Author: Schweitzer, Bill
Date published: December 1, 2011
Journal code: IAJR
The 1953-54 Clef/Norgran Studio Sessions Mosaic MRLP 3003
Bob Brookmeyer (v tb) Tony Fruscella (tpt), John Williams/ Jimmy Rowles, (p), Bill Crow/ Teddy Kotick/ Bob Whitlock/Bill Anthony (b), Al Levitt/Frank Isola/Max Roach (d).
Have You Met Miss Jones?, Erudition, Cool Mix, Rustic Hop, Love And The Weather, Spring Is Here, Pot Luck, Willow Weep For Me, Crazy Rhythm, The Nearness Of You, Minor Blues, Fascinating Rhythm, I Didn't Know What Time It Was, Tangerine, It Don't Mean A Thing, The Varsity Drag, Give Me The Simple Life, I'll Remember April, Oh Jane Snavely, We'll Be Together Again, Feather Merchant, Flamingo, It Don't Mean A Thing (alt), Pot Luck (78tk), Blue Bells, Round Up Time, Nobody Else But Me, Down By The Sycamore Tree, I Hadn't Anyone 'Til You, With The Wind And The Rain In Your Hair, Nobody Else But Me (alt), I Hadn't Anyone 'Til You (alt).
Hearing music without noise, distortion, or background rumble, while still retaining the warmth of the original is what a good re-issue should strive for. This has always been the sonic signature of Mosaic Records. When the session choices are right, magic happens. The Stan Getz box set is a winner, and the high-water mark in the recently revived vinyl-only re-issue series.
But first, a little history. Mosaic Records abandoned vinyl as part of their regular limited edition issues with "The Complete Blue Note Sessions Of Horace Parlan" MQ8-197. With the completion of their Miles Davis Columbia series, their vinyl only re-issues ended. It seemed that this iconic re-issue house would never again produce vinyl records.
However, in 2005, in cooperation with Thelonious Records Production, it issued a non-limited, vinyl edition of the magnificent "Thelonious Monk with John Coltrane @ Carnegie Hall" in tandem with the mainstream cd issue. It was a great day. That record is one of the crown jewels in any jazz collection.
We heard no more about vinyl from Mosaic until 2009 when the inaugural 3000 series box set," The Complete Thelonious Monk At The It Club",MRLP3001, a 41p limited edition was issued. I was one of the first in line and received #0055. It was, and remains, a great disappointment.
Although there are 3 performances not issued on the original 2 LP Columbia vinyl, the majority of the additional material is nothing more than extended bass and drum solos, and slight 1 minute Epistrophy themes.
In this instance, I agree with the A&R folks at Columbia who originally edited these bass and drum solos out. Even the packaging was not up to the old standards. The cover has generic lettering without the wonderful photos that grace the Cd and older LP boxes. Although there is better fidelity in this Mosaic issue than in the Columbia issue, if I had to do it again, I'd have kept the original issue.
The next set MRLP 3002, is a 3LP box set of Ella Fitzgerald and Duke Ellington which includes the Ella and Duke At The Cote D'Azur 2LP set plus the obscure Ellington Soul Call album. As far as I could tell, there are no extra tracks. I haven't purchased this one and probably won't.
With this history of mediocrity I no longer had high hopes for this series. Then I saw the announcement of this new Stan Getz set, "The 1953-54 Clef/Norgran Studio Sessions". Again, I ordered it immediately. This time there was no disappointment. (This time I was #0448- so maybe Getz sells better than Monk?). What a beautiful compilation. This is Mosaic at their best, bringing together obscure and seemingly disparate items that always belonged together.
Mosaic has gathered seven sessions recorded for Norman Granz from April 16, 1953 to January31, 1955. They have been previously issued on vinyl over seven different records. These sessions coincide with the break-up of the quintet with Jimmy Rainey (a period covered in a previous Mosaic set), and the inclusion of Bob Brookmeyer, and then, Tony Fruscella to the front line. The box includes three previously unissued tracks plus a take of Pot Luck only issued as a 78. They do not include the live Shrine session (probably his most famous record from that time), or the Jam Session and Gillespie dates from then.
The music should be familiar to most IAJRC readers so a track by track analysis is unnecessary, but it should be pointed out that, although Getz was going through one of the most turbulent periods of his life, the music is buoyant, almost gleeful. It swings like crazy, with an inner joy that is hard to resist. I found myself smiling throughout.
A lot of the credit should go to Brookmeyer. Contrasting his contribution with the desultory Fruscella, reveals a consummate professional with a great inner swing who also contributed some excellent lines to the proceedings.
The three 1953 sessions featuring Brookmeyer and the underrated John Williams on piano, were also the first time Getz recorded specifically for the LP. These sessions (released as Interpretations 1, 2 & 3) serve as the backbone of the collection. The extended time was well used, and the feeling that the musicians could take their time, translated to relaxed blowing.
I own a relatively decent original of Interpretations #2 so I was able to A/B a few of my favorite sides. On Fascinating Rhythm, the original pressing had a higher recorded level. The Mosaic, even at the lower level, had a more pronounced cymbal sound, and the bass was up in the mix. The instruments seemed more separated, but paradoxically, more distant. On the Mosaic Minor Blues the cymbal was not as pronounced and the overall experience was more successful. The original still sounded more immediate, but the soundstage of the Mosaic issue seemed truer and more pleasing. I found this to be the case on the other tracks as well, although different sessions came in at different volumes. This is a great idea successfully accomplished.
I do have a few nits to pick. Arne Astrup's Getz discography lists an unissued take 7 of Rustic Hop (listed as Rustic Bop in the Mosaic discography) and a first take of We'll Be Together Again (issued on Norgran EPN-2001), neither of which are issued here or talked about in the session notes.
I also have a respectful suggestion to the folks at Mosaic. Would you please consider issuing some of your new original Mosaic Select sessions as vinyl? I would love to have a 41p set of the Sam Rivers Rivbea Orchestra or the unissued Charles Tolliver Big Band.