CDs: Going, Going…

Daedalus Books and Music is a company that sells remaindered or overstocked books and recordings. It is the beneficiary of what we might conservatively call a state of flux in the fields of book publishing and recorded music. Daedalus and similar overstock specialists gather the fruits of catalogs thinned or, in some cases, decimated by publishers and record companies and sell them at reduced prices. The Winter 2010 Daedalus catalog includes 33 pages of cutout jazz, blues and rock CDs. All but a handful of the albums are on labels owned by Concord Music. In 2004, Concord bought the company that expanded from the little Fantasy label founded more than half a century ago in San Francisco by Max and Sol Weiss. Fantasy, Inc. already had under its umbrella the Fantasy, Riverside, Prestige, Pablo, Stax and Specialty labels, among others. Concord added its own catalog and acquired Telarc jazz and classics, to bring the total of labels under its ownership to 28, including subdivisions such as Original Jazz Classics and Concord Picante.
The cover of the catalog highlights these albums:
• Charlie Byrd’s Homage to Jobim
• The Red Garland Quintet: Soul Junction
• Coleman Hawkins All Stars: Swingville
• Abbey Lincoln: Abbey Is Blue
• Sonny Rollins: Worktime
• Sylvia Syms: For Once In My Life
• The Dirty Dozen Brass Band: What’s Going On
• The Riverside Folklore Series
Like most of the 225 albums Daedalus offers on those 33 pages, each of the CDs on that list is on a label of the Concord empire, except for the Dirty Dozen, which is on Shout Factory. A survey of the Concord catalog shows that many of the albums are still available from Concord as CDs, others only as MP3 downloads. Some have Swamp Seed.jpgdisappeared entirely from the Concord lists. Among the missing are precious items like Jimmy Heath’s Swamp Seed and Cal Tjader Plays Harold Arlen & West Side Story, with its gorgeous Clare Fischer orchestral arrangements. Concord offers Sylvia Syms’s For Once In My Life solely as a download. In fairness, I should emphasize that I had time only for a survey. You are free to go here and here and spend the hours (or days) it would take to do an item-by-item comparison of the Daedalus offerings with Concord’s. Surely, Concord’s web site must be a contender for the championship of extensive, exhaustive and challenging sites.
What’s the point? Not to make a case against what appears to be the digital era’sArlen.jpg unstoppable dismantling of the recording industry as we have known it; I’ll leave it to others to sweep back the tide. Not to bring business to Daedalus, which seems to be doing fine on its own. Not to warn Concord to be careful lest it fall of its own weight. The point is simply to alert Rifftides readers who may have been putting off acquiring valuable recordings in the belief that they will be available forever, or even later this year. This might be a good time to get those CDs, whatever the source.
I hope that the Library of Congress or the Institute of Jazz Studies is archiving the Concord catalog. Many of the recordings in it are vital documents of American culture. It would be a shame for them not to be preserved.

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  1. says

    This is interesting.I had an e-mail exchange with producer Ed Michel several years ago about label idiocy. He believed they just had to set a smart price point for legacy catalog, (which they amortized long ago), that undermines piracy, say 5 dollars a unit.
    The industry cling to an inflated price point is what undermines them. And the catalog action resembles manic depression as a biz model. They go manic and toss out a glitzy reissue campaign at the inflated price point and when i bombs, they get depressed and slash away, cutting everything in sight out.
    The crazy run of mergers further increases the pressure to validate some suit’s dumb deal-cutting binge. The Concord group is among the label families, along with Verve/Impulse that got sucked into the Vivendi vortex.
    (Mr. Rich is the proprietor of Brilliant Corners, a Boston Jazz Blog. To see his contributor Matt Lavelle’s recent paen to Paul Gonsalves, click on “Chris Rich” in the upper left corner of this comment. — DR)

  2. Ken Dryden says

    Not only has Concord cut out much of its jazz archive from the various labels it has acquired, but even a number of fairly recent releases, including most of the 2007 series of Live at the Monterey Jazz Festival CDs, have been deleted from print. There are many great bargains to be had at Daedalus and also, which has been selling many of these CDs for months.
    A download is hardly the equal of a CD, as it has no chance to be personalized with an artist’s autograph nor can it be passed on as an heirloom.

  3. Joe Hannigan says

    Even so, “Out of Print” is a relative term in the digital age. I can’t imagine anyone (at Concord or elsewhere) destroying or tossing out the digital masters of the audio & artwork, and I can’t imagine anyone selling their “last copy”. It just doesn’t work that way anymore. (read Malcom Gladwell’s The Long Tail).
    Someone, somewhere, will likely hang onto the digital/dupe master and other variations that preceeded it in the chain. Many small labels just make short runs now, rather than keeping stacks of unsold product on dusty shelves somewhere. It’s not much more than 1 gig of memory per CD on a server somewhere – audio files & graphics combined. (And of course, any CD is easily cloned, even if it’s just to keep the artifact alive.) As a small indie company, I have the master or clone of every project we’ve ever done in the last 20+ years for clients new, old, defunct, living or dead. I have to believe it’s the same way higher up the chain with these labels.
    Good to see I’m not the only one who’s advocated $5 per disc. Sell first-run new releases at $15 each if one must, then (like books) discount items in second printing, third, and cut-out discount rates.
    Doesn’t make much sense to buy up all those labels and not have the product available for those who may still want it, now or in the future. (And MP3 downloads just don’t cut it for collectors and serious listeners….)

  4. Andrew E. Dowd says

    I am now the regular host of the Thursday morning 6am to 10am show on KMHD 89.1 FM in Portland, Oregon. I used to have a weekly jazz show on WGMC FM in Rochester New York in the mid to late 1990’s. In regards to your recent posting about O.O.P. jazz CD’s, I want to thank you for the suggestion about Jimmy Heath’s Swamp Seed. I did not have any of his Riverside work, so I purchased and downloaded the MP3 version of the album, and I LOVE it. Fantastic stuff. Great arrangements. I will play a track or two from it on my next KMHD air shift.
    I have purchased a great many rare and O.O.P jazz CD’s as downloaded MP3’s and I think the sound quality of them is great. I can easily get the cover art and make a color CD jewel case insert. I am trying to convince some of the “older” DJ’s at KMHD to try purchasing O.O.P. jazz albums as downloaded MP3’s and burning them to CD. It beats stressing and fretting over all of the great titles that are continually being deleted from the Concord catalog.

  5. Andrew Dowd says

    I hate to start an argument, but I must strongly disagree with Ken Dryden and Joe Hannigan about the sound quality and/or value of downloaded MP3 jazz albums. I have been a jazz lover my entire life (I am in my early 40’s) and I am also an experienced collector of vintage audio equipment. I have purchased and listened to *many* downloaded jazz albums as MP3’s and I think that the ones I have purchased in the past year are *equal to* the quality of a commercially pressed CD. Perhaps some of these folks have not recently purchased and downloaded a jazz MP3 album and compared the sound to a regular CD. The bit rate that the major MP3 sellers (iTunes, Emusic, Amazon) have been using lately is much better than a few years ago. To say that “it has no chance to be personalized with an artist’s autograph nor can it be passed on as an heirloom” does not hold true in my book. It costs pennies to buy a blank CDR and burn the MP3 download to it, copy the original cover art, and go to Kinkos and spend 49 cents for a color laser printed jewel case insert. This allows me to get copies of these rare jazz gems for a very low price and play them on my jazz show (many of these O.O.P. jazz albums are not in the libraries of jazz radio stations).
    (How about liner notes? Are they also generally available on MP3 downloads? — DR)

  6. Ken Dryden says

    Andrew Dowd is right that I haven’t purchased a CD download in the past year, or ever. The ones I have heard that others have purchased do not sound comparable to commercially issued CDs.
    When I said “it has no chance to be personalized with an artist’s autograph nor can it be passed on as an heirloom,” printing a copy of the downloaded artwork (with or without liner notes) is never going to look the same as a multipage pre-printed CD booklet, while it has been constantly mentioned that the expected life of a burned CDR is not the same as a CD. While one can pass on a downloaded CDR with homemade booklet to an heir, it can’t be resold, can it? Even if it legally can, it will not command the price of a manufactured CD.
    I can’t imagine trying to acquire Mosaic boxed sets, or special packages like the various comprehensive Verve sets (Bill Evans, Ella Fitzgerald, Oscar Peterson) in download form, nor would one be able to reproduce the packaging and large form liner notes very easily, if they were even available.
    I’m glad that downloads are a viable alternative for him to use on his radio show to replace gaps in his station’s and personal libraries.