Archival Music Producer Zev Feldman, the ‘Jazz Detective,’ Takes on New Blue Note Role (EXCLUSIVE)

Don Was and Zev Feldman of
Justin Seltzer

The archival record producer who’s picked up the nickname “the Jazz Detective” is going to be putting his gumshoe skills to work for the genre’s most storied label. Zev Feldman, possibly the most widely admired archival producer working in the jazz field today, has a new gig at Blue Note Records, where he’ll work closely with label president Don Was, Variety can exclusively reveal.

Feldman joins the Universal Music Group label as a consulting producer for historical and archival recordings, working in a catalog development capacity. That doesn’t mean he’s leaving his current job as co-president of Resonance Records, the beloved jazz indie where he’s made a name for himself unearthing lost recordings by the greats of the genre. Resonance’s founder and co-president, George Klabin, has long allowed his partner to produce outside projects for other labels, and Feldman’s new deal with Blue Note will permit him to hold down both jobs.

The beginning of Feldman’s association with the major comes at a propitious time, as Blue Note, co-founded in 1939 by Alfred Lion and Francis Wolff, will celebrate its 80th anniversary this year with an extensive program of releases devoted to the imprint’s distinguished history.

Feldman, who has collaborated on projects with such labels as Impulse! Records, Real Gone Music, France’s Sam/Saga Records and Barcelona’s Elemental Music, says his discussions with Don Was and Blue Note VP Justin Seltzer began last July, on the recommendation of longtime Universal Music Enterprises catalog exec Harry Weinger.

While the Blue Note vaults have been mined extensively over the last 30 years — with efforts largely directed by Michael Cuscuna, who similarly operated his own catalog label Mosaic Records while serving as a consultant — Feldman will focus on excavating hitherto unreleased music by Blue Note artists.

“I have a whole list of projects I’m preparing for them right now,” Feldman says. “We’re just getting started here. I met with Don and Justin just before the break, and I had a list of 21 or 22 different projects. … I wanted to land on my feet running.”

He adds, “We’ve been talking about tapes that I’ve found by artists ranging from [pianist] McCoy Tyner or [saxophonist] Joe Henderson to [trumpeters] Donald Byrd and Lee Morgan. There are some incredible things that are out there. … I want to be the guy to bring them some ideas — a number of boxed sets, a number of special projects, frontline new releases — and identify some things in the catalog that we can be working on.”

Says Was, “Zev’s got impeccable musical taste, a great ear and a radar-like sense of where to look for buried treasure. He’s also got a thorough knowledge of how today’s music business operates. Most importantly, he’s a good guy who puts the artists first and looks after their best interests. This exotic blend makes him a unique and valuable cat to be associated with.”

Feldman says he undertook the situation with Blue Note with the proviso that he could continue working at Resonance. “Mr. Klabin’s been so good,” he says. “He’s OK with me working with them. That says something about our relationship. He gave me my opportunity to produce records, and I’m grateful to him.”

Resonance was recently singled out by Variety as an unofficial mascot label for Record Store Day, thanks to Feldman’s dedication to releasing exclusive, limited vinyl editions for the semi-annual event. For the most recent Black Friday RSD, besides producing several releases for other labels (including a reissue of Bobbie Gentry’s “Ode to Billie Joe” album and newly discovered live sets by Etta Jones and Cannonball Adderley), Feldman assembled a three-LP set of primarily previously unreleased material by saxophonist-flutist Eric Dolphy titled “Musical Prophet.” That Resonance release, like many he’s done for the imprint, took years to put together, after Feldman learned of studio tapes that had been hidden away for more than a half-century.

That limited vinyl edition immediately sold out in stores, but the Dolphy collection is set to be released to a much bigger audience as a three-CD set on Jan. 25. Planned for the launch are live events celebrating Dolphy’s legacy at Largo in L.A. on Jan. 23 and Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York on Jan. 25.

Also due this spring from Resonance under Feldman’s watch are two sets by jazz artists already prominent in the label’s catalog: pianist Bill Evans’ “Evans in England: Live at Ronnie Scott’s,” a two-CD/two-LP release of a previously unissued 1969 club date, and an as-yet-untitled two-CD/two-LP set of ‘50s recordings made in Indianapolis by guitarist Wes Montgomery.

One Feldman archival production will arrive via Universal’s Verve Music Group in April: “Getz at the Gate,” a two-CD/three-LP collection of previously unissued 1961 live performances at New York’s Village Gate by tenor saxophonist Stan Getz.

The first fruits of Feldman’s detective work for Blue Note have yet to be announced, but they’ll dovetail neatly with an extensive 80th anniversary catalog campaign for the label, which kicks off in February with high-end audiophile reissues of titles by Wayne Shorter and Chick Corea, overseen by producer Joe “Tone Poet” Harley.

Blue Note’s recently announced plans for 2019 also call for a new vinyl reissue line curated by Was and longtime Blue Note publicity chief Cem Kurosman; a second edition of the subscription-only “Blue Note Review” boxed set, curated by Was; an exclusive LP series in partnership with the Vinyl Me, Please record club; and branded online offerings via Spotify and Apple Music.