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[ARSCLIST] Yet another great box set from Mosaic

Mosaic has been on a great roll lately. Their latest box set of the first Count Basie/Lester Young recordings (1936-1940) is truly awesome:

First of all, a good bit of this material hasn't been in print since the late-middle LP era (and most of those anthologies I have from that era don't sound very good). And another good bit was never issued before, although some of that is incomplete takes and other flotsum and jetsum. The restoration is great, where they had good grooved sources the sound is excellent and even where they had not so good sources they did better than most of the LP anthologies that include some of this material. The booklet is also superb. Lester Young is under-appreciated, in my opinion. Basie has a deserved spot in the Jazz Pantheon.

It's interesting to hear how Basie and company could boil tunes down to 3-minute essences for 78's. In a lot of ways, I like this jazz better than a lot of the over-extended stuff that came later. Big-band stuff suffered a lot without the discipline of short sides, not that you _can't_ write, arrange and most importantly play a great 5- or even 10-minute tune, it's just that few could and fewer did. Meanwhile, when you strip it down to the 78 or 45 side, a real gem is just packed to the last second with leap-out-of-the-speakers goodness. It's too bad that the newfangled Magnetofon never made it over here in the late 1930's. So much good music was made in the last decade of 78's and almost all of it would sound better if it had been recorded on tape. The flipside of course is that those tapes might well be dust now, whereas the laquers and metal parts are obviously still playable, even if they don't sound great.

-- Tom Fine

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