Every decade, countless indie labels come and go. Some beat the odds and prosper; others, for all their good intentions, end up filing for bankruptcy. Thankfully, Delmark has been among the survivors. The Chicago-based jazz and blues indie (originally based in St. Louis) was founded by Bob Koester in 1953 and was still going strong when the 21st century arrived. In 1993, Delmark celebrated its 40th anniversary with jazz and blues compilations. Delmark 40th Anniversary: Jazz paints an attractive, if unbalanced, picture of the label's contributions to jazz. The problem with this compilation, which spans 1959-1992, is that it tends to be mildly bop-centric. That wouldn't be a problem if bop was the only type of jazz that Delmark recorded, but the company's contributions to avant-garde jazz, swing, classic jazz, and Dixieland are equally impressive. While this CD does contain some rewarding examples of swing (Art Hodes and Barney Bigard's 1968 performance of "Sweet Lorraine") and avant-garde AACM experimentation (Roscoe Mitchell's "Ornette" and Joseph Jarman's "Little Fox Run"), about 75 percent of the compilation is devoted to hard bop. Delmark 40th Anniversary: Jazz reflects the company's diversity, but not as well as it could have. That isn't to say that the bop selections are anything to be ashamed of; inspired performances by Ira Sullivan ("Wilbur's Tune"), Jimmy Forrest ("All the Gin Is Gone"), and tenor saxman Lin Halliday ("My Foolish Heart") demonstrate that Koester has excellent taste in the bop department. But again, Delmark isn't just a bop label -- it was one of the first labels to document Chicago's avant-garde AACM, and plenty of worthwhile Dixieland, classic jazz, and swing recordings can be found in Delmark's catalog. There are no dull moments on this CD; every track is respectable -- but even so, the compilation sells Delmark short by over-emphasizing bop.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson