Craft Recordings & Acoustic Sounds announce 12 new titles in acclaimed ‘Contemporary Records Acoustic Sounds’ series

Article Contributed by Craft Recordings | Published on Tuesday, January 9, 2024

Craft Recordings and Acoustic Sounds are thrilled to announce the latest installment in their acclaimed Contemporary Records Acoustic Sounds series, which heralds a staggering 12 vinyl and hi-res digital releases throughout 2024. These reissues include sought-after albums from Art Pepper, Shelly Manne & His Men, Harold Land, Hampton Hawes, Howard McGhee, Prince Lasha Quintet, Ben Webster, Helen Humes, and Sonny Rollins.

Originally engineered by Roy DuNann and/or Howard Holzer, each LP will boast lacquers cut from the original master tapes (AAA) by the GRAMMY®-winning engineer Bernie Grundman, an audiophile favorite who also happens to be a Contemporary Records alum. All are pressed on 180-gram vinyl at Quality Record Pressings (QRP) and presented in Stoughton old-style tip-on jackets. The complete series is available for pre-order today, with release dates beginning February 23 as detailed below.

Art Pepper Quintet — Smack Up (releasing February 23, 2024):

Saxophonist Art Pepper was considered one of the best altos of his time, just behind Charlie Parker. This 1960 recording, whose album’s title presages the addiction that would soon offline the self-taught musician’s career, features compositions written by fellow saxophonists (including Ornette Coleman’s “Tears Inside” and Buddy Collette’s “A Bit of Basie”). Finding Pepper at his finest, most limber form, his own composition “Las Cuevas de Mario” is a particular standout in 5/4 time and would pop up on his set lists in subsequent years.

Shelly Manne & His Men — At the Black Hawk, Vol. 1. (releasing March 15, 2024):

Shelly Manne, a famed bebop drummer who worked with Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker, also made his name in Hollywood as the sticksman on soundtracks for classic films such as The Wild One and The Man With the Golden Arm. He never lost his passion for playing club shows though, and recorded this album (the first of four volumes) during a 1959 gig at San Francisco’s Black Hawk nightclub in the Tenderloin district. “The extended performances,” says AllMusic, “are easily recommended to straight-ahead jazz fans.” To that end, the album opens with a leisurely take on Gershwin’s “Summertime,” and goes on to dazzle with the swinging waltz of “Blue Daniel.”

Harold Land — The Fox (April 12, 2024):

The Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings states Harold Land is an “underrated composer with a deep feeling for the blues.” Tracks such as this album’s title track, the breathless “The Fox,” which makes stellar use of the unforgettable Dupree Bolton, the mythically talented trumpeter out of Oklahoma City whose career tragically derailed, as well as legendary pianist Elmo Hope, who penned four of the album’s six tracks, highlights this. The surprisingly moving, honey-like “Mirror Mind Rose” also showcases Land’s range and is an extraordinary exercise in expression and restraint. This album, writes The New Yorker, is “well worth savoring.”

Hampton Hawes — For Real! (releasing May 17, 2024):

This re-visiting of Hampton Hawes’ 1961 record, For Real!, comes four days after what would’ve been his 95th birthday. One of the most influential pianists of his time, the self-taught prodigy was named “New Star of the Year” by DownBeat magazine. Hawes shines bright in familiar territory: whether it’s his exquisite harmonic locked-hands style on the boppin’ “Crazeology,” recorded well after his friend Charlie Parker brought it to fame, or his lively, flittering rendition of the much-covered Cole Porter ballad “I Love You.” Here, he’s backed by Clifford Brown/Max Roach saxophonist Harold Land and Scott LaFaro, the gone-too-soon double bassist famous for his work with the Bill Evans Trio.

Howard McGhee — Maggie’s Back in Town!! (releasing June 14, 2024):

Just in time for summer comes this reissue featuring the criminally unsung Howard McGhee, the dexterous bebop trumpeter who’s frequently compared to greats such as Dizzy Gillespie and Fats Navarro. Maggie’s Back in Town!! (Maggie was McGhee’s nickname), captures the musician’s triumphant return to music in 1961. AllMusic rates the album as “McGhee's finest recording of the period.” He overachieves in rhythmic fluidity, a through line that’s particularly potent in seemingly carefree songs such as “Sunset Eyes” and the title track.

Teddy Edwards & Howard McGhee — Together Again!!!! (releasing July 12, 2024):

Another Howard McGhee cut, Together Again!!!! (recorded just before Maggie’s Back in Town!!), is a collaboration between McGhee and his old friend, saxophonist Teddy Edwards. Also featuring Phineas Newborn, Jr on piano, the sultry, otherworldly “Misty” is a spectacular entwining of each musician’s superpowers and the golden mean of musicianship led the Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings to declare that Together Again!!!! is “one of the best mainstream albums of its day.”

Prince Lasha Quintet — The Cry! (releasing August 16, 2024):

Prince Lasha Quintet’s critically adored transcendent avant-garde jazz opus The Cry! lands on August 16th. “Lasha prefers a wooden flute,” remarks All About Jazz, “which gives his passages a dark, earthy tone that contrasts well with the bitter, vibrato-less sax.” (The latter refers to saxophonist Sonny Simmons, a frequent Lasha collaborator who’d finally get his time in the spotlight about three decades later, while signed to Quincy Jones’ Qwest Records.) Songs such as the jaunty “Bojangles” and rhythm-forward “Congo Call” imbued the Quintet’s brand of free jazz, recorded here in 1962, with an identity independent of Ornette Coleman’s influence on them.

Ben Webster — At the Renaissance (releasing September 13, 2024):

This reissue of Ben Webster’s At the Renaissance is a “consistently wonderful” album notes AllMusic, that finds the saxophonist “in superior and creative form.” The New Yorker, for its part, has anointed Webster one of the “founding emperors of the jazz tenor saxophone.” The superlative 1960 performance from the Duke Ellington Orchestra alum and his band — pianist Jimmy Rowles (Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald), guitarist Jim Hall (Jimmy Giuffre, Sonny Rollins), bassist Red Mitchell (André Previn, Billie Holliday), and drummer Frank Butler (Duke Ellington, John Coltrane) — features something for everyone: from a feather-light, sentimental take on “Georgia on My Mind” to the swaggering insouciance of “Ole Miss Blues.”

Art Pepper — Gettin’ Together! & Intensity (releasing October 11, 2024):

Two more essential Art Pepper reissues, originally recorded in 1960, are the albums Gettin’ Together! and Intensity. Originally released on either side of Smack Up, these albums underscore just how refreshingly creative Pepper was at the time. Gettin’ Together’s tight “Bijou the Poodle,” penned by Pepper, leads the way, with Jazzwise admiring its “angularity…representing the darker side of the Californian jazz idyll.” Often described as a sequel to Art Pepper Meets the Rhythm Section, Gettin’ Together! once again finds Pepper backed on beat by Miles Davis alums (bassist Paul Chambers, drummer Jimmy Cobb). Meanwhile, the San Francisco Examiner sums up 1963’s Intensity, the last release of his early period, as Pepper being “well on his way toward a new kind of playing freedom.” Writes AllMusic, “Pepper sticks to swinging standards such as ‘I Can’t Believe That You’re in Love with Me,’ ‘Gone with the Wind, and ‘I Wished on the Moon’ as points of departure on this interesting and largely enjoyable set.”

Helen Humes — Songs I Like to Sing! (releasing November 8, 2024):

Helen Humes takes on the standards on her second Contemporary Records release, Songs I Like to Sing! The Louisville native got her start as a jazz and blues vocalist — including a stretch with the Count Basie Orchestra — but went on to define the sound of swing music. Los Angeles Times jazz critic Leonard Feather once remarked, “no other singer had a comparable mastery of both ballads and blues.” Her silken-voiced renditions of “If I Could Be With You” and “You’re Driving Me Crazy” at once exude wistfulness, but mostly joy. With Humes backed by a Dream Team of musicians, the album features a wealth of gold-standard saxophonists such as Ben Webster, Teddy Edwards, and Art Pepper.

Sonny Rollins — Way Out West (releasing December 6, 2024):

Closing out the year is Way Out West from tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins. The New York Times recently wrote, “He is jazz’s greatest living improviser, able to imbue his solos with wry humor, surprise, brilliant logical form, and profound emotion.” In a genre where so much talent burned out too young, Rollins (now retired at age 93) held court as one of jazz’s most formidable talents. Way Out West, his classic 1957 album, received five stars from Rolling Stone’s prestigious Jazz Record Guide and has prompted Pitchfork to deem it “an album that looks like a novelty and sounds like transcendence.” The album’s infamous 3 a.m. recording sessions featured Rollins’ sax strolling over the contributions of onetime Ella Fitzgerald bassist Ray Brown and iconic West Coast Jazz drummer Shelly Manne, neither of whom he’d ever played with. The results are incredible, with “I’m an Old Cowhand (From the Rio Grande),” a satirical song about Texas written by Johnny Mercer and made famous by Bing Crosby, skillfully merging country with jazz, while Rollins’ own composition, the title track “Way Out West,” reminds us of his dexterity and playful ambivalence towards time signatures.

Contemporary Records was founded in 1951 by Lester Koenig (1917–1977). A film producer and screenwriter by trade, he was a record collector who was also a stickler for high-fidelity audio. His label was soon synonymous with audiophile sound and became the epicenter of the West Coast jazz scene. The Contemporary Records Acoustic Sounds series — launched in the spring of 2022, with titles from Art Pepper, Shelly Manne, and Benny Carter, among others — honors the label’s legacy through meticulous reissues of both popular classics and influential rarities. Listen to more from Contemporary Records here.

Since its debut, the Contemporary Records Acoustic Sounds series has earned critical raves. JazzTimes notes, "Artists, producers, and engineers alike have held Contemporary aloft…as a label dedicated to presenting jazz at its absolute purest, richest, and live-est,” and remarked that the successful reissues “are living, breathing proof of that label’s hotly cutting clarity.” Audiophile Review enthuses that the reissue of Art Pepper + Eleven: Modern Jazz Classics was “top-notch…richer and more inviting.” Meanwhile, Audiophile Audition lauded over how “pristine” Hampton Hawes’ Four! reissue was, adding, “Kudos to Craft Recordings for re-introducing a brilliant pianist.”

Each of the 2024 reissue titles is available for pre-order today. Hi-res digital (192/24) will also be available for purchase at the time of each LP release.

Art Pepper Quintet - Smack Up


1.      Smack Up

2.      Las Cuevas De Mario

3.      A Bit of Basie


1.      How Can You Lose

2.      Maybe Next Year

3.      Tears Inside

Shelly Manne and His Men - At the Black Hawk, Vol. 1


1.      Summertime

2.      Our Delight


1.      Poinciana

2.      Blue Daniel

3.      Theme: A Gem From Tiffany

Harold Land - The Fox


1.      The Fox

2.      Mirror Mind Rose

3.      One Second, Please


1.      Sims A-Plenty

2.      Little Chris

3.      One Down

Hampton Hawes - For Real!


1.      Hip

2.      Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams

3.      Crazeology


1.      Numbers Game

2.      For Real

3.      I Love You

Howard McGhee - Maggie's Back in Town!!


1.      Demon Chase

2.      Willow Weep for Me

3.      Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise

4.      Sunset Eyes


1.      Maggie's Back in Town

2.      Summertime

3.      Brownie Speaks

Teddy Edwards and Howard McGhee - Together Again!!!!


1.      Together Again

2.      You Stepped out of a Dream

3.      Up There


1.      Perhaps

2.      Misty

3.      Sandy

Prince Lasha Quintet - The Cry!


1.      Congo Call

2.      Bojangles

3.      Green and Gold

4.      Ghost of the Past


1.      Red's Mood

2.      Juanita

3.      Lost Generation

4.      A. Y.

Ben Webster - At the Renaissance


1.      Georgia on My Mind

2.      Caravan

3.      Renaissance Blues


1.      Ole Miss Blues

2.      What’s This Thing Called Love

3.      Stardust

Art Pepper - Gettin' Together!


1.      Whims of Chambers

2.      Bijou the Poodle

3.      Why Are We Afraid?

4.      Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise


1.      Ole Miss Blues

2.      What’s This Thing Called Love

3.      Stardust

Art Pepper – Intensity


1.      I Can't Believe That You're in Love With Me

2.      I Love You

3.      Come Rain or Come Shine

4.      Long Ago (And Far Away)


1.      Gone With the Wind

2.      I Wished on the Moon

3.      Too Close for Comfort

Helen Humes - Songs I Like to Sing!


1.      If I Could Be With You

2.      Don't Worry 'Bout Me

3.      Mean to Me

4.      Every Now and Then

5.      I Want a Roof Over My Head

6.      St. Louis Blues


1.      You're Driving Me Crazy

2.      My Old Flame

3.      Millon Dollar Secret

4.      Love Me or Leave Me

5.      Imagination

6.      Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone

Sonny Rollins - Way Out West


1.      I'm an Old Cowhand

2.      Solitude

3.      Come, Gone


1.      Wagon Wheels

2.      There Is No Greater Love

3.      Way Out West