THE COMPLETE PACIFIC JAZZ RECORDINGS OF THE
At least eight years ago I wrote a letter to Michael Cuscuna, the man in charge of the Capitol/Pacific Jazz reissues on CD, pointing out huge gaps in the catalogs. Although virtually everything by, say, Gerry Mulligan or Chet Baker was out on CD, there was nothing by the
The only response I ever got to that letter was a catalog from Mosaic. Mosaic is another hat that Cuscuna wears. Mosaic is a "collector's" label. Its collections are available only by mail-order, direct from Mosaic, and are issued in (numbered) editions of 5,000. While most of Mosaic's collections are available on both CD and LP, a few (like a Mingus Columbia set) were available only on LP. Over the years I've bought a few collections. I bought the Mingus set of complete Candid recordings, although I had all the Candid releases (both original LPs and modern CDs), just to collect his contributions from the several anthology albums. I bought the Herbie Nichols Blue Note collection because his three LPs for Blue Note (two 10", one 12") weren't out on CD -- then. Subsequently Blue Note did release them...as a collection duplicating the Mosaic set.
I've noticed that maybe two-thirds of the Mosaic collections (well, of those that caught my eye -- a biased sample, I'll admit) eventually end up in commercial release from the original labels (or their heirs). Sometimes, I suspect, these collections are collaborative efforts between the original label and Mosaic, destined to be released by both eventually, with Mosaic's coming first. Sometimes it's simpler than that -- in cases where Cuscuna controls both the original-label release and the Mosaic release -- as in all EMI jazz product (Capitol, Pacific Jazz, Blue Note, Roulette). Perhaps in such cases the Mosaic is a trial balloon, to test demand and see if a commercial release is justified. But I'm just guessing. As for my letter's requests, Mosaic has now reissued all of the
Only the first of the
In its original form the Quintet was a musical equal to its contemporary, the Modern Jazz Quartet. Both played chamber jazz: subtle, contrapuntal music to which each instrument contributed its own line. With the array of instrumentation available to it, the Quintet could cover a broader territory, ranging from the blues propelled by a tenor sax -- or a walking bass -- to something more ethereal from oboe and cello. In addition to their own compositions (every member of the Quintet contributed), they played the occasional standard, and ultimately recorded an album of Ellington music and an album of music from South Pacific (another jazz showtune album). (The album of Ellington's music -- some of which had been in the Quintet's book all along -- is an oddity: It was originally intended that the new Quintet -- with Eric Dolphy -- would record the album, which led to the three tracks with Dolphy that are included in this collection. Then the decision was made to reassemble the original Quintet for the album -- with Paul Horn added, making the Quintet an unacknowledged sextet!)
It's all here: The ELLINGTON SUITE,
And there are those three tracks recorded by the Quintet with Eric Dolphy -- most of whose recordings with the Quintet were for Warner Bros. (The collection's annotator, Robert Gordon, reveals a curious bias toward Dolphy: "On 'In A Sentimental Mood' Eric simply states the melody, and there are a couple of spots in which his intonation is suspect. (Eric was not lacking in technical skills, and it may be that his exceedingly personal tone simply would not mesh with the 'straight' reading that he was confined to.)" This is rubbish, as anyone familiar with Dolphy's work -- particularly his subsequent work with the Quintet -- would know. What Gordon hears as "suspect intonation" was anything but: it was Eric's way of making a "straight" tone sing with all the passion of a Johnny Hodges.)
I was really excited when I realized that this collection had a bonus album: Fred Katz's ZEN. It occupies the second half of Disc IV. Katz, a classical celloist and a jazz piano player, turned his cello into a uniquely expressive jazz instrument (both arco/bowed, and pizzicato/plucked) with the Quintet. His music is infused with Jewish soul (the notes refer to Klezmer music at one point), but can become abstract or lyrical. ZEN was his first album as a leader, and it includes the original "Lord Randall," as well as the three-part "Suite for Horn," which is an ambitious piece of music (favorably -- and correctly -- compared with the "Third Stream Music" that would occur a few years later, in the notes). Regretably, this is the only Fred Katz album to make it onto CD in any form. Someone should collect and issue his Decca work, on both his own albums and those of John Pisano.
This collection holds up well, throughout, and comes recommended to all who enjoy ambitious mid-fifties jazz. I'd rather have the original albums (supplimented with bonus tracks, to deal with the originally unreleased material), but I'll take what I can get.
If you are interested in obtaining any of the music discussed in this site, click on Ordering Information
I welcome feedback on these pages. I can be reached directly at twhite8 AT cox DOT net. Let me hear from you. --Dr. P