As we kick off 2003, we vary the premise of this column just a bit. Usually, each month the spotlight turns on a featured album worthy of rediscovery and which has yet to have been reissued on compact disc. But this time out we're going to stop to surmise the reissue scene of the past year and just see how much vault material was given new life. Although purely by coincidence to be sure, it warms our hearts to see that albums from two artists that were featured this year at the Vinyl Junkyard rank among our listings for 2002 and hopefully that's a sign that more trinkets of historical wisdom are on their way in the New Year. So, in no particular order and including a few Japanese imports, we present the best reissues of 2002.
Airto- I'm Fine, How Are You? (WEA Germany) This album of bacchanalian proportions was featured in our August installment and what a thrill to see it appear finally on compact disc. Last heard in its original 1977 form, this Brazilian masterpiece goes for broke with some fusion tinges added, along with the gutsy vocal work of Ruben Rada.
John Coltrane- A Love Supreme: Deluxe Edition (Impulse) How do you take something great and make it even better? The answer is to find more of it and make it sound as first-rate as possible. With newly unearthed tapes, Rudy Van Gelder remastered this entire magnum opus and in the process added a whole other CD of bonus material. Bravo!
Dizzy Gillespie- The New Continent (Limelight/Universal Japan) After wearing out two vinyl copies of this 1962 release, what a joy it is to have this music available on compact disc. Certainly not the most historically important item from Gillespie's standpoint, this is one of composer Lalo Schifrin's finest hours with charts for a large ensemble and a battery of percussion. As an added bonus, this Japanese mini-LP reproduces the original Limelight gatefold production values.
Miles Davis- The Complete Miles Davis at Montreux 1973-1991 (Warner Music/CBS Legacy) While certainly a capacious collection numbering some 20 discs, no better place can be found for re-examining Davis in his twilight years. While the more pop-inflected side of his personality turned many off to Davis' studio sides of the time, it's in these live sessions that the power and majesty of a true genius comes shining through. Simply put, this is a "must own" for any diehard Miles fans.
Gerry Mulligan- The Concert Jazz Band at the Village Vanguard (Verve) Not getting their dues in the same way as the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra or the Francy Boland/Kenny Clarke ensemble has over the years, the big band led by Gerry Mulligan in the early '60s was every bit as good as any group on the scene at that time. This 1960 live set features charts by Gary McFarland, Bob Brookmeyer, and others and will hopefully be just the start of many more reissues to come from the CJB.
Don Goldie- Brilliant! (Argo/Universal Japan) We featured trumpeter Don Goldie's Trumpet Caliénte in our June installment and had bemoaned the fact that none of his catalog was currently available. That sad state of affairs is now rectified with the Japanese reissue of 1961's Brilliant, an aptly titled affair that finds our trumpeter as the lead voice. Goldie's strident timbre and astonishing range marked him as a virtuoso, but what set him apart was his ability to utilize his talents to the service of the music.
Art Blakey- 'S Make It, Soul Finger, Buttercorn Lady (Limelight/Universal Japan) We're kind of cheating here just a bit in that we actually have three separate titles from Art Blakey, but they're all cut from a similar cloth. During 1965-1966, Blakey jumped ship from Blue Note and recorded these three albums for Mercury's Limelight subsidiary. While they may not quite scale the heights of the drummer's finest moments, there is much to enjoy in each and the sideman include such luminaries as Lee Morgan, Freddie Hubbard, Lucky Thompson, Keith Jarrett, Chuck Mangione, John Gilmore, and John Hicks. Packaged in mini-gatefold style, these Japanese reissues are a "must have" for serious Blakey fans.
Lou Donaldson- The Complete Blue Note Lou Donaldson Sessions 1957-1960 (Mosaic Mail Order) Compiled on six compact discs, Mosaic delivers a pungent capsulation of alto man Lou Donaldson at his most sublime. For sheer variety, it's a pleasure to sort through these performances featuring small groups, larger blowing sessions, and those with Ray Barretto's conga adding that "Latin tinge." Of further interest is the fact that the album Midnight Sun appears here for the first time on CD.