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Lost and Found Recordings

A fascinating aspect of collecting jazz recordings over several years, is the appearance of “new” releases of recordings made a long time ago. For some reason these are often referred to as “lost” recordings. In most cases, these have never been lost or misplaced to be recently discovered; they simply languished in cans in the […]


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A fascinating aspect of collecting jazz recordings over several years, is the appearance of “new” releases of recordings made a long time ago. For some reason these are often referred to as “lost” recordings. In most cases, these have never been lost or misplaced to be recently discovered; they simply languished in cans in the warehouse of the recording company! This is a most curious phenomenon and one would justifiably ask what the purpose of hiding this music in some vault could be. One seldom gets a satisfactory or even logical answer here, except that the recordings once made, are the sole property of the recording company to release (or not) at their pleasure.

Kind of Blue is an all-time jazz classic album. Miles Davis led the star studded sextet which included John Coltrane, Julian “Cannonball” Adderley, Bill Evans, Wynton Kelly and others. It was released in 1959 by Columbia (CBS) Records. Curiously, the same record company had recorded at about the same time in 1959, an album of a sextet led by trumpet player Chet Baker with Pepper Adams on baritone sax, Herbie Mann on flute and Bill Evans again on piano. This album, named Chet was kept in cold storage until almost 1990. It is a matter of conjecture whether Columbia Records felt that another star-studded trumpet-led jazz album would seriously cut into the sales of Kind of Blue. One can only guess as to why Chet, a wonderful jazz album languished for decades, unreleased.

About two years ago I discovered an album called, Charlie Haden/Joe Henderson in Montreal – The Lost Tapes. It contains a most breathtaking version of ‘’Round Midnight’ and was thankfully, made available to the public, eight years after being recorded. Another fascinating discovery was the appearance in the market of a double CD entitled, Oscar Peterson – At Zardis. A terrific album, this is the great Oscar Peterson Trio with Ray Brown on bass and Herb Ellis on guitar. It is one of the very great piano trios in jazz. This recording was made in 1955 but was released in 1994. I suppose one should be grateful that this wonderful album was released at all.

Another album, Lee Morgan Live at the Lighthouse was also kept in mothballs for several years. It is a lively album with Bennie Maupin on tenor sax. What makes it very interesting is that Maupin, who was sounding like Coltrane in his early years, had joined Miles Davis’ electric band and had recorded on Bitches Brew and other albums of that genre. However, he returns with Lee Morgan to playing conventional jazz saxophone and dazzles on this recording.

Perhaps the most fascinating of “lost” jazz has been the discovery made in 2005 by Larry Appelbaum at the Library of Congress in Washington DC. This library has the largest collection of recorded music and radio broadcasts, and in cataloging old Voice of America tapes, Appelbaum chanced upon tapes marked, “T Monk”. This turned out to be a 1957 live recording of Thelonius Monk with John Coltrane at Carnegie Hall. Fortunately for jazz aficionados, the sound quality is excellent and the music quite outstanding. The album was released by Blue Note records entitled, Thelonius Monk Quartet with John Coltrane at Carnegie Hall.

Discoveries of masterpieces and historical recordings are very exciting indeed. Who knows what wonders will be unearthed next from the archives and vaults of recording companies? I am convinced we haven’t heard the last of these.

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