Earlier this year, Craft Recordings launched its Small Batch series of audiophile vinyl releases with John Coltrane’s 1961 classic Lush Life. The limited and numbered, all-analog release sold out immediately. Now, Craft has announced the second Small Batch title: pioneering jazz multi-instrumentalist Yusef Lateef’s Eastern Sounds, also from 1961. The pressing will be strictly limited to 1,000 units and released only on Craft Recordings’ website, with the pre-sale beginning tomorrow, March 26, at 5:00 pm EST/2:00 pm PST. Based on the reaction accorded Lush Life, it’s possible this title will also sell out within hours or less. Note, however, that Craft has some promising news for the series: “The response from the community of audiophiles and music lovers was overwhelming, with Lush Life selling out in a matter of hours. While Eastern Sounds will also be limited in nature, due to the lengthy lead time to produce the meticulously crafted pressings, future titles in the series will be produced on a larger scale, in response to demand.”
As for Eastern Sounds, it was mastered from the original analog stereo tapes by Bernie Grundman and pressed utilizing Neotech’s VR9000 compound on 180-gram vinyl at RTI in a one-step lacquer process (instead of the standard three-step process). Craft states that “each record is a true representation of the original lacquer and is as close as the listener can get to the original recording.”
Yusef Lateef (1920-2013) already had fifteen albums as a leader released on labels including Savoy, Verve, Argo, and Riverside by the time he recorded Eastern Sounds on Prestige’s Moodsville imprint. While best-known as a saxophonist and flautist, he played multiple instruments as far back as his first LP. As the title indicates, the album continued his immersion into Eastern music. Recorded at Rudy Van Gelder’s famed New Jersey studio, Eastern Sounds found him on tenor saxophone, oboe, flute, and the xun, or Chinese globular flute. He was joined in the studio by pianist Barry Harris, drummer Lex Humphries and bassist Ernie Farrow who doubled on the rubab, an Afghani lute-style instrument. Most of the LP consisted of Lateef’s original compositions, but it also made room for a cover of the Jimmy McHugh/Dorothy Fields standard “Don’t Blame Me” and soundtrack themes from Spartacus (by Alex North) and The Robe (by Alfred Newman). The result was a fusion of accessible hard bop with experimental Eastern and Asian sounds.
Eastern Sounds “effectively balances the familiar with the foreign,” writes historian Ashley Kahn in his new liner notes. “When the album truly looks east–in sound and title–magic happens.” Indeed, Lateef continued to explore new sounds throughout his long and prolific career; his final album was released in 2010.
Each Small Batch LP of Eastern Sounds will be individually numbered and encased in a foil-stamped, linen-wrapped slipcase boasting an acrylic inset of the original artwork. The vinyl LP itself is extractable through a frictionless ribbon pull tab and housed in a replica of the original tip-on jacket. An anti-static, non-scratching inner sleeve serves as protection for the disk.
You’ll find the track listing for Eastern Sounds below. Pre-orders begin this Friday at 2:00 p.m. PST/5:00 p.m. EST from CraftRecordings.com.
Yusef Lateef, Eastern Sounds (Moodsville MV 22, 1961)
- The Plum Blossom
- Blues for the Orient
- Chinq Miau
- Don’t Blame Me
- Love Theme from Spartacus
- Purple Flower
- Love Theme from The Robe
- The Three Faces of Balal