All About Jazz: The web's most comprehensive jazz resource

Serving jazz worldwide since 1995
All About Jazz: The web's most comprehensive jazz resource

Record Label Profiles

Mosaic Records: Making Jazz History

By Published: December 23, 2013
Mosaic's other recent release is from a contrasting era that veers into the avant-garde, The Complete Clifford Jordan Strata-East Sessions. "It's a body of work with a convoluted history that has been a major fascination of mine since the late '60s. Clifford Jordan
Clifford Jordan
Clifford Jordan
1931 - 1993
saxophone
started a label called Frontier Records in 1968 with a guy named Harvey Brown, who had Frontier Press, which was kind of a cutting-edge New York publisher like Grove Press. Clifford made a bunch of sessions in '68 and '69, and there were a couple of news stories about them, but then not a word. Later, when Charles Tolliver and Stanley Cowell
Stanley Cowell
Stanley Cowell
b.1941
piano
started Strata-East, some of these Clifford Jordan sessions we had read about started surfacing on their label. What really struck me as weird was that he put out an album of his own material with musicians like Kenny Dorham
Kenny Dorham
Kenny Dorham
1924 - 1972
trumpet
on one side"—decidedly members of the hard bop school—"and on the other side he had Don Cherry
Don Cherry
Don Cherry
1936 - 1995
trumpet
"—widely associated with the avant-garde. "It was like these different worlds meeting. I'd known Clifford at the time, and I never associated him with the Ornette Coleman
Ornette Coleman
Ornette Coleman
b.1930
sax, alto
orbit of people or the avant-garde in any way. Eric Dolphy was the one exception; they worked together with Max Roach
Max Roach
Max Roach
1925 - 2007
drums
and Charles Mingus
Charles Mingus
Charles Mingus
1922 - 1979
bass, acoustic
. Clifford put out a Cecil Payne
Cecil Payne
Cecil Payne
1922 - 2007
sax, baritone
album, which was very traditional with Kenny Dorham and Wynton Kelly
Wynton Kelly
Wynton Kelly
1931 - 1971
piano
, and then followed that with Charles Brackeen, who was JoAnne Brackeen
JoAnne Brackeen
JoAnne Brackeen
b.1938
piano
's husband at the time and played tenor in a kind of Ornette- ish kind of way, with a band that was all Ornette people, like Don Cherry, Charlie Haden
Charlie Haden
Charlie Haden
b.1937
bass, acoustic
, and Ed Blackwell
Ed Blackwell
Ed Blackwell
1929 - 1992
drums
."

Cuscuna found the cast of musicians surprising. "I thought, this is so unusual. If I had handed Clifford a pile of money and said record whoever you want to, these were not the people I would have guessed at all. So it always fascinated me. Soon thereafter he came out with a Pharoah Sanders
Pharoah Sanders
Pharoah Sanders
b.1940
saxophone
record, which was actually recorded just a few weeks before Karma but never came out at the time. And then he ended the series with what I think is one of his masterpieces, High-Speed Games, which was newly recorded in 1973. I still think it's one of his finest moments."

There are other especially notable finds in the Jordan Strata East material, including unissued sessions led by two legendary jazz figures, bassist Wilbur Ware
Wilbur Ware
Wilbur Ware
1923 - 1979
bass, acoustic
of Chicago and drummer Ed Blackwell from New Orleans, both with personnel that mixed in traditional contemporary jazz musicians with avant-gardists. "It's all a very nice cross section of what was happening in New York in '68 and '69, where mainstream hard bop and the avant-garde were meeting and people were trying different things in different ways, percussion ensembles and other stuff. It was a real faithful statement of what was happening if you stood in the middle of Manhattan in 1968."

In addition to the major limited edition CD box sets, Mosaic is continuing to put out vinyl in sets of three or four LPs in the Mosaic Singles series, such as The Complete Thelonious Monk at the It Club, The Clifford Brown & Max Roach Emarcy Albums, and Ella & Duke at the Cote D'Azur. For the most part, though, Cuscuna envisions Mosaic as focusing primarily on the major multi-disc box set CDs for the foreseeable future. He doesn't see moving into mp3 downloads or streaming listening services, for two reasons. "One is the fiscal-legal reality that the parent labels will license us the rights to put out LPs and CDs, but they won't give us digital rights, because it's too easy for them to make that material available themselves that way. The second reason ties to packaging. There's been a lot of talk in the download field about offering PDF downloads of CD cover art, credits, and liner notes, but with Mosaic stuff, we go so much deeper, with 30-page 11-by-11-inch booklets, dense with photographs and discographies. What we do doesn't really fly in the download world, at least not yet."


comments powered by Disqus