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Bounty of CD Reissues Just Gets Better


When CDs arrived on the market in the '80s, there was a rush of repackages as record marketers saw the potential profits in reselling previously issued recordings. In that dash to the marketplace, the best analog sources were not always used, and the expanded time availability of CDs was generally ignored with releases that simply duplicated the original LPs.

Current jazz reissue programs have taken a far more carefully planned approach. Much of the material now being released by the major labels is derived from original master tapes, and supplemented with bonus tracks, new liner notes and photographs. The result is a kind of win-win situation, with the record companies benefiting from increased sales of low-overhead catalog items, and the consumer having the opportunity to acquire well-prepared classic material that is complemented with previously unavailable alternate takes and additional numbers.

The latest group of releases from Columbia/Legacy Jazz consists of six classic vocal recordings dating from the decade between 1956-66. Each of the carefully produced albums has some attractive supplemental material. Louis Armstrong's "The Complete Chicago Concert, 1956" is a two-CD, newly remastered version of the 1980 LP release, with 12 minutes of music added. Carmen McRae's "Lover Man and Other Billie Holiday Classics," recorded in 1961, adds two previously unreleased bonus tracks--"The Christmas Song" (an outtake from her "Jingle Bell Jazz" album) and "If the Moon Turns Green," sung as a duet with pianist-vocalist Norman Simmons.

Jimmy Rushing's "Rushing Lullabies" combines two LP albums from 1958-59--"Little Jimmy Rushing & the Big Brass (here in stereo for the first time) and "Rushing Lullabies" (with an added bonus track). Sarah Vaughan's "Sarah Vaughan in Hi-Fi" includes sessions from 1949, '50 and '52. The release restores the sequence of eight tunes on a 10-inch LP recorded in 1949-50 with an octet that included, among others, tenor saxophonist Budd Johnson and trumpeter Miles Davis (24 at the time). It continues with the four large ensemble tracks that were added to those eight numbers for the 12-inch album "Sarah Vaughn in Hi-Fi." And, finally, this vital collectors' album tacks on eight previously unissued alternate takes from the 1949-50 dates.

The final two albums in the Columbia/Legacy set both feature Mel Torme. "That's All" showcases Torme in a lovely '60s set of ballads--"My Romance," "The Nearness of You," "I've Got You Under My Skin," etc.--with 12 additional tracks, many previously unreleased. "Right Now!" is one of Torme's most unusual outings--an effort to "cover" some of the current chartbusters of 1966. But one suspects that only the most hard-core Torme fans will be intrigued by his renderings of "My Little Red Book," "Homeward Bound" and "If I Had a Hammer."

Verve Records--the owner of one of jazz's most extensive catalogs--is continuing its upgrade of early CD reissues. Verve Master Editions, according to company President Chuck Mitchell, "addresses the technological advancements of the past dozen years" by using the best possible resources to produce "optimal audio clarity."

This month's eight CD release includes two Stan Getz bossa nova albums, "Getz/Gilberto" (with Brazilian singer-guitarist Joao Gilberto) and "Jazz Samba" (with guitarist Charlie Byrd). Bill Evans' "Conversations With Myself" is a fascinating 1963 album in which the great pianist multi-tracks duets with himself. Kenny Burrell's "Guitar Forms" from 1965 is a stunning collaboration between the guitarist and a 13-piece ensemble playing Gil Evans' arrangements.

Oscar Peterson performs on two excellent albums--"Night Train" (1962) and "Ben Webster Meets Oscar Peterson" (1959). Organist Jimmy Smith and guitarist Wes Montgomery swap riffs in the aptly titled 1966 album "The Dynamic Duo," which also includes three formidable tracks with an Oliver Nelson-led big band. And the reissuing of Ella Fitzgerald's inimitable songbook interpretations continues with "Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Rodgers and Hart Songbook."

Verve has already scheduled five more releases in the Master Editions program for June (including more Getz, Montgomery and Fitzgerald, with albums by Count Basie and Lester Young), and seven albums for July (ranging from Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker to Tony Scott's "Music for Zen Meditation").

Free Music: A two-trumpet quartet led by Clay Jenkins and Dave Scott performs at the L.A. County Museum of Art tonight at 5:30, (213) 857-6000. . . . The Fred Ramirez Latin Band appears at Pedrini Music Saturday at 1:30 p.m. as part of the Alhambra Annual Outdoor Springfest, (818) 289-0241.

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