Jazzed Up

The Atlantic reissues have the advantage of a built-in audience as many of the great jazz records Dorn and others produced for Atlantic have been out of print for decades. Jazz collectors and neophytes alike have been forced to raid used record stores to find historically important works by Kirk, Harris, Lateef and Les McCann, and for that matter, great artists on several other jazz labels. Additionally, many of them have never been issued on CD, as they were omitted during the CD conversion of the late eighties/early nineties.

"A lot of the people whose records I put out," Dorn adds, "it really has nothing to do with selling. You don't put a Clyde McPhatter record out because you want to build a new deck on your house. You put a Clyde McPhatter record out because you dig the shit out of him. All these guys, Rahsaan, Yusef, Fathead, Eddie Harris; they're going to be talking about [them] in colleges a hundred years from now, but you can't give them away right now. It's going to be a long time before this music is put in its proper perspective. This is American Classical music."

Not only is Dorn infatuated with the importance of the music, but also with the sound. The remastering process 32 Jazz uses avoids the sterile '90s digital sound. "We have a way that we remaster so that it's got that round, warm, big vinyl sound with the dust blown off. I do all my remastering because I hate it when someone gets a record you made and masters it however he wants. These records were made to sound a certain way. When they remaster it wrong, it's like when you colorize black-and-white film. Sometimes when you clean stuff up too much, you clean the music out. I heard a Max Roach/Clifford Brown CD that they cleaned up so much they took the life out of it. We ain't going to do it like that."

Though artistic concerns are paramount, the 32 Jazz operation also has some marketing savvy behind it. Jazz for a Rainy Afternoon, for instance, is a compilation of ballads produced and marketed in conjunction with ELLE magazine. To date it is the label's most successful effort, currently sitting in the Top Five on Billboard's Jazz Chart. Based on its success, future projects with ELLE are imminent, and there are plans to make compilations for retailers such as Victoria's Secret. The label is also very package and price sensitive. All reissues include the original art, liner notes, session information, photos and additional notes written by Dorn. The CD cases for single units are usually of higher grade than normal bend-it-you-break-it plastic, and the pricing is below average: Single CDs start at $8.98, and two-CD sets start at $16.98.

Dorn plans to maintain 32's aggressive release schedule -- in less than three years, 32 has released more than 100 albums. The label has several interesting projects outside jazz coming up, including Judy Garland and Tom Jones sets that will include music from their television shows, and Dorn is raving about the newly released Clyde McPhatter set, co-produced by Aaron Neville. Non-jazz projects will continue to be a part of 32's plate in the future, but jazz reissues will remain the label's focus and thus, its bread and butter. With that game plan in mind, what is the prognosis for 32's long-term success?

Dorn, at least, is optimistic: "If I did one thing right, I think I hooked up with stuff that's forever.

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