Sunday, October 27, 2013

CD Review: Latest Wave Of Jazz Remasters From The Concord Music Group

Last month the Concord Music Group rolled out their latest wave of titles in the Original Jazz Classics Remasters series. This set commemorates the 40th anniversary of the Pablo record label. The Pablo label was home to such jazz greats as Count Basie, John Coltrane, Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald just to name a few. The label was active from 1973 to 1987, when it was sold to Fantasy Records which then merged with Concord Records in 2004.
The titles in this latest wave of releases contains a couple piano greats stepping outside of their comfort zone (Art Tatum, Duke Ellington) and a some outstanding collaborations that would stand the test of time.
Pianist Art Tatum was a classic jazz pianist in the 1940s and 50s who took his inspirations from Fats Waller and James P. Johnson. He worked along side other jazz greats like Louis Armstrong and Billie Holiday until his untimely death in 1956. One of his greatest set of albums was "The Art Tatum Solo Masterpieces." The lonely 1953 recording sessions spawned 69 master recordings that would create an eight volume set. The first of this set was released as part of the Jazz Classics Remasters series and shows Tatum in a vulnerable, but inspiring position in his career. Nearly all of the songs were first-takes with no overdubs and included such well-known classics as "Moonglow," "Too Marvelous For Words" and "I'm In The Mood For Love." The original nine song album was expanded to sixteen which gives a more complete idea as to feeling of these cold December days back in 1953. The liner notes were also expanded with a newly written essay by Jazz Archivist Tad Hershon.
Another great pianist who is featured in this series is the immortal Duke Ellington. The album that was selected was "The Ellington Suites," which features three of Ellington's self-produced suites. The suites were recorded at three different times in Ellington's career ("The Queen's Suite" in 1959, "The Goutelas Suite" in 1971 and "The Uwis Suite" in 1972). Duke Ellington would bring his orchestra into the recording studio and stock-pile recordings at his own expense. Then sell them to labels that were willing to pay his asking price. Norman Granz, owner of Pablo Records, bought the three suites and combined them into one complete album. The album has definitely benefited from be remastered as the drums and bass  sound so rich and deep while the horns lead the way, while Ellington's piano makes subtle appearances when the time calls for it. This new release also features the never-before-released track entitled "The Kiss." It was recorded during the sessions for "The Uwis Suite," but was left out of the final song listing. The booklet contains the entire original essay written by Stanley Dance, as well as new writings by Jazz author Ashley Kahn.
The other three titles in this series feature some of the most amazing collaborations in jazz music. Saxophonist Zoot Sims teamed up with Oscar Peterson, Joe Pass, George Mraz and Grady Tate to being the music of the Gershwin Brothers to life. The album "Zoot Sims and The Gershwin Brothers" seems like the perfect match as Sims' sax gives the songs "The Man I Love" and I Got Rhythm" a special quality that is unmatched. The original ten-song album includes three great bonus tracks including "They Can't Take That Away From Me" and two previously unreleased alternate take of "Oh, Lady, Be Good" and "I've Got A Crush On You," which both appear in other forms on the album. Author Doug Ramsey lends his talents with newly written liner notes.
Another great collaboration between two of the top artists in their selective fields is Oscar Peterson and Stephane Grappelli. Their live album "Skol" was recorded in 1979 and features musicians from all different ethnic backgrounds. Their collaboration on this album features some uniquely wonderful solos as in the opening song "Nuages" and the classic, well-known "Making Whoopee." Also included as bonus tracks for the first time are the standards "Honeysuckle Rose," "Solitude" and "I Got Rhythm." The booklet features new liner notes from Jazz Archivist Tad Hershorn, as well as the albums original write-up by Norman Granz.
Finally, we get the jam session that went so right with "Dizzy's Big 4." The album features Dizzy Gillespie, Joe Pass, Ray Brown and Mickey Roker at the height of the bebop movement in jazz music. Each artist brought their a-game to the recording and you can definitely hear it and feel it as in the opening song "Frelimo" and in the standards "September Song" and "Jitterbug Waltz." The other great thing is that each musician got his moment to shine with anyone stepping on each other's toes to become the star of the album. The newly remastered edition of the album includes two unreleased alternate takes as bonus tracks. Writer Willard Jenkins adds new liner notes to the album, which also includes the original liner notes from Benny Green.
These newly remastered discs were released on September 17 through the Concord Music Group and continue upon the success of prior releases in the series. To find out more information about these releases, please visit

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