I've been contemplating different aspects of various CD reissue labels
(somehow I didn't really like my last post or two on this topic)... I
think a subtle distinction can be made between "fidelity" and "sound
quality" (the character of the sound), though both are quite
subjective. It does seem that, sometimes even more than the
restoration work, the final mastering can give the sound its "character."
Retrieval stands out for the best CD reissues of some essential
material, like Oliver's complete 1923-24 sides and Morton's complete
early solos. On their Keppard and Piron sets, John R.T. is credited
with Audio Restoration, while Wil Hesen receives credit for Digital
Mastering (which is superior on the Piron, I feel).
As for Clarence Williams CDs, while I appreciate Classics'
completeness, the Frog CDs are ideal for quality, fidelity, and their
first-time issues of rare and valuable Williams material. I
especially enjoy Volume 2 of the QRS Recordings, which has previously
unissued takes by Sara Martin, Williams and His Orchestra (both with
Oliver), Laura Bryant, and the Barrel House Five. The fact of
unissued Oliver sides appearing at such a late date gives me a kind of
indefinable hope for human endeavor (likewise with "Olga" on Jazz
Oracle's 'A Gift From the President').