Joe Fields, a driving force in the jazz music business for over 50 years, passed away on Wednesday, July 12, 2017. He was 88 years old.
Joe was born in Jersey City, N.J. in 1929 and raised in Brooklyn. He attended Pershing Jr. HS and Erasmus Hall and was a citywide athlete, winning the prestigious New York Journal American Lou Gehrig award. Joe worked many jobs during his school years, including selling newspapers, pushing a rack in the Garment District, and driving a cab. He played college football at Syracuse and the University of Bridgeport where he was captain of his team his senior year. While attending Bridgeport, he met and married his wife of 66 years, Joan Nancy Boyd.
After graduating from college, Joe had several business ventures but found his calling in the music business. In the late fifties, he began selling records to music stores in Brooklyn. Joe was hired by London Records to pick singles for the United States market. He worked for MGM, Verve, Prestige, and Sue Records before becoming the national sales manager at Buddha Records. While at Buddha, Joe started their jazz division, Cobblestone Records. He started his own record label when he acquired Cobblestone from Buddha and renamed it Muse Records. From 1973 to 1996, Muse created nearly 30 years of successful jazz recordings featuring artists such as Pat Martino, Houston Person, Cedar Walton, Charlie Earland, Larry Coryell, Woody Shaw, and many others. The label was nominated for various jazz music awards and won two Grammys. During the mid 80’s Joe acquired both the Savoy and Landmark Records labels. Savoy was a seminal jazz company with recordings by Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Dexter Gordon, and other influential stars of the early years of the Bebop era.
In 1997, Joe, and his son Barney, launched HighNote and Savant Records. This started another legacy that continues to this day. Performers who have thrived on the label include such notable musicians as Kenny Burrell, Houston Person, Wallace Roney, Eric Alexander, Freddy Cole, Tom Harrell, Russell Malone, and others who continue to release new jazz recordings.
Joe was a founding member of the Police Boys Club Lacrosse program in Manhasset, New York. He was one of the founders of the Manhasset Lacrosse “Day of Champions” where both college and high school teams continue to play in this yearly event. In recognition of his many contributions to lacrosse, Joe was one of the inaugural inductees in the Manhasset Lacrosse Hall of Fame.
Joe joined the Manhasset Gentleman Joggers at its inception in the 1960’s, running in everything from Sunday jogs and 5K’s to half marathons. He enjoyed many years of friendly competition with a wide group of friends.
He is survived by his wife, Joan Nancy Fields, four children; Christine Jenne (Richard), Suzanne Fields, Laura Tralongo, Barney Fields, grandchild Allison Passero (Julius), and a great grandson, Julius Passero III.
[From: Jazz Promo Services]
My dealings with Joe were always good, for we had something in common… we both loved the music, unlike others in the business (like Morris Levy or Herman Lubinsky, who only saw possible dollar signs instead of artists). My contacts with Joe were at different levels at different points in times… there were many overlaps as well!
First, I wrote liner notes for a number of blues and jazz LPs back in the day. I also took photographs for some of the album covers.
Second, he ended up purchasing my essentially dormant label, TRIX Records, to have an ongoing outlet for blues recordings instead of jazz. He drove up to my house in Cottekill, NY to finalize the deal and take the LP master tapes with him!
I liked Joe and he was honest with me and also very helpful to someone who was basically a business virgin! O&S # 31 and #32 in this ongoing series put forth more about the relationship. It was always about the music. Thanks for all, Joe.
PETER B. LOWRY