contenders?

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Benny Carter and His Orchestra-Further Definitions.

When Benny Carter recorded Further Definitions in late 1961, was  a veteran of jazz. He had been around since the twenties. However, by 1961 Benny Carter and His Orchestra had an all-star lineup. They got the chance to showcases their considerable talents on Further Definitions.

It’s a reminder of an another music age, Benny Carter and His Orchestra switch as big band music and swing. Despite seeming like a relic from jazz’s past, Further Definitions was well received upon its release in April 1962. It’s now regarded as a minor genre classic and a reminder of a jazz legend.

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Shelly Manne-2,3,4.

Another of the artists Bob Thiele recruited to Impulse! was Shelly Manne, who had helped popularise West Coast jazz. However, Shelly Manne’s Impulse! debut was quite different to his previous albums.

Joining Shelly Manne were Coleman Hawkins and Thad Jones. They play their part on album where there’s a duets, two trio recordings and three performed by a quartet. That was how the title 2,3,4, came about. What was also unusual was that on  Take A Train and Cherokee, the band played at two time signatures consecutively. Indeed, on Cherokee Shelly Manne plays at double time. The result was an album that surprised critics.

When 2,3,4, was released in August 1962, it was hailed as an ambitious album that was full of subtleties and surprises. With its move towards hard bop, from the cool school, this should’ve been a new chapter in the Shelly Manne story. Alas, he only released the one album for Impulse!

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Roy Haynes Quartet-Out Of The Afternoon.

For too long, Roy Haynes has been one of most underrated jazz drummers. That is despite playing on countless albums. Recently, though, there’s been a resurgence in interest in his music. One of his oft-overlooked recording is Out Of The Afternoon, which the Roy Haynes Quartet recorded for Impulse! in 1962.

 Out Of The Afternoon, which features Roland Kirk on tenor saxophone, was an ambitious and indeed, adventurous album where the Roy Haynes Quartet switched between bop and hard bop. When the Bob Thiele produced Out Of The Afternoon was released in August 1962, it was too critical acclaim. That is no surprise, as Out Of The Afternoon showcases a musical pioneer as he pushes musical boundaries to their limit.

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Duke Ellington Meets Coleman Hawkins.

In May of 1962, Bob Thiele was privileged to produce a session that featured two legendary jazzmen, Duke Ellington and Coleman Hawkins. He had first met Duke Ellington twenty years previously, but had never recorded with him. Somewhat belatedly, Duke Ellington who was sixty-three, and fifty-nine year old Coleman Hawkins recorded Duke Ellington Meets Coleman Hawkins in August 1962.

Despite having never played together, the two men had recorded a classic album of swing. It was released in February 1963, and nowadays, Duke Ellington Meets Coleman Hawkins is now regarded as one of the finest albums either man recorded. It’s also regarded as one of the great jazz albums of the sixties. That’s reason enough to include Duke Ellington Meets Coleman Hawkins in the Impulse! 1961-1974 box set.

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Freddie Hubbard-The Artistry Of Freddie Hubbard.

By 1963 twenty-four year old, Freddie Hubbard was on a hot streak. He had released two critically acclaimed albums for Blue Note during 1962, Hub-Tones and Ready For Freddie. Bob Thiele spotting the potential in Freddie Hubbard, signed him to Impulse! It had already established a reputation as a label that released ambitious and innovative music. What better place for Freddie Hubbard.

With Bob Thiele taking charge of production, Freddie Hubbard headed in Van Gelder Studio, on 2nd July 1962 to record his fifth album and Impulse! debut album. This was the aptly titled The Artistry Of Freddie Hubbard. 

When it was released in February 1963, critics marvelled as rumpeter Freddie Hubbard delivered a musical masterclass on this album of hard bop. One of the highlights was a ten minute reinvention of the standard Summertime. It was a tantalising taste of what Freddie Hubbard was capable of.

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Chico Hamilton-Passin’ Thru.

By September 1962, drummer Chico Hamilton was no stranger to the recording studio. His recording career began in 1955, Since then, he had released seventeen albums. However, the album Chico Hamilton was about to record, Passin’ Thru, would be his Impulse! debut.

Producing Passin’ Thru with Bob Thiele. He watched as Chico Hamilton’s all-star band worked their way though six tracks at Rudy Van Gelder Studio. Passin’ Thru started off as a hard bop album, but sometimes veered towards avant-garde. This was an ambitious and innovative recording.

Critics realised this when Passin’ Thru was released in March 1963. It was released to widespread critical acclaim and hailed as a groundbreaking release. Chico Hamilton has released one of  the most ambitious and innovative albums of his career, Passin’ Thru.

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John Coltrane-Ballads.

John Coltrane had consistently released groundbreaking albums, including Blue Train, Giant Steps, My Favourite Things and Ole! Olé Coltrane. However, over a series of sessions that took place between December 1961 and November 1962, John Coltrane’s quartet recorded Ballads. They took an unusual approach to recording the album.

The quartet had never played the songs before setting foot in true studio. Instead, they spent roughly thirty minutes rehearsing each song, before recording them each in one take. That was apart from All Or Nothing At All.

Despite this unusual approach to recording Ballads, where the quartet switch between the cool school and modal jazz proved a huge success. Ballads was released in February 1963, to critical acclaim. Once again, John Coltrane had recorded another classic album. It’s another welcome inclusion to Impulse! 1961-1974.

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Sonny Stitt and Paul Gonsalves-Salt and Pepper.

On September the 5th 1963, tenor saxophonists Sonny Stitt and Paul Gonsalves headed to the Van Gelder Studio. With their band, they recorded five tracks, including Perdido and Stardust. These tracks would become Salt and Pepper.

Ten months later, Sonny Stitt and Paul Gonsalves’ album of post bop was released in July 1963. Salt and Pepper was well received by the critics. However, one track stood out; the cover of Stardust. Ironically, Sonny Stitt switches to alto sax on Stardust and plays a starring role on this beautiful track. Sadly, there was no followup to Salt and Pepper, which is an underrated album of post bop.

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Charles Mingus-Mingus, Mingus, Mingus, Mingus, Mingus.

Although many people won’t recognise the titles on Mingus, Mingus, Mingus, Mingus, Mingus, it’s essentially a greatest hits album. What Charles Mingus did, was take some of best known songs and give them a new title. The only new track is Celia. It was recorded during a two sessions that took place in January and September 1963. 

Mingus, Mingus, Mingus, Mingus, Mingus was released in 1964. It was hailed by critics as an essential collection of Charles Mingus’ finest moments during his post bop era.

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McCoy Tyner-Today and Tomorrow.

McCoy Tyner’s career began at Impulse! in 1962, when he released his debut album Inception. Two years later, in October 1964, McCoy Tyner was about to release his fourth album Today and Tomorrow. 

It had been recorded between June 1963 and February 1964. Unlike previous albums, Today and Tomorrow is much more eclectic as McCoy Tyner switched between post bop and modal jazz. This won over critics, who hailed Today and Tomorrow as one of the finest moments of his nascent career.

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Oliver Nelson-More Blues And The Abstract Truth.

On the 10th and 11th November 1964, Oliver Nelson began recording More Blues And The Abstract Truth. This was the much-anticipated followup to The Blues And The Abstract Truth. It had been released to critical acclaim in 1961. Three years later, and arranger, bandleader, composer and conductor Oliver Nelson decided the time had come to record the followup to what had been one of his finest hours.

This time, Oliver Nelson was content to arrange and conduct More Blues And The Abstract Truth. Meanwhile, Bob Thiele produced the album. It featured a truly talented band, who pull out all the stops on what was a fitting followup to The Blues And The Abstract Truth.

More Blues And The Abstract Truth was released in February 1965. Critical acclaim accompanied an album where post bop and a much more contemporary jazz sound shine though. It’s an accomplished album, which oozes quality. However, the album’s highlight is Midnight Blue, which features a masterclass from saxophonist Ben Webster. This is one eight reasons why More Blues And The Abstract Truth deserves its place in the Impulse! 1961-1974 box set.

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Shirley Scott-Queen Of The Organ.

By December, 1964, Philly born Shirley Scott was just thirty. However, she had established a reputation as one of the finest Hammond organ players. She was a prolific artist, had recorded over thirty albums by 1964. The album she would record at the Front Room, Newark, New Jersey, was Queen Of The Organ.

Joining her was tenor saxophonist Stanley Turrentine. He and Shirley Scott had married in 1960. Since then, the pair had formed a formidable partnership. They played on each other’s albums, and often were hired to play on albums by the great and good of jazz. However, Queen Of The Organ was another chance for Shirley Scott’s to shine.

One listen to Queen Of The Organ and critics realised this was no exaggeration. It was released in August 1965, to critical acclaim. Not only was Shirley Scott one of finest Hammond organ players, but one of the finest practitioners of the soul jazz. That would continue to be the case, and nowadays, Shirley Scott is remembered as the Queen Of The Organ.

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Earl Hines-Once Upon A Time.

When Earl Hines began work on Once Upon A Time on the 10th and 11th of January 1966, he was sixty-four. Despite approaching veteran status, he hadn’t lost his touch. With many members of Duke Ellington’s Orchestra, accompanying him he leads them through a genre-melting album.

Earl Hines was content to play a supporting role. He stays in the background as this hugely talented band switch between swing and boogie. Sometimes, they’re transformed into a big band and  produce an impressive and memorable sound. When Once Upon A Time. was released in July 1966, it  won over critics. That’s despite being  very different to the jazz that was being produced around this time. Instead, Once Upon A Time was a memorable reminder of jazz’s past. 

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Sonny Rollins and Oliver Nelson-Alfie.

When Sonny Rollins was asked to provide the soundtrack for Alfie, he brought Oliver Nelson onboard as arranger. This seemed like an unlikely partnership. However, when work began in January 1966, it soon became apparent that it was a partnership that was working. 

By the time the soundtrack to Alfie was complete, Sonny Rollins and Oliver Nelson had achieved something that hardly ever happened. The soundtrack to Alfie worked as a recording in its own right. That hardly happens with soundtrack albums. However, Alfie was no ordinary soundtrack. It was an accomplished album of hard bop and post bop. When the Bob Thiele produced Alfie was released in October 1966, critics hailed the album one of the finest jazz soundtrack albums of recent years.

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Stanley Turrentine-Let It Go.

Stanley Turrentine was, without doubt, one of the finest saxophonists of his generation. His career began in 1960, when he released Look Out on Blue Note. Seven years later, and Stanley Turrentine was about to record his debut album for Impulse! 

This came about after Stanley Turrentine played on his wife Shirley Scott’s 1965 album Queen Of The Organ. A years later, in April 1966, Stanley Turrentine was about to record an album of cover versions and new songs. They became Let It Go.

Ten month later, Let It Go was released to critical acclaim in February 1967. By then, Stanley Turrentine was one of the finest practitioners of the soul jazz sound. That’s apparent on Let It Go, which was the latest in a series of successful albums Stanley Turrentine released during the mid to late sixties.

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Dizzy Gillespie-Swing Low, Sweet Cadillac.

It’s not just studio albums that feature in the Impulse! 1961-1974 box set. Dizzy Gillespie’s live album Swing Low, Sweet Cadillac has been included. This may be a controversial inclusion, as live albums can be hit or miss affairs. There’s always the exception to the rule.

Swing Low, Sweet Cadillac was recorded at Memory Lane, Los Angeles on the 25th and 26th of May 1967. Five tracks from the two nights were chosen and became Swing Low, Sweet Cadillac. 

They find Dizzy Gillespie’s music evolving to ensure it stays relevant. He switches between and sometimes, combines bop and Latin music. The highlight of the set is Kush, a near sixteen minute epic. Alas, when Swing Low, Sweet Cadillac was released in September 1967, the reviews of the album were mxied. Despite that, that the album sold reasonably well. Nowadays, Swing Low, Sweet Cadillac is regarded as something of a curiosity in Dizzy Gillespie’s back-catalogue. This makes Swing Low, Sweet Cadillac a strange inclusion in the Impulse! 1961-1974 box set. There are many more albums more worthy of inclusion.

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Tom Scott-Rural Still Life.

In early 1968, nineteen year old jazz saxophonist Tom Scott was about to record his sophomore album Rural Still Life. Bob Thiele took charge of production as Tom Scott lead a quartet in what was an early attempt at fusion. It was still in its infancy, and Tom Scott was determined to pioneer this new sound.

Rural Still Life was released in November 1968, but wasn’t well received by critics. The musical genres didn’t combine seamlessly as they would in later fusion albums. As a result, Rural Still Life came across as a clumsy attempt at fusion. This makes the inclusion of Rural Still Life seem debatable. However, it’s an interesting musical artefact as fusion takes shape Fusion would eventually ride to rescue of jazz, and save it from irrelevance and obscurity.

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Charlie Haden-Liberation Music Orchestra.

Although bassist Charlie Haden was a seasoned musician, he had yet to release a solo album. Many had moving from sideman to bandleader a step to far. Not Charlie Haden. His debut album  Liberation Music Orchestra would become a genre classic.

Charlie Haden recorded Liberation Music Orchestra in Los Angles with producer Bob Thiele. He watched on as Charlie Haden and his band recorded an ambitious and innovative free jazz classic. Alas, by the time Liberation Music Orchestra was released, Bob Thiele had left Impulse!

After eight years, where he transformed Impulse! into one of jazz’s premier labels, Bob Thiele severed his ties with Impulse! He had grown disenchanted with life at Impulse! To make matter worse, an irate sales manager entered the studio when Bob Thiele was recording with Louis Armstrong. The sales manager didn’t like What A Wonderful World, and thought Louis Armstrong should record a more traditional jazz song. As a result, ABC failed to promote What A Wonderful World. Meanwhile, the sing;e was a huge hit in Britain. For Bob Thiele, this was the final straw. He left Impulse! and founded his own label, Flying Dutchman Productions.

By the time Liberation Music Orchestra was released in January 1970, Flying Dutchman Productions was releasing groundbreaking albums. This included album like Liberation Music Orchestra. Although it was well received by critics, it failed to find an audience. As a result, Charlie Haden left Impulse! shortly after its release. However, nowadays,Liberation Music Orchestra is a free jazz classic.

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Alice Coltrane-Journey In Satchidananda.

After the death of her husband John Coltrane, harpist Alice Coltrane threw herself into her music. By February 1971, she was about to release her fourth album Journey In Satchidananda. 

It had been recorded between July and November 1970. Most of the music on Journey In Satchidanandahad had been recorded in Alice Coltrane’s home studio during November 1970. That was apart from Isis And Osiris a near twelve minute epic. Just like the rest of the album, Alice Coltrane was accompanied by a multitalented band on Journey In Satchidanandahad. This included saxophonist Pharoah Sanders who had been part of John Coltrane’s band. He added his legendary and inimitable sheets of sound.

They played their part in what was a groundbreaking, genre-melting album. Avant-garde jazz was combined with post bop and modal jazz on Journey In Satchidananda.. It was an ambitious album, and one that found favour with the critics on its release in February 1971. Nowadays, Journey In Satchidananda is regarded as one Alice Coltrane’s finest albums, and a reminder of a true musical pioneer.

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Gato Barbieri-Chapter One: Latin America.

Gato Barbieri had signed to Bob Thiele’s Flying Dutchman Productions in 1970, and later that year, released his sophomore album The Third World. This was the first of a quartet of albums Gato Barbieri released on Flying Dutchman Productions. However, in 1973, Gato Barbieri left Flying Dutchman Productions and signed to Impulse!, the label that Bob Thiele left four years earlier.

During April of 1973, Gato Barbieri recorded what would become Chapter One: Latin America. Most of the album was recorded in Buenos Aires, in Argentina. The exception was To Be Continued, which was recorded in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. With the album complete, it was delivered to Impulse!

Six months later, Chapter One: Latin America was released in October 1973. Critical acclaim accompanied what was an ambitious album of Latin jazz. Sadly, Chapter One: Latin America wasn’t a commercial success and since then, has been a hidden gem in Impulse!’s back-catalogue. Its inclusion on the Impulse! 1961-1974 is to be welcomed.

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Keith Jarrett-Death and The Flower.

The twenty-fifth and final album in the Impulse! 1961-1974 box set is Keith Jarrett’s fourth Death and The Flower. It was recorded on between the 9th and 10th of October 1974 at  Generation Sound Studios, in New York. 

Keith Jarrett lead a five piece band that featured bassist Charlie Haden. They recorded a trio Keith Jarrett compositions. This included Death and The Flowers, a twenty-three minute atmospheric epic where free jazz meets avant-garde. It opens the album and sets the bar high. However, Keith Jarrett never lets his standards drop on what’s a truly captivating and beautiful album. Alas, when Death and The Flower was released in February 1975, the reviews were mixed and the album failed to find the audience it deserved. Since then, Death and The Flower has been an oft-overlooked hidden gem. Thankfully, it makes a welcome return on the Impulse! 1961-1974 box set.

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The Impulse! 1961-1974 is no ordinary box set. Instead, it’s a mammoth twenty-five disc box set. It features some giants of jazz, including Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers, Charles Mingus, McCoy Tyner, Chico Hamilton Quintet, Earl Hines, Keith Jarrett, John Coltrane Quartet, Shelly Manne and Charlie Haden. There’s everything from big bands to trios, quartets, soloists, soundtracks and even a live album. Similarly, a variety of sub-genres of jazz are represented on the Impulse 1961-1974 box set, which was recently released buy Decca.

Everything from avant-garde to bop to the cool school, free jazz, fusion, hard bop, Latin and post bop makes an appearance on the Impulse! 1961-1974 box set. They’re the perfect introduction to one of jazz’s great labels, Impulse! It’s up there with Atlantic Records, Blue Note, Prestige and Verve Records, 

That’s no surprise. Many of the giants of jazz spent time signed to Impulse! They seem to have been afforded creative freedom. There was nobody trying to tell artists what direction their music should head in. While this may not have resiled in music that was hugely successful commercially, much of the music Impulse! released was innovative, inventive and influential. Especially during the period Bob Thiele was at the hem of Impulse!

Nowadays, Bob Thiele’s name is synonymous with Impulse! He was at at the helm between 1961 and 1969. That was when Impulse! released some of its most important and influential music. Alas, when Bob Thiele left Impulse!, his replacement was thirty-five year old Ed Michel. 

Suddenly, commentators wondered whether Impulse! would no longer the same label? Still, Impulse! continued to release important, innovative, inventive and influential. However, not as regularly as it once had. Some of the albums were hit or miss affairs. Impulse! continued to release albums regularly, but no longer was the label consistently releasing classic albums. They were in short supply. 

Still, many of the artists signed to Impulse! after Bob Thiele’s departure were pioneers. They continued to released ambitious and groundbreaking music. Some of that music features in the Impulse! 1961-1974 box set. However, there’s much more that that could’ve featured in the Impulse! 1961-1974 box set. It’s a similar case with the music released between 1961 and 1969, when Bob Thiele was at Impulse!’s helm. So much so, that there’s enough for at least a second box set.

It’s been suggested that even a fifty disc box set wouldn’t do justice to the Impulse! back-catalogue. That is certainly the case. There’s enough for at least three twenty-five disc box sets. This would come close to doing justice to Impulse!’s illustrious back-catalogue. Meanwhile, the Impulse! 1961-1974 box set is the perfect introduction to one of jazz’s great labels, which was home to many of the giants and pioneers of jazz.

IMPULSE 1961-1974.

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