The Chronological Classics CD series is a collection of 965+ compact discs that were compiled by Gilles Pétard in France from 1989. The original Classics music label never had a website, and it is hard to find reliable information about the history of the company and its series of recordings.
The label set out to systematically assemble comprehensive collections of jazz recording by hundreds of artists previously issued on 78 rpm records as the European mechanic copyright laws allowed (issued recordings are protected for 50 years) and issue them on compact disc. The series was issued with informative liner notes in colour-coordinated packaging.
The original series was published by subscription with five issues being released each month. The series started with number 500 in December 1989. The initial release was Ella Fitzgerald 1935-1937.
The series contains some of the greatest jazz musicians, including Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, Django Reinhardt, and a large number of lesser known artists, such as Beryl Booker, Eddie Lockjaw Davis, Mezz Mezzrow, and Illinois Jacquet.
The Classics label regularly issued new collections until 2004, when its original distributor went bankrupt. The back catalog was then acquired by Abeille Musique which operated the label until July 2008. Five titles announced for an August 2008 release were never issued. Despite the halt in new editions the complete Classics CDs continue to be sold on iTunes, as of 2012.
Many Classics titles are now prized collector's items and can only be found on the second-hand market, often at many times their original purchase price. Bootleg CD-R copies of select titles surfaced in retail markets in late 2012. They are identifiable by the front inserts (off-register printing and out-of-sequence pagination) and the physical discs (imprinted color surfaces modified from the front cover graphics).
An interesting historical note is that for years these CDs were issued with a huge typographical error. Instead of "Chronological", the typo at the top said "Chronogical". This mistake was corrected only in 2005, and new logotype appear on discs covers since number 1380 (Dizzy Gillespie 1953). Also since that release they change the form of a shield with photo on front cover from French to Spanish.
- Mike Zwerin "Classics Label Reissues 'Everything' by 200 Musicians: Jazz Greats, Before the LP", New York Times, 8 September 1999