Zev Feldman, The Jazz Detective

Written by | Articles, News, Vinyl Corner

Producer Zev Feldman is well-known in the jazz world for his expertise in unearthing previously unreleased recordings from iconic musicians in jazz history. A prime example is the Nat King Cole box set, a comprehensive collection of early recordings (1936-1943). He has also been instrumental in releasing series from notable artists such as Bill Evans, Wes Montgomery, Sonny Rollins, and many others.

Zev recently announced his latest project, a new label called “Jazz Detective,” named after his moniker “the Jazz Detective.” This label is part of the Deep Digs Music Group, a collaboration with Spain’s Elemental Music, with whom Feldman has had a longstanding professional relationship. Feldman explained, “Deep Digs Music Group is a new archival record company that embodies my love and care for archival music across various genres. Jazz, being a significant part of our foundation, will be a prominent focus for the newly established Jazz Detective imprint, dedicated to releasing previously unreleased jazz treasures.”

The inaugural releases under this new label were two deluxe limited edition double-LP volumes: “Emerald City Nights: Live at the Penthouse (1963-64)” and “(1965-66),” showcasing previously unreleased performances by master pianist Ahmad Jamal. These vinyl sets were pressed on 180-gram discs transferred from the original tapes and masterfully engineered by the legendary Bernie Grundman. A third two-LP volume dedicated to Penthouse recordings from 1966-68 is set for release on November 24th, coinciding with the Black Friday edition of Record Store Day. This final set of the series was produced by Feldman and overseen by Ahmad Jamal himself shortly before his passing in April 2023. Zev expressed his excitement, saying, “It’s an enormous thrill for me to be working with Mr. Jamal, whom I’ve been listening to my entire life. He’s a true original and beyond category. I couldn’t be more proud of this new endeavor and these releases.”

The recordings from “Emerald City Nights” capture live performances at the intimate Seattle jazz club “The Penthouse,” recorded by local radio host and live broadcast engineer Jim Wilke. Other remarkable live sets from this venue, produced by Feldman and released on Resonance Records, include albums by Wynton Kelly, Wes Montgomery. Sets from Cannonball Adderley, Harold Land, and the duo of Johnny Griffin and Eddie Lockjaw Davis, also recorded at “The Penthouse,” have been released on Reel to Reel recordings. On the Penthouse recordings, Jamal is heard in his classic trio setting, accompanied by bassists Richard Evans and Jamil Nasser and drummer Chuck Lampkin on the 1963-64 shows, and by Nasser and drummers Lampkin, Vernel Fournier, and Frank Gant on the 1965-66 dates.

Zev’s journey into music began during his college years, where he was involved with the school radio station. Music had always been central in his life, and regardless of his future career path—be it a radio DJ, music journalist, or something else—he knew that music would play a significant role. An internship at PolyGram Records during college marked a formative point in his early music industry career, offering valuable insights into how music found its way to the stores. Zev’s experience progressed, eventually leading to a position as the North East regional Sales manager at Rhino Records after the merger of PolyGram and Seagrams MCA Records in 1998. Over the years, Zev’s career focused on cataloging, reissues, and archival and historical releases, culminating in notable collaborations with Resonance Records and producing iconic releases of previously unreleased music from esteemed jazz musicians.

There is no doubt vinyl has regained its status as a premium product for labels, and Zev was an early adopter of this resurgence. He provided insight into what drove this revival, stating, “I think it’s really simple. As much as people want to be able to listen to music anytime, anywhere, they also still have a strong desire to hold something beautiful and informative in their hands. What better feeling is there for a music lover than to hold a record in their hands?” Zev highlighted the importance of Record Store Day in supporting vinyl projects and emphasized the need for collectible elements in vinyl releases, enabling fans to immerse themselves in the legacies of these artists.

Regarding the respect for artists’ legacies and rights in his productions, Zev noted that one of the common challenges when dealing with an artist’s estate is building trust and agreement on terms. Involving estates in the process and utilizing their contributions, whether in interviews, family photos, or other materials, has been beneficial in enhancing the project and maintaining a respectful relationship.

Zev’s new initiative, “Jazz Detective,” has gained prominence with the release of the first two Ahmad Jamal sets. With upcoming releases like the third Ahmad Jamal set and a new album featuring Cal Tjader titled “Catch The Groove,” recorded live at the Penthouse from 1963-1967, Jazz Detective is set to expand its influence and continue its mission of bringing hidden musical gems to the world.

The Cal Tjader release, an extensive package featuring previously unreleased performances, includes detailed notes and contributions from various notable figures, enriching the experience for fans. Zev expressed his enthusiasm, saying, “It’s been a great thrill to be on this journey, bringing these spectacular recordings of Tjader’s performances at the Penthouse to the world. It’s been a project several years in the making. I’ve had the good fortune of working with Charlie Puzzo, Jr., son of Penthouse founder, Charlie Puzzo, Sr., and the original recording engineer and radio host Jim Wilke, to produce this joyful collection of music for release. It’s just wonderful music, a little bittersweet because Cal Tjader is today, truly an under-appreciated jazz giant.”

In conclusion, it’s evident that Zev Feldman’s passion for discovering and sharing musical treasures will continue to enrich the world of jazz, providing access to remarkable music that deserves to be heard and preserving the legacies of some of the greatest jazz musicians in history.

Last modified: May 30, 2024