In recent years, American major labels have been obsessed with best-of single-artist comps, or have dumped theme-related releases by classic or various artists into the bins to coincide with seasonal or greeting holidays. (Thank goodness Valentineâ€™s Day is over for another year.) It takes little to no work to assemble these CDs, and the profit margin is higher. At the same time, well regarded catalog titles are allowed to either languish in the vaults or be licensed exclusively for release overseas. This leaves many true music fans -- those that buy music continually and who don't purchase low-fi MP3s -- either to search out precious vinyl copies from online auctioneers and collectorsâ€™ web sites or drop equally big bucks to divisions of these companies or independents on retail sites.
In 2007, Verve began an ambitious reissue program called "Originals." It offered excellent titles from the various UMG labels with a distinctive look. These CDs were beautifully remastered, preserved the original album art and tracks -- despite the "Originals" brand on the left side -- at budget price, and musically, they ran the gamut: from fusion to standards to free jazz, funk, bossa, and blues, and from bop and hard bop to West Coast and soul-jazz. It seems the program worked well enough. Verve will continue it in 2008, with the first offerings released in groups beginning in March. Many of these albums were either never released on compact disc, or were only available in Japan, Europe, or briefly available during the first generation run of CDs. In addition, Verve is releasing these recordings in focused, loosely categorized groups. The first wave is by -- for the most part -- artists closely associated with the jazz canon. The second batch, coming in April, is by musicians associated with jazz-funk, contemporary, and soul-jazz (with early and seminal titles by Terry Callier, early Grover Washington, Jr., and George Duke among them). May's focuses on Brazilian and bossa nova titles. If this opening salvo is any indication, 2008 will be a terrific year -- from Verve at least -- or reissues. We'll keep you posted.
Coming on March 18th:
Louis Armstrong - New Orleans Night; Verve, 1950. First domestic CD release.
Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong - Porgy And Bess; Verve, 1957. This was released on CD domestically as part of the complete Ella & Louis duets.
Paul Desmond - Bridge Over Troubled Water; A&M, 1969. This is a stone classic of melodic improvisation. It was produced by Don Sebesky, and the other players include Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, Airto, and Gene Bertoncini to name a few. First domestic CD release. "El Condor Pasa"
Kenny Burrell - A Night at the Vanguard; Chess, 1959. First domestic CD release. "Just a Sittin' and a Rockin'"
Bill Evans - Plays the Theme from V.I.P; MGM, 1963. (Evans plays movie themes backed by orchestra arranged and conducted by Claus Ogerman. First time on CD. (This album was not included in the complete Verve recordings box.)
Oscar Peterson - Plays Count Basie; Clef, 1956. The pianist appears with Herb Ellis, Ray Brown, and Buddy Rich). This will be its first domestic release on CD.
Stan Getz - Jazz Giants '58; Verve, 1958. The great saxophonist with Harry Edison, Louis Bellson, and the Oscar Peterson Trio, being released domestically on CD for the first time.
Jimmy Smith - Live at the Village Gate; Metro, 1963. Drummer Billy Hart and guitarist Quentin Warren accompany Smith. A domestic CD debut.
Oliver Nelson - Fantabulous; Argo, 1964. Nelson leads a 12-piece ensemble that includes Phil Woods and Snooky Young. First CD issue.
George Benson - I Got a Woman and Some Blues; A&M, 1969. The last CTI issue, it went unreleased until 1984 as part of the label's Audio Masters series; it has been out of print domestically for many years. "Durham's Turn"