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Record Label Profiles

Music Matters: The Blue Note Reissue Series

By Published: October 12, 2011
Third, despite a recent resurgence in vinyl, there just aren't that many listeners out there who still have turntables. A high-resolution, downloadable digital version offered along side the vinyl might have delivered most of the sonic attributes, and been accessible to more listeners. Yes, downloads would be comprised of ones and zeroes, but digital at its best is getting pretty close to analog for sound quality. Nevertheless, Harley—who is also an executive at hi-fi cable giant AudioQuest—points out that a good turntable setup needn't cost a fortune and mentions a number of respectable all-in-one setups that include an arm and cartridge in the $200-$400 range. "People tend to be shocked that even an entry level table is plenty good enough to convey the vinyl effect." This might not be a solution that's available to everyone, for reasons of money, space or lifestyle (kids and turntables are not always a good match) but it certainly opens some options.

The Music Matters Blue Note reissue series offers an awful lot to jazz fans. But the exceptional quality of the vinyl and the exquisite covers notwithstanding, the most impressive thing about the collection may simply be how far they've dug into Blue Note's back catalog. Titles like saxophonists John Jenkins
John Jenkins
1931 - 1993
sax, alto
' With Kenny Burrell
Kenny Burrell
Kenny Burrell
(1957) and Sam Rivers
Sam Rivers
Sam Rivers
1923 - 2011
sax, tenor
' important, if under-appreciated Fuscia Swing Song (1964) don't get out of the vault very often, so it's a credit to Rambach and Harley that they've taken some chances. Rambach concedes that trombonist Grachan Moncur III
Grachan Moncur III
Grachan Moncur III
's Evolution (1963) doesn't move a lot of copies—it is pretty far out—but he's released it anyway. The team stayed away from popular hits in part because it saw an opportunity to expose lesser-known titles, and that's a great thing. Music Matters currently has 88 Blue Note albums either released or already re-mastered and waiting to hit the street—more than enough titles for a listener to gain a solid understanding of the label's legacy. Rambach and Hartley are a little cagey about which additional titles they'll release in the future, but they continue to audition tapes from the EMI vault, so it's a good bet that they're not done yet.

Rambach is circumspect about his role in the effort, and readily allows that none of this would have come together without the skills and efforts of everyone involved. "I've got nothing but reverence for Rudy Van Gelder; Michael Cuscuna was paramount in getting this done; and the RTI team, and even our printer made enormous contributions." The Music Matters Blue Note Reissue Series is truly a collaborative accomplishment. In a world where music is shot around the world in seconds over the Internet, these old- fashioned vinyl records offer better sound quality than virtually any digital medium, and the format itself invites listeners to slow down and give the music some serious attention. With the music industry dominated by technology that turns music into a commodity, and sound reproduction into an appliance, these records offer something very special: a collection that is made by people who truly care about what they're doing and insist on the highest standards. It's hard not to deeply appreciate their effort.

Photo Credits

Page 1: Courtesy of Joe Harley

Page 3: Courtesy of Ron Rambach

Page 4: Francis Wolff, courtesy of Mosaic Images

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