Monday, January 09, 2006

High quality but inexpensive jazz

Over Christmas I was in St. John's at Fred's Records, one of the many places I miss in Newfoundland. The beauty about Fred's is the staff, who are not only obsessed with music, but there's enough of a diversity in their musical tastes that one minute someone can talk your ear off about indie hip hop, and the next someone (possibly the same, possibly different) can tell you everything you need to know about ECM's releases. Anyway, one person at the store knows more about blues, jazz and specifically, Django Reinhardt than anyone else I know or likely will ever meet. What's amazing about him is that he truly loves music and wants to share what he knows with others, including the customers. Many times through the years a person has come up to me in a record store and asked, "Can I help you find something?" Sometimes I'd ask them to help me find something, and not to sound like a dick, but well over fifty percent of the time, they'd never heard of it, and had to go to their computer. But this guy at Fred's will not only help you find things (and it's rare that he hasn't heard of it, especially if you're looking for something in the genres in which he specializes), but he'll also point out other artists to you that you may or may not know, and anyone interesting in helping me expand my collection with great sounds is a friend.
So anyway, while at Fred's, my friend pointed out a new series of jazz releases that just came out on the Membran label, based out of Germany. The Quadromania seriesis four disc sets of older recordings by many of the top jazz players and singers, including Thelonious Monk, Sonny Rollins, Milt Jackson, Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughn and more. For Milt Jackson, you get some of his recordings with Dizzy Gillespie from 1946, Thelonious Monk in 1948, and also some of the Modern Jazz Quartet work in the early 50s. The discs include the entire Django album and the Concorde album. At least that's what I assume.
The thing is that the liner notes of these sets are very limited with information. They give you the track titles, the songwriters, the date of some sessions (the tracks for the above noted Django and Concorde albums says No detailed information available) and the players at the sessions, but that's it. However, thanks to jazz fans who have created artist specific websites with detailed session information, and specifically the amazing Jazz Discography Project website, you can take the limited info from the liner notes and figure out when these tracks were originally recorded.
The other interesting thing about the set is the packaging. They come in what the site calls Sifoty-cases, which are CD cases that are about as wide as one and a half CDs, and they have trays for all four discs. A great package unless one of the trays is broken (like my Milt Jackson set), then you're stuck putting the discs in other cases. But it's totally worth it, since these collections are priced between $13 (at Fred's) to $14 or $15, which I've seen in Toronto. I actually saw the discs before I went to St. John's, but just figured they were cheap, shitty comps and wouldn't be worth owning. However, my friend out east convinced me that they were worth the price, especially considering that they are 24 Bit high-end remastered. So for anyone, like myself, who has fallen in love with jazz but are still learning about the different players, this is an amazing and cheap way to hear a lot of great music.
posted by Jonathan


At 9/01/2006 01:48:00 p.m., Anonymous dashford said...

You might be interested to know that those 4-disc sets are also available as part of a 168-disc box (!) called the Ultimate Jazz Archive. With over 3000 tracks, that's 42 of the 4-disc cases, plus two 180-page books with brief biographies of the musicians.

Best of all, if you order it from some European vendors, the price is absurdly low (like 99 euros). I just got my set and it cost US$125 including shipping from


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