Heiner Stadler, a record producer and composer who worked with highly regarded improvisers to advance the interplay of jazz and contemporary compositional elements, died in Silver Spring, Maryland on February 18, 2018, less than two months before his 76th birthday. The cause was complications of pneumonia, said his wife Dida Stadler.
Stadler's best known works include A Tribute to Bird and Monk (1973), a set of reharmonized works by Charlie Parker and Thelonious Monk which received a five-star review in DownBeat; Brains on Fire (sessions recorded 1964 – 1974); Retrospection (1996); and Jazz Alchemy (2000). Among the musicians performing on these recordings were George Adams, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Joe Chambers, Stanley Cowell, Thad Jones, George Lewis, Jimmy Owens, Reggie Workman, Lennie White, and Germany's NDR Big Band conducted by Dieter Glawishnig (featuring Wolfgang Dauner, Alberg Mangelsdorf and Manfred Schoof, among otheres).
Stadler received four grants from the National Endowment of the Arts to support his compositions, originally released on his own Labor Records and later on Tomato Records, for which he served as head of Artist and Repertoire from 1978-1981, and as Director of Operations/Executive producer from 1987-1991. For Tomato, he supervised the initial release on four LPs the opera Einstein on the Beach, by Philip Glass.
Stadler is also recognized for his productions of works by John Cage (including "Etudes Australes" written by the composer for pianist Grete Sultan, who recorded it in 1978); those of J.S. Bach and Carlos Barbosa-Lima; the opera Civilization and its Discontents (1978) by Eric Salzman and Michael Sahl, and albums by bluesmen Lightnin' Hopkins, Johnny Shines, Roosevelt Sykes, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee.
Heiner Stadler was born on April 9, 1942 in the town of Lessen, Poland, to a family rich in musical pedigree. His great-grandmother was Josephine Amann-Weinlich, who founded and conducted Europe's first all-women orchestra, the Wiener Damen-Orchester (later the Erste Europäische Damenorchester), which toured extensively, appearing at New York's Steinway Hall in 1871.
At a very young age, Stadler moved with his mother and brother to Hamburg, Germany and was accepted at the Hamburger Konservatorium for piano studies. He also studied composition privately with Walter Steffens, with whom he collaborated on Ecstasy (1973). He immigrated to the United States in 1965, and quickly became immersed in jazz. His arrangement of Duke Ellington's "Main Stem" was recorded in 1969 by saxophonist James Moody on The Blues and Other Colors (Milestone), with Kenny Barron, Ron Carter, Johnny Coles, Joe Farrrell, Tom McIntosh, Cecil Payne and Freddie Waits.
In 1988, Stadler contributed atmospheric incidental music to a score by Pierre Henry performed by Diamanda Galas, together with Kirk Nurock's Natural Sounds Ensemble, for "Seraphim," performed by the dancer and choreographer Sin Cha Hong's Laughing Stone Company at the Joyce Theater. From the 1990s until shortly before his death, Stadler focused on music from other lands, traveling most frequently to Bulgaria but also to North Korea in 1991 to record Fanfare & Memorial by Isang Yun, and in 2001 to Tirana to record Albanian Lament by Aleksandër Peçi. In 2016, he recorded Ukraine – Journey to Freedom performed by violinist Solomiya Ivakhiv and pianist Angelina Gadeliya. The Labor Records catalogue, which his wife will continue to manage along with his compositions and recordings, includes much of Stadler's work as well as music by rock, punk and spoken-word artists.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by his daughters Julia and Felice Stadler of Maryland, Julia's wife Miriam Leenders, and Felice's children Ramy Stadler Logan and Ava Joanne Logan. Stadler is also survived by a brother and sister-in-law, Knud and Uta Stadler of Durban, South Africa.