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John Coltrane’s ‘Lush Life’ Launches Craft Recordings’ New ‘Small Batch’ All-Analog Vinyl Series

Each album selected for the ‘series will undergo all-analog mastering, and then be pressed on 180-gram vinyl in a one-step lacquer process.

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Craft Recordings is thrilled to announce their ‘Small Batch’ series—a carefully curated audiophile collection devoted to creating the highest quality vinyl reissues of legendary recordings from their vast catalog.

Each album selected for the ‘Small Batch’ series will undergo all-analog mastering, and then be pressed on 180-gram vinyl in a one-step lacquer process—as opposed to the standard three-step process—allowing for the highest level of musical detail, clarity, and dynamics while reducing the amount of surface noise on the record. The limited nature of these pressings guarantees that each record is a true representation of the original lacquer and is as close as the listener can get to the original recording. Authentic sound, distilled to its purest form.

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Each ‘Small Batch’ pressing, available exclusively on Craft Recordings’ official site will be individually numbered and housed in a foil-stamped, linen-wrapped slipcase featuring an acrylic inset of the original artwork. The vinyl disc—extractable through a unique frictionless ribbon pull tab—will be housed in a reproduction of the original album jacket, complete with tip-on jacket, and protected by an archival-quality, anti-static, non-scratching inner sleeve. New liner notes from some of music’s best educators, historians, and journalists will accompany each title.

Launching the ‘Small Batch’ series will be John Coltrane’s iconic 1961 album, Lush Life—celebrating its 60th anniversary this year—available on February 19 and limited to 1,000 copies worldwide. For this reissue, the original analog tapes—recorded at Rudy Van Gelder’s Hackensack, NJ studios—were sent to Grammy-Award winning mastering engineer Bernie Grundman, who utilized a custom tube pre-amp and analog mixing console with discrete electronics—both made in-house—as well as a Scully solid-state lathe with custom electronics.

“When it comes to jazz, all you want to do is present the music in a good way. No gimmicks. No extra compression. Just the pure instruments,” explains Grundman. “We’re taking these old tapes and playing them off of equipment that’s similar to what they were recorded on. We want to preserve the sound as much as we can. My goal is to do all of this by hand as it’s playing. It takes a lot of preparation. It takes choreographing.” In the end, Grundman says, “It’s all about trying to optimize the experience for the listener.”

Grundman’s lacquers were then sent to Record Technology Incorporated (RTI) for plating using the plant’s one-step process, as described above, where the lacquers are used to create a “convert” that becomes the record stamper. Utilizing Neotech’s VR900 compound, Lush Life was then pressed on to 180-gram vinyl.

Recorded in three sessions over 1957 and 1958, Lush Life finds Coltrane on the verge of a career breakout. Though he was still a few years away from emerging as an influential and boundary-pushing bandleader, the saxophonist’s mature and complex sound was beginning to grab ears and sell records. Here, he’s accompanied by an all-star lineup of talent, including Red Garland on piano, Paul Chambers on bass, Donald Byrd on trumpet, and Art Taylor on drums. The tracklist, comprised of standards and popular tunes of the day, offers a wide range of moods.

Highlights include Cole Porter’s “I Love You,” the Jimmy Van Heusen/Johnny Burke hit “Like Someone in Love,” and one original—“Trane’s Slo Blues.” In the package’s new liner notes, Grammy Award-winning writer Ashley Kahn points out that the Billy Strayhorn-penned title track—now a jazz standard—was an unusual choice at the time. In the late ‘50s, “Lush Life” was “more of a specialty tune…known primarily by a coterie of jazz players and dedicated fans.” Kahn adds, “One could not with any confidence call it a jam session, hoping that all the players would know the changes and the singer would have a handle on the lyric. Its harmony was complex and unusual, and it did not fit the 32-bar structure most songs followed…How bold it must have been for a John Coltrane album to not only bear the title of Strayhorn’s off-center song, but feature a fourteen-minute interpretation as its centerpiece. This is truly a band version of “Lush Life”—arguably the first—that builds steadily in intensity and offers a variety of textures through its free-wheeling duration.”

Upon its release, Lush Life was a critical and commercial success, garnering a rare five-star review from Downbeat. The album continues to be counted as a standout recording in Coltrane’s all-too-short career. In recent years, AllMusic listed Lush Life “among John Coltrane’s best endeavors on the Prestige label,” while All About Jazz praised that “the record documents Coltrane’s rapid growth over a short period of time while also showcasing how great a talent Coltrane was, even at this early stage.” In his notes, Kahn affirms that the recording “serves to capture the already expansive nature of Coltrane’s approach in late ’57 and early ’58: the love of melody and that melancholy, searching spirit. The restless embellishing, and those sheets of sound just as they began to unfurl.”

Lush Life is out on February 19 and can be pre-ordered here.

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