Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Album: First Class Jazz

Remember your first CD player? I remember mine. It was a single-disc player made by Sharp, and when I bought it in 1985 it should have retailed for $300. Three hundred dollars! Seems hard to believe, now. Only two years later I bought a 6-disc changer from Pioneer for around $250.

Anyway, I didn't pay $300 for it. I found it at a Gibson's going-out-of-business sale. That was a store in Seguin (although I think it was a chain that was found in several cities) that went out of business after Wal-Mart moved in. They sold this & that: appliances, clothes, sporting goods. It was where we bought all our ammo and fishing supplies. The CD player had been marked half off, and then half off again, so I got it for $75. And this was when CDs still cost about $18 each and records half that much. After I bought the player, I had just enough money left for two CDs, so I went across the street to Hastings and bought The Doors' L.A. Woman and Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon.

In 1984, when CD players were even newer and more novel than they were a year later when I finally bought one, Radio Shack was stocking them, of course. And back then, hearing that clear digital sound was still new to our ears. Remember that? I remember being really impressed by the sound of the solo bass horn at the beginning of "Birdland" on this CD, the first time I played it. It sounded like the player was in my room. So anyway, in 1984 Radio Shack produced a set of three CDs to serve as demo discs to show off the pure clarity of something that was actually digitally recorded, not recorded in analog and then converted to digital.

First Class Jazz is one of them, and I picked it up a few weeks after I bought that first CD player. I should have bought the other two, just because this was a sort of one-off thing and they weren't made to really sell albums. I don't remember for sure, but I think one of the others was of classical music, and the third...I don't remember. Probably a collection of some rock songs or something like that.

This was long before I was really into jazz very much at all, although it is not the first jazz album I ever bought. It is the first jazz CD I ever bought, and it still sounds fantastic. I have no Amazon link for this one, because you can't buy it anywhere anymore. So here's a track listing. Links are to sources where these tracks can be heard or purchased.

1. "On Green Dolphin Street" by Joe Farrell. Darn That Dream (Amazon.com)
2. "Byrdlike" by Freddie Hubbard. YouTube (only the live version is currently in print).
3. "Take the 'A' Train" by Billy Berry & His Ellington All-Stars. YouTube.
4. "Blues for John C." by John Dentz, Chick Corea and Ernie Watts. 4 Tune (CD Universe).
5. "Playin' it Straight" by Jack Sheldon, Tommy Newsom and Pete Christlieb. YouTube (to be uploaded; out of print).
6. "Darn that Dream" by George Cables, Art Pepper and John Dentz. Darn That Dream (Amazon.com)
7. "Birdland" by Earl "Fatha" Hines. Honor Thy Fatha (Amazon.com)
8. "Dizzyland" by Don Menza & His 80s Big Band. YouTube.
The sound quality of this CD is pert near immaculate, and besides that, it's a great collection of well-known names of jazz playing some good old jazz standards. So if you happen to run across one somewhere, I recommend it.

UPDATE: April 23, 2011. Started adding links to sources for these tracks. If I can't find an source currently in print I will upload it to YouTube.

Here are scans of the front, back and inside of the CD booklet. Click to enlarge.

1 comment:

  1. I did pretty much the exact same thing as you, but I bought my CD player from Radio Shack for about $300 or so. There sure weren't a lot of discs available at the time, but sometimes it's just not pretty being on the cutting edge. Anyway - for some reason I still have the CD to this day. Cover and all. When I ran across it tonight I finally ripped it and when I was searching for the cover - I saw your article. Brothers in Arms or something I suppose...