Waxing & musings. As a fan of good music, I was overjoyed to read that Sir Paul McCartney has agreed to move his post-Fab Four catalog to Concord Records. The record business certainly has gone through some difficult contortions in the past few years. Those labels that are doing well have found ways to skillfully hold down costs and re-package their most valuable assets. Concord, for one, has been doing a superb job in this department, particularly with jazz and r&b. Its John Coltrane and Ray Charles re-issues of late were first rate—lovingly comprehensive and true to the music.But back to the drama. How did a company like Britain's EMI hit the skids? Don't be too quick to blame its misfortunes completely on digital downloads and CD burns. Like a star-struck fan, Britain's Terra Firma Capital Partners Ltd. led by Guy Hands entered a business it didn't fully understand. Simply put, Terra Firma overpaid and now is struggling to make payments on its $4.91-billion Citigroup loan.
Sir Paul, of course, hasn't issued an album through EMI since 2007. Instead, he has been experimenting with Starbucks and other non-traditional distribution channels. As for the Beatles catalog, EMI still has control of its distribution with no expiration date in sight.Winning Sir Paul's post-Beatles releases is just half the battle for Concord. Band on the Run was issued as a two-CD remastered box in 1999, and McCartney's post-Beatles hits were remastered and released on Wingspan, a double CD, in 2001. Both were issued by Capitol/EMI and both are still in print. Meaning that there's a real risk that Concord will be competing with existing product and that the target audience may have all the Sir Paul it wants or needs.
The challenge for Concord will be to bring superb remastering, alternate takes and history to the party in the form of liner notes, bonus tracks and extras. Given Concord's success with previous artist packages, it will be interesting to see how the label markets the McCartney catalog to make it fresh, exciting and essential. Much will rest on how the reissued albums sound and what we learn about the sessions from the liner notes.
Ira Gitler and Tony Fruscella. Last week, during my interview series with Herb Geller, the alto saxophonist talked about recording with trumpeter Tony Fruscella in 1952 at Rudy Van Gelder's studio in New Jersey. Ira Gitler, the esteemed jazz writer (Swing to Bop) and former Prestige producer, was at the session and sent along the following email:
"Herb Geller's recounting of the Tony Fruscella session at Rudy Van Gelder's studio struck a strong chord with me. I was working for Prestige at the time—sweeping the floor; packing and unpacking records; writing liner notes, label copy and ad copy; doing promotion with DJs and critics; and producing recording sessions—all for the same salary.
"One day Prestige president Bob Weinstock asked me to go out to Hackensack, N.J., on a Sunday (no overtime pay) to check out Rudy Van Gelder's [pictured] studio, which he had set up at his parents' home. At this time, Rudy was recording sessions for Blue Note and, I believe, Savoy.
"Bob was interested in recording Prestige sessions at Rudy's, and I was to report back on the studio and return with the acetates of the date that trumpeter Tony Fruscella's group was recording that afternoon. The music was fine, and Bob liked the overall results and my positive take on Rudy. That was the beginning of long association with Prestige and Rudy Van Gelder.
"But as good as the Fruscella session was, Bob never actually released it on Prestige. I have no idea why. The irony is that when Bob had founded his New Jazz label in 1949, Fruscella with Lee Konitz was planned and was to have been Fruscella's first recording as a leader. But the date wound up featuring Lee Konitz and Lennie Tristano instead.
"The Fruscella [pictured] acetates wound up on a shelf in Bob's office where many years later they were found in the accumulated dust by Don Schlitten, who was working with Prestige at that time. Don eventually issued the recordings on his own Xanadu label."
Cannonball Adderley. Jazz videographer Bret Primack recently spoke with pianist Hal Galper on the best gig Galper says he ever had—playing with Cannonball Adderley. The track playing in the background in the clip? Saudade from Cannonball Adderley's Inside Straight. Here's the clip...
Body and Soul. Jazz musician, writer and educator Bill Kirchner hosts Jazz From the Archives tonight, featuring essential jazz versions of Johnny Green's Body and Soul, one of the most enduring jazz standards. The radio show airs from 11 p.m. to midnight (EDT). Go here from anywhere in the world.
CD discovery of the week. There's nothing like a peaceful jazz album to help you think. The Wayne Brasel Quartet's new CD If You Would Dance is a deliberately delicate and caressing work that reaches into the 1970s and 1980s for its lilting sound. Guitarist Brasel is a session musician with an inviting touch, but this is hardly bland or New Age fare. As you'll hear, each track catches your ear and grows more and more involved without ever becoming passive or acidic. Brasel composed all of the CD's tracks, and he's accompanied by Alan Pasqua on piano, Peter Erskine on drums, Tom Warrington on bass and Satnam Ramgotra on percussion.
You'll find If You Would Dance at iTunes or here.
Oddball album cover of the week. Charlie Ventura recorded this album for Clef in 1951 with trumpeter Conte Candoli. I'm not sure what a jazz mood is or why it includes a pillow, but it's great to see that jazz once had this effect on female models. As you might imagine, Ventura's flinty tenor sax up against Candoli's round tone made for a terrific sound.