Mosaic records


#1

Got an email from Mosaic Records that confirms what jazz fans have been talking about for a week or so. . . .They are in bad shape, may not make it much longer. This is my favorite record company and it’s a terrible shame. I’d urge anyone who is interested in one of their products to order one as soon as you can.

www.mosaicrecords.com

Here is the email text I received:

Dear Mosaic Friend,

In this time and place, the Mosaic business model is becoming harder and harder to sustain in this rapidly changing world. We aren’t sure what the future will hold for us, but we want to let all of you know how much we appreciate that your support has allowed us to constantly make our dreams come true with set after set and that we intend to persevere. The way we operate may change but our mandate remains steadfast.

Charlie Lourie and I started Mosaic Records in 1982 and our first releases were in 1983. The company was almost an afterthought. The idea of definitive boxed sets of complete recordings by jazz masters at a crucial time in their careers was a small part of a proposal that we made to Capitol Records in 1982 to relaunch the Blue Note label. Even before Capitol turned us down, it occurred to me one night that the release of these boxed sets could be a business unto itself if we made them deluxe, hand-numbered limited editions sold directly to the public.

Our first release was The Complete Blue Note Recordings of Thelonious Monk, which came about because I’d found about 25 minutes of excellent unissued Monk on Blue Note. It was too short for an album and I was obsessed with how to get this music released. . It then dawned on me that all of this important material needed to be retransferred and assembled in chronological order as a significant historic document. I solved my problem of releasing those 25 minutes of Monk music and Mosaic Records was born. We had a wonderful run of projects. The Tina Brooks, Herbie Nichols, Serge Chaloff, Count Basie and Nat Cole sets were among those that were especially near and dear to our hearts.
Charlie was my best friend and working together was a joy. Mosaic was slow getting started and it took a few years before we could even draw a meager salary. I remember during those lean years worrying if we could afford to put out a Tina Brooks set. Charlie looked at me in amazement. “Isn’t that why we started this thing - to do what’s important without anyone telling us no?!” He only had to say it once.

In 1989, we moved out of Charlie’s basement and into our own facility. Scott Wenzel joined us in 1987. We added employees as the business grew. We started issuing sets on CD as well as LP and eventually had our own website.
We lost Charlie to scleroderma on December 31, 2000. We managed to keep the tone and spirit of the company up to the level that Charlie created and continued to put out thoroughly researched vital sets of importance in jazz history. But in the early 2000s, the record business began to shrink and morph for a variety of reasons and we were forced to downsize our staff, move to smaller quarters and reduce the flow of sets.

We’ve always tried to be diligent about warning you when sets were running low so you wouldn’t miss out on titles that you wanted. But at this point, some sets which are temporarily out of stock may not be pressed again. We are not certain how Mosaic Records will continue going forward or how many more sets we will be able to create and release. We’ve got a lot of great plans but few resources.

Scott and I want to thank every single person who has supported us, made suggestions, given advice and shown us such love and affection. If you are thinking about acquiring a certain set, now’s the time.

  • - Michael Cuscuna

#2

Yeah, you’re a music man! Thought of posting it, too today.

Have a dozen of the for me best vinyl boxes and over 50 CD boxes of them. A part of it was reissued as even better masterings I bought in the meantime and the alternative take compilations are not for everyone, but for a jazz fan they are great. Made with love for the music and with great booklets. And always the 2nd best masterings after the big ones for vintage jazz like Sax/ Hoffman/ Grey/ Grundman/ Sterling Sound etc. Kevin Grey even did some of the Mosaic, too. Cuscuna is a great guy and very friendly and helpful if contacted.


#3

Yes, I once interviewed Cuscuna about Alfred Lion for a webzine, and he gave me information that wasn’t out anywhere else, so much so that a book about the history of Blue Note ended up quoting my interview. He’s a real jazz stalwart and as you say very friendly and helpful, he’s foremost a fan.

I have nearly every set on cd and a few on LP and I understand why the company may be fading out, but it’s sad. I hope they make it through a few more years, they were planning a Teddy Wilson Columbia set I’d like to have for one, of many reasons.


#4

Do they offer downloads of any of their releases?

While I would love to have some of their complete box sets, it’s not in the budget.

I wonder if offering downloads would bring in much needed revenue.


#5

Selling essentially only expensive box sets is a tough business model.


#6

Was hoping to get the MJQ box being reprinted. Doesn’t look like it now. I only have the Ahmad Jamal box and it’s really great.


#7
jeffstarr said

Do they offer downloads of any of their releases?

While I would love to have some of their complete box sets, it’s not in the budget.

I wonder if offering downloads would bring in much needed revenue.


Unfortunately the owners of the material that Mosaic leases will now allow them to lease and offer the material as downloads. In some cases after the Mosaic lease expires the owning company has released the material as downloads, but not always, not really “often.”

#8
Elk said

Selling essentially only expensive box sets is a tough business model.


Agreed, the owners never expected to become millionaires, these are (and were, one original of the two owners has passed) industry members and jazz fans who wanted to make the music available in archival form and managed to do so for four decades and finally during the first decade begin to draw a small salary. At one point this century EMI purchased half the company which I am sure helped their licensing ease and their bottom line. But EMI is no more and I am not sure what happened when Universal absorbed some of EMI and Warner another chunk. They did sell a line of three cd sets called “Selects” but this ended this decade, and they still sell a few single cd releases.

#9
Electric said

Was hoping to get the MJQ box being reprinted. Doesn’t look like it now. I only have the Ahmad Jamal box and it’s really great.


The discussion over the last week and this email has generated a number of orders for Mosaic. What many are doing is ordering the back-ordered set, and theres’s a chance that they will decide to repress if there are sufficient orders. A Mosaic employee has told a few orderers that certain back-ordered sets will be available this month. I would recommend ordering the set . . . there’s no real risk as Mosaic does not charge your card until the order ships. I usually use paypal and that might be riskier but even so I personally would trust this company to refund my money should they not be able to ship the product; I’ve bought their sets since '91.

#10
lonson said . . . industry members and jazz fans who wanted to make the music available in archival form and managed to do so for four decades . . .
They did a great job for a remarkably long time.

#11

Agreed. I can really see that this may be the end and there’s no shame in it, they have accomplished so much with their dedication and determiation, though as a perhaps not really healthily collector of jazz it’s sad to think of a world without Mosaic, their journey has been a part of mine for much of the second half of my life.


#12
Electric said

Was hoping to get the MJQ box being reprinted. Doesn’t look like it now. I only have the Ahmad Jamal box and it’s really great.


The website now says the wonderful MJQ set will be back in stock this month.

Scott Wenzel of Mosaic says they have gotten a lot of orders this week!


#13

I’m one of those buyers this week. Picked up the Ella Fitzgerald and Chick Webb set. I’m sure I’ll pick up more in the next few months. They aren’t cheap but are a great value.


#14

It’s a really nice set, I know you’ll enjoy it. I need to pull my copy out again soon.