Curtis Counce Group

Selected track: “Landslide” >


Jack Sheldon (tp) Harold Land (ts) Carl Perkins (p) Curtis Counce (b) Frank Butler (d) recorded Los Angeles, CA, October 8, 1956


Original 1957 US press of Contemporary release “The Curtis Counce Group”, featuring the best of the west players, including Curtis Counce (bass) as leader, Harold Land on tenor and Carl Perkins on piano. Curtis Counce Group (1956-8) express purpose was to offer a West Coast answer to the hard-bop sound of the East Coast, but broke up with the death of Perkins, at only age 29, in 1958.

Land turns in the usual hard-driving performance, with Jack Sheldon on Trumpet, and Frank Butler pushing things along nicely on, you know, those things they hit with sticks. Land has been described as a ” small-toned, hard-edged, no-frills player whose every solo is at once a model of efficiency and flawless execution“.(That is nice writing. I don’t have a problem with a little bit of plagiarism. There are Jazz blogs I come across  which consist of nothing but a discogs tracklisting and a cut’n’paste of other people’s reviews). However they go on to write “If John Coltrane had a skyward vision, Land’s was panoramic.” That loses me, shortly after the “‘If”.

Blue Note had Alfred Lion and Rudy Van Gelder, but Lester Koenig at Contemporary Records was also known for extremely high audio standards and thanks to the expertise of engineer Roy DuNann, turned out some shockingly good recordings. Not quite RVG, but a delight to listen to nonetheless, and streets ahead of most engineers.

However, one department Contemporary Records was definitely lacking in was graphic design. No Francis Wolff / Miles Reid.  Perhaps the Pied Piper of Lollywood lured away all of the photographic creative talent, leaving Contemporary with the guy who fetches the coffee and donuts during studio shoots behind the camera. Such lucklustre stuff you have to fight the urge to dismiss the record, but the individual portraits on the back of the jacket may restore your faith. Moody black and white shots of people smoking. By Jove,someone’s finally got it.

( Bill Hicks line: You sure smoke a lot – how many a day? Two. Two what, two packs? No, two lighters.)

18 thoughts on “Curtis Counce Group

    • Please do – I don’t think you will be disappointed in any way – everything is top notch. Only one fault with them – they are not originals 😉

      • Yes, just not too into the idea of 45rpm and changing side every track… They missed a really good opportunity by making them only 45 rpm IMO.

      • Agreed. Although, in general they are a bit pricey for me, it’s a high quality product that’s a good value for the $$. The titles I have are well worth it. It’s probably a good way to go if an original or early pressing of the title you want is $100+ (as you know, many are easily $500++++). These high quality reissues seem to be “collectible” to some degree as well and hold their value…..Another solid option is keeping an eye out for an early Liberty pressing, usually under $20.

        • For “poundstretchers” its worth looking out for three types of Blue Notes which are seriously undervalued by collectors despite their high audio quality.

          Top of the list is first-wave Liberty releases sporting old stock NY labels but without the ear. Weighty vinyl, the sonics can be virtually indistinguishable from original pressings, at half to one third of the price.

          Second bargains are the “Division of United Artists” classic blue and white labels from 70-3. Generally dismissed by those not in the know, they are in many cases sonically amazing. They include a lot of low number 4000-series, no ear of course, but more importantly, no “VAN GELDER”, meaning they do not originate from clapped out Liberty stampers like the later all-blue label UAs. They sparkle.

          Third, the black and light blue label West Coast pressed early United Artists. The LA division was a law unto itself and decided to replace the Classic Blue & White Blue Note label with their own design. Must be all that sunshine but they sound very good – much better than the later all-blue/black note that followed. Worth looking out for.

          The lack of collector cachet of all these is a big price advantage.

  1. There is a bunch of knowledge (and guessing) on the internet regarding RVG and his recording technique. It seems he made his recording more lively by applying some EQ, hi-end limiting and echo plate and he kind of used these measures already in the recording and put on some more in mastering to get the final LP. The recordings were taylored to sound exciting and lively on the playback equipment of those days. Going back and remaster those tape you can save a lot of the SQ as Music Matters did. The titles I have are really good (Soul Station and Cool Struttin).

    BUT as I said earlier it’s a matter of personal taste if you like it or not 😉

  2. “Seriously totally awesome”! Yeah!! That would be “quite good” in Understated English. All we need are some more scatalogical qualifiers, like “friggin’ totally awesome”… , and we’ve more or less got the whole spectrum of ” awesomeness” covered. (As I say to American friends, “Please can we have our language back? We said you could borrow it; we didn’t say you could keep it. And now look, you’ve like broken it”)
    What everyone avoids, rightly, is “Rechannelled electronically for Stereo” stereo. I generally prefer mono but for some records the soundstage is an integral part of the presentation of the music, and enhances the listening experience. I regret having Coltrane’s “Love Supreme” in Stereo as it plays 95% left channel only. But I regret having Ornette Coleman “Free Jazz” in mono, as its’ double quartet should be one quartet left the other quartet right.
    Whatever sounds good to you is best.

    • Ugh, don’t want it all in one side! I love mono recordings–but you nailed it, the soundstage is important too. It’s a matter of personal taste and that particular recording.

  3. Superior Jazz really 😉
    A friend turned me on to Curtis Counce and it’s really wonderful music.
    BTW Roy DuNann (in my opinion) puts RVG to shame on many accounts….

    • Woah! Controversy! Someone better than RVG? That kinda loose talk could get ya into a whole lotta trouble round these parts!
      Just kidding.
      I think they have each have a different approach. I really enjoy listening to Contemporary Stereo by engineered by DuNann, as I think Rudy occasionally did some very odd thing to Stereo. Sometimes Rudy crowded everyone into the left speaker, and little sense of balanced soundstage. But his mono is so rich you put on weight just listening to it. So room for both.

      • Yes they are different!
        And it could be a long story here…..but bear in mind that RVG himself kind of admitted that he wished he could re-record some of BNs heroes like Lee Morgan in account that he could not make it sound really the way he wanted 😉 But then again many sound engineers wished that I think.
        But I must admit that the stereo recordings that RVG made are indeed true stereo without the hole in the middle effect even if the solos go left and right. His monos are thick as you say but after 1960 (I think) he folded the monos down from stereo recordings. Hmmm think about that. Many people are not crazy about his piano sound being a bit “narrow” and cut off. If I want to be mean he also overloaded his mics and compressed the sound to make it loud and ballsy. Also the mics on the drums are not so natural on cymbals and such as Contemporary managed to get.
        Bur RVG kind of got the hang of it and one of his stengths are that he indeed both recorded and mastered the actual LPs himself and had control over the whole chain 😉 I don’t think DuNann did that??
        Of course it’s a matter of taste in the end…….;-).

        • This is why I prefer my BNs in Stereo after about 1961ish…Having said that the early Stereo 1554, 1577, 1595, etc. are very seriously totally awesome too. In fact I have yet to hear a pre Liberty Stereo BN that isn’t. I still don’t get the mono business.

        • I was just emailing earlier today with our host about this. I have some excellent sounding Music Matters 45rpm BN titles, and the thing that I noticed the most was that the drum sound was more natural. With nice headphones it was totally awesome (had to do it!). I only have a handful of original pressings to compare, and my hi-fi is modest, but that’s what I could tell immediately. That said, the original BN’s that I have, both mono and stereo pressings, sound wonderful. I enjoy both….

          Your comment isn’t “mean”–it’s just your personal taste and is getting into the technical side of what RVG was doing. Some of the things he did stylistically make it sound exciting, but are less natural than what some other engineers were doing. Regardless, he was a huge part of so many great recordings that I enjoy. I just try to learn as much as I can about it without getting too caught up in the details.

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