born on 15/11/1924 in New York City, NY, United States
Sonny Lester (born November 15, 1924) is a Grammy-award-winning music producer from New York City. He started his career as a musician in a big band jazz ensemble before being drafted into the U.S. Army. During the war he earned a Purple Heart and worked under Henry Kissinger, who was an intelligence officer at time. Lester's recordings have been distributed over a number of labels, including Blue Note Records, United Artists, Capitol Records, Denon and CBS Records.
Record label executive
In 1966 Lester formed Solid State Records, the jazz division of United Artists, with Manny Albam and Phil Ramone. He also started Groove Merchant in the 1970s The label went on to release albums from many popular jazz musicians such as Chick Corea, Joe Williams, Dizzy Gillespie, and Jimmy McGriff.
The Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra, called simply "The Orchestra" on the first album, recorded all of their early and most influential albums for Solid State. The label was eventually consolidated into Blue Note Records and Lester was named producer of the Denon Jazz series in 1986.
By 1993, the New York Times reported that his record company Lester Recording Catalog (LRC, Ltd.) had "nearly 150 titles, and annual revenues are $3 million to $4 million."
LRC releases jazz records as CDs. In the early 1990s, Lester retained the rights to a number of records he produced in the 1960s and 1970s and reissued them as CDs on LRC. The company's catalog includes music by Dave Brubeck, Count Basie, Chick Corea, and Dizzy Gillespie. LRC has also sold original recordings by emerging jazz acts. In a 1993 interview with Crain's New York Business, Lester said, "Record companies are so big and monstrous, they don't have the time to nurture jazz artists. We do. We speak their language and the artists know and respect us, so they feel comfortable here."
- Brad Bigelow (January 3, 2008). "Sonny Lester". Space Age Pop. Retrieved July 18, 2009.
- Spore, Keith (October 4, 1991). "Price is right to strike jazz gold". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. p. 16.
- Doug Payne (May 28, 2009). "A Sonny Lester Discography". Retrieved July 18, 2009.
- "Jimmy McGriff - Obituary". The Times. June 2, 2008. p. 50.
- Shepherd, John; Laing, Dave (2003). Continuum encyclopedia of popular music of the world. Continuum International Publishing Group. p. 708. ISBN 0-8264-6321-5. Retrieved 2009-07-20.
- "Record Producer with Deep Roots in Jazz". The New York Times. September 5, 1993. p. LI2.
- Mills, Ted (2009). "Sonny Lester". Allmusic.com. Retrieved July 18, 2009.
- Mirabella, Allen (April 19, 1993). "A little record company takes on the jazz giants". Crain's New York Business. Sec. 1, p. 30.
- Sonny Lester on Allmusic
- Billboard op-ed by Lester encouraging retail stores to feature more jazz music