VA - RCA Victor 80th Anniversary [9-CD BOX SET] (1997)
Audio CD (November 25, 1997) | Number of Discs: 9 | MP3 320 kbps | 1.29 GBGenre: Jazz | Format: Box set | Label: RCA
This is an attractive eight-CD set, whose discs are also available as eight separate releases, that could have been a great reissue but settled for being merely quite good. To celebrate the 80th anniversary of the first jazz recording, RCA released a disc apiece covering each of the past eight decades. In listening to the music straight through, one becomes aware of RCA's strengths and weaknesses as a jazz label. Victor was one of the most important jazz labels during the 1920s, '30s and '40s, catching on to bebop a little late (1946) but still documenting many classic recordings. By the 1950s, the label's attention was wandering elsewhere; it missed free jazz almost completely in the '60s, and in the last three decades has only had a few significant artists, mostly Young Lions whose output sounds conservative compared to the earlier masters. This reissue is particularly strong during the first three discs, and then for some reason (starting with disc four) commits a major error in departing from programming the music in strict chronological order (although each disc does stay within the ten-year period). Also, the selection of the performances is much better in the earlier decades (especially the 1917-29 set) than during the past two decades. There are many highlights throughout the large undertaking, with such artists as the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, Jelly Roll Morton, Fletcher Henderson, Duke Ellington, King Oliver, Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway, Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, Coleman Hawkins, Dizzy Gillespie, Benny Carter, Art Tatum, Charles Mingus, Red Allen, Bud Powell, Sonny Rollins, Buddy Rich, Gil Evans, the Brecker Brothers, Roy Hargrove, Marcus Roberts, Steve Coleman and Dominique Eade among the many represented. In addition, a "bonus" disc has two numbers by the ODJB (including for the second time "Livery Stable Blues") and a previously unreleased Mingus dramatic piece "A Colloquial Dream." If only some better planning had gone into the later discs.