Verve Launches New Reissue Series

Billie Holiday on Verve Select
Ella Fitzgerald on Verve Select
Oscar Peterson on Verve Select

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If you thought that the era of lavish box sets is over, you’d be mostly right. At this point, there is little left in the vaults that hasn’t been packaged, repackaged and repackaged again. Verve, under the leadership of reissues guru Michael Lang, was at the forefront of innovative archival production, packaging and marketing. Jazz fans may recall the Ella Songbooks or the Bill Evans box sets as evidence of the remarkable magic they worked in the past with the archival material.

Although the company has undergone all sorts of changes since those heady days, Verve is still very much in the game, thanks in no small part to the depth of its vaults. The Verve Music Group has announced that it will be launching a new label imprint dedicated to limited edition releases, which will include deluxe box sets and reissues of classic albums, with distinctive packaging, remastering and rare or previously unreleased music.

The first set of releases are available at retail on November 9 (though they are now available at their site) and include Ella Fitzgerald’s Twelve Nights in Hollywood, Billie Holiday’s The Complete Commodore and Decca Masters and Oscar Peterson’s Debut-The Clef/Mercury Duo Recordings 1949-1951, featuring Ray Brown and Major Holley. Each set has its own distinctive packaging, in roughly the size of a ’78 but in the form of a hardcover book, with exquisite graphics on heavy paper stock. Each set includes material never released before. There are also extensive notes, including track-by-track descriptions, documents from the original sessions and archival photos.

The Fitzgerald edition is a 4-CD set of completely unreleased live recordings from her 1961 engagement at Los Angeles’s Crescendo Club (which resulted in the LP Ella in Hollywood) and a return engagement the following year. The set features a total of 73 unreleased performances, all of which were originally recorded un the personal supervision of Verve founder Norman Granz. The Billie Holiday 3-CD set includes all 50 masters produced by Milt Gabler for both Commodore and Decca. Performances include classic tunes such as “Strange Fruit,” “Fine and Mellow,” and “Lover Man.” The Oscar Peterson 3-CD set compiles material from his first U.S. recordings, accompanied only by a bass player (Ray Brown or Major Holley). Included in the material are both studio and live recordings from the period in which he recorded singles from Mercury and which later became the Verve LPs Tenderly, Keyboard and An Evening with Oscar Peterson. This Verve Select edition includes a newly-discovered, unreleased live performance of “Tea For Two” and an unreleased studio version of “There’s a Small Hotel.”

The Holiday and Peterson sets have a list price of $54.98 and the Fitzgerald lists for $69.98

Future releases will include titles from Clifford Brown, Stan Getz, Nat King Cole and Dinah Washington. For more details about these editions, go to the Verve Select web site.