Friday, March 2, 2012

Jazz box sets: good value, so-so sonics

Amazon is carrying an interesting pair of imported box sets of classic jazz albums called, with no false modesty, "The Perfect Jazz Collection,Vols I and II". At the price of less than $40 for 25 original Sony/Columbia albums per set, there is no doubt about the value on offer. If you love jazz you'll no doubt have some of these recordings but at that price, I could stomach some overlaps, and it's always useful to have a spare copies anyhow, for friends, the car, other rooms etc. so I sprung for both sets: 50 classics for less than $75 shipped (I got lucky on the timing). All come in slim file cardboard versions of original sleeves (a bit small to read at length but an enclosed booklet helps) and combined together in a presentation box, the sets take up little shelf space for the amount of music involved.

OK, not to be overly critical but while the selection is great, the sonics are not always up to snuff. In a close listen to the enclosed Kind of Blue (you didn't think they'd miss this one!) and others with several versions I have already,  the Collection versions seem closer (or maybe identical) to the original CD releases than to any subsequent remastered version (you know, that slightly edgy, ragged treble, the tame bass of 80s digital). Not a deal breaker, the sonics are decent enough to enjoy and this is about the music first and foremost. Surprises abound. George Benson's "It's Uptown", how did I ever miss that one before?  Throw in Ellington, Blakey, Vaughn, Monk, Mingus, Simone, Pastorius, Brubeck, Rollins, Armstrong,  and both soundtracks to Bird and Round Midnight and you just can't go wrong. See full listings and listen to samples here.  Is this a sign that the CD market is drying up so much the major labels are close to giving stuff away? I doubt it, but this price point is hard not to enjoy. Get an education while you can.


Dr. Sean Olive said...

Thanks for the tip. I just ordered myself a set. Hopefully the music overcomes any limitations in sound quality. At least the recordings haven't been butchered by the "loudness wars " :)

PatrickD said...

Sure thing Sean - the music indeed is so good that my sonic criticisms seem almost harsh but I wanted people who care about this stuff to be prepared. Am still enjoying what I'm hearing though.