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Re-issue series


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n April 1997, jazz magazines published numerous ads of the re-edition of VERVE RECORDS, bearing the common name "Verve Master Edition":

„Verve Master Editions” – the ultimate sound quality and releases for serious collectors.
"Verve Master Editions" are new releases of the groundbreaking Verve discs from the 1950s and 1960s, using the best possible audio sources. The precise restoration of the original master tapes and the 20-bit digital transfer ensured optimal sound clarity, far exceeding previous versions released on CD in the mid-1980s.
Albums from the "Verve Master Editions" series set a higher standard in the field of classical jazz reissues. This year we will release 20 titles, the first in May - titles shown below - and the other ones in June and July.

source: „Billboard”, April 1997, 109 | No. 15

In the pictures below one could see the first albums of this series, among them there was the Oscar Peterson Trio's Night Train, Stan Getz and João Gilberto's Getz / Gilberto or Ella Fitzegarld Sings the Rodgers and Hart Song Book. For the following months Count Basie, Wes Montgomery, Duke Ellington and Charlie Parker albums are scheduled to be released. Even this short list already shows that Verve Records has decided to reach for all the best album in its archives.


Verve – or VERVE RECORDS - is one of the most important record labels of the 20th century, especially when we talk about jazz music. So it was no exaggeration to title the beautiful monograph by Richard Havers the Verve. The Sound of America.

It was founded in 1957 by NORMAN GRANZ (1918– 2001), a well-known jazz impresario and producer, whom the "The Telegraph" after he passed away called "the best impresario in the history of jazz". Verve was not his first label. He began by organizing concerts from the “Jazz at the Philharmonic” series in 1944, which – on and off - he ran until 1957. Musicians such as Charlie Parker and Coleman Hawkins, Buddy Rich, Lester Young and Billie Holiday went on annual tours with him.

To promote them, in 1946 he founded the Clef label, and its first release was The Gene Krupa Trio. In 1953, he already had another label, Norgran, focused on classic studio recordings. Albums of Johnny Hodges, Lester Young, Dizzy Gillespi and others were released by this label. His next idea was the Down Home Records, which he bought from Lu Waters, with musicians playing Dixieland. In 1973 he founded his last label - Pablo.

However, Verve remains his top achievement. In fact, the company was created for one person - ELLA FITZEGARLD. Granz was her manager and as soon as Decca, in early 1956, terminated her contract, he persuaded her to sign with Verve. This is how the legend was born - a label that "revolutionized jazz", as it is called. A more mundane reason, according to Tad Hershorn, an author of the Norman Granz: The Man Who Used Jazz for Justice biography, was a continuous problem with the cash flow of previous labels. After the foundation of Verve, their catalogs were also transferred to it, which allowed him to focus only on this one label.

Granz hired a 24-year-old arranger and composer BUDDY BERGMANN to run the label. The latter decided that the first artist whose album would be released by Verve would be Anita O’Day. Bergmann approached the matter from business standpoint - based on the sales results of her albums with the Clef logo. And these were sold in over three and a half thousandth copies. He had to have a good nose for it, because the Anita album, already with the Verve logo, achieved a staggering - for those days - sales of 185,000 copies, which not only helped to create Anita as a jazz star, but also provided the company with financial stability.

Its founder had a slightly different idea for Ella Fitzegrald - he proposed that her first album recorded for him should not be a jazz album, but a songbook, with compositions by Cole Porter. The trick, as he said, was to change the arrangements in such a way that they brushed with jazz to some extent. Recording began on February 7th 1956 at Capitol Studios. As he mentioned, he did not care for a perfect performance by the musicians, but about Ella sounded the best, or actually, the best in her career. All participants were satisfied with the results, including Cole Porter himself, and the "Down Beat" magazine awarded her the highest rating - five stars. The rest is history ...

In the 1960s, Granz began to think about retirement. Since he knew that Frank Sinatra dreamed of his own label, he began negotiations with him and they even shook hands. But it all crashed because of the price, and also because Sinatra wanted Grantz to remain label's director. Ultimately, Norman Granz sold his label in 1961 to the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) media group, and Sinatra founded Reprise Records. CREED TAYLOR became the new director of Verve.

He was a well-known music producer who had previously worked for Bethlehem and ABC-Paramount, for which he founded the Impulse! label He was responsible for bringing bossa nova to North America, with its most popular song The Girl from Ipanema, recorded by Antonio Carlos Jobim and Stan Getz. He didn't stay too long in Verve, because in 1967 he moved to another label, A&M Records. In 1968 he founded CTI Records (Creed Taylor Inc.) and focused his attention on it.

In the 1970s, Verve Records became part of the PolyGram group, and in 1999, a year after the merger of PolyGram and Universal Music Group, the label changed its name to Verve Music Group. Currently, such brands as Decca, Impulse!, ECM, Deutsche Grammophon and - of course - Verve operate as part of this group.


In May 1997, the first batch of albums from the series hit stores, series which for many years defined its jazz catalog. Between 1997-2006, with an exception of the 2003, when no title was released, as many as 225 titles appeared with the "Verve Master Editions" logo, or at least that's what claims; you should also read the shorter, but equally interesting, list posted by user destroyhead on It's a powerful body of music, probably the longest, most extensive and compact publishing series in the history of jazz.

Release | This is a series with a highly refined, sophisticated art work, which is kind of a its hallmark, so you can't confuse it with any other one. It is all about the extremely characteristic, semi-circular indentation of the first side of the three-part digipack, on which a smaller cover, "lined" with a matching background color, has been applied.

A sticker was placed on the foil in which the discs were originally placed, informing about the artist and the distinguishing features of this edition. Let's list them:

  • Meticulous restoration
  • High resolution, 20-bit digital transfer
  • Original cover art and original liner notes
  • New liner notes
  • Deluxe release

The series creators wanted to prepare model publications - this is a concept well known from literary publications; for the Polish market it would be the National Library series, the so-called BN. Therefore, extensive booklets were prepared containing analyses of the given album and the artist's work. Each of them contained an exact description of the tracks - the one found on the "master" tapes, that is, with the catalog number indicating the time of recording.

In addition to material from a given disc, there is also a lot of additional materials, i.e. other approaches, unpublished materials, etc. Some of them were previously published, but this time they underwent the same mastering process and were collected in one place.

People | Many people worked on the "Verve Master Edition" series, which is why it is not homogeneous. This is its weakness. It has various producers, people overseeing the project on behalf of the label, as well as engineers and their assistants responsible for the new mastering. What makes it a real series is an art work. And, as I said, you can't confuse it with any other. The series was designed by Patricia Lie and Nat Nguyen, and it was only for the last 2005 releases that Isabelle Wing (Bathetic) was responsible for the project, but still based on an earlier format.

Patricia Lie was a very interesting choice. This is an American designer living in Brooklyn. She worked for the Palladium (1986-1991) and PolyGram Records (1991-1996), and between 1996-1999 she was the creative director of Verve Records. Interestingly, after collaborating with music labels, she started designing clothes. She was nominated for a Grammy Award twice for her work for Verve: in 1996, in the "Best Recording Package" category, for Stan Get's three-disc box East Of The Sun: The West Coast Sessions and a year later, in the "Best Boxed Recording Package" category, for another box The Complete Bill Evans.

As I said, producers and people supervising and coordinating the project changed, but the names that are repeated most often are: Michael Lang and Ben Young. And only since 2001 we are dealing with one name: Bryan Koniarz. People who mastered the material changed even more often. Below you will find randomly selected album-sound engineer pairs:

  • The Oscar Peterson Trio, Night Train → Chris Herles
  • Clifford Brown, Clifford Brown with Strings → Kevin Reeves
  • Bill Evans, Bill Evans At The Montreux Jazz Festival → Suha Gur
  • Ella Fitzgerald, Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Cole Porter Song Book → Suha Gur and Fred W. Meyer
  • Dinah Washington, After Hours With Miss D → Ellen Fitton
  • Wes Montgomery & Wynton Kelly Trio, Smokin’ At The Half Note→ Bob Irvin and Kip Smith

The releases are connect through people from producers, people responsible for research (finding the best masters) and - if necessary - the restoration of master tapes, but above all through a place. All records from 1997-1998 were remastered in the same place, i.e. PolyGram Studios, and since 2001 at Universal Music Studios-East. But, for example, the Wes Montgomery's album released in 2005 was remastered by Bob Irvin and Kip Smith at New York's Sundazed Studios (Coxsackie).

Technique | In the case of the series in question, information on equipment used and remastering methods are more than scarce. From the ads and descriptions on the discs we only know that between 1997-98 analog "master" tapes were transferred to digital form using 20-bit analog-to-digital converters, and since 1998 using 24-bits A/D converters. The 24-bit conversion is supplemented with information saying that the sampling frequency was set to 96 kHz. Because for the first, bigger group of recordings this information was not given we can safely assume that it was 48 kHz.

And that's it. However, one can speculate what it might have looked like. First of all, almost we can be almost certain that they used a custom mastering console made especially for the PolyGram studio – it was surely a solid-state console. It can also be assumed that the equipment, at least in the first phase, was similar or even identical to the one that was used before.

It is mainly about remasters made before 1995 by Joseph M. Palmaccio, for example the new versions of Cream's albums. He used Apogee Electronics AD1000 A/D and D/A converters with UV22 coding. I would like to remind you that the latter was used by the engineers responsible for the "High Performance" series. We also know that remastering was done using Sonic Solutions' Digital Audio Workstation (DAW).


It is difficult to write a single opinion on such an extensive catalogue. After listening to dozens of titles, I can say that one can point to some assumptions that were followed by the producers, but this is not synonymous with similar sound, and its assessment. The longer I listened to the CDs from this series, the more strongly I felt that each title had to be assessed separately.

However, to give you some idea about the directions of changes, I am going to tell you what has been improved compared to the first digital editions, and what changes have occurred later, in subsequent editions, primarily on Japanese gold-CDs, SHM-CDs and SACDs. In this way, I would like to tell you what to look for when making your purchase choices.

Because "Verve Master Edition" is an extremely valuable series, but first of all due to all the additional materials, but also due to solid sound quality. These are not the best versions of these discs. At least in half of the cases better versions can be found either among older or newer releases. However, these are good enough so that – considering low prices of these releases - it is worth looking for those that will give you joy.

When comparing, I reached for vinyl original releases, the best vinyl remasters, the first Digital Compact Disc editions and more contemporary ones. I chose four titles for comparison:

|2| CHARLIE PARKER - Charlie Parker
|3| BILL EVANS - Bill Evans At The Montreux Jazz Festival


Night Train by Oscar Peterson belongs to a group of CDs released at the beginning of May 1997 and was remastered in 20-bit technique. I compared it to the first release on Compact Disc, but above all to the 2007 SHM-CD version with a 24-bit remaster whose matrix was made using a ruby clock.

The 1997 version has a completely different tonal balance than the newer one - it is focused on the midrange, supported by strong bass, but with a withdrawn treble. Compared to it the SHM-CD version is simply from another planet. Everything is clearer, more open and - more resolving with it. The problem of the "Master" version is the weakly differentiated attack and relying rather on sustain phase. The new version is about 1.5 dB louder, which suggests a bit more compression. These are minor dynamics changes, but - paradoxically - we perceive it as more expression.

The biggest change concerns expression - the older remaster is a bit "vintage" in the sense that it is more hazy and withdrawn. But it also seems more pleasant, smoother. The SHM-CD shows everything in a wider window, it's clear and there is nothing to discuss. But it is also a more "attacking" version, more "on-the-face" one. "Master", due to a slight distance and withdrawal, turns out to be easier during long auditions. It may not offer the most precise picture, but it is very pleasant.

|2| CHARLIE PARKER - Charlie Parker

This is a rarely re-issued album, there are only five versions, three of which are digital ones; the Verve series was the first release on a Compact Disc. The main reference point was the 2013 SHM-CD, part of the "David Stone Martin 10 inch Collector’s Edition" series. The material for it was remastered in the US, but under the watchful eye of a team from Japan (24/96).

This is an old material, the recordings come from 1950-1953 and they are not particularly in terms of sound quality, and therefore extremely problematic. This was clear after comparing the Master and SHM-CD releases from 2013. The Verve version is open, strong, louder, but quite shaky. Parker's saxophone attack is hard and sometimes quite annoying.

The perspective has been made flat - this is a monophonic recording, but that does not mean that it is devoid of space. The Japanese version shows it well. It has more treble, as much as it is possible on such a recording, and the upper midrange attack is withdrawn. The whole presentation is placed further away from us and is more distant. But this is a better perspective.

|3| BILL EVANS - Bill Evans At The Montreux Jazz Festival

This is an album released by PolyGram in 1998 and remastered in 20-bit technique. I compared it to the analogue original and to the best version currently available, that is, to the SHM-SACD disc from 2014, for which a DSD transfer from the "master" tape was used.

The original recording is nice, carrying, spacious. But also light, there is no bass richness here, which is played mainly by an attack, you can hear more of the strings banging against the frets than the "box". The drums have a well-set timbre, but only up to the midrange - I couldn't really hear the kick drum. The piano also has a similar color. It is a quite pleasant sound, smooth, liquid and well arranged in space.

In the SHM-SACD version, the introduction and the piece were combined into one - on the "Master" these are two separate numbers. The sound of the Japanese remaster is completely different. It's more resolving, more dynamic and simply cleaner. Don't expect the weight of the bass to increase, it won't - it looks like this material has been recorded that way. The Japanese release shows the foreground a bit better, but it does not emphasize the acoustics of the place where the recording was made. This is definitely a better version and "Master" cannot compete with it.


This is one of the CDs that I know inside out. I have it in many versions, but the first one was from "Verve Master Edition". I like this one because it contains recording of the whole concert, not just two tracks. Because it is a hybrid album: its title indicates live recording - and the first two tracks come from a concert - but the next three were recorded in the studio. Rudy van Gelder, the best known from the Blue Note label, supervised all of them.

Smokin ’... in the "Master" version was released in 2005, so at the end of the whole series, and different people were responsible for it remaster than for previous titles, the mastering studio was also a different one. For comparison, I had the first American version of the Compact Disc from 1989, a beautiful, analog version on 200g vinyl by Universal Music K.K. [Japan], as well as the SACD version from Analogue Productions.

Comparing the "Master" version with the first digital one, you can hear perfectly what they tried to achieve with it. First of all, they wanted to enlarge the image and bring it closer. The compression is slightly higher here, which means that the average volume level is higher. And indeed - it gives a feeling of better "presence" of musicians in front of us. Attempts were also made to expand the bandwidth, which was also successful. The first edition has problems with the bass, which is not very clear, which was improved in the "Master" version.

But you can also hear perfectly well that as a result of these treatments the breath/air was "lost" somewhere, the space that in the first CD - and LP versions, is deeper and more nuanced. This can be heard primarily in the first two tracks, i.e. recorded live in the club, but it could very well be said about songs recorded in the studio. On the plus side of the "Master" I found good colors and saturation of guitars. But it was very good already in the first CD version. The "Master" shows instruments on the axis in a specific way, reducing their volume and slightly slimming them down.

It all stops to matter once you hear the SACD version. It is resolving, saturated, dynamic and has even better tonal balance. This is the best version, in every respect. Interestingly, it somehow returns to the first CD release, because it shows the acoustic environment better, has a similar average sound level, and is also more saturated.


I am writing these words freshly after listening to several dozen titles from the "Verve Master Edition" series and many earlier and later releases of the same titles. Let's be clear - this is not an equal level series. There are titles of higher and lower quality in it. Fortunately, the average level is high. A special feature of all these recordings is a bit closer sound and light emphasis of the attack. But also smoothness and fluidity. Compared to earlier releases, the control and precision of low sounds were improved, the midrange was also smoothed. The treble is often withdrawn because the midrange in this series is the most important part of the band.

Subsequent re-editions, with SACD versions at the forefront, add to that a better tonal alignment and higher resolution. They have a "breath" that has been largely eliminated from the "Master" version by fairly high compression.

However, the greatest value of the Verve series in question is its documentary value. This is a goldmine of knowledge about a given recording, its recording session, etc. CDs cost very little, are available in large quantities, so it is worth getting some to see what it's all about. There is a good chance that you will become the owners of a very nice collection of Verve albums.


"Verve Master Edition" was a series foreseen for many years - both in terms of the period in which it was released, and the number of released titles; it was to be one of the hallmarks of the Verve label. At the same time, i.e. between 1997-2000, except for 1999 when only a sampler was released, the same label prepared another series, supposedly a much more sophisticated one.

The "Verve Elite Edition" is a series containing 36 titles. These are almost exclusively rare and less known titles. Most of them were released on CD for the first time. Exclusiveness began already with the number of copies - it was assumed that they would be released in limited quantities of 5000 to 7000 pieces.

Although today every jazz musician would be very happy with such a result, back then it was an absolute niche. Let me remind you that Anita O’Day's Anita sold in 185,000 copies. And for this reason, the "Verve Elite Edition" series titles are rare today and achieve high prices at online auctions. A list of them can be found on, accessed: 04.09.2019.

Another distinguishing feature was a different release method. This is a four-part mini LP edition, in a box, with a nice booklet and a slip-in disc envelop (this is not a very good solution). Some titles featured additionally cardboard "boxes" with cutouts. Also in this case, alternative versions, unpublished tracks from the same session, etc. were added to the basic set of tracks.

All that is important, but what really matters is the sound. It just so happens that all these discs, without exception, offer excellent in sound. Their sound is saturated, has a very good tonal balance and good resolution. Actually, I don't really know why they differ in this respect from the "Verve Master Edition" series, because their producers were the same people - Michael Lang and Ben Young - and the same engineers were responsible for the remastering. Anyway, they do offer good sound so I highly recommend them!