Concord Music Group marks the first anniversary of its highly successful Original Jazz Classics Remasters series with the reissue of four new titles on March 15, 2011. Originally launched in March 2010, and enhanced by 24-bit remastering by Joe Tarantino, the series showcases some of the most pivotal recordings of the past several decades by artists whose influence on the jazz tradition is beyond measure.
The four new titles in the series are:
- Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers: Ugetsu
- Ella Fitzgerald and Oscar Peterson: Ella and Oscar
- Thelonious Monk: Monk’s Music
- Cal Tjader/Stan Getz Sextet
“In keeping with the philosophy behind the series, we continue to showcase the best – and in some cases, the most influential — recordings by some of the most legendary artists in jazz,” says Nick Phillips, Vice President of Jazz and Catalog A&R at Concord Music Group and producer of the Original Jazz Classics Remasters series. “After 14 titles in a span of 12 months, there’s obviously no lack of high caliber artists and excellent material in the Concord vaults to draw from.”
Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, Ugetsu
Recorded live at Birdland in New York City in June 1963 for Riverside, Ugetsu features trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, tenor saxophonist Wayne Shorter, trombonist Curtis Fuller, pianist Cedar Walton and bassist Reggie Workman — a crew heralded as “one of the top three or four lineups Blakey ever led,” according to Neil Tesser, who wrote the new liner notes for the reissue. The CD ends with four bonus tracks, including a previously unreleased cover of George Shearing’s 1949 bop classic, “Conception.”
“There’s something special about Art Blakey and his band live, and this album is certainly no exception,” says Phillips. “That’s partly because this was the natural environment in which these guys were working night after night in the clubs. There are certain things that can happen in a live jazz recording that don’t always happen in the more artificial environment of a recording studio.”
Tesser notes that the recording marks the first appearance of iconic tunes that would remain in the Messengers’ repertoire long after their composers left the band, including Shorter’s “One by One” and “On the Ginza,” Fuller’s “Time Off,” and Walton’s title track. “Blakey almost never took an extended drum solo with the Messengers,” says Tesser. “He didn’t need to. He stamped every gig, every phrase, practically every note from his sidemen with the unerring judgment and bold panache of his colors and accents.”
Ella Fitzgerald and Oscar Peterson, Ella and Oscar
Ella and Oscar was recorded in May 1975 for Pablo and produced by jazz impresario Norman Granz, who’d founded the label just a couple years earlier. The album is a series of duets that enlists the aid of bassist Ray Brown on four of the original nine tracks. Brown also appears on two of the four previously unreleased bonus tracks included in the reissue.
“The selections that make up Ella and Oscar, as well as the casual ambience of the exchange between singer, pianist, and bassist Ray Brown . . . beckons the listener to enjoy this meeting of musical minds that could have taken place in Ella’s living room in Beverly Hills or Oscar’s home in Mississauga, Ontario, rather than in a recording studio,” says Tad Hershorn, who wrote the new liner notes for the OJCR reissue. “The interaction between Fitzgerald, Peterson, and Brown accomplishes two ends. It reveals the creative improvisational process while delivering a finished definitive product destined to linger in the annals of jazz vocals. The spare directness of these recordings lay bare the emotions contained in the songs themselves with few frills.”
The bonus tracks are alternate takes that “underscore the fact that both artists were true masters of the art of jazz improvisation,” says Phillips. “The alternate takes don’t sound like the master takes. Each performance is fresh, and each captures that spontaneity and that in-the-moment creativity that are hallmarks of the greatest jazz artists and timeless jazz recordings. Nothing is done by rote.”
Thelonious Monk, Monk’s Music
Recorded in New York in June 1957 for Riverside, Monk’s Music surrounds the pianist/composer with a stellar crew: trumpeter Ray Copeland, alto saxophonist Gigi Gryce, tenor saxophonists John Coltrane and Coleman Hawkins, bassist Wilbur Ware, and drummer Art Blakey.
“What makes this one of the most fascinating recordings of Monk’s career is the complexity of the material combined with the caliber of the musicians on hand to play it,” says Phillips. “You have John Coltrane and Coleman Hawkins, two all-time legends of the tenor saxophone, playing Monk’s music side-by-side. That in and of itself makes this a very special recording. They’re two artists with very different styles, and two artists who have had a profound influence on legions of other saxophonists.”
“Monk’s Music was the haymaker in a one-two-three combination of albums, all recorded in 1957, that made it a breakout year for Thelonious Monk,” says Ashley Kahn, author of the new liner notes for the reissue. “A solidly balanced recording that highlighted Monk’s growing status as the pre-eminent composer of the modern jazz scene, it featured a septet that drew on an unusual mix of soloists and a solid rhythm team. It also stood out as being the first recording released that was conscious of Monk’s increased popular appeal.”
Heralded by Downbeat as one of the top five albums of 1958, Monk’s Music “remains one of Monk’s most cherished recordings: coherent, organic, and fully realized,” says Kahn.
Cal Tjader / Stan Getz Sextet
A study in serendipity, Cal Tjader / Stan Getz Sextet was recorded for Fantasy at the Marines Memorial Auditorium in San Francisco in February 1958. The two leaders are backed by pianist Vince Guaraldi, guitarist Eddie Duran, bassist Scott LaFaro, and drummer Billy Higgins.
There are no bonus tracks, and for good reason, says Doug Ramsey, author of the new liner notes. No evidence exists in the Fantasy/Concord vaults of alternate takes or outtakes from this session. “What we have here is 43 minutes and 51 seconds of perfection,” says Ramsey, “a demonstration that six masters who have never before played together as a group can produce timeless music in the common language of jazz.”
Duran, the sole survivor of the 1958 sessions, concurs: “There was no rehearsal before the date, no alternates, no second takes. It went very smoothly. It just kind of fell into place. The feeling was happy and relaxed.”
“From the LP era, there are many examples of indifferent recordings by makeshift bands – jam sessions filling out the 12-inch vinyl with endless choruses,” says Ramsey. “In this joint venture, planning, preparation, six major talents and a spontaneous compatibility bordering on magic made the Tjader-Getz collaboration a classic. It’s good to hear it again.”