Orrin Keepnews, Jazz Producer, Dead at 91

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Orrin Keepnews

Orrin Keepnews, a prolific jazz producer, journalist and record executive, died today at age 91. According to The New York Times, he was at his home in El Cerrito, California and his death was confirmed by his son, Peter.

Keepnews loomed large in the jazz community, receiving four Grammy awards, a Trustees Award for Lifetime Achievement from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences in 2004 and the title of Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts in 2011.

The Bronx native served in the Air Force during World War II, flying bombing raids over Japan, then studied English at Columbia University. He began his career as a journalist while in his mid-20s, when he wrote an early profile of Thelonious Monk for the publication The Record Changer.

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In 1953, Keepnews partnered with his former Columbia University classmate and fellow jazz enthusiast Bill Grauer to form Riverside Records, which released early recordings by Randy Weston and Monk. He produced the latter's seminal record Brilliant Corners, Sonny Rollins' Freedom Suite, and Everbody Digs Bill Evans. 

Mr. Keepnews also founded Milestone Records and Landmark Records, two more prominent genre imprints, and continued his writings throughout the years; he contributed many album liner notes and articles, and released a collection, The View From Within: Jazz Writings, 1948-87, through Oxford University Press. Concord Music dedicated a reissue series, "The Keepnews Collection," to his golden ear.


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