Elmo Hope Sextet “Informal Jazz” (1956) Esquire

Track Selection: “On it”


Donald Byrd (tp) John Coltrane, Hank Mobley (ts) Elmo Hope (p) Paul Chambers (b) Philly Joe Jones (d) recorded Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, NJ, May 7, 1956


A typical Prestige “blowing session” as the title suggests.

You can begin to appreciate how Rudy Van Gelders first recordings, made in his parents house, must have worked. Imagine if you will, it is Sunday afternoon, and the Van Gelder doorbell rings.

Why, there’s Hank  on your doorstep, he’s brought his tenor, and a few friends. Come on in, Hi Donald, Hi John, come in come in make yourselves at home. Coltrane lifts his tenor out of its case. Paul heaves in his bass, and Philly Joe is  last through the door  hidden under an armful of drums. “There are beers in the fridge for those that want!” Rudy places his microphones. Pretty soon the boys are warmed up and ready to go. The  room starts to shake…

Vinyl: UK 1st release Esquire 32-039 of US Prestige 7043 (pictured below)

Esquire pulled off their usual trick of putting a  superb pressing in a dubious alternative cover, with liner notes verbatim from the Prestige US release. The very low catalogue nunber 12-039 confirms this was probably a near-simultaneous release to its US original, around or shortly after 1956.

Collectors Corner

Once in a while on ebay, as earlier this year, a record turns up with a line up so stellar you simply have to have it, and “Informal Jazz” was one of those records. As is often the case, Lady Luck played her part in winning the auction.

Perhaps the seller wasn’t entirely familiar with Elmo, may be confusing him with 60’s comedian Emo, the one with the “wandering falsetto tone of voice and a confused, childlike delivery” (Wiki). Whatever the reason, they decided to list it as “Donald Byrd – Informal Jazz”,  a UK release in an alternative cover, with no acknowledgement of its Prestige origin or the $1,000 price tag it often commands.

It must have slipped below the radar of many collectors. Not so LondonJazzCollector!. There was still a dog-fight between eagle-eyed bidders, but “age and guile” won the day. Plus a little help from Lady Luck.

6 thoughts on “Elmo Hope Sextet “Informal Jazz” (1956) Esquire

  1. I recently purchased the Analogue Prod 200 -gram reissue. It is really good. I’m still holding out for an original Prestige though.

  2. Nice LP! Actually like the UK cover art – kind of “naive”. Was it your copy spinning on the sound clip? 😉
    Regarding Elmo as referred as underrated I would suggest that he was not even “rated”…..like him though

    • yup, my soundclips are always from the vinyl on my shelf, clicks and pops and all. At least you are hearing the real thing via my nifty Ion USB-TT. WordPress, my blog host, charge me for online storage. A one track selection audiostream in MP3 is a small file, good enough to get the idea what it sounds like. That cover. I lean towards the Prestige original, but not enough to argue about it. It is a lot better than some others Esquire came up with. What I can’t figure is why the alternative covers at all?- proprietors whim? Royalty-dodging? May be Prestige declined to supply them a lot of the time, wouldn’t send the printing plates or art work, who knows. Another mystery.

  3. your jazzy taste makes me think we are twin brothers !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Elmo was a great pianist and i love this recording.
    unfortunately he was underrated…

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