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On the Record with Michael Cuscuna

The legendary jazz box-set curator speaks at Pitt this Thursday.




Michael Cuscuna set the standard on box-set reissues when he launched Mosaic, a mail-order label that works in deluxe, comprehensive jazz re-releases. When CDs caught on, he became the go-to guy for numerous labels re-releasing their back catalogs.  


How do you keep from getting jaded?

I don't think you ever get jaded when it's something you really love. But there is an overkill period. After almost every Mosaic set, there's a period of time where I don't want to hear that artist for at least four months.


What will you talk about during your lecture in Pittsburgh?

I'll talk about Blue Note [reissues], the Mosaics and the Columbia stuff with the Miles Davis sets and also [John] Coltrane on Impulse, which I worked on in the '70s and got back to in the early '90s. I'll probably just have a 10-word outline and go from there and encourage people to interrupt.


Do you have an accomplishment you're most proud of?

In the early days of Mosaic I brought out a [saxophonist] Tina Brooks set and a [pianist] Herbie Nichols set. I learned, long before even starting Mosaic, a reissue will only do as well as an album did when it was originally released. Somehow there was a confluence of musicians and critics that were so receptive to those two sets that we really elevated their status and the history of their music immeasurably. And I was proudest of that.


MICHAEL CUSCUNA LECTURE. 7 p.m. Thu., Nov. 3, as part of the 41st Annual Pitt Jazz Seminar. William Pitt Union Assembly Room, University of Pittsburgh, Oakland. Free. More on the seminar -- including Saturday night's concert at Carnegie Music Hall -- at www.music.pitt.edu.

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