|Genre||Jazz, blues, folk|
|Country of origin||United States of America|
|Location||New York City|
Riverside Records was a United States record label specializing in jazz. Founded by Orrin Keepnews and Bill Grauer under his firm Bill Grauer Productions, Inc. in 1953, the label was a major presence in the jazz record industry for a decade. Riverside headquarters were located in New York City, at 553 W 51st Street.
Almost all their new jazz recordings were produced by Keepnews, who served as creative head of the label (and several subsidiaries, most notably Jazzland Records), with Grauer directing the company's sales and business operations.
Initially the company was dedicated to reissuing early jazz material licensed from the Chicago-based Paramount Records label and Gennett Records. Reissued artists included Jelly Roll Morton, King Oliver, Ma Rainey and James P. Johnson, but the label began issuing its own contemporary jazz recordings in April 1954, beginning with pianist Randy Weston. In 1955 the Prestige Records contract of Thelonious Monk was bought out and Monk was signed by Riverside, where he remained for the next five years. During the next few years, Cannonball Adderley, Bill Evans, Charlie Byrd, Johnny Griffin and Wes Montgomery made substantial contributions to Riverside's catalog, establishing it as a major jazz label.
The label also offered an extensive folk catalog, including traditional performers like Bascom Lamar Lunsford, Obray Ramsey, and George Pegram and Walter Parham; and folk interpreters like Ewan MacColl, Jean Ritchie, Paul Clayton, Billy Faier, Oscar Brand, Cynthia Gooding and Bob Gibson.
In 1960-61 Riverside produced an acclaimed series of albums featuring jazz and blues veterans such as Jim Robinson, Sweet Emma Barrett and Alberta Hunter. The objective was to record musicians before their artistry was lost forever. Many were no longer active and their union memberships had expired. Recognizing the importance of the project, the American Federation of Musicians suspended the rules. This "Living Legends" series was initially recorded in New Orleans. Later sessions were recorded in Chicago. The sessions took place at Societé des Jeunes Amis Hall, built in the 1800s. According to the producer, Chris Albertson, the hall was a "Creole fraternal headquarters and it proved to have every advantage over a studio; apart from its live sound, it gave the performers familiar surroundings... The hall's acoustical sound was exactly what I wanted to recapture: the same kind of ambience that lent such character to Bill Russell’s 1940’s American Music recordings from San Jacinto Hall." One of the musicians invited to participate was Louis Cottrell, Jr. Cottrell organized a trio comprising McNeal Breaux, Alcide "Slow Drag" Pavageau with Emmanuel Sayles sitting in playing guitar and banjo. The band was so well received that they continued to play together. The music on this album has been described as "more polite and subtle than the city's 'downtown' music... an intimate, low-key delight."  Cottrell's playing has also been well received:
|“||[In 1961] Cottrell recorded a masterwork, entitled New Orleans: The Living Legends, which was reissued in 1994. To hear it is to conjure up the elegance of a bygone era by a man who did much to create it. From the opening note on "Bourbon Street Parade," to the charming "Three Little Words," to the reverent "What a Friend We Have in Jesus," the listener is hearing the living history of jazz.||”|
Under the subsidiary label Riverside Wonderland, the company also produced a series of children's albums, including two Alec Templeton albums, an album of Martyn Green reading from the Arabian Nights, a Christmas fantasy, Grandpa Magic's Toyshop starring Ed Wynn, Edith Evans narrating the story of the first Christmas, and a six-record album set of the complete Alice in Wonderland, narrated by Cyril Ritchard, a rarity in the LP era when books were seldom recorded complete. An album of excerpts from the book was also issued, and the six records in the complete set were also issued as separate volumes.
Grauer died, following a sudden heart attack, in December 1963, and the company went bankrupt not long after. The catalogue was taken over by ABC Records, which reissued some of it, but virtually all Riverside masters were acquired by Fantasy Records in 1972. The majority of this material was subsequently reissued on CD as part of the owners' Original Jazz Classics series and remains available today from current Fantasy catalogue owner Concord Records. Many of the albums, however, have never been reissued on CD. Others are out of print and hard to find.
- "Concord Music Group". Concord Music Group. 2012-01-03. Retrieved 2012-09-28.
- liner notes to The Little Giant
- Albertson, Chris (2009-11-21). "New Orleans, 1961". Stomp Off in C. Retrieved 2010-05-09.
- "New Orleans: The Living Legends - Bourbon Street". Concord Music Group. 1994-05-13. Retrieved 2010-05-04.
- Rose of Sharon Witmer (2010). "Biography of Louis Cottrell, Jr.". Allmusic. All Music Guide. Retrieved 2010-05-09.
- "Riverside Records Catalog: 1400 series - album index". Jazzdisco.org. Retrieved 2012-09-28.
- Riverside Records Discography Project Page
- Riverside Records History at Concord Music Group
- "A Life In Jazz" feature on Orrin Keepnews by Columbia College Today.