In March, members of Vinyl Me, Please Classics will receive an exclusive reissue of Lloyd Miller’s Oriental Jazz, an album recorded for a jazz competition that has become a sought-after item as its 300 original copies have made their way to Discogs and eBay. Miller became a celebrity on Iranian TV for much of what he does on Oriental Jazz; it melds Persian instrumentation and modes with American jazz in a way that showcases the dialogue between the two. You can read a liner notes excerpt here, and sign up to receive it here.
Below, read why we picked Oriental Jazz, and the details of our reissue.
Andrew Winistorfer: This one had one of the longer gestation periods for any record we’re doing this year: We’ve been inching this one forward for almost 18 months at this point. This one started with our old friend Egon at Now Again — who we worked with on Wells Fargo, Ayalew Mesfin, Lightmen Plus One and our upcoming Essentials record in May. How did this one start and come together?
Cameron Schaefer, Head of Music at VMP: At this point, if you’ve been a member for a while, you know we have a close relationship with Now Again and Egon. We almost talk weekly at this point, but 90 percent of our talks are just us trading random record recommendations. About a year-and-a-half ago Egon asked me if I knew about this guy Lloyd Miller, because he had been talking with him about reissuing his catalog. Egon told me this crazy story of this eccentric, amazing guy who basically willed himself into [being] an expert on Iranian music, by going to Iran to learn the music, and who became famous on Iranian TV as like a jazz legend there before the revolution in the ’70s. He’s basically unknown in the U.S., but for a period he was hugely famous over there. And he made this album before that, when he was getting deep into Persian music, called Oriental Jazz. I looked it up, and it sold for a couple hundred dollars on Discogs because there were only 300 vinyl copies in existence. This story is a wild connect-the-dots thing.
I listened to the album, and Oriental Jazz is his magnum opus, and it needed a reissue.
And then the opportunity came up to fly him out to Denver, to have Michael Klausman, who did the liners, spend the day with him, and for us to get an interview with him on the books, which happened back in May of 2018.
Yeah, that trip was mostly for him to sort of size us up; he wanted to make sure we’d take good care of his album. We met Lloyd, and heard his story, and got his blessing to do this as a Classics record.
What part of the music really spoke to you on this? I heard it sometime last spring, and was like, “This is a pretty different album from what we’ve done. It’s more esoteric and ‘crate-digger-y’ than basically any Classics album we’ve done.”
You hear the story of this guy, and the album, and your first reaction is to expect that he’s going to be playing this very stiff, buttoned-up version of Iranian music, but there are elements of this that are super funky. The image of this you get in your mind isn’t what you hear. It’s not academic, and it’s also very academic, since he was learning how to play these native instruments from players in Iran who would teach him how to play them. If you didn’t know the title or the story, and heard this, you’d probably just be like, “What’s this weird spiritual jazz record that’s playing?”
What went into the remastering/package process on this one?
We worked with him to find the best quality masters he could find in his house. And then we had it remastered, and pressed on 180g vinyl. Listening Booklet by Michael who did the interview in Denver. Tip-on jacket like always for Classics.
It took a couple runs of test pressings before me, Egon, and Lloyd were all happy with how it sounded. These weren’t prisitine Smithsonian archive masters, so it took some work to get this one right.
Andrew Winistorfer is Senior Director of Music and Editorial at Vinyl Me, Please, and a writer and editor of their books, 100 Albums You Need in Your Collection and The Best Record Stores in the United States. He’s written Listening Notes for more than 30 VMP releases, co-produced multiple VMP Anthologies, and executive produced the VMP Anthologies The Story of Vanguard, The Story of Willie Nelson, Miles Davis: The Electric Years and The Story of Waylon Jennings. He lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota.