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monkboughtlunch

2008 Universal Fire - How many ARGO masters BURNED UP?

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Remember the 2008 Universal fire? Universal came out and did damage control and downplayed the incident.

But more and more evidence is surfacing suggesting the Argo jazz catalog may have been significantly destroyed. Take the fantastic and much anticipated Jamal Mosaic. This is a must purchase. But the verbiage of the product description on the Mosaic web site got me wondering how many other Argo artists had their tapes burned besides Jamal:

http://www.mosaicrecords.com/genres.asp?dept=50

Ahmad Jamal Mosaic product description

"Literally years in the making, this set introduces 23 previously unreleased gems approved by the artist himself. It was delayed by a fire on the Universal Studios lot in California which took much of the original Jamal trio LP masters with it and our search to reconstruct the music on the set from a variety on analog and digital sources sitting in vaults around the world. It’s been a hell of a long time coming and we hope you enjoy The Complete Ahmad Jamal Trio Argo Sessions."

I reached out to Michael Cuscuna and asked if the Jamal set had to use any needle drops. Fortunately the answer is no. I also asked about the possibility of a Ramsey Lewis Argo Mosaic. Mr. Cuscuna said:

It [the Jamal set] is about 40% digital sources because of the fire and the rest is analog. No needle drops were necessary. We were toying with a Ramsey Lewis set. There is no way to know what is missing until you ask for a specific reel.

So great news that a Ramsey Lewis Argo set was being considered. But it's frustrating that Universal didn't take more precautions with respect to their tapes. I wonder how many Argo master source tapes were destroyed in that fire; it seems to be much higher than Universal cares to admit. You would think the record labels would have learned from the Atlantic fire in the 70s. Really sad that Argo appears to have sustained such a hit from the fire. I wonder if Cadet masters were destroyed too.

Remember that curious unreleased Baby Face Willette CADET session (in the Ruppli book) recorded in 1965 (Willette's final studio session, never before heard by the public)? If that Willette session was still in the Universal vault, I wonder if it was destroyed too?

The Japanese released two Sam Lazar Lps on CD: Space Flight and Playback. But one more Lazar album never made to CD: Soul Merchant. I wonder if the Soul Merchant master was destroyed in the fire too.

Edited by monkboughtlunch

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Universal probably didn't even know that there was a label called Argo that fell under their umbrella, until one of the 12 or 13 people who still listen to jazz approached them regarding a reissue. I'm sure they have no idea what they had or what they lost with all the mergers that occurred along the way.

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The scary thing is that 40% of Jamal's Argo masters recorded between 1956-1962 are DESTROYED by that damn fire. That doesn't bode well for the impact on other Argo artists. Truly depressing.

Universal probably didn't even know that there was a label called Argo that fell under their umbrella, until one of the 12 or 13 people who still listen to jazz approached them regarding a reissue. I'm sure they have no idea what they had or what they lost with all the mergers that occurred along the way.

They probably knew what they had in an Excel database -- but figured the ability to monetize those assets were low and therefore treated the tapes accordingly with ambivalence and neglect.

.

Edited by monkboughtlunch

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And what about the Lou Donaldson Argo / Cadet sessions? Some of these were issued by the Japanese on CD. But other dates did not make it to CD from the master tapes. For example, Musty Rusty (with Grant Green) was issued on CD by a bootleg label in Spain, but they just did a needledrop. So will Musty Rusty never make it to CD from the master tapes?

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"A needledrop."

I like that. :D

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how do you reach out to mr cuscana, is he able to be contacted via mosaic or something? i want to reach out to mr cuscana...i have some unresoved questions i would enjoy his opinion on.....

...if the unreleased babyface was destroyed i am going to cry every time i put on a babyface record...my god

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"Fortunately, nothing irreplaceable was lost," said Ron Meyer, chief operating officer of Universal Studios.

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Edited by monkboughtlunch

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