Daily Archives: April 20, 2008

I GOT THEM REISSUE BLUES, THEY HAUNT ME NIGHT AND DAY

Does anyone else suffer with this particular moral dilemma?

The major American record companies are massively uninterested in keeping their catalogues of what is, after all, essential music in print.  So that Columbia (now absorbed into the Sony-BMG megalith) let its seminal THE JAZZ ODYSSEY OF JAMES RUSHING, ESQ., vanish.  The sessions John Hammond did for Vanguard in the Fifties with Ruby Braff, Vic Dickenson, Ed Hall, Paul Quinichette, Coleman Hawkins, Mel Powell, Sir Charles Thompson, Jo Jones, etc., got sold to a company who issued them piecemeal, picking assorted tracks blindly to create “anthologies” they assumed would sell.  Ellis Larkins playing Victor Young on Decca; Lou McGarity on Argo; Tony Fruscella on Atlantic . . . all disappeared as if the ground opened up.

If readers have the original vinyl issues and a functioning turntable, perhaps haunt used record shops, where the price may be wondrously inflated, all may be well.   But for those of us who like our CDs, a morally slippery solution whispers to us.  Because European and UK copyright laws are less stringent — or, perhaps, because the authorities have other crimes to investigate beyond illicit issues of JAMMIN’ AT CONDON’S, inconceivable as that may seem, bootleg issues seem to escape notice.

Thus, mea maxima culpa, I have purchased Lone Hill Jazz issues of Jimmy Rushing’s Jazz Odyssey; Lou McGarity playing music from Some Like It Hot, the Ellis Larkins Deccas, a four-CD Tony Fruscella collection on Jazz Factory, and many others.   I feel guilty.

I don’t know which, if any, of these musicians have living children or other relatives — but the new CD reissues don’t ask players or their estates for permission, nor do they offer payment for the rights to the material.  You could say that all of this is permitted in the name of music, and that the publicity given the dead artist by such reissues offsets the offense.  Perhaps if a bootleg issue had to take on the cost of permissions and royalties, nothing would be issued.

All these things are true.  But my pleasure at hearing Jimmy Rushing swing “Lullaby of Broadway,” a transcendent pleasure, is undermined just a little by the thought that I am cheating his estate by buying this CD or others.

Do any readers have a solution to such dilemmas?