|Parent company||Concord Music Group|
|Country of origin||United States|
|Location||New York City|
Prestige Records was a jazz record label founded in 1949 by Bob Weinstock. The company recorded hundreds of albums by many of the leading jazz musicians of the day, sometimes issuing them under the names of several subsidiaries. In 1971, the company was sold to Fantasy, which was later absorbed by Concord.
Weinstock opened a record store for collectors in 1948 while still a teenager. The store was adjacent to the Metropole Jazz Club in New York City. Jazz musicians hung out and rehearsed at the club, and then moved upstairs adjacent to Weinstock's store. Weinstock got the idea to record these jazz stars by offering them cash payments.
Prestige office was located at 446 West 50th Street, New York City. The label's name was initially New Jazz, but changed to Prestige Records the following year. Its catalog contains a significant number of jazz classics, including renowned works by Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Thelonious Monk and many others. Weinstock stated a desire for an authentic, spontaneous sound. To this effect, Prestige Records, unlike Blue Note Records, would not pay musicians for rehearsals and discouraged repeated takes. Another Weinstock practice, of rewinding the tapes after "bad" takes, has resulted in very few alternate takes surfacing from the classic Prestige years. Whether Weinstock's motives for such practices were artistic or economic, the result was a relatively undemanding, casual environment for musicians that resulted in spontaneity, both good and bad. Sometimes the upfront cash and low demand environment attracted musicians who were not in a condition to record. Prestige recordings chronicle low points in the careers of some musicians during the early 1950s heroin epidemic, as well as some of the same musicians' creative peaks.
For most of the 1950s and 1960s, the recording engineer Rudy Van Gelder was responsible for recording the company's releases and Ira Gitler occasionally fulfilled the role of producer in the early 1950s. Around 1958, Prestige began to diversify, reviving the New Jazz name, usually for recordings by emerging musicians, and introduced the Swingsville and Moodsville lines, though these were relatively short-lived, many albums being re-released later in the 1960s on Prestige itself. Bluesville and Folklore were also subsidiary labels of Prestige releasing blues and folk orientated LPs respectively.
During this period, Weinstock ceased supervising recording sessions directly, employing Chris Albertson, Ozzie Cadena, Esmond Edwards, Don Schlitten, and producer/music supervisor Bob Porter, among others, to fulfil this function. Musicians recording for the label at this time included Jaki Byard and Booker Ervin, while Prestige remained commercially viable by recording a number of soul jazz artists like Charles Earland. In the mid-sixties the company's headquarters were located at 203 South Washington Avenue in Bergenfield, New Jersey,
Bob Weinstock has been criticized over the years for allegedly exploitive business practices. Jackie McLean in A.B. Spellman's Four Lives in the Bebop Business (1966) is particularly outspoken. Miles Davis, in his autobiography, spoke of the distaste Thelonious Monk had for Weinstock's practices, and mentioned unflattering names such as "the plantation" and "the junkie label" that gained currency among musicians when referring to Prestige. Davis' own feelings were mixed. He resented Weinstock's economic exploitation, but appreciated the chance Weinstock gave him when his career was at its low point.
The company was sold to Fantasy Records in 1971, and original releases on the label formed a significant proportion of their Original Jazz Classics line. Fantasy was purchased by Concord Records in 2005.