Written by 11:04 pm Analog, Audiophile, Audiophile Music, Audiophile News, Vinyl

Craft Recordings Restores Rare Recordings By Joe Bataan and Art Pepper From Golden Age Of Latin Soul & Jazz In All Analog-Mastered 180-gram Vinyl Reissue Series

Mark Smotroff rounds up some sweet reissues readers might have missed…

Sometimes it is hard to keep up with the steady flow of great recordings coming out these days. What with all the new releases and reissues and super deluxe edition boxed sets and high resolution streams and… well… its a “lotta lotta” as they say…. but, I can’t complain! These are so called “first world” problems, so I am thankful to have the opportunity to not only hear all this music but to share the best of it with music loving audiences. That said, here are some fabulous new Latin Soul and Jazz releases from the good folks at Craft Recordings which you may have missed. Click on the titles to jump to Amazon if you are interested in picking up a copy on the fly. 

Joe Bataan’s Gypsy Woman (Fania Records/Craft Recordings)

From the official press release, some background information may help put this release into perspective: “In the ’60s and ’70s, East Harlem native Joe Bataan epitomized the melting pot of New York City, both musically and culturally. Born Bataan Nitollano in 1942 to an African American mother and a Filipino father, Bataan began singing as a teenager, performing doo-wop on street corners. While a gang-related prison sentence at 15 could have ended his musical dreams, the experience turned Bataan’s life around instead. Six months after his release, in 1965, he formed his first band, Joe Bataan and the Latin Swingers. Combining Latin beats, R&B, and a mix of English and Spanish lyrics, the group was instrumental in establishing the “boogaloo” sound that would become hugely popular over the next few years.”

The debut 1967 release from Latin Soul pioneer Joe Bataan is a landmark in many ways. Not only does it contain his classic title track “Gypsy Woman” and his popular “Ordinary Guy,” but this first (of eight albums he’d release for the label!) is a solid spin start to finish. It put Bataan on the map.

And it sounds real good too! The 180-gram black vinyl disc is quiet and well centered. Cohearant Audio’s Kevin Gray once again did a lovely job on his all-analog mastering of these vintage recordings which sound warm and rich. The old school early Stereo mix is panned wide — meaning you’ll hear congas in one channel and piano in another — but somehow it all works well for this music. With the original recording directed by Fania Records’ equally legendary co-founder Johnny Pacheco, being able now get our hands and ears on a beautiful reissue of rare titles like this is a treat. 

Like many soul and jazz releases from the past, finding copies of these vintage albums is not an easy task. Coupled with the vast number of DJs and sampling artists who have snapped up the relative handful of original releases which remain in the marketplace, prices for those rare “OG” copies have skyrocketed. Case in point: at the time of this writing there were only five original copies of Gypsy Woman being offered on the record collector’s marketplace, Discogs. Prices range from $65 for a VG condition copy (without a cover!) to $340 for a VG-plus condition copy!  So there was clearly a need for a high quality, affordable reissue. You can find Gypsy Woman at your favorite store (or online) for less than $30. 

Art Pepper Meets The Rhythm Section (Contemporary Records/Craft Recordings)

Art Pepper Meets The Rhythm Section is a classic jazz album. So classic, I have already reported on the Mono reissue which came out for Record Store Day in 2022 (click here to jump to that review). For those not interested in clicking through, the official press release for the new Stereo reissue offers some background information which may help put this new 180-Gram, Bernie Grundman-mastered release into quick perspective:

“Meets The Rhythm Section is 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. The album was recorded by legendary engineer Roy DuNann this new edition and features remastered audio from the original tapes.”

This year’s Stereo edition of Art Pepper Meets The Rhythm Section bears most of the same specs as the Mono edition (Bernie Grundman all analog mastered, 180-gram vinyl pressed at QRP, etc.).  So please do read my earlier review for more insights into why this recording is important.  

As to why the Stereo edition is warranted, well that makes a lot of sense too: in 1957 (when this was recorded), Stereo was brand new technology. Initially, beginning around 1958 Stereo releases were mostly sold to two types of customers: the small universe of early adopter audiophiles (ie. people who could afford the latest and best quality playback gear) and then eventually everyone else (ie. people with average to not-so-good quality playback gear!). Mono was still the dominant format for quite some time. 

Thus, a quick look at Discogs will clue us in to the scarcity of original Stereo editions: as of this writing there are exactly two copies on this particular collector’s “grail” with prices starting at $330 and going up to $420! And this is for a VG-plus condition copy! So, for about $30, this pristine new reissue is a complete steal. And it sounds terrific too! 

If you like Art Pepper and classic 1950s jazz, you should grab one (or both!) of these reissues while you can.  

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