Jazz Label Owner Joe Fields Dies at 88

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Joe Fields (1929–2017) (Photo: Courtesy Jazz Promo Services))

Joe Fields, a driving force in the jazz music business for over 50 years, passed away on July 12. He was 88 years old.

Fields was born in Jersey City, New Jersey, in 1929 and raised in Brooklyn. In high school he was an accomplished athlete, winning the prestigious New York Journal American Lou Gehrig award. He was also an industrious student, working 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 the woman who would become his wife of 66 years, Joan Nancy Boyd.

After graduating from college, Fields had several business ventures but found his calling in the music business. In the late 1950s, he began selling records to music stores in Brooklyn. Fields 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, Fields started its 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 succeeded with jazz recordings by artists such as Pat Martino, Houston Person, Cedar Walton, Charles Earland, Larry Coryell, Woody Shaw and many others. The label was nominated for various jazz music awards and won two Grammys. During the mid-’80s, Fields 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 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. Artists who have thrived on the label include Kenny Burrell, Houston Person, Wallace Roney, Eric Alexander, Freddy Cole, Tom Harrell, Russell Malone and others who continue to release new jazz recordings.

Fields 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.” Both college and high school teams continue to play in this annual event. In recognition of his many contributions to lacrosse, Fields was one of the inaugural inductees in the Manhasset Lacrosse Hall of Fame.

Fields joined the Manhasset Gentleman Joggers at its inception in the 1960s, running in everything from Sunday jogs and 5K competitions 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 and Barney Fields; grandchild Allison Passero (Julius); and a great grandson, Julius Passero III. DB


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