Los Angeles jazz detective Zev Feldman unearths hidden treasures

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      Zev Feldman has it easy.

      The man Stereophile magazine recently called “the Indiana Jones of jazz” has yet to encounter poisonous spiders, treacherous Nazis, or writhing snakes while in the field—and even if he did, he’d probably brush right by them in his zeal to unearth hidden treasures from dusty archives and musty basements all over Europe and North America.

      “I have this really blessed life,” Feldman readily admits, reached at home in Los Angeles. “I spring out of bed in the morning and do things that I really enjoy doing.”

      And what he most enjoys doing is uncovering overlooked or unheard jazz recordings of significant import. As cofounder of the Elemental Music imprint, for example, Feldman brought 25 long-out-of-print recordings from the defunct Xanadu label back to life, rescuing some of the tapes from an East Coast warehouse flooded by Hurricane Sandy.

      And a recent project for Resonance Records, a California nonprofit, sent him—appropriately enough—to Indianapolis, Indiana, where he interviewed friends and associates of the late Wes Montgomery in order to write the liner notes for Echoes of Indiana Avenue, a compilation of previously unreleased recordings featuring some of the jazz-guitar great’s most relaxed yet inspired music.

      “That was the beginning of the Jazz Detective,” says Feldman, alluding to another of his nicknames. “I made three trips to Indianapolis and pieced together, with people who were in the know, who was playing on each of those tracks.

      “It was an unbelievable experience in jazz archaeology—and then came Bill Evans’s Live at Art D’Lugoff’s Top of the Gate, and those two albums in 2012 did 60,000 copies combined, which made them two of the biggest-selling jazz albums of the year.”

      Since then, Feldman has been vetting literally hundreds of historical recordings—mostly for Resonance, where he’s executive vice-president and general manager. Next up for release? A long-lost 1959 studio date by none other than Thelonious Monk.

      He’s also been handed the keys to the Radio France archives, and has dibs on a greater treasure than the fabled Ark of the Covenant: 12 hours of music by the artist many consider the best saxophonist of all time. Feldman’s not quite ready to name names, so let’s just say that any jazz fan would consider their release a giant step for humanity.

      And, busy as he is, Feldman continues to evangelize for his favourite art form. This week, for instance, he’ll be in Vancouver, hosting a series of concerts in which some of our finest musicians will pay tribute to performers on the Resonance roster.

      Saxophonist Steve Kaldestad will interpret the music of Stan Getz and João Gilberto; Chris Gestrin will channel the innovative organist Larry Young; Dave Sikula will reflect on Montgomery, one of his most significant mentors; singer Jaclyn Guillou will do for Shirley Horn what she’s already done for Dinah Washington; and the Capilano University “A” Band will swing its way through the sounds of Thad Jones and Mel Lewis.

      Feldman credits Coastal Jazz and Blues Society staffer Cory Weeds—a record-label owner in his own right—with the idea of bringing him to town.

      “He’s going to have me talk about what’s involved in doing these historical releases,” he explains. “We’ll have them for sale, and I’ll get a chance to meet people in the jazz community, the fans out there.

      “I just really thrive on meeting people who share this passion,” Feldman adds. “And if any of your readers out there have any tapes, I’d love to hear them!”

      The Coastal Jazz and Blues Society presents Jazz Legends Lost & Found with Resonance Records at Frankie’s Jazz Club from Thursday to Monday (November 17 to 21).