Audiophile LPs: Fresh Blood Needed
But there are other titles, by equally big-name artists, on the same vaunted labels, that somehow get passed over every round. In some cases, these albums that I have in mind are better, and better-sounding, than the ones that get re-re-re-mastered.
I’d like to include newer musicians and newer music on this list, but people in the business tell me that customers just don’t buy LP reissues of fairly new jazz. I don’t know if that’s true; I suspect, given that this is a boutique business to begin with, that the fans could be found. But I’ll stipulate that it’s true for purposes of this wish list—and here it is:
Artists House LPs. In the 1970s, John Snyder produced a lot of terrific albums on his short-lived Artists House label. The sound was very good, often superb. In the ‘90s, Verve licensed a few of the titles for CD, but the sound was lousy. Assuming the original tapes are still around, someone like Classic, Acoustic Sounds, or Speakers Corner should have a go. My favorite of the bunch: Soapsuds, Soapsuds, a wonderful, melodic, even lyrical duet album by Ornette Coleman (on tenor sax, as opposed to his usual alto) and Charlie Haden on bass.
Masterpieces by Ellington. This is Duke Ellington’s first LP, made in 1950, but except for the mono, you’d think it was a modern audiophile reference recording. (I say this on the basis of a $10 DSD-mastered CD put out by Columbia/Legacy a few years ago.) And these are some of the Duke’s grandest arrangements ever. It’s a jaw-dropper. (Some audiophile houses have reissued other early Ellingtons, but this is the one.) While we’re at it, let’s have a good vinyl reissue of his 1957 Shakespeare tribute on Columbia, Such Sweet Thunder and his 1967 proto-“world music" fling on RCA, The Far East Suite.
Other Blue Notes. For all the Blue Note reissues out there, it’s curious that these have been passed over: Wayne Shorter, Speak No Evil; Jackie McLean, Let Freedom Ring; Eric Dolphy, Out to Lunch; Andrew Hill, Point of Departure.
Japanese Direct-to-Disk LPs. In the ‘70s and ‘80s, several Japanese labels produced direct-to-disc albums, most notably Sony, and most notably there, Herbie Hancock’s solo The Piano. A few years ago, Sony put out a CD of this album, with alternate takes, mastered from the back-up tapes. (The sound was so-so.) But Sony engineer Mark Wilder told me at the time that the master lacquers still exist in Tokyo. Somebody, go get them, and press some D-to-D albums all over again! Another eye-popper was Lew Tabakin’s Trackin’, a 45 rpm, direct-to-disc on Japanese JVC/RCA.
Other M.I.A.s. Frank Sinatra & Count Basie, Sinatra-Basie (Reprise) (the rendition of “I Won’t Dance” is worth the price of admission); Lee Konitz, Motion (Verve); Art Pepper, Today (Galaxy); Chico Freeman, The Outside Within (India Navigation). And how about some Mapleshade titles, for instance, its long-time decent-seller, Clifford Jordan, Live at Ethel’s.
Readers: Any other suggestions?
Audiophile reissue houses: Any takers?