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Record Store Day Black Friday Preview: Rare Jazz Vinyl Joys

It is no secret that distribution and shipping of new albums is a bit wonky these days due to Covid 19’s impact on pretty much everything. Not entirely surprising, the process of even receiving advance review samples from labels has become increasingly challenging requiring a certain amount of flexibility from reviewers like myself. Lately, we often times only receive review copies close to the time that the albums are hitting stores.

So I’m learning to roll with the punches and surprises, making the most of situations as they arrive. One of those unexpected joyous moments happened late last week when a box arrived unexpectedly containing a bounty of Record Store Day goodies from the good folks at Resonance Records. And then I received a fun preview release from Craft Recordings’ Jazz Dispensary subsidiary!

With only one slot open this week (today!) and little time to do full reviews before the holiday weekend, I decided to prepare a little round up previewing these titles for you folks venturing out tomorrow for Record Store Day / Black Friday in search of vinyl treasures.  I’ll circle back in the weeks ahead with more in depth reviews on each of these albums.  

Resonance Records

Pressed at RTI on 180-gram vinyl, each of these albums coming out for Record Store Day from this acclaimed archival Jazz label are very high quality affairs with grand packaging and strong attention to quality control details.

Bill Evans at Ronnie Scotts

This 1968 show is fascinating as it is one of the rare recordings capturing that brief period when Evans worked with Jack DeJohnette and Eddie Gomez. Mastered by Bernie Grundman, the package features many previously unreleased photos, exclusive interviews and a fantastic cover design showcasing a wonderful and previously unpublished painting by the legendary David Stone Martin! The album design is modeled after one of the classic Clef/Norgran/Verve Records albums from the 1950s! 

An instant classic, Bill Evans Live At Ronnie Scotts sounds quite wonderful in all its natural, monaural ambient glory made from a tape recorded by DeJohnette, from his personal archive. This rare recording brilliantly captures Evans with DeJohnette (just before Miles Davis hired him away) so you’ll hear his inimitable swing immediately. This texture lifts Evans’ playing considerably. No doubt, this is an essential for Evans fans.

If you missed my earlier review of studio recordings of this band also released by Resonance Records for Record Store Day several years back, please click here.

Sonny Rollins: Rollins In Holland

If you are a fan of Sonny Rollins you’ll want to pick up these 1967 recordings backed by a sympathetic and acclaimed bassist and drummer from Holland. What can one say about previously unreleased studio and live recordings by a jazz legend? Rollins could elevate most any scene he played in..

This album includes live recordings from The Arnhem Academy of Visual Arts as well as a fantastic sounding four-song set recorded (in Stereo!) in the VARA Studio in Hilversum. There are also recordings from a national NCRV TV program made live at The Go Go Club.  And perhaps the best part of all this is that these recordings were issued with the support of Mr. Rollins himself who at 89 is still alive and well! Rollins fans will need to get this one for sure. 

Monty Alexander: Love You Madly

Of the three new titles from Resonance Records, Monty Alexander is the artist I’m least familiar with as I never spent a lot of time listening to his music in the past. However, this previously unreleased 1982 concert from a small club in Florida is quickly opening my ears! This pristine, high quality recording was made as a gift to Monty by a fan who happened to be the founder of the influential and legendary Criteria Recording Studios (Bee Gees, Clapton, Aretha, Allman Bros., etc.), Mack Emerman. Recorded on 24-track analog multitrack tape via Criteria’s mobile recording unit, the recording both captures the vibe of the club and the upbeat personality of Alexander’s spirited playing. The sound quality is totally audiophile demo worthy, delivering a nice balance of ambient club acoustics and close-microphone precision.  I’ll go into more detail on this in my follow on review, but if you enjoy passionate pianists like Oscar Peterson and would like to listen from “the driver’s seat” in front of the keyboard, Love You Madly will be your jam. 

Jazz Dispensary

Orange Sunset 

Craft Recordings has a neat compilation coming out for Record Store Day Take via its Jazz Dispensary imprint called Orange Sunset.  This single LP curated collection of soul jazz grooves is a sweet listen.

Initially I only had access to a pre-release CD quality download which was sounding quite good. Fortunately for you, Dear Record-Shopping Readers, the vinyl preview copy arrived just in time for me to update this preview. Hearing it from the vinyl source lets me give you a little more insight to hopefully aid your Record Store Day buying decisions which is often a consideration when it comes to heavily patterned colored vinyl. In short: happily, it sounds really solid!

Lush and funky, Orange Sunset gives you two sides of slinky soul-jazz grooves from no less than Merl Saunders (whom some of you will know from his work with The Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia!), Johnny Hammond, Funk, Inc. and The Blackbyrds, David Axelrod,  24-Carat Black and Roger Black. All tracks were remastered from original analog tapes and the album comes pressed on trippy yellow starburst-colored vinyl.  This is a fun one!

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