Jazz fans and vinyl record collectors have been treated to a bevy of album reissues from the historic MPS Records catalogue since last summer, making hard-to-find collections by seminal jazz figures available again, some for the first time on vinyl and CD. On Friday, Germany’s first jazz label reissued five more albums, making the total 41 albums reissued since June in North America via Edel Germany in partnership with Bob Frank Entertainment. Friday’s haul includes albums by Monty Alexander, Nicola Conte, The Kenny Clarke-Francy Boland Big Band and Volker Kriegel reissued in time for holiday gifting along with The Singers Unlimited’s evergreen “Christmas” album.
Alexander’s first ever MPS release, 1971’s “Here Comes The Sun,” launched a fruitful decadelong chapter in the Jamaica-born pianist’s prolific recording career that spanned a dozen albums for the label. Influenced by labelmate Oscar Peterson, Alexander incorporated sounds from his homeland -reggae, Caribbean, Calypso and blues – into his swinging jazz and bop. Titled for Alexander’s boogeying, Latin-tinged rendition of The Beatles’ classic, “Here Comes The Sun” placed the piano man in a quartet setting accompanied by bassist Eugene Wright, drummer Duffy Jackson and calypso percussionist Montego Joe. Alexander talks about making the album and the artistic freedom he enjoyed at MPS in this video:
Italian DJ, producer, musician and composer Conte did a deep dive into the MPS archives to curate a collection of “spiritual jazz,” piecing together swatches of music recorded between 1965-1975. “Cosmic Forest” is an imaginative, genre-defying double vinyl LP and CD that spans an enormous palette of sounds, cultures and styles. Conte deftly threads strands of rhythmic acid jazz through sonic tapestries fusing bossa nova and samba grooves, Bollywood dramatics and classic Italian film score theatrics.
A modern and timeless big band that was an intercontinental affair, The Kenny Clarke-Francy Boland Big Band made sensuous and bluesy music that swung. The 17-piece orchestra with principals from Europe and the United States played urbane arrangements crafted by Boland’s skillful hand. Labelmate and vibraphone great Dave Pike is among the featured soloists on “All Smiles,” comprised of a set list that includes standards by Irving Berlin, Cole Porter and George Gershwin.
All Music says Kriegel’s “Spectrum” “holds up generations later as a true jazz-rock classic.” A prodigious guitar player who played electric and acoustic guitar and sitar on this 1971 release made up of seven of his own compositions, the alchemist audaciously bounded through jazz, rock and world music terrain on his recordings. Emerging on the German jazz-rock scene as a teenager, Kriegel gained notoriety as a member of Dave Pike Set, which led to landing his own recording pact with MPS. “Spectrum” was his sophomore outing.
Led by Gene Puerling, the influential vocal group The Singers Unlimited was discovered by Peterson who introduced the a cappella quartet to MPS. The outfit would go on to release fifteen albums on the imprint. 1972’s “Christmas” unwraps a treasure trove of seasonal chestnuts along with seven originals showcasing the group’s hallmark vocal harmonies.
Founded in 1968 by Hans Georg Brunner-Schwer, MPS was the recording home for legendary artists including Peterson, Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Dexter Gordon, Freddie Hubbard, The Count Basie Orchestra and George Duke. For more information, please visit https://www.mps-music.com.