mosaic-records

Clifford Jordan, Charles Mingus, Eric Dolphy, Jaki Byard and Dannie Richmond at the Palozzo della Sport, Bolonga, Italy, April 24, 1965.

Scanned from booklet accompanying the Charles Mingus The Jazz Workshop Concerts 1964-1965 box set from Mosaic Records. Without exaggeration, this the most significant new release since Miles Davis’ Plugged Nickel recordings.

Credit: Riccardo Schwanmenthal.

Manganese
  • Manganese
  • Thelonious Monk
  • The Complete Black Lion And Vogue Recordings (Disc 1)
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Thelonious Monk - Manganese (1954)

The composition was mis-titled “Manganese” when Monk recorded it in France in 1954. His producer, Andre Francis, came up with the title as a French-speaking pun on “Monk at Ease.”

Ben Webster: Founding Emperor of the Tenor Saxophone

You’d have to go on Ebay or some other source to capture Mosaic’s limited edition box set Complete Verve Johnny Hodges Small Group Sessions 1956-61. For those of you lucky enough to have our set or can snare one, here’s Whitney Balliett’s piece for The New Yorker which pays special attention to Ben Webster and his outstanding contribution on these discs.

-Scott Wenzel
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The Modern Jazz Quartet, re-released by Michael Cuscuna and Mosaic Records.

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Branford Marsalis on Lester Young

Branford Marsalis spent the day with us at Mosaic just as he was given the gig to be the band leader of the Tonight Show with Jay Leno. He was a joy to be with and we spoke about Armstrong, Monk, his father’s 78s and life touring with the Grateful Dead. His views on Lester Young are spot on as recalled in an interview which will hopefully, through proper funding, be presented in a documentary produced by Henry Ferrini.

-Scott Wenzel



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Records, Jukeboxes and Radio

Listen to this week’s show!

American Routes joins with two record men this week to study the means of production… in jazz and country. Michael Cuscuna, founder of Mosaic Records, talks about his reissuing of lavish collectors sets of jazz from Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Count Basie and many more. Al Hawkes joins us from the Maine woods, where he’s been making old-time country, bluegrass and rockabilly records since 1955–some of his own, some on his independent Event Records label.

Classic Coleman Hawkins Sessions 1922-1947

Coleman Hawkins is without doubt the man who, as annotator Loren Schoenberg writes, “single-handedly created the idiom for the tenor saxophone in jazz.” Following the musical trail of exactly how he progressed has not been an easy task. The path meanders through not just Hawkins’ work in the Fletcher Henderson orchestra and sessions recorded under his own name, starting in 1933, but includes plenty of sideman work, and all on a bewildering array of record labels. It would have taken dedicated and diligent collecting to chart the greatness of Hawkins and the development of his style. But with the combination of corporate media consolidation and the dedicated efforts of Mosaic Records producer Scott Wenzel, it’s at last possible to assess the great saxophonist at home on this 8 CD limited edition (5,000 copies) boxed set. 

The producer’s criterion was simple: “all sessions led by Hawkins in addition to sessions where as a sideman for other bands he solos for more than 16 bars.” That led to a total of 190 sides that detail Hawkins’ recorded efforts starting with a 1922 session with Mamie Smith’s Jazz Hounds. A quarter-century later, the music has undergone countless changes, and with a gap from 1934-39 when Hawkins was working in Europe, the set ends with a 1947 Victor date by a Hawkins octet that included trumpeter Fats Navarro, trombonist J.J. Johnson and drummer Max Roach. For his research, Wenzel could draw on music recorded for labels now controlled by Sony Music (Banner, Bluebird, Brunswick, Cameo, Clarion, Columbia, Conqueror, Domino, Harmony, Lincoln, Melotone, OKeh, Oriole, Perfect, Romeo, Signature, Velvet Tone, Victor, Vocalion and “X”) as well as sessions originally on Baronet, Ca-Song, Continental, Manor, and Regis that are now in the public domain. The results are over 9½ hours by music by Hawkins as leader and as sideman with Henderson and acts like the Dixie Stompers, McKinney’s Cotton Pickers, the Chocolate Dandies, Lionel Hampton, Benny Carter, and more. Among the many treats you’re in for are the August 1933 Fletcher Henderson date that included Yeah Man, King Porter Stomp, and Queer Notions, a gorgeous It’s The Talk of the Town from a month later, the celebrated Body and Soul waxed in October 1939 after Hawkins returned from Europe, the solo saxophone of Hawk’s Variations from 1945, and so many more. One historically important session worthy of note is the complete Metronome All Star Band date of December 1946, with Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, and June Christy. This is the first time that the breakdowns have been issued, and Mosaic has wisely decided to keep it intact instead of relegating alternate takes to the end of the disc, which is the practice on the rest of the set. Considering the vast array of sources utilized to compile this set (a list is included in the booklet), sound quality is exceptionally fine. It’s an unprecedented and unbeatable collection. But that’s only one part of the good news.

Your guide through jazz history and the nuances of Hawkins’ developing style is the inimitable Loren Schoenberg. Artistic Director of the National Jazz Museum, a saxophone player in his own right, and a Grammy winner for his writing, Schonberg is a wonderful guide to this music. His chatty conversational style makes it feel like he’s sitting in an easy chair right next to you. He talks a bit about each and every song, pointing out details in the music that you might otherwise miss. He also tosses in unexpected insights, like quoting modern trumpeter Don Ellis on the virtues of Henry “Red” Allen, or noting a shift in microphone placement that affects the sound. Mosaic has set his long essay in their usual Lp sized booklet with plenty of rare photos and a complete discography.

In other words, you have a bounty of fabulous music by one of the greatest of all jazzmen along with plenty of his illustrious contemporaries, and an unmatched guide to the music, the history, and the personalities you’re about to encounter. Now, if you’ve got Disc One ready, just press play and begin. (Mosaic Records are available by mail-order at 425 Fairfield Ave., Suite 421, Stamford, CT 06902; or at www.mosaicrecords.com.)

Mosaic MD8-251; Disc 1 (66:26): (Session A) December 20, 1922 (Mamie Smith & Her Jazz Hounds) - (P) December 2, 1930 (Fletcher Henderson and His Orchestra). Disc 2 (66:40): (Q) December 4, 1930 (Chocolate Dandies) - (X) October 15, 1931 (Fletcher Henderson and His Orchestra). Disc 3 (65:59): (Y) October 16, 1931 (Fletcher Henderson and His Orchestra) - (EE) August 13, 1933 (Fletcher Henderson and His Orchestra). Disc 4 (70:38): (FF) September 22, 1933 (Fletcher Henderson and His Orchestra) - (JJ) February 2, 1934 (Benny Goodman and His Orchestra). Disc 5 (78:02): (KK) March 6, 1934 (Fletcher Henderson and His Orchestra) - (PP) January 3, 1940 (Coleman Hawkins’ All Star Octet). Disc 6 (78:18): (QQ) January 30, 1940 (Benny Carter and His Orchestra) - (UU) December 8, 1943 (Coleman Hawkins and His Orchestra). Disc 7 (72:59): (VV) December 18, 1943- (Coleman Hawkins and His Orchestra or Swing Four) - (BBB) January 1945 (Coleman Hawkins). Disc 8 (78:14): (CCC) February 27, 1946 (Coleman Hawkins’ 52nd Street All Stars)- (HHH) December 11, 1947 December 11, 1957 (Coleman Hawkins and His Orchestra).

Previously unissued takes: (FF): Fletcher Henderson and His Orchestra, September 22, 1933: It’s the Talk of the Town; (II) Allen-Hawkins and Their Orchestra, November 9, 1933: You’re Gonna Lose Your Gal/ My Galveston Gal; (KK) Fletcher Henderson, March 6, 1934: Tidal Wave; (LL) Coleman Hawkins, March 8, 1934: It Sends Me/ On the Sunny Side of the Street; (NN) Hawkins and His Orchestra, October 11, 1939: She’s Funny That Way; (RR) Hawkins and His Orchestra, August 9, 1940: Rocky Comfort; (VV) Hawkins and His Orchestra, December 18, 1943: Lover Come Back To Me/ Indiana; (XX) Hawkins and His All-Stars, July 27, 1944: Shivers; (EEE) Metronome All-Stars, December 1, 1946: Sweet Lorraine (5 takes)/ Nat Meets June (3 takes).

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Rosemary Clooney with Benny Goodman: Memories of You

Rosemary Clooney was a popular vocalist who sat on the fringes of jazz until her Columbia albums with Benny Goodman (hear “Memories Of You” here) and Duke Ellington gave her the deserved credibility that she’d been lacking. Mosaic will issue a 5-CD set of her CBS Radio Recordings (1955-61) in July as further proof of her jazz credentials.

-Michael Cuscuna

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CD Review #2: Law of Mosaics

(Crier Records CR1402)

I heard the string ensemble A Far Cry perform at Northwestern University’s annual winter chamber music festival a couple of years back, and was impressed with their playing and innovative programming. This CD, from 2014, features the work of two young composers, whose works are quite different from each other, yet oddly complimentary.

Andrew Norman is a 36-year-old composer, currently living in Los Angeles, who is rapidly becoming one of the best-known and most recognized composers of his generation. (He already has  a Rome Prize under his belt, and was a finalist for the Pulitzer in 2012.) His work is hard to describe, since it makes use of techniques that are in many ways experimental (ala Helmut Lachenmann and others), and at other moments, seems to bask in the kind of warm tonalism that I associate with American composers like Copland. Not that his music ever sounds like either Lachenmann or Copland. But his approach combines experimentation with a love of sonority and (dare one say) beauty, within a performing context that is often openly theatrical and gestural. His 2010 composition The Companion Guide to Rome came out of the year he spent there, and is described as his responses to nine different churches in the city. These “responses” are neither literal/descriptive, nor romantically expressive, yet in many cases, they do seem to be intent on capturing what these different places made him “feel.” Each of these works is a concise expression of a particular place, and meant to invoke objective and subjective aspects of that place. I’ve heard parts of the work live, and the performers move about the stage, and the work is very physical/gestural to perform. The recording by A Far Cry conveys the work wonderfully.

Ted Hearne is from Chicago, and three years younger than than Norman. The Law of Mosaics, from 2013, is a very different kind of work. Obviously inspired by DJs and the kind of sampling that is part of working with multiple recordings. he tends to layer works together in provocative and compelling ways, seeking new kinds of experiences from “familiar” sound objects. In this work for string orchestra, those sources include Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, Sam Barber’s Adagio for Strings, and the Adagietto movement of the Mahler 5th Symphony, among others, include Bach.  The 2nd section of the work is called “Palindrome for Andrew Norman,” and it is the most directly collage-like. More provocative is the following section, where the climax of the barber Adagio gets slowed down and layered with other things. If you didn’t know the Barber, you wouldn’t catch it, but in some ways, the piece is over-familiar from its borrowings in movies and TV. Hearne suddenly makes the music compelling again, both familiar and strange. The last movement juxtaposes a slow-moving music that feels like it should be familiar, but doesn’t seem to be a direct quote, and intercuts it with violent full-ensemble chords. Hearne’s cut-and-paste approach to composition yields work that somehow manages to be fresh and emotionally compelling, both because of and in spite of its “bi-textuality.”

Mosaic Records, 1986-1992

Publish at Scribd: Mosaic Records Brochure No. 4

In the late 70s Fred was producing jazz records and became friendly with Michael Cuscuna, soon to become one of the medium’s most revered producers and the leading reissue producer in history.

In the early 1980s Michael and former BlueNote/Columbia/Warner Records executive Charlie Lourie started the pioneering Mosaic Records as the first company specializing in boxed set reissues of classic performances, available only by mail order. Michael and Fred became reacquainted when he ordered their first set (The Complete BlueNote Recordings of Thelonious Monk) and he asked Fred/Alan to get involved with helping them out of the hole. It turned out their ‘sure thing’ idea wasn’t having many takers and they were worried about shutting down.

We turned them down two years in a row with a lot of unsolitcited advice about what they could do better –we were broke and our company was barely alive itself– even if we were talking through our hats. Everything we knew about direct mail cataloging was from being mail order catalog readers ourselves and from a direct mail how-to book Fred had read (at least the first chapter). We admired what Michael and Charlie were trying to accomplish at Mosaic, but our bandwidth was just too narrow.

Three years later Fred/Alan was doing a little better and Mosaic was doing a lot worse; Michael and Charlie successfully prevailed on us to finally help. We knew no more, but full of the arrogance of youth we took Alan’s first generation portable computer and invented the first Mosaic 12-page brochure on our summer rental’s picnic table. Alan wrote every word (Fred supervised “strategy” – what else is new?), our friends Tom Corey and Scott Nash designed the thing, Jessica Wolf supervised the production and we mailed out the first Mosaic catalog ever in the autumn of 1986.

We waited for the order phones to ring, and lo and behold, in the first three weeks Mosaic’s business had increased 10 fold. They were in business forever. Alan’s still writing the brochures, Fred’s still lobbing in ideas from the side. We’ve never been prouder of any project. So proud, in fact, that Alan continues writing all new release copy, and former Fred/Alan CFO Fred Pustay is now a Mosaic partner.

Do you like jazz? Order one of the Mosaic sets. They are still the standard by which all others are judged.

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Mosaic Records Stamford, CT. Brochure #4 1984
Written by Alan Goodman
Designed by Tom Corey & Scott Nash, Corey McPherson Nash, Boston
Production: Jessica Wolf

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Mosaic Records Brochure Number 8



Mosaic Records Brochure Number 9


Mosaic Records Stamford, CT. Brochure #8 (1988) & #9 (1989) 
Written by Alan Goodman & Marty Pekar
Production: Jessica Wolf