Saturday, April 19, 2008

R.I.P.: Ozzie Cadena

Ozzie Cadena, 83, Recorded Jazz Giants
Obituary by Zan Stewart
Newark Star-Ledger, April 18, 2008

Ozzie Cadena fell in love with jazz as a teenager, and built his life around the music. He worked in record stores in Newark, and owned several, including a pair in Newark and New Brunswick. He was a disc jockey on radio, and he produced live performances. Most important, he produced scores of recordings for Jersey-based Savoy and Prestige Records in the 1950s and 1960s, and other labels through the 1980s.

The artists Mr. Cadena recorded included such jazz notables as trumpeters Lee Morgan and Joe Wilder; saxophonists Lester Young, Cannonball Adderley, Yusef Lateef, Sonny Stitt, and Dexter Gordon; trombonists J. J. Johnson, Kai Winding, and Curtis Fuller; vibraphonist Milt Jackson; pianist Hank Jones; drummer Kenny Clarke; and singers Jimmy Witherspoon and Etta Jones.

"Ozzie had great taste and he recorded the right people," said Michael Cuscuna, owner of Mosaic Records and a veteran producer at Blue Note Records and many other labels. "He has a legacy to be proud of."

"Ozzie was a true lover of the music, a lifelong advocate even when he left record producing, active until the end," said Ed Berger, associate director of the Newark-based Institute of Jazz Studies.

Mr. Cadena, who suffered a stroke last year, died April 9 of pneumonia at Little Company of Mary Hospital in Torrance, Calif. He was 83, and lived in nearby Redondo Beach.

Born Oscar Cadena in Oklahoma City, Okla., Mr. Cadena moved with his family to Newark at age one in 1925, and lived there until he moved to Southern California in 1974. Mr. Cadena often subsequently traveled to New Jersey to visit relatives and friends.

He first produced for Newark-based Savoy, owned by Herman Lubinsky, in 1953. Before that, he worked in Lubinsky's Radio Record Shop, located at 58 Market Street. The business office of Savoy Records was on the second floor. "I liked the record store, turning the cats onto what was new," Mr. Cadena told the Star-Ledger in 2002. "People like Hank Mobley, Wayne Shorter, Milt Jackson and J.J. Johnson came in. It was the hippest."

Before he began to produce for Savoy, he oversaw the transfer of numerous sessions by alto giant Charlie Parker and others from original acetates to tape, so they could be converted to the then-new LP format. He did this work, and almost all his other projects, with renowned engineer Rudy Van Gelder, in Hackensack until 1958, then in Englewood Cliffs.

One of Mr. Cadena's early successes at Savoy was a session with trombonists Johnson and Winding -- a pair that eventually became stars, but for another label. "They wanted $50 more each for another session," Mr. Cadena said in 2002. "Then a six-hour date paid $165. Lubinsky refused, they went to Bethlehem Records and had a big hit."

Mr. Cadena subsequently supervised many other classic sessions, among them debut recordings for Morgan and Adderley, eventual jazz giants. He also supervised many blues and gospel recordings, such as the Drinkard Singers, a group that sported future star Cissy Houston, mother of Whitney. "I was able to coordinate all these great talents, hear them make marvelous music," he said.

In California, Mr. Cadena produced recordings for Muse and Fantasy Records, and produced live concerts at such famed haunts as The Lighthouse Cafe.

Private services for Mr. Cadena were held in California. He is survived by his wife, Gloria, and daughter, Lori, both of Redondo Beach; two sons, Pru of Madison, and guitarist Dez of Newark, who played in the punk band Black Flag, and is a member of the Misfits; two grandsons, Kyle and Bret Cadena of Madison; and two sisters, Victoria Shear and Beatrice Festagallo of Union, N.J.

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