Best Jazz Reissues of 2005

C. Andrew Hovan By

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For the first time in many years, there has been a shift in the focus of many record labels, putting new music and previously unearthed artifacts in a position of precedence over the reissue of vault items. New releases of live recordings from Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, and Charlie Parker seemed to steal the thunder from other important discs of new music and general reissues. What the labels don't seem to understand is that so much of the classic music of the past fifty years has been recently repackaged, which calls for a different approach in looking at material for reissue. For instance, the music of composer/arranger Kenyon Hopkins is still known to only the most savvy of jazz followers and would make for some wonderful reissues. In the final analysis, this crop of the year's best reissues might not pack the excitement of previous years, but nonetheless has its own share of pleasures. Enjoy!

Mongo Santamaria
El Bravo

Latin jazz icon Mongo Santamaria had a good run during his tenure with Columbia Records in the mid to late '60s, but none of his albums pack the same collective punch as El Bravo. This 1965 set is a classic with an unbridled cache of salsa numbers, great percussion work, and strong vocals. Featured previously on Jazz From the Vinyl Junkyard, this one finally makes it to disc on this Japanese reissue.

Bill Evans
The Complete Village Vanguard Recordings, 1961

Few would argue that the 1961 recordings of the Bill Evans trio at the Village Vanguard hold a special place in the collective hearts of many musicians and fans, the complete results of which have now been assembled in an attractive three-disc set that should be required listening for anyone even remotely interested in jazz.

The Jazz Crusaders
The Pacific Jazz Quintet Studio Sessions

Although much has been made in regards to the legitimacy of West Coast hard bop and some might only be familiar with this band after they dropped the "jazz from their name, the fact remains that these performances should leave no doubt that Joe Sample, Wilton Felder, Wayne Henderson, and Stix Hooper were and are highly skilled jazz artists capable of making great music.

Don Ellis
Pacific Jazz/Mighty Quinn

Don Ellis brought a new outlook to the big band mold that was way beyond the traditional swing style of earlier prototypes. Much less is acknowledged or discussed in regards to Ellis as a trumpeter in the years before his big band. Part of this is due to the fact that his initial work has been hard to obtain. Essence is the rarest of the rare in terms of Ellis' oeuvre and a not-to-be-missed early look at his genius.

Cannonball Adderley
Capitol Jazz

Much of Adderley's later work for Capitol has been hard to obtain over the years, making this an especially gratifying reissue. A 1965 session with big band arranged by Oliver Nelson, this may be among Adderley's best and Nelson's chart are the perfect compliment.

Booker Ervin
Texbook Tenor
Blue Note

Although Blue Note was very active this year with a slew of RVG issues, this 1968 date is probably the most valuable because of its past neglect. Unissued at the time of its recording, the music briefly appeared on LP back in 1976 and then languished in the vaults until now. Featuring Woody Shaw and Kenny Barron, this disc adds considerably to Ervin's discography.

Yusef Lateef

All of Lateef's Impulse sets from the '60s are required listening for fans of forward-looking jazz. This one from 1965 has never previously made it to disc before and that's a shame because Lateef comes up with an eclectic mix that's full of surprise and emotion.

Bob Brookmeyer
Bob Brookmeyer and Friends

Arguably one of Brookmeyer's best efforts, this 1965 date is notable for the participation of Elvin Jones, Herbie Hancock, Stan Getz, and a young Gary Burton. The tunes are a diverse lot with plenty of groovy soloing and a few bonus tracks thrown in for good measure.

Leo Wright
Soul Talk
Vortex/Water Music

Sadly neglected and much missed, Leo Wright was a soulful alto saxophonist with a distinctive voice on the flute as well. In a wise move, the folks at Water Music have revived this 1970 Vortex release that also features the equally talented and obscure Gloria Coleman on organ.

Pieces of a Dream
Pieces of a Dream/We Are One

Discovered by the late Grover Washington Jr., this trio of talented youngsters debuted with the two early '80s albums combined on this twofer. Although touched with pop and soul undertones, these jazz-based performances nonetheless are marked by some fine soloing and some catchy funk numbers on the second set.


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