Donald Byrd: Royal Flush (1961) Blue Note (Jp)

Track selection: Donald Byrd “Requiem” (Herbie Hancock)


Donald Byrd, trumpet; Pepper Adams, baritone sax; Herbie Hancock, piano; Butch Warren, bass; Billy Higgins, drums; recorded Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, September 21, 1961


Notable as the recording debut of Herbie Hancock, age 21, recent college graduate, stepping into the shoes of his predecessor, Duke Pearson.

The selection “Requiem” is a mid-tempo gospel-inflected piano blues written by Hancock, with Byrd and Pepper providing the underpinning plaintive melodic lines, allowing Hancock to develop the musical space. It concludes the adventure with a Butch Warren bowed bass solo.

The great thing about “Royal Flush” is how these seasoned players work together with the young Hancock. Byrd acts  with great subtlety as leader, in the true sense of leadership – getting the best out of his fellow musicians.


In the absence of an orignal pressing the record is a humble japanese reissue from EMI-Toshiba. The usual fine Japanese silent pressing with full dynamic range, if tad less open and inviting than pressings by the all-time masters,  King Record Company. Ready for replacement by an original press from Blue Note, perhaps some day, this one is worth seeking out.

Collector’s Corner

Later upgraded to Blue Label UA

4 thoughts on “Donald Byrd: Royal Flush (1961) Blue Note (Jp)

  1. I really like this Byrd too and have a quite late liberty (but mint) full dark blue bottom with small white “b”. It sounds OK but nothing to write home about 😉 Musically it is first class all the way.

    Regarding the japaneese masters and CD I like the BN Works series. Even though they did not have 1st generation masters I find them generally very satisfying with no compression or strange EQ and generally fuller bottom than McMaster mastering.

    • I have had very mixed experience with “later reissues”. Some are quite fine, others are quite dreadful, and there’s no way of knowing which you are going to get. I have the Sam Rivers Involution record on Blue label/ white note (its the only way to get it), and it has been tonally compressed to the point where the entire top end is missing. You have to ask what did the engineer think he was doing?
      They are not expensive, so its not a huge loss if you get a dud, but these are the sort of things that put people off vinyl, there is no excuse for it.

  2. It is indeed true that the boys at King knew how to cut their Blue Note reissues. My recently acquired King copy of BLP1573 (photos here) sounds fabulous and the vinyl truly is silky smooth silent, although I keep banging that same ol’ drum: there’s no way that the Japanese used the absolute first generation masters for their pressings. I just can’t believe it that the actual masters were flown in to Japan. They must have used copies of the actual masters that were simply sent to them by airmail.

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