Friday, May 15, 2009

Some golden jazz projects take on a new spin

A golden anniversary only rolls around once, so producers and promoters are smart to make the best of it.

To some ears, 1959 was the greatest year in jazz, given the pinnacle of talent and artful productivity in so many facets of the music. It was the year for recording projects that turned out to be pivotal for their makers – and for listeners. Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue, John Coltrane’s Giant Steps and Ornette Coleman’s The Shape of Jazz to Come led the charge.

We don’t dare forget about Davis’s enduring classic Sketches of Spain, Dave Brubeck’s Time Out and Charles Mingus’s Mingus Ah Um. And Columbia / Legacy is making sure we don’t forget them.

On May 26, the label is releasing 50th anniversary two-CD deluxe sets of the three classic recordings as part of its Legacy Edition series. Each has been enhanced or beefed up in some way for this 1959 – Jazz’s Greatest Year set:

· Sketches of Spain (50th Anniversary Enhanced 2 CD Legacy Edition) - The original of this Gil Evans-Miles Davis collaboration plus more than an hour of rehearsal or alternate takes, as well as a version of “Concerto de Aranjuez” from the only time they performed it live (Carnegie Hall, 1961) and a new essay by Gunther Schuller.

· Time Out -50th Anniversary (2 CD/1 DVD Legacy Edition) - Jazz’s first million-selling album is accompanied by previously unreleased recordings of Brubeck’s Quartet at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1961, 1963 and 1964 (eight tracks in all), as well as a 30-minute DVD documentary on the making of the project, an interview with Brubeck, an interactive piano lesson, and historic performance footage. There’s also a new essay by Ted Gioia.

· Ah Um 50th Anniversary (Legacy Edition) - The 1959 recording and its sequel, Mingus Dynasty, in their entirety, plus bonus tracks and alternate takes from the 1959 recording sessions for Mingus Ah Um and a new essay by Michael Cuscuna.

All three 50th anniversary sets also contain rare photos and previously unpublished documents and/or correspondence concerning the recording sessions.

The completists among us are likely to rejoice with this new ammunition for the argument that silence isn’t always golden.

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