Jazz: The timeless appeal of the music box

Jazz CD box sets

Once, we could be satisfied by a measly couple of CDs tricked up with some heavy-duty cardboard, a few pages of liner notes and a grainy old snap or two. Then came bigger and bigger boxes of four discs, five discs, even six or more, complete with lingerie-drawstring ribbons, 70-page essays and whole portfolios of glossy prints. Now, as a matter of course, the boxes look like they've been specially constructed by ancient craftsmen in Peru, their 200-page booklets lovingly bound in luxury llama-skin slipcases and printed on hand-made paper of the type favoured by the emperors of China. The old master-tapes have been re-mastered, re-plastered, pointed and polished into a buffed sheen of state-of-the-art audiophile quality.

But still nothing quite prepares you for the 18-disc box-set of "The Complete Bill Evans on Verve", which costs nearly pounds 200. The box itself is a small, coffin-like slab of heavy metal that has been designed to rust in a natural yet pleasingly decorative way, and it weighs about as much as an electric toaster. Ironically, as a pianist Bill Evans was something of a miniaturist, composing and playing small, quiet tunes with great delicacy and understatement. Needless to say, there's an awful lot of them here. Another irony is that Evans's best work was completed mostly for the Riverside label before he joined Verve, and though there's hours of wonderful music you have to be something of an Evans obsessive to really need as many incomplete and alternate takes as the box gives you. That of course, is part and parcel (and what a parcel - the postman risks a hernia) of the box-set ethos. For Evans' devotees, 18 discs will still not be enough.

The compilers of the six-CD set "Passions of a Man: Charles Mingus - The Complete Atlantic Recordings" (see, even the titles are getting out of hand) claim that they're "taking the lead with their quality-produced jazz reissue series," but can this be true? The hand-made paper is undeniably beautiful but the box, well, it's still cardboard. The contents, however, are sublime: Mingus's series of five truly great albums recorded between 1956 and 1961, together with material later issued as "Tonight At Noon", an album released under the name of vibraphonist Teddy Charles, a live concert from Antibes heard in its complete form for the first time, and a 70-minute interview between Mingus and producer Nesuhi Ertegun. The various essays, notes, pictures and references are impeccably scholarly, and while most of the music will be familiar to Mingus fans, this really is a box worth having.

"Sonny Rollins: The Blue Note Recordings" is a mid-price five-CD set that shows its limited budget. There's no special booklet or pictures, just the original albums in a flimsy cardboard case, although purists will approve that the original covers, liner notes and track listings remain the same. Indeed, these are the same five CDs that you can buy individually, just bunged in a box. While the presentation won't please commodity fetishists the music is, for once, the thing: Rollins tanking his way through "A Night in Tunisia" is one of the greatest moments in the history of jazz. Rollins also gets boxed in the six CDs of "The Complete RCA Victor Recordings" (BMG), and though the music might not be quite as incendiary as the earlier Blue Note dates, it's almost all good stuff.

With "John Coltrane: The Complete Village Vanguard Recordings" (Impulse, four CDs), the commodity and the music reach a satisfying balance in an exhaustive archive of four nights (there was a fifth too, unrecorded) from Coltrane's legendary 1966 engagement at the New York club. This is improvisation at its highest point. Also from Impulse comes the five CD box of "Keith Jarrett: The Impulse Years 1973-74", which documents the latter half (there's an earlier box set too) of the incredibly prolific spell the pianist had with his quartet (Charlie Haden, Dewey Redman and Paul Motian). But just wait until the time comes for "Keith Jarrett: The Complete ECM Recordings". This will be an HGV container-load of discs, the booklet a ten-volume treatise and even now Peruvian craftsman are working on the binding. There may not be enough llamas left to do the job.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
News
REX/Eye Candy
science
News
A photo of Charles Belk being detained by police on Friday 22 August
news
News
i100
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates after scoring his first goal for Arsenal in the Champions League qualifier against Besiktas
sportChilean's first goal for the club secures place in draw for Champions League group stages
Arts and Entertainment
Amis: 'The racial situation in the US is as bad as it’s been since the Civil War'
booksAuthor says he might come back across Atlantic after all
Extras
indybest
Life and Style
Google Doodle celebrates the 200th birthday of Irish writer Sheridan Le Fanu
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
News
i100
News
In Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Jim Carrey and Kate Winslett medically erase each other from their memories
scienceTechnique successfully used to ‘reverse’ bad memories in rodents could be used on trauma victims
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Pixie Lott will take part in Strictly Come Dancing 2014, the BBC has confirmed
tv
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    C# Developer (C#, ASP.NET Developer, SQL, MVC, WPF, Real-Time F

    £40000 - £48000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: C# Devel...

    C# Swift Payment Developer (C#, ASP.NET, .NET, MVC, Authorize.N

    £45000 - £60000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: C# Swift...

    Front-End Developer (JavaScript, HTML5, CSS3, C#, GUI)

    £55000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Front-End Deve...

    Graduate C# Developer (.NET, WPF, SQL, Agile, C++) - London

    £30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Graduate C# De...

    Day In a Page

    Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

    Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

    Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
    Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

    Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

    The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
    America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

    America’s new apartheid

    Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
    Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

    What is the appeal of Twitch?

    Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
    Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

    How bosses are making us work harder

    As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
    Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

    Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

    As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
    Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

    A tale of two writers

    Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
    Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

    Should pupils get a lie in?

    Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
    Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

    Prepare for Jewish jokes...

    ... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
    SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

    A dream come true for SJ Watson

    Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
    10 best cycling bags for commuters

    10 best cycling bags for commuters

    Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
    Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

    Paul Scholes column

    Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
    Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

    Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

    A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
    Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

    The science of herding is cracked

    Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
    Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

    This tyrant doesn’t rule

    It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?