Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
Jazztone Stories, Part I: For once, "Timeless Jazz" is NOT j
Gordon M. Brown | San Diego, CA USA | 04/20/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"On November 8, 1954, tenor sax legend Coleman Hawkins, along with five sidemen, laid down 12 tracks for the Jazztone Society label. Nine of these tracks were then issued on "Timeless Jazz: Coleman Hawkins and his All-Stars" (Jazztone J-1201). In the late 1980s, Fresh Sound Records, a Spanish company, remastered "Timeless Jazz" to digital and issued it on compact disc. In 2003, Fresh Sound released all 12 tracks on a newer issue entitled "Coleman Hawkins: The Complete Jazztone Recordings 1954." More recently, the nine tracks of the original album, along with "Honeysuckle Rose," have been re-released on the Original Long Play label.
"Timeless Jazz" is not merely one of the Hawk's better albums; this is a GREAT ALBUM that stands proudly alongside his finest recordings despite its obscure origins and compromised sound quality. Every fan of the Hawk, as well as lovers of jazz arcana generally, should obtain this highly collectible recording before it goes out of print one last time. For a more complete description, see my forthcoming review, "Jazztone Stories, Part III: The "sleeper" in Coleman Hawkins' discography," which is based on The Complete Jazztone Recordings 1954. Meanwhile, a few words about the Jazztone Society, as well as Fresh Sound's efforts to revive portions of the Jazztone catalog:
ABOUT THE JAZZTONE SOCIETY
The Jazztone Society record label was a short-lived offshoot of the Concert Hall Society, a mail-order company for classical-music recordings. Jazz historian George T. Simon served as Jazztone's director of research. The Jazztone label issued one LP recording per month from 1955 to 1957, after which it went out of business. These recordings were subsequently reissued in Germany, France, and the U.S. under other labels. Of the 30 to 40 titles issued by Jazztone, some were recorded exclusively for the label, while others were reissues of recordings previously minted by Dial, Savoy, Prestige, and other companies. Some of these recordings showcased music from the Dixieland/Chicago period, but the majority of them centered on a type of "mainstream" jazz that mingles the traditions of swing, bop, and "cool-school."
Jazztone's production values comprised a maddening mixture of excellence and mediocrity. The discs were nice, thick, fairly heavyweight pieces, and (judging from the six that I own) uncommonly generous (the "Timeless Jazz" LP, for instance, clocks in at an astounding 55:39!). But they were encased in flimsy cardboard envelopes with wax-paper sleeves. The jacket art was interesting; it consisted of a monochrome, doubly-exposed photograph superposing an image of jazz musicians atop another image of New York skyscrapers at night. Depending on the recording in question, the monochrome would be printed in one of a variety of Atomic-Age colors: magenta, orange, olive drab, turquoise-green, gray, mustard-yellow, etc. ("Timeless Jazz" has an orange jacket. You can also type "jazztone" into the Amazon search bar to see what some of these albums looked like.) The packaging pièce de résistance, however, was the Jazztone logo--a highly stylized line drawing of a jazz keyboardist that very compactly conveys a remarkable sense of urban grit and ultra-cool '50s hipness.
Unfortunately, Jazztone's sound quality did not stack up well against the best jazz recordings of the period. I would characterize the "Jazztone sound" as being forward with horns and winds, but having weak dynamics throughout the instruments in the rhythm section, as well as a rather flat soundstage overall. To the best of my knowledge, only four or five of Jazztone's worthiest original-release titles have ever been digitally remastered and transferred to compact disc, all of them by Fresh Sound Records of Spain. There is every reason to speculate that Jazztone's entire repository of master tapes and metal dies was either allowed to deteriorate, or was lost or destroyed, and that Fresh Sound transferred these recordings to digital using extant LPs. The remasters that I've heard (I own all but one of these discs at the moment) show improved bass response and subjectively seem to have brought the piano slightly forward. Most important, they have eliminated virtually all surface noise. Although these improvements are only incremental, and clearly lack the vividness, depth and detail of, say, the best of Rudy Van Gelder's remasters, the engineers at Fresh Sound probably did the best they could with the materials on hand.
Information about the Jazztone label is extremely hard to come by, even online. A great deal of it is anecdotal, and is posted on various blogs. After much searching on the Internet, I was unable to come up with even a single posting of Jazztone's complete catalog. Sadly, the Jazztone story appears to have largely died along with the people who originally maintained it. But that only adds to the mystique and peculiar appeal of this label. The important point is that much buried treasure remains to be excavated there, if one will but have patience, and bear with the funky recording quality and mixed production standards.
Swinging with Hawk
Nikica Gilic | Zagreb, Croatia | 03/25/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a very nice and swinging album, recorded in 1954, with Hawk stretching his wings in very good company; ole reliable Emmet Berry, for instance, is very effective on "Out of Nowhere" and he also gives "Just You, Just Me" the pretty treatment the melody deserves...
Hawkins is, however, the star, at the peak of his powers, playing imaginatively, with lot of swing, nice ensemble work and solos from all involved (Ed Beart on trombone also sounds quite interesting, more modern than Berry who is deeply rooted in 30s swing tradition).... ALL original album performances are longer than 4 and a half minutes, but I still have the feeling I could listen to them for at least a minute or two more...
One minor note for audiofiliacs - the audio quality resembles Charlie Parker's 40s and early 50s recordings; I don't know why, but I somehow prefer the sound quality of the late 30s recordings... Is it a remastering question? Am I listening on insufficiently sophisticated equipment? I don't know, but check out the short bonus track "Honeysuckle Rose", where Hawk plays just with rhythm section (Billy Taylor-p, Milt Hinton-b, Jo Jones-dm): the sound is much fuller and richer, but there are also cracks and pops as if it was taken from an less-than-mint condition LP, instead of a master tape... Personally, I wouldn't mind the cracks if the rest of the album sounded so rich; than I could hear Jo Jones and Milt Hinton in their fool splendor...
If you want to hear the full (and stereo) sound of Hawk's horn, check out for instance the "Coleman Hawkins encounters Ben Webster" album...
Other tracks from the original album without other two horns are "If I Had You", "Ain't Misbehavin" and "Cheek to Cheek""