Another chapter is soon to be written in the story of the classic jazz label Bethlehem Records. The label, founded in 1953 by Gus Wildi, will soon be relaunched by classical specialist label Naxos in association with Bethlehem’s current owner, Verse Music Group. Titles are planned to roll out in six batches, from August 27 of this year through July 29, 2014.
Bethlehem played a major part in establishing the careers of such prime vocalists as Chris Connor, Nina Simone and Julie London, and at one time or another, its roster of both singers and instrumental talents included Mel Tormé, Johnny Hartman, Dexter Gordon, Art Blakey, Charles Mingus, and Duke Ellington. The label was notable for affording its artists a measure of creative control they may not have had elsewhere, and flourished under Wildi’s direction until 1962 when it was sold to its then-distributor, Syd Nathan’s King Records (home of James Brown). Bethlehem’s history from that point on is a tale of sale after sale, and eventually, the label wound up in the hands of the R&B/disco kings at Salsoul Records. Over the years, CD reissues have arrived from a variety of labels including Rhino and Shout! Factory. Verse, current owner of the Salsoul catalogue, is teaming up with Naxos for this ambitious Bethlehem campaign.
The current series of remastered reissues – available in both CD and LP formats – kicks off on August 27 with six titles from the Bethlehem catalogue:
- BCP 1003: Oscar Pettiford, Modern Quintet
- BCP 1002: Chris Connor, Sings Lullabys For Lovers
- BCP 36: Dexter Gordon, Daddy Plays The Horn
- BCP 65: Charles Mingus, The Jazz Experiments of Charles Mingus
- BCP 6028: Nina Simone, Little Girl Blue
- BCP 6048: Booker Ervin, The Book Cooks
Twenty titles (including the aforementioned six) will be issued that same day as iTunes digital releases:
- Art Blakey, Art Blakey Big Band
- Bobby Scott, Great Scott
- Booker Ervin, The Book Cooks
- Booker Little, Booker Little and Friend
- Charles Mingus, The Jazz Experiments of Charles Mingus
- Chris Connor, Sings Lullabys For Lovers
- Donald Byrd & Pepper Adams, Motor City Scene
- Dexter Gordon, Daddy Plays The Horn
- Mel Tormé & Frances Faye, George Gershwin's Porgy and Bess
- Howard McGhee, Dusty Blue
- John Coltrane, In The Winners Circle
- Johnny Hartman, Songs From The Heart
- Mel Tormé, Songs For Any Taste
- Nina Simone, Nina Simone And Her Friends
- Nina Simone, Little Girl Blue
- Oscar Pettiford, Modern Quintet
- Paula Castle, Lost Love
- Sam Most, Sam Most Plays Bird, Bud, Monk and Miles
- Stan Levey, Grand Stan
- Zoot Sims, Down Home
Each album has been remastered from the original analog tapes and will be available with their original LP track line-ups. Original liner notes and artwork have also been preserved for each reissue. Verse is promising that limited edition apparel, vinyl bundles and pre-sales will be available at Bethlehem Records’ official webstore in partnership with Backstreet Merch. You can also follow Bethlehem Jazz on Instagram to view T-shirts based on Burt Goldblatt’s famous Bethlehem album designs.
What albums are still to come from the new Bethlehem imprint? Hit the jump for a full list and further information!
All of the following albums will be available in both CD and vinyl formats.
October 29, 2013
- BCP 6051: Zoot Sims, Down Home
- BCP 6056: Donald Byrd & Pepper Adams, Motor City Scene
- BCP 1030: Bobby Troup, The Songs of Bobby Troup
January 29, 2014
- BCP 1027: Helen Carr, Down in the Depths on the 90th Floor
- BCP 43: Johnny Hartman, Songs From The Heart
- BCP 6040: Mel Tormé & Frances Faye, George Gershwin's Porgy and Bess
- BCP 6041: Nina Simone, Nina Simone and Her Friends
March 26, 2014
- BCP 6045: Mal Waldron, Left Alone
- BCP 6055: Howard McGhee, Dusty Blue
- BCP 6061: Booker Little, Booker Little and Friend
May 28, 2014
- BCP 71: Stan Levey, Grand Stan
- BCP 6064: Roland Kirk, Third Dimension
- BCP 6031: Mel Tormé, Songs For Any Taste
July 29, 2014
- BCP 1004: Bobby Scott, Great Scott
- BCP 6069: Eddie Davis, The Best of Eddie Lockjaw Davis
- BCP 6024: John Coltrane, In The Winners Circle
- BCP 6027: Art Blakey, Art Blakey Big Band
- BCP 1010: Vinnie Burke, East Coast Jazz 2
- BCP 1036: Paula Castle, Lost Love
You can order the first batch of Bethlehem reissues by clicking on the links below! All six titles are due in stores on Tuesday, August 27 from Naxos and Verse Music Group.
Oscar Pettiford, Modern Quintet (Bethlehem BCP 1003, 2013 – CD / LP / Amazon MP3)
- Golden Touch
- Cable Car
- Edge of Love
- Rides Again
Only an MP3 link is currently available for this title at Amazon.com.
Chris Connor, Sings Lullabys For Lovers (Bethlehem BCP 1002, 2013 – CD / LP / Amazon MP3)
- Lush Life
- Out of This World
- Cottage for Sale
- How Long?
- Stella by Starlight
- Gone with the Wind
- He’s Coming Home
Amazon MP3 link unavailable as of this writing.
Dexter Gordon, Daddy Plays the Horn (Bethlehem BCP 36, 2013 – CD / LP / Amazon MP3)
- Daddy Plays the Horn
- Darn That Dream
- Number Four
- Autumn in New York
- You Can Depend on Me
Charles Mingus, The Jazz Experiments of Charles Mingus (Bethlehem BCP 65, 2013 – CD / LP / Amazon MP3)
- What is This Thing Called Love?
- Minor Intrusion
- Stormy Weather
- Four Hands
- Thrice Upon a Theme
- The Spur of the Moment
Nina Simone, Little Girl Blue (Bethlehem BCP 6028, 2013 – CD / LP / Amazon MP3)
- Mood Indigo
- Don’t Smoke in Bed
- He Needs Me
- Little Girl Blue
- Love Me or Leave Me
- My Baby Cares Just for Me
- Good Bait
- Plain Gold Ring
- You’ll Never Walk Alone
- I Loves You, Porgy
- Central Park Blues
Booker Ervin, The Book Cooks (Bethlehem BCP 6048, 2013 – CD / LP / Amazon MP3)
- The Blue Book
- Git It
- Little Jane
- The Book Cooks
- Poor Butterfly
Bethlehem was the premier label for vocalists until the labels early demise. Many of these were obscure but outstanding singers. I am concerned that Naxos is only reissuing the biggest names (such as those listed here). It is the obscure singers that were the gold in the Bethlehem vaults.
Joe Marchese says
Kevin, Bethlehem is seeking reissue suggestions. Perhaps you might want to drop the label a note?
From Bethlehem's Facebook page:
"Email email@example.com to share with us titles you'd like to see reissued."
I, too, would love to see some deeper catalogue reissued in the next wave of releases.
Bill Janowski says
I've since found out that this is not a paid position, so I'll pass on offering any suggestions.
For those interested a Japanese label called SOLID has reissued the bulk of the Bethlehem catalog including many of the obscure jazz vocal sessions. The price is 1,000 yen and the sound is very good (to my ears). The releases come in standard jewel cases with original artwork. Dusty Groove carried most of the them but several are now out of stock there. CD Japan would be the best alternative.