The Shape of Jazz to Come in 45rpm

A little over two years ago, I raved in this space over Rhino's 180-gram vinyl pressing of Ornette Coleman's 1959 album The Shape of Jazz to Come, one of the greatest and most important in all of jazz. Now I'm here to rave louder still (with one frustrating caveat) about another reissue, mastered by Bernie Grundman at 45rpm for the audiophile label ORG.

In my earlier post, I said the Rhino "sounds in every way better than the original pressing, which itself sounds quite good," adding, "Everything is clearer, highs are extended, bass is more defined, dynamics are wider."

Double all that, plus some, for the ORG 45. You hear more of the music's rhythmic subtlety, the slightest shift in dynamics: the finger-flexing on the neck of Charlie Haden's bass, the full polyrhythms (and more of the kick drum) on Billy Higgins' trapset, the sputtering of Don Cherry's pocket-trumpet mouthpiece, and the sharp beauty of Ornette's white alto sax. In short, it sounds like another veil has fallen away between you and the master tape; there's more air, snap, and color-saturated tone. The sound billows forth. By comparison, the original and, to some extent, the Rhino sound flat and static.

This is the recording that redefined the possibilities of ensemble improvisation, that took the notion of harmony untethered from chord changes—an idea that was floating around in theory—and turned it into revolutionary, gorgeous, and still-riveting music. The original stereo pressing, on Atlantic, sounds very good. The Rhino sounds great. But for one of the greatest jazz recordings, you might as well have it in the greatest sound (if your rig can handle it).

I have just one complaint: the presentation. When it comes to reissues of classic jazz albums, I'm not a stickler for authenticity in visual cosmetics. But the folks of ORG seem not to care at all. The original cover shows a Lee Friedlander photo of Ornette holding his sax. It's a wonderful photo, a classic in its own right. The ORG cover turns his rich brown face into a splotchy red. ORG's back cover is a cheesy disaster: ugly white print on orange. (Martin Williams' liner notes are printed in the gatefold. At least there is a gatefold, so the two discs can slide into separate folders. I'll say that for ORG.) Then there are the discs themselves: specifically, the center labels. Rather than reproducing the original white label with the green and blue trim, ORG has chosen to reproduce the green and red label that Atlantic used for its dreadful 1970s pressings. Ignorance is the only reason I can imagine.

One more thing: nowhere on the cover, or the plastic wrap, or the record itself are prospective customers informed that the album should be spun at 45rpm. They'll find out soon enough, but still, an odd lapse.

If you already own this album in one form or another, buy this one but save the cover from the earlier pressing. If you're a newbie, do buy the ORG—but you might also want to buy the big book of Friedlander's photos (including the one of Ornette, as well as several other jazz musicians) beautifully published by the Museum of Modern Art. (If you're a fan of modern photography, you might want to get that one anyway.)

Stephen Mejias's picture

Oh, wow. I need this! But I'm surprised to hear of the poor packaging. Every other release I've purchased from ORG has been very nicely and carefully packaged. Why screw up on one of the most important jazz albums of all time? What a shame.

LM2940's picture

Such a classic album. I listen to this all the time. I know that many may not agree with me but I think that the CD pressing from the late 80s sounds pretty darn good as well.

remlab's picture

No matter what it sounds like. One of my all time favorites. The diametric opposite of smooth jazz.

jrmandude's picture

Humanity in Sound.

The 1993 Rhino CD Box Set, Beauty is a Rare Thing is the way to go.  Complete Atlantic recordings of this revolution.

I wish some of the current guys that are playing it free would reconsider Ornette's use of space.

Stephen Mejias's picture

I wish some of the current guys that are playing it free would reconsider Ornette's use of space.

Have you heard Will Vinson? Not exactly "free," but he's got a lovely tone and knows how to play with space.

jrmandude's picture

though looks like not that many albums out there.

dennisdavis's picture

It should be noted that there are two ORG companies.  The original ORG of YIng Tan and ORG Music, a different company that seems to have "borowed" the name.  This release is from ORG Music.  And yes, the cover reproductions of all their newest releases are horrid.

tmsorosk's picture

I didn't know that Dennis .

groovenoter's picture

My thanks to Dennis Davis for his clarifications above. ORG Music is a completely separate entity from the original ORG.  The former company was started by an ex-partner and releases mainly indie and alternative rock on 180g vinyl.

The original ORG continues to set the pace in the audiophile vinyl market with our superb catalogue of 45 rpm reissues including some of the very best classical titles in the Decca/London catalogue and, most recently, stunning versions of Mingus Ah Um and Ellington's Blues In Orbit and Jazz Party In Stereo.

All our LPs are mastered by Bernie Grundman and packaged with a high quality double gatefold jacket with excellent graphics reproduction on all titles.

Ying Tan, Original Recordings Group

Fred Kaplan's picture

Now I'm confused. Ying Tan says that the real ORG's 45rpm reissues are mastered by Bernie Grundman. But the jacket for the "ORG" 45rpm reissue of Ornette Coleman's "The Shape of Jazz to Come" - which Mr Tan implies was not put out by the real ORG - says that it was mastered by Bernie Grundman. As I said in my blog post, the sound of this reissue is extraordinary, but the album cover is a disgrace. So please clear up the confusion: Is this reissue a product of Mr Tan's ORG? Or does Bernie Grundman also do work for the other ORG?

dennisdavis's picture

This is not from Ying Tan's company, and Bernie does the mastering for both companies.

Fred Kaplan's picture

This is beginning to sound like a classic "difference without a distinction." There's ORG and ORG Music, they both put out 45rpm reissues, Bernie Grundman does mastering for both, but they're different companies? With respect, are you sure you just don't want to own up for printing a lousy cover (a cover, I should repeat, to a great-sounding LP)?

groovenoter's picture

Hi Fred,

It's unfortunate that the two names are so similar but let there be NO confusion. ORG is completely separate from ORG Music.   The two companies have absolutely nothing to do with each other.  

Thanks.  Ying Tan