Resurrecting one of the great jazz record labels of the 1970s and 1980s, Elemental Music, in partnership with The Orchard, proudly presents the Xanadu Master Edition Series – a new series of reissues of landmark albums from the vaults of Xanadu Records. Producers and Elemental co-founders Zev Feldman and Jordi Soley have handpicked 25 quintessential albums from the extensive Xanadu catalog in consultation with label founder Don Schlitten. The series features acclaimed titles by jazz greats including Jimmy and Albert “Tootie” Heath, Barry Harris, Kenny Barron, Charles McPherson, Dexter Gordon, Al Cohn, Cecil Payne & Duke Jordan, and Sonny Criss – many of which have never been released on CD before.
Don Schlitten founded Xanadu Records in 1975, following a successful career as a producer for such great jazz labels as Signal Records, Onyx, Prestige, Cobblestone, Muse and Xanadu. Among Xanadu’s more than 100 releases were important recordings by some of the giants of bebop and hard bop, documented at a time when popular tastes were overlooking such classic sounds in favor of electric fusion, rock, R&B and disco.
The label was a “mom and pop” operation, run by Don and his wife and partner Nina. Don recorded the artists, designed the album artwork, photographed the sessions, and occasionally wrote the liner notes – while Nina took care of the legal work, accounting and paperwork. As Nina has said, “Some days I was the secretary, other days I was the attorney.” Together they created a special home for musicians to record and left a profound music legacy.
“First of all, this is very important music that needed to be saved and preserved,” Feldman says. “Xanadu captured all of these amazing artists in their prime, and a lot of this music hasn’t been available for a long time. But this is much more than just another reissue series of great jazz albums for me. This series is also a celebration of the unique vision and contributions that Don Schlitten has made to jazz. He is one of my heroes, and an architect of this music who has left one of the largest footprints of anyone.”
Each of the 25 titles in the Xanadu Master Edition Series will boast deluxe packaging with ‘super jewel cases,’ 16-page booklets containing original artwork and liner notes, including additional photos from Don Schlitten’s personal archives, and new essays penned by British jazz journalist Mark Gardner, who wrote many of the original Xanadu liner notes. The series will be released digitally by The Orchard, with Elemental Music handling the CD & LP releases.
The series will launch on June 30th with the first six titles, including:
Barry Harris, Plays Tadd Dameron: A stellar 1975 trio session featuring the great pianist paying homage to the legendary bebop composer. It was a landmark album at the time, being the first repertoire tribute to the composer since his death a decade earlier.
Jimmy Heath, Pictures of Heath: Phenomenal quartet date featuring five Heath originals and a rendition of “Body and Soul,” with Barry Harris on piano, Sam Jones on bass, and Billy Higgins on drums.
Al Cohn / Jimmy Rowles, Heavy Love: Classic duet recording by tenor man Cohn and pianist Rowles, a delightful encounter with fresh takes on classic tunes. Grammy nominated.
Sam Most, From the Attic of My Mind: The definitive Most album, according to Schlitten, with the fiery flutist supported by pianist Kenny Barron, bassist George Mraz, drummer Walter Bolden, and percussionist Warren Smith.
Xanadu All-Stars, Xanadu in Africa / Night Flight to Dakar: A 2-CD set compiling two albums that resulted from a late-70s tour of West Africa that included Al Cohn, Billy Mitchell, Frank Butler, Leroy Vinnegar, and Dolo Coker.
Albert Heath, Kwanza (The First) aka Oops!: The first album featuring all three Heath brothers is a spiritually-oriented collection that also includes Kenny Barron, trombonist Curtis Fuller, and guitarist Ted Dunbar.
As the project got underway, Feldman soon discovered that many of the original tapes had been damaged or destroyed during Hurricane Sandy in the Fall of 2012 due to flooding where the tapes were stored. In order to live up to the standards already set by Elemental’s previous releases of unreleased music by Jimmy Giuffre and Red Garland, Feldman was forced to embark on a search for the best available source material in existence to make the release of this series a reality.
Feldman explains, “This was one of largest and most important historical preservation efforts I’ve ever been involved with. In many cases, the original tape reels completely unraveled in the floodwater. It was a mess, and as a result we outsourced the audio restoration and had to have the original master reels cleaned wherever possible. Unfortunately, all of the album art negatives, both front and back covers, were completely destroyed, so I had to dig into my personal LP collection to have drum scans made of them and then our designer, Simon Svärd, painstakingly cleaned up every front and back cover to remove all signs of damage or wear. It was an arduous process, but we were on a mission not to just preserve the music, but also the look and feel of the label according to Don’s vision,” says Feldman.
Having become familiar with the impressive depth and quality of Xanadu’s catalog over years of digging through record stacks, and later becoming friends with the Schlittens, Feldman says, “I’ve been a rabid jazz record collector my whole life, and everywhere I travel – in the States, Europe, Japan – I always make sure I get a chance to look through the local record shops, and I can’t go into a record shop and browse the bins without being constantly reminded of the gigantic footprint Don has left on the music. It’s really been an honor to have gotten to know Don and Nina well now, and being conscious of their advancing age, it’s become a chance not only to save, but revitalize this music and celebrate Don’s contributions.”
“I wanted to help create some great music,” says Schlitten today. “I’d had thoughts and feelings about music all my life, and I finally put them together in Xanadu in 1975. These are some of my best works by my favorite artists. I’m very pleased because these are great records and they should be available at all times, forever.”
Other titles coming in 2015/2016 also include:
Kenny Barron, At The Piano (1982)
Teddy Edwards, Feelin’s (1974)
Joe Farrell, Skateboard Park (1979)
Ronnie Cuber, Cuber Libre (1976)
Al Cohn & Dexter Gordon, True Blue & Silver Blue (2CD) (1976)
Dolo Coker, California Hard (1976)
Kenny Drew, Home Is Where The Soul Is (1978)
Charles McPherson, Beautiful (1975)
Frank Butler, The Stepper (1977)
Bob Berg, New Birth (1978)
Sonny Criss, Saturday Morning (1975)
Teddy Edwards, The Inimitable Teddy Edwards (1976)
Sam Jones, Changes & Things (1977)
Cecil Payne & Duke Jordan, Brooklyn Brothers (1973)
Barry Harris, Live in Tokyo (1976)
Charles McPherson, Live In Tokyo (1976)
Jimmy Raney, Live In Tokyo (1976)