BBC Music Magazine
From the archives
Geoffrey Smith on a set of vinyl reissues, perfect for those wanting to explore the greats in superb sound
What do we want from the archives? Come to that, who are ‘we’? The last few columns in this series have flagged recently discovered sessions by Errol Garner, Thelonious Monk, Brad Mehldau/charlie Haden – additional bounty for connoisseurs and dyed-in-the-wool fans. But I’m always aware of the vast, untapped potential audience of listeners largely ignorant of jazz except as a rather arcane, even insular musical style and cultural tradition, the province of a hip coterie who already know all the approved stars and brands.
Which is why I’m happy to welcome a superb new collection of classics, The Jazz Reference Collection (Dreyfus JAZZ/BMG). A 14-album compilation of historic works by some of the music’s most famous names, there’s nothing here that will surprise a committed devotee, except perhaps in being reminded of the astonishing profusion of musical quality produced by the pantheon of jazz masters.
Beginning in 2000, the French record producer Francis Dreyfus began to issue his Jazz Reference series, albums showcasing the achievements of his jazz idols, remastered in pristine sound. The original sequence of 70 CDS has now been filleted to a set of 14 and issued for the first time on vinyl. Stylishly presented, with cool colours and pen-and-ink drawings of the individual artists, the albums exude the kind of fashionable allure likely to attract younger listeners already enticed by vinyl’s special cachet.
I know: statistics indicate that some vinyl-fanciers are just retro hipsters who don’t even play the albums they buy. But it’s not the whole truth. Many do listen, and are bowled over by the difference in the sound pouring from their speakers compared to their tinny phones. And what sounds they’ll get from the
Jazz Reference discs: the best of the best, with Ellington,
Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis and John Coltrane, Lester Young, Louis Armstrong, on and on. The shock of the old, a timeless pleasure perhaps never experienced before. Repackaged, resplendent, bright as new.