If you’re looking for the best way to hear the music Duke Ellington recorded on RCA 1927-32 and 1940-45, including the famous sides by the ‘Blanton Webster’ edition of the band, outside of the original 78 rpm issues, look out for six volumes of double LPs on the ‘Black and White Jazz Tribune’ label out of France (and that’s the original vinyl issues, not the compact disc versions).
Why are they the best? Because they’re the only ones issued from extant original metal parts and shellac master pressings. Representatives from RCA France went in and rescued these originals days before RCA USA had the building razed to the ground! Here’s a part of an article by writer Bill Holland.
"The most spectacular case of wholesale vault trashing is the decision by RCA in the early '60s to demolish its warehouse in Camden, N.J. The warehouse, according to collectors and industry veterans, held four floors of catalogue product, pre-tape-era material ranging from metal parts, acetates, shellac disc masters and alternate takes to test pressings, master matrix books and session rehearsal recordings.
"Several days before the demolition, officials from French RCA gained permission to go through the building and withdraw whatever material they could carry for their vinyl "Black and White" jazz reissue series. A few American collectors were also allowed in the building to salvage any items they could carry out.
"A few days later. as dozens of RCA officials and collectors stood on a nearby Delaware Bridge, demolition experts ignited the dynamite charges. Eyewitnesses said they saw "clouds of debris, black and metal chunks flying out the windows" of the collapsing building.
The building wreckage was then bulldozed into the Delaware River. A pier was built on top of the detritus."
To read the whole essay, go here.