John Coltrane Tenor Conclave (1956)

Track Selection: How Deep is The Ocean (Berlin) 11:00


Al Cohn, John Coltrane, Hank Mobley, Zoot Sims (ts) Red Garland (p) Paul Chambers (b) Art Taylor (d) recorded Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, NJ, September 7, 1956

How can anyone resist a lineup like this? Garland’s piano is sumptuous, Chamber and Taylor in perfect rhythmic unison, while the tenor players take their turn, not to compete, but each to add their unique voice to an exploration of the melody.


How deep Is The Ocean is probably one of the most hauntingly beautiful extended jazz tracks ever recorded – all eleven minutes of it. Close to Grant Green’s perfect Idle Moments. Coltrane, Mobley and I haven’t quite worked out who else, but it is achingly beautiful. The pace, the mood, the tenor melodic lines with their figures and twists, the bowed bass solo from Chambers, just gorgeous, suspended in time.

Vinyl: PR 7249 –  reissue of Prestige PRLP 7074 “The Prestige All Stars – Tenor Conclave“.

A “third pressing”, on Prestige blue/trident labels circa 1964, an “original” Prestige, but sadly not the first or second pressing , NYC and NJ labels – which I think would be worth betting the farm on. Not yet washed, so it has a few more pops than I hope eventually, but no matter, the musical content flies high above any transient vinyl defects.

Deadwax detail documents the audit trail from the original matrix still in use to supply hastily renumbered stampers for subsequent reissue pressings. Hand-written RVG initials consistent with the first mastering and what must be the original PRLP 7074 catalogue number replaced with two attempts to designate the new catalogue number 7249, with confusion which was the A and which the B side

Theories continue about the significance of “AB” – another dealer explanation – that the pressing involved pairing A and B stampers.. If it had been say a double album it might have been AD and BC stamper pairs (following the sequence for playing on an autochanger). Or it was pressed by the Abbey pressing plant, New Jersey – Prestige’s equivalent to the Plastylite pressing plant and its “ear”.

Mono recording, but there is a word covered up by the paste-up rear liner notes – could be “stereo” though the top of the third and fifth letters don’t look right, so it could be anything, or nothing.

Collectors Corner

Fresh from a London store where it has been for a couple of years acording to the man. Not being an early original on Black & Yellow “Fireworks” label, overlooked by trophy-hunters, and a tad to expensive for the bargain shopper.

I had actually auditioned the record briefly a year before, but assumed it was just  a tenor-blowing session, everyone showing off their chops  – wrong.  I had gone in search of something else, but this tickled my fancy – a step into the unknown. And richly rewarding. Tenor with Michelin stars. Mobley’s tone is pure chocolate, Coltrane is spiced lime, Sims is a good Claret, Cohn is mocha garnacha. Not just good music, great music.

21 thoughts on “John Coltrane Tenor Conclave (1956)

    • None of us can afford to buy sealed mint all the time, or even most of the time. A little bit of noise is something you have to ride with. Vinyl is almost always superior to a CD, even with a little noise.

  1. The squad car ?? Great !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I am driving and Matty is in the back seat.

  2. Oh crap… Jan beat me to the punch! I was about to say that and add a photo to it as well. We had this same conversation with the Bill Evans back cover of your post from “Portrait in Jazz”, HERE in my comments there I left some tell-tale photos.

    Now, just to still prove my point a little bit even though Jan already said it, I copied the back cover of Tenor Conclave, turned it 180 degrees as well and drew the word ‘stereo’ on top of the few bits ‘n’ pieces that we see in the actual back cover photo. See it HERE, nevermind my bad hand writing…

    I have read time and again that it apparently was business as usual to print big fat stereo letters on the front cover slick to be used on stereo releases and that for the mono releases, they simply folded the upper part with the word stereo over the top part of the record sleeve and then glued the back cover slick on; most of the times the back cover slick didn’t cover the whole back of the sleeve, therefore still revealing some little bits of the word stereo, now of course upside down. Maybe you have more of these mono pressings with a bit of the word stereo on the backside in your collection! 😉

    • I remember that conversation, Matty.
      We still got a vacancy on Foggy Day’s vinyl detective crack team, its yours. Only thing is, the vinyl detective squad car is kind of full right now, You are assigned to the back-up team. It is really important work you know, filing, answering the phone, making sure wives and girlfriends birthdays and anniversaries are remembered.
      Only kidding. You get to wear the shades after dark too.

      • Well It’s pretty obvious when you guys explain it like that 😉 You are of course perfectly right about the 180 switch. I guess I’ll never make sergeant or wear shades after sundown…..

        Srereo as just a leftover – think of that. However since the front lower sides look alright they must have put some work into making it look OK.

    • Brilliant detective work, Jan! Genius! Upside down, it’s so obvious, when someone points it out.
      You are immediately promoted to London detective Foggy Day’s crack team of vinyl sleuths. No more bobbies on bicycles for you. You get to ride in the squad car. And wear shades after dark.

  3. Hmmm a very interesting title and topic! I happened to pick up (in Stockholm) a preview copy of this title not too long ago. It has a big stamp on the back cover saying just that. More so it has the yellow Bergenfield label NJ with what looks like identical stampers like your blue label stamper. I think that my LP was issued in 1962 and I paid $20. The vinyl itself is really heavy Bergenfield style and still sounds great although it has been played I guess quite a bit a typical strong VG+. Some background noise is evident but the sound is full and I greatly prefer this LP to the CD 😉

    My cover looks the same in front with the concealed text on top. Does it really say stereo? I can’t make it out trying to fill in the blanks. It was not recorded in stereo and the electronically enhanced stereo ones woul come after 1962? It’s also interesting to see that Coltrane had developed as the selling name compared to the first pressing where it is more even draw between the tenors. If you ask me it should have been Mobley on top 😉

    • I*m guessing it says STEREO on the rear cover, because I have seen that trick pulled before, but it could be anything with similar letters.I am 100% sure it is not reprocessed for stereo. You wonder if Prestige used up old labels like Liberty did.
      These blue/tridents sound very good to me.

      • I feel very unsure that it says STEREO since the letters “ERE” should not look like that on top. Another thing I forgot to mention was that on the back cover it says For free catalog send to PRESTIGE RECORDS INC., 203 SO WASHINGTON AVE., BERGENFIELD, N. J. In your back vover they left out the bit with PRESTIGE RECORDS INC,. And you don’t have the word PRESTIGE before the serial no 7249 in the upper right corner + missing The Prestige logo in upper left corner. Something strange goin on here maybe? Front cover looks the same.

        I agree with the blue tridents. I got a couple myself of which my favourite is Kenny Dorham 1959. Same music as the more known Quiet Kenny but issued in stereo! That’s a great record!

  4. “If it had been say a double album it might have been AD and BC stamper pairs (following the sequence for playing on an autochanger).”

    An interesting theory, but I have some doubts:

    How many double albums were put out by Prestige before say, 1962? If the mark is Prestige-specific it seems odd that they would feel the need to use such an indication when they didn’t have any multi-disc releases in the catalog. Not to mention the fact that there are many flat-edge (auto-changer unfriendly) pressings with AB stamps.

    The only double albums stamped for changers I own are classical releases and I’ve never seen anything resembling “AD” or “BC” indicated in the deadwax on those pressings. Since the matrix number almost always contains the side (A, B, C, etc.) I’m not sure I follow what would be the purpose of a second mark, especially something like ‘AB’ on both sides.

    I do own a Prestige double album, “Interplay” by John Coltrane (PRLP 7342). Granted, this is a 60s reissue of two earlier 50s sessions: PRLP 7112 – “Interplay for Two Trumpets and Two Tenors” and PRLP 7111 – “MAL/2”, but I don’t believe there are any Weinstock-era Prestige original double albums to speak of. The earlier matrices are crossed out and replaced with the new catalog number, just like your “Tenor Conclave” pressing. Two things which seem to contradict the dealer’s theory stand out:

    1. The sides are labeled like so: Disc 1 – A/B, Disc 2 – C/D, not in auto changer order.

    2. There are AB stamps on all four sides. Moreover, the AB marks are _identical_ etchings done by the same individual, meaning they almost certainly had to have been added at the time of the reissue.

    The second fact, especially, seems to rule out any possibility that the ‘AB’ etching has something to do with stamper order for auto-changer friendly album releases.

    On another note: In writing this, it occurs to me that I recall having seen ‘AB’ etched on non-Prestige pressings. Unfortunately, I can’t recall which ones at the moment. I will certainly post an update if I happen to come across one. In the meantime, here’s an advertisement from “The Billboard” (as it was called in olden times) for Abbey Record Manufacturing that lists their clients, Prestige among them:

    Perhaps someone can just dial up “Whitehall 4-5148” and resolve this matter once and for all…

    • Case for the Defence rests m’lud. My client claims mistaken identity – it wasn’t him . Further, he says, it was an accident. And says he’s very sorry for what he didn’t do. Society is not without blame: my client came from a broken home, though he admits it was he that broke it.

      OK you got me, the AB stampers theory is dead in the water. My money is on the Abbey Manufacturing Plant. Thought so all along, really.

      • Heh, sorry if I was a little overzealous in my arguments. A little flashback to High School debate, I suppose. I actually really enjoy investigating things like this. Every time I do I learn a little bit more.

        With regards to my recollection of seeing other labels with the AB mark, I wasn’t able to find any, but I did find this thread where Steve Hoffman mentions that Riverside used Abbey as well:

        Here’s an example of a Riverside pressing with AB mark:

        • Hehe. Your enthusiasm does you credit.
          So the AB is found on some Riversides too eh? Short of going through all my records again, I shall keep a watch from now on whenever I play anything.

          There is still a nagging doubt. That Steve Hoffman thread you pointed to has a couple of Abbey test pressings. If you look closely at the runouts, each side has an RVG clearly machine-stamped, but neither has an “AB”. You would think that if any record would have an Abbey marking on it, their own test pressing might?

          Court is adjourned.

        • “There is still a nagging doubt. That Steve Hoffman thread you pointed to has a couple of Abbey test pressings. If you look closely at the runouts, each side has an RVG clearly machine-stamped, but neither has an “AB”. You would think that if any record would have an Abbey marking on it, their own test pressing might?”

          I can see your reasoning, but test pressings were made with a test stamper, not production stampers. It may have been that the AB etching was added only during the production pressing phase. The AB etching would also be somewhat superfluous due to the test pressing having the Abbey label.

          For what it’s worth, it seems no Abbey test pressings feature the AB mark. Rudy Van Gelder would have put his RVG stamp on the lacquer (by hand, most likely) before sending off it to have stampers made, so any part created at Abbey would carry that mark regardless of the production phase.

          Speaking of Mr. Van Gelder, there was recently a rare interview done with him here, in case anyone missed it:

          If anyone is feeling particularly adventurous, there’s an Abbey test pressing for sale on eBay now for only US $1.97:

  5. I recently grabbed a blue label copy this one as well for 8 bucks(!). Quite a steal in my book. I find a lot of the blue label Prestige pressings sound quite nice (of course there is always the risk of the dreaded hissy pressing which we’ve already discussed).

    One issue I have run across is that some of the blue label pressings have been remastered by RVG. For example, I have a blue label pressings of “Workin'” with a VAN GELDER stamp on side A instead of the RVG stamp on the original master. I definitely prefer the sound of the original (running comparative spectrograms shows clear signs of lowpass filtering on the VAN GELDER master).

    I also unintentionally purchased a copy of “The Red Garland Piano” with the NJ yellow fireworks label with VAN GELDER stamps instead of etched RVGs (I wondered why I got it so cheap…). The sound is not bad, but I’m guessing that I would probably prefer the original.

    All in all, I think the blue label pressings are an amazing value provided they are in NM or VG++ condition (and don’t suffer from pressing defects such as divots, noise from bent lands due to undercooled vinyl etc.). In fact, some of the New Jazz titles (e.g. “Out There” by Eric Dolphy) can only be heard in stereo on the blue label since the original New Jazz pressing are all mono even though most of the sessions were recorded in stereo (Why Weinstock, Why?).

    Anyone else have any opinions on blue label vs. yellow label pressings?


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