Craft Recordings and Acoustic Sounds have announced the Contemporary Records Acoustic Sounds series, which begins with six album releases from the Contemporary Records catalog, celebrating 70 years of the legendary jazz label.
Each title, originally engineered by Roy DuNann and/or Howard Holzer, features all-analog mastering from the original tapes by legendary engineer Bernie Grundman (himself a former employee of the label), and is pressed on 180-gram vinyl at Quality Record Pressings (QRP) and presented in a Stoughton Old Style Tip-On Jacket.
The series begins with the May 13 reissue of Art Pepper’s +Eleven: Modern Jazz Classics. Throughout the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, Lester Koenig’s artist-friendly Los Angeles-based audiophile jazz label documented career-defining performances by some of modern jazz’s most influential and accomplished improvisers, including Ornette Coleman, Sonny Rollins, Harold Land and Benny Golson. No musician is more closely identified with Contemporary than Pepper, whose cool tone and simmering lyricism made him one of the very few mid-century alto saxophonists to forge a path independent of bebop patriarch Charlie Parker’s pervasive influence.
Produced by Koenig and recorded in 1959, Art Pepper +Eleven: Modern Jazz Classics is one of the saxophonist’s masterpieces. Featuring brilliant arrangements by Marty Paich, the album elaborates on the lush but lithe sound introduced by the epochal Birth of the Cool sessions, which Miles Davis started to record almost exactly a decade earlier (like Birth, +Eleven kick offs with Denzil Best’s “Move”). Surrounded by the cream of the LA scene, including fellow saxophone masters Herb Geller, Bill Perkins and Med Flory, Pepper brings all his scorching lyricism to a program of modern jazz standards by Horace Silver, Thelonious Monk, Gerry Mulligan and Sonny Rollins.
The series continues on June 10 with 1957’s The Poll Winners, the first of five all-star trio sessions featuring the dazzling interplay of guitarist Barney Kessel, drummer Shelly Manne and bassist Ray Brown. Kessel and Manne are also on hand for the July 15 release, 1958’s Four!, which fills out the quartet scorecard with bassist Red Mitchell and the supremely soulful Hampton Hawes, one of jazz’s most appealing yet unsung pianists.
August 12’s release is another 1958 classic, Jazz Giant, which showcases the alto saxophone, trumpet and arrangements of triple threat Benny Carter, whose majestic talent awed four generations of jazz artists (he’s joined by a formidable cast including Manne, Kessel and tenor sax titan Ben Webster). The September 9 release, Manne’s hugely popular 1956 trio session My Fair Lady with bassist Leroy Vinnegar and pianist André Previn, paved the way for hundreds of jazz albums dedicated to Broadway shows.
November 11 sees the release of Art Pepper Meets the Rhythm Section, the altoist’s auspicious 1957 Contemporary debut pairing him with pianist Red Garland, bassist Paul Chambers and drummer Philly Joe Jones, three-fifths of Miles Davis’ nonpareil quintet.