‘Acoustic Sounds’ Celebrates Impulse! Records Turning 60 With Ray Charles, Gil Evans Reissues

High-grade audiophile editions of Charles’ landmark ‘Genius + Soul = Jazz’ and Gil Evans Orchestra’s ‘Out Of The Cool’ will be out on May 14.

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Photo: Paul Hoeffler/Redferns

Verve/UMe’s acclaimed audiophile-grade all-analog vinyl reissue series Acoustic Sounds will celebrate the 60th anniversary of Impulse! Records and its incomparable and influential catalog this year with a series of high-end vinyl releases of some of the orange-and-black label’s most essential titles. The Impulse! 60 series will kick off on May 14 with two of the four releases that launched the label known as The House That Trane Built, in 1961: Ray Charles’ singular and long-out-of-print Genius + Soul = Jazz and Gil Evans Orchestra’s superb Out of the Cool. Charles’ album will also be made available digitally for the first time in years.

The LPs will be mastered in stereo from the original analog tapes by Ryan K. Smith at Sterling Sound, except for Charles which has been mastered by Kevin Gray. All albums will be pressed on 180-gram vinyl and packaged by Stoughton Printing Co. in high-quality tip-on gatefold jackets, replicating the original Impulse packaging. Like all Acoustic Sounds titles, the releases will be supervised by Chad Kassem, CEO of Acoustic Sounds, the world’s largest source for audiophile recordings, and will utilize the unsurpassed production craft of Quality Record Pressings.

Throughout the year, the Acoustic Sounds series will feature on average two releases a month of some of the best jazz records ever made, highlighting Impulse’s notable ‘60s era recordings as well as key titles from Verve’s vaunted catalog. Following the May releases, the Impulse titles will include Oliver Nelson’s post-bop classic, The Blues And The Abstract Truth (1961) and Sonny Rollins’ first of three albums recorded for Impulse, the electrifying On Impulse! (1965) on June 25 followed by Charles Mingus’ back-to-back masterpieces, The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady (1963) and Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus (1964) on August 20.

John Coltrane will be well represented with four titles: the legendary “Live” At The Village Vanguard (1962) and the epic, meditative Crescent (1964) on October 22, followed by his sublime collaborations with big band legend Duke Ellington and singer Johnny Hartman, on the albums Duke Ellington & John Coltrane (1963) and John Coltrane & Johnny Hartman, respectively, on December 10. Roy Haynes’ adventurous Out Of The Afternoon (1962) will also release that day. Additionally Ellington’s impeccable pairing with Coleman Hawkins on the aptly titled Duke Ellington Meets Coleman Hawkins (1963) will come on November 19.

The Verve titles will include Bill Evans’ excellent duo of trio platters, Trio 64 (1964) and Trio 65 (1965) on July 30 followed by his elegant live album, At Town Hall, Volume 1 on October 22. Ella Fitzgerald’s enduring Christmas classic Ella Wishes You A Swinging Christmas will bow on September 10 in time to get folks ready for the holidays and will be succeeded a couple weeks later by her immortal duets albums with Louis Armstrong, Ella & Louis (1956) and Ella & Louis Again (1957) on September 24. Oscar Peterson’s blues and R&B-laden Night Train (1963) and his final Verve effort, We Get Requests (1964), featuring inspired interpretations of some of the era’s popular songs, will hit on November 19, concluding 2021’s Acoustic Sounds series offerings.

Launched in 2020 to provide definitive, audiophile-grade pressings of Verve’s unmatched catalog of classic jazz albums, the Acoustic Sounds series first year of releases, which included Stan Getz and João Gilberto’s Getz/Gilberto, Louis Armstrong and Oscar Peterson’s Meets Oscar Peterson, John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme and Ballads, Nina Simone’s I Put a Spell on You and Pastel Blues, Sarah Vaughan’s Sarah Vaughan, Clifford Brown and Max Roach’s A Study In Brown, George Russell’s New York, NY and Peggy Lee’s Black Coffee, has been celebrated by music fans and the press alike for exceeding expectations.

Of the Nina Simone LPs, vinyl authority Analog Planet exclaimed, “The sound of both of these records is the best that’s been produced from these tapes and both records are well worth owning. Regarding the Coltrane LPs, they raved: “A 100% top to bottom success and is easy to recommend, adding, “everything about these two Coltrane releases from the Stoughton press laminated tip-on jackets to the outstanding mastering and pressing exudes the highest quality experience offered by all-analog records.”

Paste meanwhile declared, “The mastering engineers at AS have achieved some astonishing results. The Armstrong/Peterson collaboration is spotless, with a presence that makes it feel like drummer Louis Bellson is playing in the same room, and a clarity that lets little details and noises from these 60+ year old sessions float to the surface. The groundbreaking collaboration between saxophonist Stan Getz and Brazilian guitarist/vocalist João Gilberto is perhaps even better. The spell that this album of cool bossa nova casts feels as heady and intoxicating as ever, with guest vocalist Astrud Gilberto popping up throughout to curl around every note like a rich green vine. These are, without question, the definitive pressings of these albums.”

I've Got News for You (Remastered)

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“Impulse! Records has released some of the most important and influential jazz albums of all time. UMe continues to honor the artists and their legacy on Impulse! by expanding their reach to new audiences and continuing to curate this exceptional catalog,” said Bruce Resnikoff, President & CEO of UMe. “We are thrilled to celebrate six decades of this iconic American label with best-in-class pressings of some of the label’s most significant and beloved albums as part of our Acoustic Sounds series.”

“As we celebrate Impulse Records’ historic sixth decade in 2021, we wanted to take this opportunity to showcase some of the musical diversity of the label’s catalog through the Acoustic Sounds series, which has quickly become a trusted vinyl range,” said Jamie Krents, EVP of Verve/Impulse! “These titles have been carefully curated with our partners at UMe and Chad Kassem to reflect the variety and iconic nature of what lies in the Impulse canon. We wanted to honor Ray Charles’ Genius + Soul = Jazz, one of the inaugural Impulse releases, which has not been physically available for years, with its finest vinyl rendering ever. Along with flagship titles by cornerstone artists like Charles Mingus and John Coltrane, we also felt it was important to remind fans of Duke Ellington’s brilliant work for the label, and we would have been remiss in not including a classic recording by living Impulse! legend, Roy Haynes. We’re extremely proud to offer what we truly believe are the finest vinyl versions of these recordings to date.”

Chad Kassem, CEO of Analogue Productions: “After reissuing more than 1,000 releases, we’ve built a reputation for producing only the highest quality LPs. We’re proud that Verve selected us for their Acoustic Sounds series and to create these definitive Impulse! Records. We started with the very best all-analog audio sources; worked with the top mastering engineers; best jacket manufacturer and used one of the world’s best pressing plants, Quality Record Pressings, resulting in the best pressings of these albums that you’ve ever heard. If you love Verve and Impulse!, as well as the seminal artists and albums the label produced, you’re going to want to add these records to your collection.”

Ryan K. Smith, senior mastering engineer at Sterling Sound: “It’s an honor to work on these iconic Verve and Impulse! albums, cutting each lacquer from analog tapes to produce albums that remain true to the artist’s original vision. I know fans will enjoy listening to these pressings as much as I enjoyed helping to create them.”

One of the albums that immediately thrust Impulse! Records into the limelight when it launched in February 1961, Ray Charles’ Genius + Soul = Jazz saw the legend performing jazz and soul with the backing of a full-scale orchestra made up of members from The Count Basie Band, including Billy Mitchell, Frank Wess, Freddie Green, Joe Newman, Thad Jones, and Sonny Payne, among others. Produced by Impulse impresario Creed Taylor and recorded at Van Gelder Studios, the album includes hard-blowing arrangements by Quincy Jones and Ralph Burns and features Charles eschewing piano for a churchy-sounding Hammond B3 organ.

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Mostly composed of instrumental pieces that showcase his virtuoso playing, including the rousing album opener “From The Heart,” Charles delivers his trademark soulful vocals on three tracks, “I’ve Got News For You,” “I’m Gonna Move To The Outskirts Of Town” and “One Mint Julep,” which spawned Impulse’s first singles, catapulted the record to No. 4 on Billboard’s pop album chart and established Charles as a jazz musician of the highest caliber. As Dick Katz wrote in his original liner notes, “The combination here of rare talent plus uncommon craftsmanship has produced a record that showcases the timeless quality and innate taste that is uniquely that of Ray Charles.”

As uDiscover remarked in a recent retrospective piece, “If one album evokes the style, the ethos, and the vibe of Impulse! among these first four LPs it is Out of the Cool.” Produced once again by Creed Taylor and exquisitely recorded by Rudy Van Gelder in November 1960 and released in February 1961, the Gil Evans Orchestra’s Out Of The Cool was pianist, arranger and bandleader Gil Evans groundbreaking album, following his three classic recordings with Miles Davis, including Sketches Of Spain. Joined by the rhythm section of Charlie Persip and Elvin Jones, bassist Ron Carter and guitarist Ray Crawford and a masterful 10-piece horn section that included Budd Johnson, Jimmy Knepper and Johnny Coles, Evans created a big band masterpiece that saw him exploring greater freedom in his compositions and arrangements and showcased his ability to make a large orchestra sound and act like a much smaller and spontaneous jazz combo.

Featuring some of Evans’ finest compositions, the album is bookended with the adventurous and cinematic 15-minute epic, “La Nevada,” and the noirish “Sunken Treasure,” aptly demonstrating his skills as a jazz orchestrator. Nestled in between is the standard, “Where Flamingos Fly,” which beautifully floats on Knepper’s melancholy trombone, the band’s progressive take on Bertolt Brech/Kurt Weill’s “Bilbao Song,” and George Russell’s dramatic number, “Stratusphunk.” As The Absolute Sound enthused, “Out of the Cool, perhaps even more than his collaborations with Miles Davis, spotlights Gil Evans’ brilliance as a writer and arranger,” adding, “The results are lovely, sometimes cerebral jazz meditations, and the soundstage is expansive, with soloists firmly rooted within; the musicians unfurl ribbons of fabulously layered tone colors, and the recording captures the orchestra’s terrific dynamic range.”

Mastered from the original tapes and produced with the utmost care, the Acoustic Sounds pressings of these classic albums will allow listeners to hear this music better than ever.

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