Heiner Stadler

Silver Spring, Maryland

Apr 19, 1942 – Feb 18, 2018


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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.

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Saddened to hear of Heiners passing. I met him years ago at a record distributor in NYC. I was unfamiliar with his work at the time but was struck by how personable he was. He was very down to earth, always friendly, always in good spirit. It was always a treat when he stopped by the office. Around 1994, his earlier works were being discovered by hip hoppers who were sampling his music (many of which never him), but that was also a new exploration area for him as well. His real genius...

I have a Jazz show called Free Time. I was playing "Ba-Lue Bolivar..." and looked for some information only to find Heiner Stadler had passed away. The comments on this page are amazing. What a great human being.

I met Heiner, two months younger than me, in 1954 at the Gelehrtenschule des Johanneums in Hamburg, a High School founded in 1524, when he joined our class for one year. He was a talented foilsman and achieved honorary mention in the local news papers. We regretted very much that he left our High School and lost contact.

My sympathy to his relatives

I just heard about this today. I was very sad to hear about Heiner's passing. I had been familiar with his compositions, including the amazing "Brains on Fire," and when he invited me to work on the recording "A Tribute to Monk and Bird," with such a wonderful group of experienced musicians, his way of working reminded me of conceptual art in some ways, as in his very unusual conception of "Ba-lue Bolivar Ba-lues-are." He will be missed and I just wanted to...

Heiner was always a constant explorer. He started coming around to WKCR-FM (Columbia University, New York) when I was there with "Brains on Fire" and was always pushing for more interesting ways to think about music. The last session I sat in with him was his John Cage recording at Capitol Studios in Los Angeles, which was one of the world's first professional music recordings done digitally. RIP Heiner.

My heartfelt condolences to the Stadler family.

Very sad to learn of Heiner's passing.

I knew Heiner going all the way back to the 1970s when I was with JCOA/NMDS.

We distributed and promoted his Labor Records label and I continued to do this for him over the years.

A creative spirit is silenced, but his music will live on.

R.I. P. Heiner Stadler

Early in my career, I received and reviewed "A Tribute To Bird And Monk," which permanently changed my concept of how composition and improvisation could be interposed and combined, and of how structure and freedom could interact. I never met Heiner Stadler, but that recording has been a touchstone for me, and I share his loss with those who knew him well.

May God Bless you and your family at this time of sorrow - Keeping you all in prayer.