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Best Reissues of 2003

C. Andrew Hovan By

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Once again, it
It seems to this reviewer that 2003 marked a turning point not only for new music but also for jazz reissues. Of course, most labels have maintained a very active back catalog program for several years now and so a great deal of product has made it to the marketplace. So at this point, holes are being filled in for select artists’ catalogs along with some very rare titles making their appearance on disc. As for those items that were featured during the past year here on Jazz From the Vinyl Junkyard, only one title actually made its debut on compact disc. Pianist Bobby Timmons’ Little Barefoot Soul is one of two Prestige sessions reissued by Fantasy on The Prestige Trio Session (Prestige 24277).

Before we go on to feature further trinkets of rediscovery, it seems like an appropriate time to compile some of the best reissue titles of the past year. Once again, it’s Mosaic Records that comes in first as the concern most responsible for bringing forth product that might have not otherwise seen the light of day, especially now that their Select Series seems to be tapping an especially fruitful cross section of choice titles long overdue for reissue. Verve Music Group’s limited edition series of reissues on digipak also brought us some predominantly rare titles that have pleased many a diehard collector. One final word seems to be in order, as Japanese reissues have always served a valuable place among the landscape we once again have a selection that comes from the Far East and is of such importance that its inclusion here is a necessity.



  1. Gerry Mulligan
    The Complete Verve Gerry Mulligan Concert Band
    (Mosaic Mail Order)
    Arguably, Mulligan’s large band work with the Concert Band Band served as an early high point during a lengthy musical career. Much of this material has never appeared on CD before and so this beautiful package containing all of the CJB’s Verve sets is to be cherished all the more.

  2. Miles Davis
    In Person Friday-Saturday Night At The Blackhawk Complete/The Complete Jack Johnson Sessions
    (Columbia/Legacy)
    Views of Davis from two important periods in his development make these latest additions to his catalog especially valuable. While it’s a refinement of mainstream inclinations that lends the Blackhawk set its vitality, the later taps an eclectic and electric format that finds that trumpeter including ‘world music’ influences through the appearances of Airto and Hermeto Pascoal.

  3. Jack Teagarden
    Mis’ry and the Blues
    (Verve)
    Although his catalog is filled with gems from various eras, somehow trombone master Jack Teagarden’s final years recording with Verve seem to be the least known among his fans. This 1961 date is the best of the three he cut for the label, mainly due to the use of his regular band that included trumpeter Don Goldie and pianist Don Ewell.

  4. Various Artists
    CTI Summer Jazz at the Hollywood Bowl
    (CTI/King Records Japan)
    During the mid ‘70s, producer Creed Taylor often put together summer tours that would feature musicians from his label roster in all-star jams, many of which were recorded for prosperity. Such was the case with the music from a 1972 Hollywood Bowl concert that saw release on LP five years later when jazz music’s fortunes were already on a decline. Now gathered on a Japanese two-disc set, this music possesses a freshness and vitality that makes its anonymity seem unjust. The cast includes George Benson, Freddie Hubbard, Stanley Turrentine, Hubert Laws, Milt Jackson, and Esther Phillips.

  5. Hank Mobley
    The Flip
    (Blue Note)
    One of Blue Note’s most important artists, tenor saxophonist Hank Mobley recorded actively for the label over the span of some 15 years. The majority of his catalog has been issued either by Mosaic or by Blue Note proper, with the previous exception of this 1969 session cut in Paris. While nothing all that revolutionary occurs, Mobley’s six originals are distinctive and both Dizzy Reece and Philly Joe Jones are in fine form throughout.

  6. Eddie Gale
    Eddie Gale’s Ghetto Music and Black Rhythm Happening
    (Blue Note/Water)
    Blue Note producer Alfred Lion was known for some particularly big ears when it same to the late ‘60s avant-garde sounds. After all, he recorded some legendary sides by both Cecil Taylor and Ornette Coleman. Along these lines are the two sessions trumpeter Eddie Gale cut for the label, both of which fetch some particularly high prices in their original form. A mix between sweeping jazz leanings and soulful R&B elements, Gale’s music defies categorization and maybe that’s why so few have heard this stuff over the years. Now its time has come and these two definitive reissues are a must-have for Blue Note collectors.

  7. Steve Kuhn/Gary McFarland
    The October Suite
    (Impulse)
    Arranger and Composer Gary McFarland has never received the accolades due him as a personally unique writer responsible for some sublime masterpieces recorded with Bill Evans and this 1966 set with pianist Steve Kuhn. A half dozen originals penned by McFarland explore a third stream manifesto with finesse and a vitality that has eluded many similar projects. Kuhn is in characteristically fine form, making this one a shining gem among Impulse Records’ many trinkets.

  8. Curtis Amy
    Mosaic Select 7
    (Mosaic Mail Order)
    While so many jazz fans associate the Pacific Jazz label with Chet Baker and the cooler strains that emanated from the West Coast during the ‘50s, the fact is that the label also served a central function recording more obscure African American artists from the LA area during the subsequent decade with great results. Saxophonist Curtis Amy cut six records for producer Richard Bock during the ‘60s and their final appearance here on compact disc is somewhat of a miracle. All but the most informed jazz fanatic would be shocked to think that it’s taken 40 some years to bring this first-rate music back into circulation.

  9. Rod Levitt Orchestra
    The Dynamic Sound Patterns of the Rod Levitt Orchestra
    (Riverside/OJC)
    Long before Lester Bowie’s Brass Fantasy or Ray Anderson’s various ensembles, trombonist and arranger Rod Levitt put together a large group that served as a muse for his creative compositions and wry sense of humor. Along with his three sets for RCA, this album stands as Levitt’s legacy and the fact that so few are aware of its pleasures is a downright crime. Thank you Fantasy for having the guts to bring this one back out!

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