Cosimo Code 2.0

A User’s Guide

Hello y’all… I’ve been using some of this enforced stay-at-home time to completely restore and update our Cosimo Code project. The target of a malicious hacker, our URL had been hijacked, so that a Google search for any of our pages re-directed you to some shady pharmaceutical firm selling performance enhancing drugs that was based in Cyprus. Not good… I hired some people to help sort out the problem, and it appears that, after a couple of attempts, we finally did.

Nothing if not ambitious, when we launched the site in 2013, we had created a ‘forum’ where people could submit newly discovered records and discuss all matters New Orleans. Soon flooded with all manner of spam, it had gotten so bad that hardly anyone logged into it anymore. This, apparently, was the weak link that allowed these miscreants access to the site, and so it has now been discontinued. I don’t think anybody’s gonna miss it that much.

By way of review, The Cosimo Code is the name we gave to the ‘cryptic hyphenated set of two numbers’ that Cosimo Matassa began assigning to all the records he mastered at his studio on Governor Nicholls Street in New Orleans from October of 1960. Long the subject of speculation, it was Davie Gordon, one of the founding members of the indispensable 45cat, who finally had cracked the code in 2012. The first number, he postulated, represented Matassa’s ‘client‘, or the record company that was footing the bill (at last count, there was over 300 of them!). It’s the second number, though, that made this discovery so important. That number was strictly chronological, which meant we could now accurately date these recordings consecutively across those hundreds of different labels. To a discographer (and admitted ‘record-nerd’) like yours truly, this represented a major breakthrough.

Gordon began working on identifying as many records that Cosimo had imprinted with the code as he could find, and called on well known New Orleans record collectors Peter Gibbon, John Ridley, and John Broven to help him compile a list. Broven, in turn, asked me to figure out a way to open their quest up to the public , and The Cosimo Code was born. Within the first year, (thanks in large part to deep-crated enthusiasts like Peter Hoogers and Anabella), we had more than doubled the amount of known code numbers, and the list has grown steadily ever since.

Rather than bore you here with a long explanation of the site and how it works, please allow me to refer you to the short video below:

“Ok,” you might say, “got it.” So what’s changed? Well, the concept behind the year-by-year listings, was to provide a link for each coded track to a page with more information about that particular record, and a playable link to YouTube audio where available. Since we first published the site eight years ago, Gordon’s 45cat site has grown exponentially, and so I’ve been able to add ‘info’ links to hundreds more records. Also, back then YouTube was routinely taking down videos as part of that whole DMCA thing, and so I knew there were some ‘dead’ audio links on our pages. As I began to update them, however, I found out that times had definitely changed. Over the past month or so, I’ve been able to locate and provide audio links for over 1200 individual tracks on the site… Lord Have Mercy!

94-218 – ACE 618 – (1961)

This whole process has been a voyage of discovery, as one hidden gem after another demonstrated the incredible depth of the music that Cosimo had a hand in creating. Gems like this one… I just love it. Try as I might, I can’t seem to find out much about Joe & Ann, except that Joe’s full name is actually ‘Joseph Joseph’ (try Googling that!), and that by 1962 they had become known as ‘The Original’ Joe & Ann. The ‘A. Tyler’ in the songwriting credit refers, of course, to Alvin ‘Red’ Tyler, who, in addition to being a member of Cosimo’s original J&M Studio band (along with Earl Palmer and Frank Fields), had been working as an A&R man for Johnny Vincent’s Ace label since 1955, cutting some of New Orleans’ biggest hits in the process. As Mac Rebennack told John Broven, “I don’t think anybody ever gave Red the credit, but he was the true leader of the band. He would sit down and organize most every song. He would organize the changes, teach the guitar player to change, have the piano run it down for everybody to learn…”

Shortly after this record was made, Tyler left Ace and joined with Harold Battiste as one of the founding ‘executives’ of A.F.O. records, where he would be involved with yet another huge Crescent City blockbuster, Barbara George’s I Know (You Don’t Love Me No More). Lynn Abbott, an archivist at Tulane University’s Hogan Jazz Archive, recently alerted us to the fact that the first LP released on A.F.O., Monkey Puzzle by the Ellis Marsalis Quartet, bore Cosimo Codes which dated it as being mastered in early 1963. We wondered if A.F.O.’s next LP release, A Compendium by The A.F.O. Executives with Tammy Lynn, was coded as well but it is apparently a very rare record indeed. We had asked around, but nobody seemed to own a copy… nobody, that is, except the intrepid owner of the exhaustive, Joe Goldmark, who just recently found ’69-837′ etched into the dead wax on side two, which accurately dates it as being cut in the Summer of ’63. Thanks, Joe!

I am also proud to announce, as part of our re-launch of the site, that we have added an in-depth appreciation of the late Irving Banister, written by his friend and biggest fan Bret Littlehales, to our Second Line section.

There is also a new Photographs page, which features some of the historic photos that Jonas Bernholm took during his fabled Soul Music Odyssey in 1968, and had allowed us to use in our recent presentation at the Friends of The Cabildo 2020 Symposium.

Now boasting some 39 informative pages, The Cosimo Code is back, bigger and better than ever before… but we still need your help. There are still almost one thousand code numbers that are missing and unaccounted for. Check them records, boys and girls!

…and, thanks.