Mosaic Records: Making Jazz History
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 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 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."