You have to admire the insight of the people behind Music Matters, the new label whose LP reissues have garnered rapt attention from vinylphiles. Original Blue Note LPs can go for thousands of dollars, so the $50 that each 180-gram, 45rpm, double-record Music Matters release costs seems downright reasonable. And the choice of material is inspired -- many of Blue Note's best recordings, all remastered with utmost care and in stereo, not mono. There will be 64 releases in all, each packaged in a heavyweight gatefold sleeve with session photos inside. "Substantial" and "definitive" are the words that come most easily to mind.
The first two releases live up to such heady accolades. From the loping bass line that opens "Wadin'" from Horace Parlan's Speakin' My Piece, to the cheerful horn interplay of the title track from Art Blakey's The Big Beat, the music on these LPs bristles with vibrancy and documents where jazz was in the early 1960s and where it was going. Most know how Parlan turned a disability -- a right hand partially crippled by childhood polio -- into a musical asset, but I found myself locked on to the rhythm section of his quintet -- Al Harewood on drums and George Tucker on bass. It is their playing from which the notes hang with anticipation. Blakey leads his group from behind the drums, and the result is one of the sunniest sessions from jazz's golden era.
The sound? An update of classic Blue Note immediacy that adds the sort of naturalness and in-the-room presence the originals can't muster. And there's bass weight you won't hear on any version of this music, even the remastered CDs. This isn't original Blue Note sound -- it's better, and it's in stereo, which is how the sessions were laid to tape.
You will be reading a steady stream of praise about these Music Matters reissues -- from their glossy packaging to their ultra-quiet surfaces and thoroughly contemporary sound. Believe it all.
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