Kendra Steiner Editions

June 22, 2019


Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 1:13 pm

VERVE ELITE EDITION COLLECTORS’ DISC (Verve CD 314547265-2, issued 1999)

1. Let’s Fall in Love [#] – Louis Armstrong
2. Dancing in the Dark [Mono Version] – Bill Evans
3. Rosita – Coleman Hawkins (from UK 78 release)
4. Shine on Harvest Moon – Coleman Hawkins (from UK 78 release)
5. Memories for the Count – Buck Clayton
6. Moon Is Low – Benny Carter
7. Close Your Eyes [#] – Oscar Peterson
8. Playboy Peterson [#] – Oscar Peterson
9. Prayer, a Jazz Hymn (AKA Hymn to Freedom) [#] – Oscar Peterson
10. Squatty Roo – Dizzy Gillespie
11. Duke’s Place – Duke Ellington & His Orchestra
12. With the Wind and the Rain in Your Hair – Tal Farlow (diff. from the 10″ LP version)
13. Broadway [#] – Jimmy Smith
14. Let’s Fall in Love [#] – Louis Armstrong

No overlap with other Verve cds.

verve elite sampler

It’s hard to think of the 1990’s as the golden age of anything, but it certainly was a great period in the reissue of classic jazz from previous decades. The major labels , often with content from the smaller labels they controlled, were out to wring every last drop of income from their rich and deep catalogues, sitting there in the vaults doing no one any good–not making profit for the owners, not being available to the serious listeners. I’ve mentioned the Savoy Jazz reissues in previous posts–another fine series was the Verve Elite Edition, which issued this collection of rarities not available elsewhere, from the various labels owned by what at that time was called Polygram. (Verve had other series, of course, but this was a specialized series, with (supposedly) limited pressings……which reminds me, whenever I would as a teenager mention that I was buying something sold as a limited edition, my late father would always toss off as an aside the comment, “yeah, limited to all they can sell,” and undoubtedly there’s a lot of truth in that).

Most of these were beautiful exact reproductions of rare LP’s from the 50’s mostly, though also the early 60’s. The gimmick was that they would be “limited” and available only for a short time (the albums would often contain a sell-by date right on the cover, at which time they would be retired!). I remember going to my local Best Buy on payday, twice a month, and looking for the most recent ones. This was in the waning days of when stores that sold CD’s still were interested in having the widest selection as a selling point, not just having 50 copies each of the Top 100 and selected mass-interest items in other genres such as jazz or country or classical or whatever. I have about a dozen of these VERVE ELITE EDITIONS, including some I treasure and still play regularly….the Meade Lux Lewis CAT HOUSE PIANO set which combines two original 1950’s LP’s by the boogie-piano master, the sublime Walt Dickerson/Sun Ra IMPRESSIONS OF “A PATCH OF BLUE,” and most importantly, the extended 3-cd set of Lee Konitz’s MOTION, one of the 10 albums I’d probably take to the moon (assuming I’d have a CD player and electricity there).

This particular album is different, though. First, it’s NOT a sampler…although reissue labels often offered those at low prices, to entice the potential customer. No, this contains all material unavailable elsewhere. Much of it is alternate versions never released; some tracks are not just alternates, but songs not recorded elsewhere by the artists, which just happened to not get catalogued properly and wound up missing in action. The Coleman Hawkins sides (also with Ben Webster) were versions only released originally on 78 rpm in the UK; the Bill Evans track is an example where the mono LP had a quite different take from the stereo LP (devoted fans had pointed that out to the compilers), and of course it’s the stereo version that would have been reissued over the decades; the Tal Farlow track is an example where the 12″ LP had a different take from the earlier and better-known 10″ LP, and it is the 10″ masters that had been used for previous reissues; the Jimmy Smith track, which runs over 10 minutes, is a small-group warm-up for an album session with a larger-group, and thus was treated as a throwaway and left on the session reel….until 1999. In a way, it’s kind of like a 1960’s version of the wonderful FROG SPAWN compilations issued by Frog Records in the UK of 1920’s rarities, and it’s just as fresh and satisfying.

And the great news is that, unlike some Verve Elite Editions which now command big bucks, a recent internet search for a cover image of the album showed me that you can still get a mint, or even new, copy of this album for UNDER TEN DOLLARS.

In addition to containing first-rate performances by the greats of jazz, performances that listeners would not have or even be familiar with (and don’t forget, Duke Ellington is on here, Johnny Hodges, Benny Carter, Roy Eldridge, etc.), the album is skillfully programmed, book-ended by takes 1 and 2 of “Let’s Fall In Love,” by pianist Oscar Peterson (according to the liner notes, Verve’s most-recorded artist) with Louis Armstrong singing and playing trumpet. Armstrong never did two takes the same or even similar, both as a singer and a player, so it’s a treat to hear him casually work his way through these two takes, and in 1957 Armstrong was still at 100% of his abilities, not just an older, lower wattage version of his earlier self as he would be in the mid-to-late 60’s.

The album’s running time is 65 minutes. Get yourself a bottle of wine, put this album on after sundown, and take a trip to the ultimate virtual-jazzclub. Thanks to Verve for doing this fine series….be on the lookout for any of these Elite Edition reissues, as others are still available for reasonable prices. As physical media continue to disappear, these albums will eventually be as collectable and desirable as rare vinyl from the 1950’s or 1960’s. Don’t laugh… wait 30-40 years (let’s hope you and I are both around then!) and we’ll see. Better yet, DON’T WAIT—get your copy of this now for under 10 dollars and enjoy it for the next 30+ years. Put it on when visitors/friends are over, and I can assure you virtually everyone will enjoy it. We jazz fans are on a lifelong mission to bring more people into the jazz fold, and albums like this with first-rate material that’s accessible but fresh can win people over and get them playing the local jazz radio station, or programming jazz feeds on their streaming services. At least I am!


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