Contemporary OJC Reissues

There is a somewhat chequered history to the reissue of Contemporary recordings. The principal vehicle of reissuing the Contemporary Catalogue during the Fantasy Years was OJC – Original Jazz Classics – founded in 1983 as an imprint of Fantasy Records.
“OK I found this note from John Koenig. Just something to keep in mind. One other non-RIAA info from John Koenig, son of Contemporary founded Lester Koenig.” –
Myles B. Astor,
“A lot of the OJC recuts sounded terrible because up at Fantasy, they ignored the fact that we didn’t recording use the RIAA curve, but rather, an ad-hoc noise reduction regime devised by Roy DuNann. Some of the “audiophile” reissues also sounded pretty terrible (although I do recall Steve Hoffman’s as sounding good).
Also, our records from the ’50s through the ’70s were recorded dry. It was always intended that reverb would be added in mastering, and it was. (We had an EMT mono plate.)
In ’78 and ’79, our cutting system was sounding beautiful; I’d replaced our original HAECO cutting amp (Serial Number 1 — Howard Holzer had built it in his garage) with newer (but still vintage) Haeco tube cutting amps I bought from Frank Virtue in Philadelphia when he liquidated his studio. Haeco #1 sounded great, but it was constantly breaking down and Roy DuNann, who was then at A & M got tired of fixing it and twisted my arm to retool and hooked me up with Frank. And I’m glad he did. Our system was really at its best in that era. So, the sides I cut during that period were the absolute best-sounding Contemporary’s.
Period. Some of the earlier ones (mid-’60s onward) were really good, too, but the “originals” from the ’50s weren’t so great. This is because the stereo cutterhead technology improved logarithmically in the ’60s and by the late ’60s, our system was really sounding great. Sad to say, there weren’t too many Contemporary titles recorded during that period, but you can hear the quality on lots of A & Ms and Elektras from that time period. Herb Alpert and Jac Holzman were big fans of my father’s, and they wanted him to cut their masters. Although my father liked and admired Herb and Jac, he wanted to be making his own records, not mastering other people’s. So cut their stuff for a while, but eventually he hired and trained Bernie Grundman to be Contemporary’s mastering guy. (Incidentally, I’d been trained on our system starting in around 1969.)
After Bernie was hired away by Herb to head up A & M’s mastering, we didn’t do as much custom work. My father died at the end of ’77, and I came back from my position as a cellist in the Swedish Radio Symphony (look it up). During the three years we remained at our original facility on Melrose Place, we had to replace metal parts on our catalogue to keep our titles in print. It was a constant thing. I myself cut hundreds of sides. Unfortunately, we had to move in 1980 and that was the end of Contemporary’s mastering studio.”
Concord Music have owned the Contemporary Catalogue since.
Engineer George Horn is credited with remastering many of the catalogue
Phil de Lancie (late 90s) claims to have used original tapes in reissues, though no detail has been given as to the analogue (or solid state/ digital) supporting technology that was commonly in use at that time.
“Now, it’s indisputable that Phil DeLancie is credited on the jacket, but I see George Horn‘s writing in the dead wax of the actual record, so I really have no way of knowing whether Mr De Lancie in fact had anything to do with the copies I was auditioning. They don’t sound digital to me, they’re just like other good George Horn-mastered records I’ve heard from this period.”
The Original Jazz Classic Reissues Series was launched in 2010, produced by Concord Music Group. Each title in the series featured 24-bit remastering.