Conductor James DePreist Dies at 76 – DePreist, whose best-known position was with the Oregon Symphony which he transformed beginning in 1980, was one of the few black conductors to achieve international renown. He contracted polio in 1962, forcing him to use a wheelchair the rest of his life. In 1997 he appeared on a PBS documentary drawing comparisons between racial barriers and the challenges faced by people with disabilities. He had been music director of the National Symphony and the Quebec Symphony Orchestra, and after leaving the Oregon Symphony in 2003 he moved on to the Juilliard Symphony. For three years he conducted the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra and a popular Japanese cartoon series was based on DePreist.
Renegade Jazz Trumpeter Donald Byrd Dies at 80 – From his arrival from Detroit to NYC in 1955, Donald Byrd was at the center of the bebop movement. He performed or recorded with Art Blakey, Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins. Three years after Miles Davis brought pop music into jazz, Byrd did an overtly pop-oriented album, Black Byrd, and he followed with a string of hit singles. He had a lifelong interest in education and taught jazz at various colleges.
The Electric Recording Company Luxury Mono Vinyls – A new UK company has licensed 80 recordings from EMI’s archives, and has renovated a bunch of vintage equipment to play the mono tapes, make new masters and press only 300 copies of each recording. Their effort to recreate the best that ‘50s technology could accomplish even extends to the packaging materials, including the sleeves. Their first release is a three-LP set recorded by violinist Johanna Martzy, at about $480 per LP. Next will be their reproduction of the Mozart a Paris boxed set of ten mono discs which will sell for £3000, making it the most expensive new recording ever sold. They only handle five orders a month, so you have to get your order in and then patiently wait, like the wealthy used to order a Rolls. Bear in mind there is absolutely no digital remastering involved here—no fixing of the problems of analog recording of the period—the ancient circuitry, surface noise, rumble, speed variations, distortion at end-of-sides, etc. (We feel audiophile vinyl is often superior to the standard CD equivalent, but this certainly stretches the “analog sounds better” bit.) If you still want to jump at this collecting opportunity, Here’s their website.