Orrin Keepnews with Thelonious Monk and “The Jazz Baroness,” Pannonica de Koenigswarter
“It was on-the-job training. Monk was not about to show any mercy. He had his standards. I probably learned as much about living from him as I did about music. This was a man whose music was initially ridiculed by people who damn well should’ve known better, a man who stayed true to himself. I learned how to conduct one’s life, what to insist on for yourself and of yourself.”
– Orrin Keepnews, on what he learned from his first working experience with Monk
I awoke to the very sad news that a prominent figure in the history of jazz music has died. Orrin Keepnews, whose work as co-founder of Riverside Records forever connected him to the lives and spirits of Bill Evans, Thelonious Monk, Cannonball Adderley, and so many other great jazz musicians of mid-century America, died in California at the age of 91 (a day shy of his 92nd birthday).
Keepnews was a transcendent figure in jazz music, excelling as a journalist, entrepreneur, and producer. The recordings he produced were among the very first to seed my lifelong passion for the music, and his 1970’s Sunday evening radio show on San Francisco’s KSAN introduced me to the musical brilliance and quality of character of the artists he worked with. The liner notes he contributed on many of his label’s greatest recordings were among the best ever written – one of which, The Thelonious Monk Orchestra at Town Hall, was recently featured in a Liner Notes segment.
There are several excellent remembrances available on line this morning, among them:
The Rolling Stone obiturary, by Daniel Kreps
The LA Times obituary, by Don Heckman
Keepnews’ Wikipedia page
The New York Times obituary by Nate Chinen
The San Francisco Chronicle‘s obituary, written by Jesse Hamlin
Orrin Keepnews, 1923 – 2015
Orrin Keepnews remembers a Sonny Rollins recording session