As for his Verve recordings, there is also a boxed set available which includes not only every take of every title (big bands, small groups and all the ―Parker with Strings‖ material) but in-studio chat and comments from the engineers as well as the musicians themselves.
One of the other great soloists in jazz, Lester Young, can be heard on a CD on the Blue Moon label (BMCD 1505, almost certainly no longer available) called ―The Complete Small Group Alternates‖. Disregard-ing the mangled English in the title, we can enjoy Prez‘s fresh approach to ―Shoe Shine Boy‖, ―Dickie‘s Dream‖, ―Six Cats and a Prince‖ and twenty or so others with excellent work by Buck Clayton, Dickie Wells and the great Count Basie (under the pseudonym ―Prince Charming‖). Reflecting on how Lester‘s playing is particularly suited to the availabil-ity of out-takes, it occurred to me how regrettable it is that there is no second take of what is one of his greatest solos, ―Oh, Lady Be Good‖ from November 1936.
Billie Holiday, Lester‘s great musical partner, recorded her finest work for the Columbia label between 1933 and 1944 and, after various at-tempts by different companies to reissue the complete recordings from this period (it never ceases to amaze me how many times I see these tracks issued in different permutations), perfection has at last been achieved with a boxed set from Sony Music entitled ―The Complete Billie Holiday on Columbia (1933-1944)‖. Within the ten CDs there are numerous alternative versions of almost every song in the collection. The compilers chose to spread the different takes around which, in the case of vocalists, was maybe the best course to adopt. Of particular in-terest are the tracks where Billie is accompanied by Lester Young as his solos are always refreshingly different from take to take. Billie‘s Com-modore outtakes from a few years later are for the most part almost identical to the originals and, in my view, hardly worth reissuing.
The case for issuing out-takes is sometimes controversial. Fresh Sound‘s record producer Dick Bank once informed me in no uncertain terms that he thought that out-takes should be confined to the vaults as they had been rejected at the time of recording and were therefore un-worthy of being issued. In the case of many post war modern jazz re-cordings I can, at a push, be made to agree with him but I can‘t imagine being denied the opportunity to hear the numerous Duke Ellington small group extras from the Okeh and Vocalion label from 1936-1940 (available on a wonderful Mosaic boxed set) or the many fascinating additional RCA gems that Duke recorded over the decades.
Let‘s face it, we jazz fans are slaves to the recording industry and we like to hear everything a musician has committed to disc, with imperfec-tions, false starts and fluffs if necessary. It‘s all part of the spontaneity of the music and affords us the privilege of witnessing the creative proc-ess in all its stages.
It is one of the things that differentiate classic jazz from modern rock and pop which is largely a product of multi-track mixing and computer technology.
A Footnote: The use of ―alternate‖ where ―alternative‖ is more appro-priate is a strange development and I am sure that scholarly and erudite connoisseurs of English in the United States would agree with me. If we accept that ―alternative‖ is to disappear we lose an important distinc-tion and a subtle difference in meaning.
Consider the sentence ―I go to town on alternate Tuesdays (every other Tuesday) as I have no alternative‖, for example.
So, linguistic conservatives of the world unite! After all, we have no alternative.