The ultimate year-round jazz festival of Legacy Recordings continues to set a new industry standard with four more Complete Album Collections from the Sony Music archives family of labels, by the greatest names in jazz and blues:
LOUIS ARMSTRONG – THE COMPLETE OKeh COLUMBIA & RCA VICTOR RECORDINGS 1925-1933 (OKeh/Columbia/RCA/Legacy) 10 titles, 10 CDs;
CHARLIE CHRISTIAN – THE GENIUS OF THE ELECTRIC GUITAR (Columbia/ Legacy) 4 titles, 4 CDs;
DUKE ELLINGTON – THE COMPLETE COLUMBIA STUDIO ALBUMS COLLECTION 1951-1958 (Columbia/ Legacy) 9 titles, 9 CDs;
BESSIE SMITH – THE COMPLETE COLUMBIA RECORDINGS (Columbia/ Legacy) 5 titles, 10 CDs
Newly assembled and mastered, and affordably priced, this latest wave of jazz and blues titles in the Complete Album Collections box set series will be available at the PopMarket.com website – http//complete.popmarket.com – as well as at all general retail on October 30th through Legacy Recordings, a division of SONY MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT.
Of particular interest is the fact that 2012 marks the 90th anniversary of Bessie Smith
’s signing to Columbia Records in 1922 (and the start of her recording career in 1923). Both Smith (in 1989) and Charlie Christian
(1990) are Rock And Roll Hall of Fame inductees.
These four new entries follow up the first 22 box sets in the series, released through PopMarket.com in 2011 and 2012. Those titles covered the Dave Brubeck
Quartet, Stanley Clarke
, Miles Davis
(2009), George Duke
, Stan Getz
, Dexter Gordon
, Billie Holiday
, the original Mahavishnu Orchestra
, Wynton Marsalis
, Charles Mingus
, Thelonious Monk
, Return to Forever
, Woody Shaw
, Wayne Shorter
, Sarah Vaughan
, Grover Washington Jr.
, Weather Report
1971-1975 and Weather Report 1976-1982 (all on Columbia/Legacy); the Brecker Brothers
(on Arista/Legacy); Etta James
(on Private Music/RCA/Legacy); and Paul Desmond
and Nina Simone
As the dominant jazz record labels for most of the 20th century, Columbia and RCA Victor were home to a myriad of leading jazz figures during the LP era, and into the digital age. Each multi-disc box set contains the artist’s entire album output during their original label tenure (Columbia, Epic, RCA, and so on), or focuses on some aspect of their output. Each album is packaged in a replica mini-LP sleeve reproducing that LP’s original front and back cover artwork. Where applicable, the albums in each box include the bonus tracks that have been released on the various Legacy expanded CD editions over the years. Booklets are included with each box set, containing new liner notes essays and complete discographical information, including any bonus material.
The box sets in the Complete Album Collections series have been produced by longtime Grammy Award®-winning and Grammy Award®-nominated Legacy producers Richard Seidel, Michael Cuscuna, Michael Brooks, Larry Cohn, Didier Deutsch and Bob Belden. All packaging has been supervised by Grammy Award®-winning former Legacy Vice President of Jazz Marketing Seth Rothstein, and art directed by award-winning designer Edward ODowd, who has worked on more than 150 CD packages in various genres.
Virtually all of the CDs in these box sets have been newly mastered by Sony Senior Mastering Engineer Mark Wilder. He has received seven Grammy Award® nominations and 3 Grammy Awards® in his nearly 25 years at Sony. All of the jazz CDs in the Complete Album Collections are produced from the most-up-to-date and best-sounding masters available.
The next four titles in the Complete Album Collections series feature the music of the greatest first generation blues singer, Bessie Smith, as well as jazz legends and forefathers Louis Armstrong
, Charlie Christian, and Duke Ellington
LOUIS ARMSTRONG – THE COMPLETE OKeh COLUMBIA & RCA VICTOR RECORDINGS 1925-1933 (OKeh/Columbia/RCA/Legacy 8869794565 2) Liner notes by Ricky Riccardi, archivist at the Louis Armstrong House & Museum, author of What a Wonderful World: The Magic of Louis Armstrong’s Later Years
(Pantheon, 2011): Nearly nine decades after his first OKeh recordings in Chicago as a leader, the Hot Five and Hot Seven sides of 1925 through 1928 by Louis Armstrong (1900-1971) retain their place as western pop music’s Holy Grail, Rosetta Stone, and Big Bang all rolled into one. His vocalizing and solo improvising on cornet showed the world how to swing on the seminal Hot Five recordings of “Heebie Jeebies,” “Cornet Chop Suey,” and “Muskrat Ramble,” and his Hot Seven takes of “Potato Head Blues,” “Twelfth Street Rag,” “S.O.L. Blues,” “That’s When I’ll Come Back To You,” “Struttin With Some Barbecue,” “Savoy Blues” and so many others. CD Four is devoted to his work alongside pianist Earl Hines
in Louis Armstrong & His Stompers (“Chicago Breakdown”), Carroll Dickerson’s Stompers (the lost Argentine sides “Symphonic Raps” and “Savoyagers Stomp”), the Hot Five (“West End Blues,” “Basin Street Blues,” more) and of course the Savoy Ballroom Five with Don Redman (“No One Else But You,” “Beau Koo Jack,” “Weather Bird,” “Muggles,” “St. James Infirmary,” “Tight Like This” and more).
In 1929, the newly formed Louis Armstrong & His Orchestra began recording in New York, his new home (CD Five and Six’s “Knockin’ A Jug,” “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” “(What Did I Do To Be So) Black and Blue,” “Some Of These Days,” “When You’re Smiling,” “After You’ve Gone,” “I Ain’t Got Nobody,” “St. Louis Blues,” “Rockin’ Chair,” “Tiger Rag,” “I’m A Ding Dong Daddy From Dumas,” “I’m Confessin’ (That I Love You),” “Body And Soul,” and more). Lionel Hampton (on drums!) enters the picture on Louis’ first Los Angeles recordings in 1930 (“You’re Drivin’ Me Crazy,” “Just a Gigolo,” “Shine,” and more), and the Orchestra keeps turning out the hits back in Chicago for OKeh in 1931 and ’32 (CD Seven and Eight): “Walkin’ My Baby Back Home,” “When It’s Sleepy Time Down South,” “Them There Eyes,” “Stardust,” “Georgia On My Mind,” “Between the Devil & the Deep Blue Sea,” “Kickin’ the Gong Around,” and more.
Finally, for the first time in any Legacy package, Louis’ OKeh years share the spotlight with his move to Victor in late-1932, as heard on CD Nine and Ten’s three dozen tracks. This litany of Nipper sides includes “”That’s My Home,” “I’ve Got the World On a String,” “High Society,” “Swing, You Cats,” “Laughin’ Louie,” “Sweet Sue, Just You,” “St. Louis Blues,” “You’ll Wish You’d Never Been Born,” and much more. The ten-CD package ends with Louis (and wife Lil on piano) backing Victor giant Jimmie Rodgers
on his “Blue Yodel #9,” recorded in Los Angeles, July 1930.
For jazz purists, it is important to note that this box set does not include the various sides that Armstrong recorded as a sideman, i.e. not under his own name, with such blues/pop singers as Maggie Jones on Columbia in 1924 (“Good Times Flat Blues,” “Poor House Blues,” and so on); and Lillie Delk Christian on OKeh in 1928 ( “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love,” and so on).
(Note: CDs One through Seven reprise the first out-of-print seven volumes on Louis Armstrong from the Columbia Jazz Masterpieces
series, released 1988 to 1993.)
1. Louis Armstrong & The Hot Fives – Volume 1
2. Louis Armstrong: The Hot Fives & Sevens – Volume 2 (1926-1927)
3. Louis Armstrong: The Hot Fives & Sevens – Volume 3 (1927-1928)
4. Louis Armstrong & Earl Hines (1927-1928)
5. Louis in New York (1929)
6. St Louis Blues (1929-1930)
7. You’re Driving Me Crazy (1930-1931)
8. Stardust (1931-1932)
9. Swing, You Cats (1932-1933)
10. Laughin’ Louie (1933, 1932, 1930)
CHARLIE CHRISTIAN – THE GENIUS OF THE ELECTRIC GUITAR (Columbia/ Legacy 88697 93035 2) Liner notes by Peter Broadbent, owner/administrator of The Charlie Christian Archive, the largest reference collection of material specific to Charlie Christian in existence; and author of two biographies on Charlie Christian.
Charlie Christian (1916-1942), wielding his big Gibson ES150 was not the first electric guitarist, but by dint of his role in the Benny Goodman
Sextet starting in 1939, the first integrated group organized by a major American orchestra leader, Christian attained the exposure and influence that turned him into the most iconic figure in the pre-war development of the electric guitar. Columbia staff producer John Hammond
(Goodman’s brother-in-law) first auditioned 22-year old Christian in his hometown of Oklahoma City in July 1939, at pianist Mary Lou Williams
’ suggestion. Hammond brought the guitarist to Los Angeles to audition for a new combo that Goodman was forming, in conjunction with his move to Columbia after four years at Victor. The new integrated sextet would also include Fletcher Henderson
on piano and Lionel Hampton
on vibraphone. Within two months, Christian (who was now making $200 a week) was a national star on the Goodman bandstand. The combo began recording for Columbia in New York in October. The session yielded the classic 78 single, “Flying Home” (a Hamp and Christian signature) b/w “Rose Room” (Christian’s audition tune for Benny back in July, which legend says turned into a 47 minute jam that night).
The sextet with Christian only recorded through March 1941 (their final classic 78 single, “A Smo-o-o-oth One” b/w “Air Mail Special”), some 38 extant master takes (and 37 alternate takes) heard on the first three CDs in this box set. CD Four compiles tracks that Christian recorded in New York with: 1) the Metronome All Star Nine (the dream team of Goodman, Harry James
, Jack Teagarden
, Benny Carter
, Eddie Miller
, Jess Stacy
, Bob Haggart
, and Gene Krupa
; and 2) Benny Goodman’s full orchestra. Topping the Downbeat
magazine poll in 1939 and 1940 as Best Guitarist, no sideman had greater impact on jazz over the course of an 18-month period than Charlie Christian. His tragic death in March 1942, at age 25 at a sanatorium on Staten Island, from a recurring tuberculosis and pneumonia, extinguished a flame that lives on through his Columbia recordings, which continue to inspire and teach generations of guitarists.
(Note: This package reprises the contents of the out-of-print box set of 2002, Charlie Christian – The Genius Of The Electric Guitar
, which included Peter Broadbent’s biographical essay.)
1. The Master Takes: Benny Goodman Sextet – 1939 / with The Alternate Takes
2. The Master Takes: Benny Goodman Sextet – 1940 / with The Alternate Takes
3. The Master Takes: Benny Goodman Sextet – 1940-41 / with The Alternate Takes
4. The Master Takes: the Metronome All Star Nine – 1940, Benny Goodman And His Orchestra – 1939-1941, The Sextet Breakdowns & False Starts, The Sextet Rehearsal Sequences, March 13, 1941 Jam Session
DUKE ELLINGTON – THE COMPLETE COLUMBIA STUDIO ALBUMS COLLECTION 1951-1958 (Columbia/ Legacy 88697 93888 2) Liner notes by two-time Grammy Award®-winning writer Loren Schoenberg, Artistic Director of the National Jazz Museum in Harlem.
In the aftermath of World War II and the demise of the vast majority of swing bands and orchestras (owing to gasoline rationing, the Petrillo Ban, a focus on young new vocalists, and the rise of small combo bebop and the new rhythm & blues, among other factors), Edward Kennedy Ellington (1899-1974) fared better than most. Owing to his skills as a composer, sometimes arranger, and skillful bandleader, he weathered the storm. At the other end of that storm, the LP era exploded, with opportunity for the kind of extended-length compositions and concepts that Duke and his collaborator Billy Strayhorn
were moving toward, away from the three-minute confines of the 78 rpm era.
Complicating matters was the departure of three key players (Johnny Hodges
, Lawrence Brown
, and drummer Sonny Greer
), and a new sound that Duke was envisioning for his band, “the most significant juncture in the band’s 47 year history,” Schoenberg writes. Ellington’s relationship with Columbia in the LP era began with 1951’s Masterpieces
, a program of newly- recorded versions of his familiar themes, including “Mood Indigo,” “Sophisticated Lady,” and “Solitude” (plus three bonus tracks from the same general 1951 time period). The same idea of bringing his classics up to date in the contemporary era (“Take the ‘A’ Train,” “Perdido,” and so on) was carried through on Uptown
, whose various LP editions included the two-part, 10-minute “Controversial Suite,” and the six-part, 24-minute “Liberian Suite.” Jumping ahead to 1956, Blue Rose
was a straight-ahead session of all Ellington works interpreted by Rosemary Clooney
. Following his band’s triumph at the Newport Jazz Festival that summer, Duke entered Columbia’s 30th Street Studios in September for A Drum Is A Woman
, a tribute to the Afro-Caribbean jungle roots of jazz, entirely composed by Ellington and Strayhorn.
The ‘high concept’ ideas continued into 1957, with Such Sweet Thunder
, inspired by the dramatic works of William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet
in particular. That same year, Ellington Indigos
juxtaposed his standard songbook (“Solitude,” “Mood Indigo,” “Prelude To A Kiss,” and so on) with evergreens by such composers as Rodgers & Hart (“Where Or When”), Johnny Mercer
(“Autumn Leaves”), Cole Porter
(“Night And Day”) and others. 1958 was a busy year, starting with Black, Brown And Beige
, Duke’s timeless collaboration with gospel legend Mahalia Jackson
. Bal Masque
was a tribute to the songs of the big band swing era. And 1958’s Cosmic Scene
was a future-looking nod to the Cold War space race, “the perfect merging of improvisation and composition,” Schoenberg concludes, “spontaneity and forethought, and above all, the sound of surprise that makes every note Duke Ellington ever recorded worthy of study, and a cause for sheer joy.”
1. Masterpieces By Ellington
2. Ellington Uptown
3. Blue Rose - Rosemary Clooney and Duke Ellington And His Orchestra
4. A Drum Is A Woman
5. Such Sweet Thunder
6. Ellington Indigos
7. Black, Brown And Beige Featuring Mahalia Jackson
8. Duke Ellington At The Bal Masque
9. Duke Ellington’s Spacemen: The Cosmic Scene
BESSIE SMITH – THE COMPLETE COLUMBIA RECORDINGS (Columbia/ Legacy 88725 40310 2) Liner notes by Ken Romanowski, musician, archivist, and writer who has annotated over 100 reissue projects (including more than ninety for Document Records), and a major contributor to the book that accompanied the acclaimed box set of American vernacular religious music, Goodbye, Babylon
In 1991, in the aftermath of the RIAA platinum, Grammy Award®-winning success of the double-CD box set, Robert Johnson – The Complete Recordings
, the first Columbia/Legacy historic project, an explosion of renewed interest in the blues was kindled across the country and around the world. Attention immediately turned to the original Empress of the blues, Bessie Smith (1894-1937), whose career-defining catalog on Columbia from 1923 to 1933, some 160-plus master takes, deserved a new audience in the digital era. Five critically-acclaimed double-CD deluxe box sets were issued over the next five years, and Bessie’s artistry was hailed as the new millennium approached. Her influence on singers ranging from Mahalia Jackson and Billie Holiday
to Dinah Washington
and Nina Simone
, from Janis Joplin
and Tracy Nelson
to Lucinda Williams
and Cassandra Wilson
, was reaffirmed for all to hear.
As Romanowski’s notes point out, it was the unprecedented left-field success of Mamie Smith
’s “Crazy Blues” on OKeh in 1920 that sent other companies scurrying to find blues artists who would appeal to African-American record buyers. Bessie Smith had attracted notoriety on the medicine and minstrel show circuit with her mentor Ma Rainey
’s Rabbit Foot Minstrels. Signed to Columbia at age 28, Bessie Smith was assigned to A&R staff producer Frank Walker, whose second session with her (and Clarence Williams
on piano) in February 1923 turned out the landmark 78 rpm single, “Down Hearted Blues” b/w “Gulf Coast Blues,” a million-selling record over the next year or so. This new African-American market was a boon for struggling Columbia, who (along with other record companies) would have no idea how many whites were also buying blues records until the birth of rock and roll three decades later.
There is no overstating how many blues were introduced into the American songbook by Bessie Smith over the next decade: “T’Ain’t Nobody’s Biz-ness If I Do,” “St. Louis Blues,” “A Good Man Is Hard To Find,” “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out,” “I Need A Little Sugar In My Bowl,” “Back Water Blues,” “After You’ve Gone,” “Careless Love Blues,” “I Ain’t Gonna Play No Second Fiddle,” “After You’ve Gone,” and her three Grammy® Hall Of Fame inductees at the top of the list: “Down Hearted Blues,” “St. Louis Blues,” and “Empty Bed Blues.” Astute young jazz followers also noted the presence of Clarence Williams, Louis Armstrong, Fletcher Henderson, Buster Bailey
, James P. Johnson
, Eddie Lang
, Buck Washington
, Chu Berry
, Jack Teagarden, and others at Bessie’s various Columbia sessions over the years, even Benny Goodman on 1933’s “Gimme A Pigfoot And A Bottle Of Beer.”
Volume five of this box set closes with the music from St. Louis Blues
, the short film of 1929 whose images of Bessie are emblazoned in our psyche. CD Two of Volume five comprises 79 minutes of documentary interviews conducted by Chris Albertson, the first serious chronicler of Bessie Smith’s career. “Every one of the recordings in this collection,” Romanowski writes, “is remarkable in some way thanks to Bessie’s extraordinary communicative abilities and abundance of charisma.”
(Note: This package reprises the contents of the five double-CD volumes of Complete Recordings that were released by Columbia/Legacy from 1991 to 1996.)
1. The Complete Recordings Vol. 1 (1923-1924)
2. The Complete Recordings Vol. 2 (1924-1925)
3. The Complete Recordings Vol. 3 (1925-1928)
4. The Complete Recordings Vol. 4 (1928-1931)
5. The Complete Recordings Vol. 5 (1931, 1933, unissued takes, St. Louis Blues soundtrack, Ruby Smith Dialogue/An Interview with Chris Albertson) 2 CDs