To put one man’s lifework in the confines of a box may be a daunting task for someone whose history is as plentiful as producer Nesuhi Ertegun (1917-1989) but Rhino, in this five-disc spectacular, has succeeded admirably. The brother of the greatest “record man” ever, Ahmet Ertegun, Nesuhi, over 12 years, produced landmark works by such historic figures as Charles Mingus, Ray Charles, The Modern Jazz Quartet, John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman and dozens of others. These 61 tracks, recorded between 1955 and 1976, spotlight his singular genius in bringing to the fore a widely disparate display of talent. Arranged thematically, with an emphasis on the blues, Hommage A Nesuhi was mastered by Joel Dorn, who died the day after putting the finishing touches on the project.
Starting with Fathead Newman and swinging through Yusef Lateef, Eddie Harris, Les McCann, Mose Allison, Herbie Mann and Big Joe Turner, no corner of jazz history is left unexplored. It’s amazing this was all produced by the same man! Lavern Baker rocks; Rahsaan Roland Kirk plays horns through his nose; Hank Crawford swivels his hips like Elvis-on-Sax; ‘Trane blows his guts out; Gary Burton is as complex as ever on “Vibrafinger”; and Jimmy Scott unleashes that trademark unearthly wail of a vocal.
As track after track unfolds, one gets lost in a dreamy miasma of improv, be it the pre-Weather Report Joe Zawinul on electric piano, Hubert Laws on piccolo, Charles Lloyd on flute or Max Roach on drums, leaders all.
As younger brother Ahmet embraced the counter-culture and wound up signing and nurturing rock bands like the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin, Nesuhi stayed grounded with what he loved best: jazz. There will never be another like him.