“Org Music is a record label that cares about music as much as you do.”
A few weeks ago, I wrote about five reissue labels to look out for here. I left Org Music off that list with specific intent. Org Music has long been my personal favorite reissue label. So this week, I wanted to place the spotlight solely on them, what they do, and what they have to offer in order to give those of you that are in the dark a closer look at what I feel is the premier reissue label in the game today.
Org Music is a reissue label based out of Los Angeles, California, and is managed by Andrew Rossiter. The label itself began in 2009 as a small offshoot of Original Recordings Group, and at the time, was handled by Jeff Bowers, who would go on to hire Rossiter. At 23 years of age, no one expected Andrew Rossiter to take Org Music, a label in its infancy, very far. However, with hard work and the luck of breaking in just as the vinyl resurgence was about to begin, the music industry witnessed Rossiter and Org Music ascend to the top of the proverbial reissue heap.
When talking about what Org Music does, it’s important to understand first and foremost that the reissue game is completely and totally different from focusing on new artists and new releases. As a reissue label, you are often rehashing classics or unearthing long-forgotten gems. If you’re lucky, you can effectively do both, and Org Music has done just that. It’s also important to know that when it comes to reissues, the big three (Sony, Universal, and Warner) have effectively sponged up all the classic and essential releases for reissue over the years, so what was Org Music to do? How were they going to set themselves apart?
Now, let me say that Org Music has reissued a lot of different albums across many genres of music, but there is one series that I feel really has set them apart from other reissue labels. In 2012, Org Music decided to unearth some of the long-forgotten classics of the now-defunct Black Lion Jazz label, which was founded by Alan Bates and was based out of London, England. Black Lion was very active from the late ’60s to around the mid-’70s. Black Lion’s roster was filled with famous Jazz artists and focused on extremely rare or early recordings from these artists. Over time they also sought to produce new and unique sessions specifically for the Black Lion Label. Most of these recordings were long forgotten after Black Lion folded and were never given a particularly wide release, to begin with. These were recordings aching to be unearthed once again. Recordings begging to be given a proper release to the general public, and Org Music did just that.
These releases are truly seminal audiophile offerings, given special attention in order to preserve the integrity of the original recordings. They’re all pressed at Pallas Group in Germany and are all mastered by the legendary Bernie Grundman and his team directly from tape. All of the releases are pressed to 180-gram vinyl and have been given updated artwork and beautiful packaging, which far exceeds the primitive artwork of the original releases. Simply put, if you’re a Jazz fan or a crate digger alike, these are releases you need in your collection. You will not be dissatisfied. These are entirely unique releases, put together by a company that truly strives to get the most out of each and every record they put out.
Now that I’ve given you a brief overview of Org Music, and what the Black Lion Reissue series is all about, I wanted to take the time to highlight five essential titles from this series that I feel you all should give some time and attention to:
Bille Holiday – At Storyville (ORGM-1058)
Sourced from two shows recorded in 1951 and 1953 at the Storyville Theater in Boston, MA, At Storyville finds Billie Holiday in her absolute prime. Her unique stage presence and distinctive voice are in full effect here. She’s even backed by Stan Getz on three of the tracks! Before Org Music got their hands on it, this album had been out of print for over 25 years. They’ve given it a re-skin, with beautiful new artwork and two colored variants (white and blue). If you’re a Billie Holiday fan, this is a must-have to complete your collection. If you’ve never heard Lady Day – this is a perfect place to get acquainted.
Johnny Griffin – The Man I Love (ORGM-1066)
I personally love that Org Music chose to give The Man I Love the attention that it deserves. Johnny Griffin is an artist that, in general, simply does not get the attention that he has truly earned. He’s even overlooked in Jazz circles, it seems, but not here, and not today. For this release, Johnny stretches out and absolutely slays. Recorded in 1967 in Copenhagen, Johnny is backed by a group of talented and fittingly underrated musicians in Kenny Drew, Niels Pedersen, and Albert Heath. The performance is very memorable, and he demonstrates in spades why he was considered the “world’s fastest tenor.” Pressed on white vinyl initially and given a wider release on choice 180-gram black vinyl, this is an album that has been given the treatment it’s long deserved. Do yourself a favor and pick this up. Your Jazz stacks crave this kind of depth.
Miles Davis – Bopping The Blues (ORGM-1049)
Recorded in 1946, Bopping The Blues features a 20-year-old Miles Davis in a rare studio session in Hollywood, CA. Making the recording even more special, we find Davis backed by tenor saxophonist Gene Ammons and none other than Art Blakey on drums. This is the exact type of recording that made the original Black Lion label special in the first place. It’s wonderful to see Org Music carrying on that tradition, all the while adding their unique twist to the packaging. With beautiful artwork, the usual audiophile mastering in tow, this is nothing short of an essential release for Miles fans and Jazzheads alike. Don’t sleep on it.
Ben Webster – Stormy Weather (ORGM-1065)
Some say the creative apex of Ben Webster’s career took place while he was recording for Black Lion in the ’60s. I would have to agree. Stormy Weather was recorded just after his move to Europe. With Kenny Drew, Niels Pedersen, and Alex Riel backing him, Ben Webster marched through two originals and seven standards for this release. For the novice Jazz fan, Ben Webster will often be overlooked. Take this as an opportunity to buck that trend. The 45rpm edition, with the die-cut gatefold jacket, is nothing short of vinyl porn.
Earl Hines – Tour de Force (ORGM-2086)
Yes, it’s true, I’ve saved the best for last. The legendary Earl “Fatha” Hines is finally getting his due with this long-overdue reissue. I have to commend Org Music for giving Earl Hines the spotlight with their ultimate reissue of Tour de Force. Recorded in New York City in 1972, this set finds an older Hines at the peak of his ever-rampant creativity, perpetually breathing new life into old standards and making them new once again. This release beautifully illustrates the wonder of Org Music’s Black Lion Reissue series. Andrew Rossiter and his team have done an incredible job of interweaving themselves, and their brand, with that of Black Lion. I am of the opinion that in doing so, they have left themselves in some pretty exclusive company. I am truly looking forward to what Org Music has in store for us in the future. As for Tour de Force….this is the release that got me into piano drive Jazz, and I think if you listen, it will have the same effect on you. Dig it!
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Since he was a young child growing up on Long Island, NY, Andrew has always loved writing and collecting physical music. Present-day, Andrew is proud to share his love of music with the world through his writing, and the result is nothing short of beautiful: articles and interviews written by a music addict for fellow music addicts. Andrew lives on Long Island and works as a Horticultural Operations Manager by day and runs the Vinyl Writer Music website by night.