The State of Reissues 2010: Dave Brubeck, Art Pepper, Sonny Rollins, Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane and Joe Pass
Formed by the merger of West Coast record labels Concord and Fantasy in 2004, the Concord Music Group possesses the largest catalog of recorded jazz earth-side. With such a rich basement, Concord can be expected to launch reissue series from time to time. The label's newest such program is the Original Jazz Classics Remasters series.
Original Jazz Classics was inaugurated as an imprint of the Fantasy label in 1982 with the intention of releasing jazz recordings previously available only in LP and cassette formats from Prestige, Contemporary, Riverside, Galaxy, Pablo and other labels. These releases are being 24-bit remastered by Joe Tarantino and supplied with new liner notes from prominent observers to complement the original notes.
The Original Jazz Classics Remasters series begins with five discs: pianist Dave Brubeck's Jazz at Oberlin, alto saxophonist Art Pepper's Meets The Rhythm Section, tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins' Way Out West, pianist Thelonious Monk's Thelonious Monk with John Coltrane and guitarist Joe Pass' Virtuoso. The earliest was recorded in 1953 and the latest 20 years later. Three of the releases sport a quartet, one a trio, and the last, a solo performance. Two of the five leaders are still living and recording.
These five releases, save for the relatively late Virtuoso, are a nice slice through 1950s jazz. There can never be too much of it, and through release programs like this one, they will always be available.
The Dave Brubeck Quartet
Jazz at Oberlin
Original Jazz Classics Remastered
Dave Brubeck was already several recordings deep into his career when his quartet recorded live at in Finney Chapel at Oberlin Collage, March 2, 1953. In 1950, Brubeck suffered a near fatal accident and took some time off befor forming his quartet in 1951. The quartet took up an extended resident at San Francisco's Black Hawk Lounge and recorded several more albums before hitting the college circuit and waxing Live at the College of the Pacific (Fantasy, 1953) and then Jazz at Oberlin that same year. This was part of the period of prolonged percolation anticipating Brubeck's full breakout after joining Columbia and the release of Time Out (Columbia, 1959).
Jazz at Oberlin clocks in at a sleek five songs over 38:00, opening with an immediate break into "These Foolish Things (Remind Me of You)." In 1953, small ensemble jazz was still under the spell of Charlie Parker. Paul Desmond, another alto player, represented a singular voice outside of Parker's shadow. Brubeck's playing is almost delicate, as is the rest of the rhythm section, before preempting Cecil Taylor's and Don Pullen's percussive, atonal ferocity. Juan Tizol's "Perdido" is almost frantic but never threatens to lose control.
"Stardust" is a lithe ballad played transparently, while "The Way You Look Tonight" foreshadows Brubeck's keenly inventive arranging ability. "How High The Moon" reflects this same unique arranging while. A fittingly swinging coda to this brief release. New liner notes are provided by Ashley Kahn provide a historic perspective to the importance of this recording and its promotion.
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Meets the Rhythm Section
Original Jazz Classics Remastered
It is almost too good a story not to romanticize at least a little, but this particular story needs little embellishment to be compelling. Neil Tesser's new liner notes to Art Pepper's Meets the Rhythm Section give fresh perspective to producer Lester Koenig's original 1957 sleeve lines. Before this famous session on January 19, 1957, Pepper had been particularly strung out on heroin. He had been released from a 10 month incarceration in federal prison for drug charges the previous summer, and since that time had been vegetating in a narcotic garden.
As the story goes, without the saxophonist's knowledge, Pepper's live-in girlfriend, Diane, arranged with Koenig to have Pepper record with trumpeter Miles Davis' working rhythm section made up of pianist Red Garland, bassist Paul Chambers and drummer Philly Joe Jones, who happened to be in town with time to record. At the time of this session, Davis and his band (then employing John Coltrane on tenor saxophone) had last been in the studio recording the marathon sessions ultimately leading to the quartet of recordings for Prestige Relaxin', Cookin', Steamin' and Workin', which were eventually resequenced and released on Miles Davis: The Legendary Prestige Quintet Sessions (Prestige, 2006).