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Bob Thiele; Record Label Owner, Producer of Top Jazz Musicians

February 02, 1996|MYRNA OLIVER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Bob Thiele, record company owner and producer who etched his mark in history by recording such jazz greats as John Coltrane and Duke Ellington and by co-writing and recording Louis Armstrong's classic "What a Wonderful World," has died. He was 73.

Thiele, also known for recording songs by his wife, Teresa Brewer, died Tuesday of kidney failure in a New York hospital.

Successful with many labels over a long career, Thiele was best known for his work for the Impulse jazz label, a subsidiary of ABC-Paramount records, in the 1960s. In that period, he recorded some of saxophonist Coltrane's finest work, including the albums "A Love Supreme" and "Ballads."

Thiele also recorded work by Coleman Hawkins, Earl Hines, Count Basie and Charlie Haden's Liberation Music Orchestra.

"When it comes to jazz music, I rarely think about what's going to sell," Thiele told The Times' late jazz critic Leonard Feather in 1976. "I just record what I like."

Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World," which Thiele first recorded in 1967, enjoyed a resurgence in popularity after it was used in the motion picture "Good Morning, Vietnam" starring Robin Williams in 1987. Thiele used the song as the title of his recently published autobiography.

Thiele developed an interest in jazz as a 14-year-old growing up in Forest Hills, N.Y., when he heard Fats Waller. He began collecting jazz recordings and talked his way into getting a 15-minute radio jazz show on a foreign language station.

He started his first record company, Signature, in 1939 when he was a senior in high school--operating the company out of his parents' home, with the bathroom as the shipping department.

Under the Signature label, he recorded Art Hodes, Yank Lawson, Ben Webster, Lester Young and drummer Shelly Manne.

In the 1950s, Thiele worked for Coral Records, DOT and Roulette Records. After his nine years at Impulse, he owned a series of labels, Flying Dutchman, Dr. Jazz and Red Baron.

In addition to his wife, Thiele is survived by a son, Bob Jr., and a grandson, Owen.

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