October: Gábor Szabó’s Dreams

In October, Classics will feature the 1968 spectral masterpiece Dreams by Hungarian jazz guitar wizard Gábor Szabó. Szabó was an insanely prolific artist, releasing most of his 20-plus LPs in the years between 1966 and 1972, over the course of which he perfected his blending of bebop, European baroque, and modern pop. He was known for his dexterous playing, and his haunting arrangements, two things you see in full effect on Dreams, an album released via a label he started with a few other orchestral jazz magnates.

Dreams is an album that feels like it emanates from your brainstem, somewhere between ASMR and a tumbling psychotropic fugue state that you never want to leave,” writes Andrew Winistorfer, VMP Editorial Director and Classics A&R in the new liner notes for this release. “It remains as left-field as it was upon release 52 years ago; nothing before or since has captured its blend of Hungarian folk, jazz, pop and chamber music. It was the album Szabó was striving to make as soon as he arrived on the American jazz scene in the late-’50s, when he was a recent émigré from Hungary, getting out from behindthe Iron Curtain and onto jazz stages with some of the genre’s greats.”

This new reissue is in tandem with the fine folks at Sundazed, who helped secure the all-analog source for this edition. It comes on 180-gram black vinyl, with those new liners mentioned earlier, and remastered by Ryan Smith at Sterling Sound. This album has been on the VMP radar for a few years, since it’s a favorite of VMP Head of A&R Alex Berenson:

“A few years ago my partner and I were letting the YouTube algorithm take us on a musical journey while playing Backgammon, and a song from Dreams came up,” she said. “And I was like, ‘What is this?’ and was like, ‘What is this cover art?’ So we sat and listened to the whole album, and my mouth was on the floor. It’s different from the usual Classics releases, and I put it on a list for us to consider and, amazingly, this opportunity came up at the right time.”

You can read an excerpt from the liners here, and a primer on Gábor Szabó here.

November: Coleman Hawkins’ The Hawk Flies High

In November, Classics is featuring The Hawk Flies High, a 1957 album from jazz saxophone O.G. Coleman Hawkins. Hawkins was already more than 30 years into his storied career of inventing the vernacular of jazz saxophone, virtually the only player who’d be a contemporary of Charlie Parker and Duke Ellington, and Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane. The Hawk Flies High finds Hawkins both paying homage to his starts in the early ’20s when jazz was still forming, but also tipping his hat to younger players who were aimed at taking Coleman’s spot at the top of the sax pyramid.

“From far away, bebop looked like a stark left turn from the danceable swing on which Hawkins had built his storied career, both with his own groups and alongside groundbreaking bandleaders like Fletcher Henderson and Count Basie; few would argue that Hawkins wasn’t the best, but at the same time, young tenor players with brasher, more searching sounds threatened his place atop the mountain,” writes Natalie Weiner in the new liner notes for this release. “[But] to him it was all of a piece, just variations on a jazzy, swinging theme. ‘It’s not too much strain to play — a couple off notes and you got it made,’ he said of ‘modern jazz.’ Today you can add a few more, now that the ear has been listening.”

This release is AAA and comes on 180-gram black vinyl, with those new liner notes, remastered by Ryan Smith at Sterling Sound. “Hawkins is widely acknowledged as one of the most important jazz saxophonists ever, but this album was intriguing to me because it was released in an era when Hawkins could see the kids coming up from behind,” said VMP Classics A&R Andrew Winistorfer. “And this was his opportunity to say, ‘Look at what I still got in me,’ and released this deep, soulful record. It’s the third jazz record in a row, but it’s so different in its way from both Dreams and Freedom Suite. I can’t wait for members to hear this one.”

December: Donny Hathaway’s Everything Is Everything

And finally, in December, Classics will feature Donny Hathaway’s Everything is Everything, the 50th-anniversary edition of Hathaway’s debut LP. Hathaway was one of soul music’s finest arrangers, composers, and performers during his brief career in the ’70s, and his debut LP distills everything that made him great into one nine-song album: the complex orchestrations he could wrangle deep soul out of, his second-to-none voice, and the way he could take cover songs and make them entirely his own. It was one of only four solo LPs Hathaway would release.

“In another lifetime, Everything Is Everything would have been the auspicious beginning to a long career, filled with genre-shifting solo albums, radio-dominating duet projects and countless production and songwriter credits. Instead, Hathaway’s mental illness worsened across the ’70s, putting a strain on his output which ended up being shockingly smaller than one might assume,” writes Oliver Wang in the liner notes accompanying this release. “The shadow of his January 1979 death — and the unresolved questions around its circumstances — hang over all his recordings but especially this one. Everything Is Everything was the realization of a dynamic half-decade that saw Hathaway go from an introverted music major to one of the soul era’s brightest stars. In doing so, this was a magnum opus of his abilities in every regard: his songwriting, arranging, producing and singing.”

This new reissue was AAA remastered by Ryan Smith at Sterling Sound, and comes on 180-gram vinyl.

“Getting to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the landmark LP from Donny Hathaway is really what Classics is about,” said Classics A&R Andrew Winistorfer. “We’re giving the deluxe treatment to albums that deserve the deluxe treatment, and deserve another look. And I think most collectors focus on Hathaway’s live releases as his most known works, but his studio albums are all masterpieces in their own right, especially this debut.”

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