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Argo label (jazz division of Chess)


mjzee
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Has anyone written about the Argo label?  Much has been written about Blue Note, and less so about Prestige and Savoy, concerning the producers' philosophies and what sorts of music they liked to record.  Is there any sort of consistent thread that goes through Argo releases, or was it just musicians who were in Chicago?  The James Moody self-titled album was produced by Jack Tracy - did he produce most of Argo's releases, or only some?

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There was SO MUCH terrific music released on Argo -- and Cadet:  

- James Moody.  Ahmad Jamal.  Ramsey Lewis. 

- Kenny Burrell.  Illinois Jacquet.  Al Grey. 

- Art Farmer.  Benny Golson.  The Jazztet. 

- Jack McDuff.  Lou Donaldson.  Shirley Scott. 

- Sonny Stitt.  Bunky Green.  Dorothy Ashby.

 

Plus these outstanding Argo/Cadet "one-offs":

- Paul Gonsalves - Cookin'

- Harold Land - The Peace-Maker  

- Oliver Nelson - Fantabulous

 

Edited by HutchFan
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12 minutes ago, ghost of miles said:

Would be great to have a Classic Argo Jazz Sessions Mosaic or some such.  Who owns the catalogue now?  Ah, I see it's Universal.  The only two Mosaics I can think of off the top of my head with Argo material are the Ahmad Jamal and Jazztet collections.  

I've said it before but I'll say it again: I'd buy a Moody set in a heartbeat.

I think a Kenny Burrell set -- featuring his work as both a leader and sideman -- would be terrific too.  (The sideman stuff would pull in albums by Illinois Jacquet, Hank Jones, Budd Johnson, Milt Buckner, and Jean DuShon.)

 

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22 minutes ago, ghost of miles said:

Would be great to have a Classic Argo Jazz Sessions Mosaic or some such.  Who owns the catalogue now?  Ah, I see it's Universal.  The only two Mosaics I can think of off the top of my head with Argo material are the Ahmad Jamal and Jazztet collections.  

Seems like this would perfectly fit the Mosaic charter.

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Way too much music! The Ahmad Jamal alone was 9 CDs, the Jazztet was 7  CDs (including to albums originally on Mercury). For a label box, way too much 

Moody would be 5 CDs. Burrell - a set including the Verve sessions from the same years would make more sense, but all of these were reissuedin Japan last year.

Ramsey Lewis? Too commercial for Cuscuna, I'm afraid, musically nice, but not as profound as Jamal.

Edited by mikeweil
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Not that I would be familiar with even the majority of the Argo output, but among those I have heard my personal favorite is "Swingin' The Loop" featuring Vito Price "and Company" (Argo LP 631).

And next in line for me would be "Chubby's Back" by Chubby Jackson (Argo LP 614).

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I have a fair amount of Argo. Sonny Stitt at the DJ Lounge is one of my favorites. Sonny recorded a lot for them.

Cadet was a related label but I have little of that. VMP is doing a Cadet box that spans a few genres. 

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17 hours ago, mjzee said:

Is there any sort of consistent thread that goes through Argo releases, or was it just musicians who were in Chicago? 

Not sure if you mean Chicago musicians, or musicians passing thru or which.  I don't think Al Grey was living there, nor LD and they recorded quite a few times.  

I think their approach was simply what was popular or thought popular enough to have a shot at decent sales.  They were happy to nab people like LD when he wasn't contractually obligated to BN because he was, I am sure, a consistent and predictable seller.  

Check out how they promoted the first hit record by the Jazztet - I shared this on a FB page that is private - Rare Jazz Photos.

Killer Joe.jpg

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50 minutes ago, mjzee said:

Was Jack Tracy the main producer for Argo?

For about two years in 1958-59, Dave Usher (a Detroiter) ran Argo for the Chess brothers and was the main jazz producer -- he did Ahmad at the Pershing among others. He'd drive over to Chicago for the week and return to Detroit on the weekend. Dave, who recently died, had earlier co-founded Dee Gee Records in Detroit with Dizzy Gillespie. Dave left Argo when his father got sick and he returned to Detroit to run the family's modest oil reclamation business.  When Dave left, Jack Tracy took over.

The coda to the story is that Usher built his family business into one of the world' most notable oil and hazardous waste cleanup business. He struck gold when his company, Marine Pollution Control, was awarded the contract to clean up the Exxon Valdez disaster. In later years, Dave financed a lot of jazz recordings -- he put out those Dizzy in South America recordings from the state department (which he recorded himself on tour with the band), and he financed Annie Ross' late recordings. (He and Annie had a thing ...)

Dave was a mensch. I miss him.

Edited by Mark Stryker
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