Famed European label Storyville reemerges this June with the first six titles in the newly overhauled Masters of Jazz series, plus a sampler disc surveying the series in full. The single-artist compilations will cover Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Clark Terry, Ben Webster, Art Tatum and Stuff Smith. Collections featuring Johnny Griffin, Teddy Wilson, Sidney Bechet, Johnny Hodges, Billie Holiday and Earl Hines will follow in September.
Founded in 1952 by the late Karl Emil Knudsen, Storyville remains Europe’s oldest independent record label specializing in jazz and blues. Named after the New Orleans red-light district that nurtured seminal artists like Jelly Roll Morton, King Oliver and his protégé Louis Armstrong, Storyville’s catalogue collects recordings of American jazz giants in exclusive European sessions, stateside radio broadcasts and rare live dates.
Though Knudsen’s label also thoroughly documented the Danish jazz scene, the Masters of Jazz series focuses on American-born artists. Two of the artists whose compilations are to be released this June-tenor saxophonist Ben Webster and violinist Stuff Smith-actually relocated to Copenhagen during the mid 1960s, and their programs consist mostly of concert and radio performances recorded in Denmark during this period. Art Tatum’s volume spans solo performances from 1932 to 1953, primarily garnering performances from a 1935 radio broadcast and adding such rarities as Tatum’s first recording, a breathtakingly busy read-through of “Tiger Rag” from a 1932 radio session. Tatum’s performances are consistently spellbinding, and his synthesis of stride, cascading jazz improvisation and classical virtuosity is, save for a rare 1949 bootleg of Chopin’s “Valse In C# Minor, Opus 64, #2,” heard in surprisingly clean audio.
Armstrong’s volume culls concert recordings from the early 1960s and then reverts to live broadcasts from the late 1940s. The 1947 set featuring Jack Teagarden and promoting the film New Orleans is an especially intriguing time capsule piece. Fellow trumpeter Clark Terry’s volume documents performances from 1959 to 1981. Ellington’s entry, like many of these titles, is an expanded reissue of his 1960s Storyville compilation of (almost) same name. Though this 2006 reissue adds nine excellent-sounding 1940s recordings, the original LP’s 1966 solo medley of Ellington standards is why this material needs to stay in print. Storyville uncovered Ellington rarities roughly two years ago, releasing The Jaywalker and The Treasury Shows Vol. 10 in August of 2004.
These reissues will be available stateside in July and are made possible by the Music Sales Group, a European music publishing firm that recently acquired the Storyville catalogue. In addition to bonus titles and tracks, the series receives new artwork and fresh annotation from writer-historians Mike Hennessey and Chris Albertson. For more information, visit www.storyville-records.com.Originally Published