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Craft Recordings’ Original Jazz Classics Relaunch Continues With 4 New Reissues

Craft Recordings Original Jazz Classics Reissue Series continues in June with 4 iconic Mal Wadron, Yusef Lateef, and Bill Evans albums.

Craft Recordings Original Jazz Classics Albums for 2023

It has been quite a year so far for Craft Recordings. Their RSD 2023 titles included a superb Chet Baker release that was one of the most sought after records and the first batch of OJC reissues including iconic Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk with John Coltrane titles were almost completely sold out within days of the announcement. Both reissues were cut by Kevin Gray and feature incredible sound quality; I have been listening to both for the past few days and can’t believe how great they sound.

Craft Recordings has now announced the second batch of Original Jazz Classics series reissues—all of which are essential additions to any jazz fan’s collection: Mal Waldron Sextet’s Mal/2, Yusef Lateef’s Eastern Sounds, as well as a pair of landmark recordings from the Bill Evans Trio, Waltz for Debby and Sunday at the Village Vanguard. Delivering the highest-quality listening experience, each album boasts lacquers cut from the original tapes (AAA) by Kevin Gray at Cohearent Audio, 180-gram vinyl pressed at RTI and tip-on jackets, replicating the original artwork. All titles will also be released digitally in 192/24 HD audio. 

The second batch of OJC series reissues begins June 30, and all four albums available for pre-order today. Additionally, fans can find the recently announced Thelonious Monk with John Coltrane reissue in stores on May 26, while further releases in the series will be announced later this year. 

First launched in 1982 under Fantasy Records, Original Jazz Classics served as a home for the label’s impressive jazz catalog—which had grown to include thousands of celebrated titles from Prestige, Galaxy, Milestone, Riverside, Debut,Contemporary, Jazzland and Pablo.

Over the next three decades, OJC became the go-to source for jazz reissues—and faithfully presented more than 850 memorable albums. Given Craft Recordings’ shared passion for meticulous preservation and quality, it was a natural step to relaunch Original Jazz Classics—this time with a focus on vinyl and hi-res digital audio. 

Read more on each release, below:

Mal Waldron Sextet: Mal/2 

Mal Waldron Sextet: Mal/2

Pianist Mal Waldron (1925–2002) was a prolific composer, arranger and musician, who released more than 100 albums as a leader (including numerous film scores) during his five-decade-long career. Revered for his versatility and blues-forward, innovative stylings, Waldron also served as the house pianist at Prestige Records and was an in-demand accompanist who played for Billie Holiday and Abbey Lincoln and served as a sideman for Charles Mingus, John Coltrane and Eric Dolphy, among others. 

In 1957, Waldron was ready to break out on his own with Mal/1 and, several months later, Mal/2. While his debut was well received, Mal/2 found the pianist taking his work to the next level—and recruiting some of the era’s most exciting musicians. In addition to trumpeter Idrees Sulieman and bassist Julian Euell (who both appeared on Mal/1), Waldron was joined by rising star John Coltrane (tenor saxophone), who had recently recorded his own debut as a leader. Also splitting duties on horns were Sahib Shihab (alto/baritone sax), Jackie McLean (alto sax) and Bill Hardman(trumpet), while drums were handled by Ed Thigpen and Art Taylor.

In a variety of sextet settings, the musicians nimbly perform Waldron originals (the moody “One by One,” the energetic “Potpourri” and “J.M.’s Dream Doll,” named for McLean, who delivers a standout solo) and standards, including Cole Porter’s joyful classic “From This Moment On” and Fields/Kern’s “The Way You Look Tonight.” A bluesy, hard-bop gem in Waldron’s extensive catalog, this long out-of-print classic was hailed as “a cut above” its contemporaries by AllMusic, which also praised its “engaging and original…arrangements.” 

Where to buy: $38.98 at Amazon (pre-order now, available July 28, 2023)

Bill Evans Trio: Sunday at the Village Vanguard

Bill Evans Trio: Sunday at the Village Vanguard

One of the most influential artists in the history of jazz, Bill Evans (1929–1980) was known for his conversational interplay within his trios, his lyrical compositions and his matchless approach to the piano. In 1959, after a year with Miles Davis’ sextet, Evans embarked on a new chapter with bassist Scott LaFaro and drummer Paul Motian—a unit that would redefine the notion of the piano trio. 

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Over the next two years, the group recorded four foundational titles together, beginning with Portrait in Jazz and Explorations. Their final two albums, 1961’s Sunday at the Village Vanguard and 1962’s Waltz for Debby were both captured live on June 25, 1961, at New York City’s legendary Village Vanguard club. Tragically, that would be the last time that the trio would play together, as LaFaro was killed in a car accident days later. 

Sunday at the Village Vanguard was intended to be a tribute to LaFaro’s talents—bookended by two of the bassist’s compositions (“Gloria’s Step” and “Jade Visions”) and showcasing his best solos from that summer day. What resulted is arguably one of the greatest live jazz recordings of all time. The trio’s exquisite unity is on display throughout the album, which also includes several crowd-pleasing standards (Cole Porter’s “All of You,” George Gershwin’s “My Man’s Gone Now” and Sammy Fain’s theme to Alice in Wonderland) plus a rendition of Miles Davis’ “Solar.”

Where to buy: $38.98 at Amazon (pre-order now, available August 25, 2023)

Bill Evans Trio: Waltz for Debby

Bill Evans Trio: Waltz for Debby

The band’s uncanny interplay continues in Waltz for Debby—an album held in equally high regard by generations of scholars. Picking up where Sunday at the Village Vanguard left off, this album features additional highlights from the band’s memorable appearance (five sets spread over the afternoon and evening). Aside from the title track (a standard by Evans, written for his niece in the mid-’50s), Waltz for Debby is comprised entirely of popular material, including Victor Young’s “My Foolish Heart,” Leonard Bernstein’s “Some Other Time” and Miles Davis’ “Milestones.”

Speaking to both albums, AllMusic explains, “[Evans’] intention was always to develop a complete interactive trio experience. At the time, this was an unheard of notion, since piano trios were largely designed to showcase the prowess of the front line soloist with rhythmic accompaniment.”

All About Jazz adds, “Evans perfected his democratic vision of trio cooperation, where all members performed with perfect empathy and telepathy…. Evans, LaFaro, and Motian slide over and under one another in a sumptuously alchemic solution, resulting in a single homogenous musical thought expressed in one voice from three distinctive philosophies.”

Where to buy: $38.98 at Amazon (pre-order now, available June 30, 2023)

Yusef Lateef: Eastern Sounds

Yusef Lateef: Eastern Sounds

Multi-instrumentalist Yusef Lateef (1920–2013) was a musical explorer and lifelong student, who set himself apart from his contemporaries by mastering new instruments and studying the sounds of other cultures. Once described by the New York Times as “play[ing] world music before world music had a name,” the innovative artist first recorded as a leader in 1957. That same year, he began incorporating elements of Eastern music into his work.

1961’s Eastern Sounds, which marked Lateef’s 16th album, skillfully fuses influences of Middle Eastern and Asian music with the popular hard-bop sounds of the day. Exploratory yet highly accessible to mainstream audiences, the album offers an array of unique musical textures. In a testament to his talent, Lateef can be heard performing the tenor saxophone, oboe, flute and a Chinese xun (an ancient globular flute). Accompanying him is pianist Barry Harris, drummer Lex Humphriesand bassist Ernie Farrow, who also performs the rubab—an Afghani lute-like instrument.

Spanning a variety of moods, Eastern Sounds is comprised primarily of engaging originals, including opener “The Plum Blossom,” “Blues for the Orient” and the intriguing closing track, “The Three Faces of Balal.” The group also delivers inspired renditions of Hollywood classics “Love Theme from Spartacus” (Alex North) and “Love Theme from The Robe” (Alfred Newman), as well as the Jimmy McHugh standard “Don’t Blame Me.”

Where to buy: $38.98 at Amazon (pre-order now, available September 29, 2023)

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