John Coltrane Quartet Crescent
Stan Getz & Chet Baker Stan Meets Chet
he history of jazz recording is almost as much the story of the impresarios -- the men who founded and ran the record labels -- as of the musicians they recorded for posterity. Shortly after he founded Impulse! Records in 1960, Creed Taylor signed his own history maker in John Coltrane, whose arrival was so instrumental to the success of Impulse! that the label's nickname became "The house that Trane built." The rest of the roster was nearly as distinguished, with Charles Mingus, McCoy Tyner, Freddie Hubbard, and Johnny Hartman all releasing records during the 1960s. Verve was founded by Norman Granz in 1956, absorbing the catalogues of his earlier labels, Clef and Norgran. Granz sold Verve to MGM in 1961 and Creed Taylor was appointed producer. Perhaps because of Impulse!'s artistic success, Taylor adopted a more commercial approach with Verve, canceling the contracts of several frontline musicians.
Stan Meets Chet is classic Verve from 1958, and its title foretells the musical lineup: Stan Getz on tenor sax and Chet Baker on trumpet. It is well known that the two never much liked each other. Presumably pianist Jodie Christian, bassist Victor Sproles, and drummer Marshall Thompson got along just fine. The tension of the headliners works on fast numbers like "Half-Breed Apache," but this and "I'll Remember April" are the only two tunes on which Getz and Baker actually "meet." The music is straightahead West Coast bop -- interesting if not particularly groundbreaking.
Crescent, from 1964, is like much of John Coltrane's best work. It's not about melody, rhythm or other immediately understood elements, but rather where the musicians, including McCoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass and Elvin Jones on drums, take each number through their tight and inventive interaction. Led by Coltrane's meditative, revelatory sax, the nine-minute title tune is brilliant in the way a mathematical theorem can be, yet the heart is engaged as well.
Both of these reissues comprise a pair of 45rpm LPs made at Pallas in Germany, and they are digital quiet, as I've come to expect from Pallas pressings. Stan Meets Chet has the earmarks of early stereo, with Getz locked in the right channel and Baker in the left. Crescent is far more panoramic, the soundstage spreading unbroken and the musicians sounding vivid. The exceptionally thick, heavy gatefold sleeves bespeak quality, even if they won't fit in many protective outer covers.
These are all-around high-class packages, and they prove that, along with Music Matters, Original Recordings Group is setting a very hard pace in terms of sonic, pressing and packaging quality. Taylor and Granz would undoubtedly be pleased with such a presentation of their work a half-century on.
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