Burrell Cohn Farmer McKusick “Earthy” (1957 )

Track Selection: “What’s Not” (Waldron) 6:00


The Prestige All-Stars: Kenny Burrell (g) Al Cohn (ts)  Art Farmer (tp) Hal McKusick (as) Mal Waldron (p)  Teddy Kotick (b) Ed Thigpen (d) Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, NJ, January 25, 1957

Artist credits clearly caused the Esquire management some difficulty. Discographies clearly attribute the recording session to that well-known group, the “Prestige All Stars”, meaning whoever happened to be in New York and free that day to record for Prestige.

Illustrating the heirarchy of the musician’s world, on the US cover the soloists are listed first, in alphabetical order from Burrell to Waldron (piano included with the stars as Mal wrote a couple of the songs). The bass and drums are relegated to the list end, out of alphabetical sequence, but at least in their own alphabetical order and everyone is equal font size. What do the Masters of British Diplomacy do?  The Esquire credit roll reads like an optician’s wall chart. Cover your left eye please, now read me the last line, take your time   E, D, T, H, I, G, P, E…  Sorry I can’t read the last line. Fail. Diminishing font size! There is plenty of space free, it’s just Upstairs Downstairs. Rhythm section downstairs with the servants


Not one but two new finds for me on this record. Hal McKusick on alto is a delight. Light fluid, delicate touch, inevitable Konitz influence but structured thoughtful and original improvisation. The other is Al Cohn on tenor, long-term musical sparring partner of Zoot Sims. Cohn has a quite touching tone, kicks off interesting melodic lines,  with a poignant vibrato at the end of phrases that reminded me, not of Hawkins or Bechet, but of the great guitar gods for some reason. I like this tenor voice, more Cohn please.

Burrell is Burrell – never runs short of notes to play, great as always, and Art Farmer is cool and polished. With this record you can put your feet up and enjoy each solo in turn, knowing another will come up in just a few minutes, while Waldron keeps everything moving along nicely, and then deserving of his placing among the soloists.

Oh dear. I seem to have overlooked the rhythm section.

Vinyl: UK release on Esquire 32-120 with alternative cover, originally released as Prestige PRLP 7102 with NYC labels (imposible to find, sells for $800)

Once again, the US original streaks into the lead on account of managing to include some earth in the cover shot, something which eluded the badly-briefed British designer, who evidently  thought the record was entitled “Some weather-beaten old planks”.

The pressing is a delight as always with Esquire, pressed with original US stampers, rich and lively and 180gm vinyl.  Van Gelder’s RVG hallmark machine stamp at 1-o’clock both sides, an interesting symetry. Geek Alert! The sucker punch is the presence of “AB” at 5 o’clock on Side B. Recent posts have suggested an unconfirmed assumption that AB indicates the Abbey Record Plant, and an AB engraving is a common feature of many Prestige pressings. However this is a British pressing. Or at least I have thought it was until now. Either these records were pressed in the US by Abbey for Esquire and imported here (improbable), or it is inscribed on the original Matrix, (not likely as Prestige shopped around different plants) or Abbey supplied the stampers  shipped to the UK, or AB means something entirely else.

 Collectors Corner

EBay seller overlooked a nasty short audible scuff  on the opening track, so much for “VG++”, but it is in excellent condition apart from that one flaw, and it is not exactly fatal, over in four or five revs. Its a dilema with these rare items. Send it back an chances of seeing another are slim. It was claimed to be VG++, not Excellent..

Get Leonardo Da Vinci on the phone, honey. 

Hi Leo, how you doing? Listen Leo, about that painting  you sent me. You know, the one with the smiling dame ? Lisa something or other. There’s a tear in the corner… I know its just a small tear, but I am afraid we are goin’ to have to post it back.

Sometimes you just have to take the rough with the smooth, all part of the vinyl experience.

10 thoughts on “Burrell Cohn Farmer McKusick “Earthy” (1957 )

  1. I’ve posted a list of my Prestiges in The guide to record labels section here: if you’d like to compare all engravings with Esquires I can take pics: unfortunately I’ve non Esquires so I can’t do directly.

  2. “Either these records were pressed in the US by Abbey for Esquire and imported here (improbable), or it is inscribed on the original Matrix, (not likely as Prestige shopped around different plants) or Abbey supplied the stampers shipped to the UK, or AB means something entirely else.”

    I’ve been thinking about this conundrum and here is my nearly completely speculative opinion:

    RVG cut his own lacquers, but certainly did not own the equipment necessary to nickel plate the lacquer and create a matrix. The so-called ‘metal parts’ would need to be created at a pressing plant (Abbey Record Manufacturing, in this case). These could then be exported to companies like Metronome, Barclay and Esquire and used to press records. The question then is: which parts were exported?

    I am not completely versed in the intricacies of the pressing process, but given the fact that different Blue Note pressings from the same master often have the Plastylite ‘P’ in different locations, it seems that Plastylite, at least, added their mark to the mother which then showed up on any subsequent stampers made from that mother.

    All this leads me to conclude that Prestige would have either created unique mothers from the original matrix for export to overseas or loaned out their original mothers for use by companies like Esquire. It seems unlikely that Abbey would have put their stamp on mothers which were destined for other manufacturers plants, so I think it’s a safe bet that the original mothers were used to create new stampers by overseas Prestige affiliates.

    It should be possible to verify this by finding an export and non-export “AB” pressing and comparing the respective etchings. I have seen many different styles of “AB” marks indicating many different individuals creating mothers. Two records with the identical matrix number engravings but different “AB” marks would indicate two different mothers.

    Other questions which come to mind are: where were Esquire records pressed? Were Barclay and Metronome pressed in the same plant? There were not nearly as many plants in the UK and Europe as here in the States, so it may prove possible to find out the answers.


    • NCIS Vinyl Detective award!! I follow your reasoning every step. The positioning of engravings has to be an important telltale. Unfortunately I don’t think I have any original Prestige for which I ALSO have the UK Esquire, and the guys with the Prestiges don’t usually have sufficient photography apptitude to capture whats in the deadwax. Its going to be a slow climb from here.
      I don’t think anyone around today knows the full Esquire story – the closest I have got is a London dealer who claimed the Esquire pressings would have been done here in the UK, with “the metalwork sent over”. May be he’s guessing too.
      As I go along I plan to note all engravings, not just the matrix code, and their position around the deadwax.There is more to be learned here. Groundbreaking stuff.

    • I suspect it was originally a landscape photo of a delapidated old mine shaft entrance (hence “earthy”) which by the time of the final square crop had lost any visual connection. Or that could be complete bs. Anyway,the amount we pay for records, a nice cover is always a big plus.

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