February 9, 1999
Blue Note's classic period (which ended in 1967) resulted in approximately 500 albums. In the 1990s, between Mosaic and Capitol/BN reissues (US issues), approximately 400 of those albums have been in print at one time or another on CD. And while there have certainly been some great albums that have been overlooked for reissue so far, if you consider what has been reissued, most of what the majority of listeners/collectors would want has been included in those 400 CDs. Granted, anyone who wants to own each and every BN album on CD might be frustrated, but is there anyone out there who REALLY wants reams of discs by the 3 Sounds? And for the rest of us who might be guilty of getting fetishistic about Blue Note while not necessarily needing everything (or even for those who do need everything), the on-line possibilities of acquiring Japanese reissues makes it possible to fill in gaps that way, for a price (obsession has never come cheap). I've kept up with domestic/Mosaic BN CD issues and have managed to get virtually all of them while in print. Even the few I let slip by, like the Leo Parkers, have come my way, thanks to the used market and even some kind souls in RMB. Yes, I'd still love to get domestic CD copies of Mobley's Straight No Filter and Jimmy Smith's Cool Blues, and was hoping to see both of those resurrected in a batch of Collectors Choice discs, but so far no such luck.
I guess the point of all this is that there is plenty of music out there that is available. I know as well as anyone that burning hunger for whatever it is I'm interested NOW that I want to hear NOW that I want to own NOW, but if I go to my grave never owning CD copies of various want-list items, it isn't like I suffered all that much. And I also have found that 99% of what I do want comes my way eventually. I also have seen albums I desperately searched and pined for 10 years ago be reissued this year, and lo and behold, my tastes have shifted, and I could care less about its availability now. Again, I also know that first flush of excitement at discovering something new and getting into something, only to discover that some of the "essentials" are not easy to find. I'm not saying to simply be happy with what the record companies dole out to us, but I also know that the grass tends to be greener over on the "out of print" side of the fence.
I bet most of us collectors who are frustrated by all of the stuff we want but can't get right now have collections that would be the envy of plenty of jazz lovers. I bet Gremal's jazz collection is mighty fine even without "The Ultimate Elvin Jones." Sure, I'd like to see that reissued too, and I e-mail record companies myself from time to time with reissue requests. But I guess I don't feel that angry or frustrated with Capitol's reissue policies, even the current RVG remastering reissue plan, which frankly I am cynical as hell about. Between Mosaic and Capitol, I own tons of BN, much more than I was ever able to obtain in my high school and college days on LP. And if I don't get a copy of Cool Blues soon, well I can still yank out other Jimmy Smith (or Tina Brooks) recordings instead, and my evening is still a good one. And just to assure any of you out there who might think I'm trying to come off as "healthier than thou," I'm the sick owner of 8000 LPs, 6000 CDs and 1000 78s (jazz, classical, bluegrass, rock, etc). Looks like a large collection to some, but it is of course dwarfed by all of the items I DON'T own…
> Maybe I'm WAY off base here, but when we talk about sales for obscure/rare
> Blue Note CD's we're talking LOW numbers when compared to almost any other
> genre of music. With CD recording technology where it is today and where it
> will be a year from now don't you think that Blue Note could almost have a
> subscription list and make their own copies of CD's.
There is precedent for this, going as far back at least as the 1930s. It was thought that back then that there might not be enough commercial interest in as massive and unprecedented an undertaking as a complete recorded edition of the 32 Beethoven piano sonatas, so it was begun as a pre-paid "subscription" series. It is funny to think about it now, since there's rarely been a time since then when those recordings by Schnabel--still considered by many to be the definitive recordings of the sonatas--have not been in print. I also believe the "gray market" Arturo Toscanini Society broadcast-origin "bootleg" LP recordings started out as subscription sales.
I've often wondered, as technology has developed, if eventually labels will simply transfer all of their holdings to some sort of database for downloading on an individual basis. Then anyone any time could simply connect up, and soon be the proud owner of everything BN ever recorded. Man, does that take the fun out of it or what?!?!? ;-)