December 2005

The Kenny Drew Trio
Riverside RITB-224-2
Format: CD
Originally released: 1956
Re-released: 2005

Musical Performance ****
Recording Quality ***1/2
Overall Enjoyment ****

Abbey Lincoln - Abbey is Blue
Riverside RITB-1153-2
Format: CD
Originally released: 1959
Re-released: 2005

Musical Performance ***1/2
Recording Quality ***1/2
Overall Enjoyment ***1/2

by Marc Mickelson

While other collections of remastered CDs may be better known, Fantasy Jazz's 20-bit K2 reissues number nearly 100 and include some of the most acclaimed jazz titles extant. Fantasy has the full Prestige, Riverside, Contemporary, Pablo, and Galaxy catalogs at its disposal, and the label has not skimped on sonics, employing JVC's Super Coding System. These titles are not identical to JVC's own XRCDs, but they are created with similar hardware, and their sound is terrific -- not as lush as XRCDs and not as lean as Blue Note RVG or Sony Legacy CDs. Their prices are friendly as well; I've bought a few for under $10, making them some of the greatest bargains in classic jazz.

Abbey Lincoln's Abbey is Blue was recorded in 1959, and its roster includes some big names: Kenny Dorham on trumpet, Wynton Kelly on piano, Stanley Turrentine on tenor sax, and Max Roach (Lincoln's husband at the time) on drums. It is serious music-making -- Lincoln's third album for Riverside and her swan song for the label. The Kenny Drew Trio features its namesake on piano, Paul Chambers on bass and Philly Joe Jones on drums. This is an ebullient and expert set -- one of my favorite piano-trio recordings. It is also available as a JVC XRCD, but the Fantasy Jazz title is far cheaper and sounds just about as good. Other recent K2 reissues include two well-known live recordings: The Cannonball Adderley Sextet in New York, recorded at the Village Vanguard, and Bill Evans Trio at Shelly's Manne-Hole. Both are essential.

Being a jazz hound means filling in holes in your musical understanding as they occur. If I'm looking for a particular recording and a Fantasy Jazz K2 recording of it exists, I never hesitate to buy it.