Track Selection: In Salah (Mose Alison)
Donald Byrd (tp) Phil Woods (as) George Wallington (p) Teddy Kotick (b) Nick Stabulas (d) recorded Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, NJ, March 1, 1957
George Wallington is considered to be one of the first and best of the elite band of bop pianists in the same league as Bud Powell and Horace Silver. He retired from the music business altogether in 1960, hence the relative obscurity of the name, not through any lack of talent . Behind the Wallington name however are better known members of his Fifties quintet – Donald Byrd and Jackie Mclean – later replaced by Phil Woods, a fearsome combination.
Anything with the George Wallington Quintet’s name on it has a definite “buy” recommendation on it. Hard-swinging bop with first class soloists, fresh and energetic, triffic, triffic.
Vinyl: Wave Jazz Classics, Japan modern reissue of US New Jazz NJLP 8207
I hate reissues and now I have to eat my words, munch munch, ugh, I hate the taste of raw adjectives and half-chewed verbs. Unquestionably the best modern re-issue I have ever heard, bar none. Googling reveals a few other “Wave Jazz Classic” releases in the early Nineties. No indication who in Japan pressed these, nothing indicated on the photo-reproduction cover, but the sound is a masterpiece of audio engineering on 180gm ninja-assassin silent vinyl. The dynamic range and instrument balance is absolute perfection, pure Masterchef. I would like to email them a virtual glass of 日本酒 (saké) in thanks. The only criticism I can make is that the sound is “too perfect” and I can find nothing to criticise. If everything was this good all critics would be out of a job.
This is going to be embarrassing. The best modern pressing I have ever heard, including the specialist mastered-from-original tapes Steve Hoffman type stuff. I almost can’t tell you what it cost. So I’ll save it until last.
The shop it came from in Central London was having one of its periodic half-price sales, just finished. Half price is a good incentive to go for things you wouldn’t normally go for. It favours pushing boundaries. The shop is usually pretty cute on prices, but like any seller they can only price on a record’s value perceived as an artefact. They always have a fair number of Japanese pressings and I have seen £120 asked for rare Japan-only Blue Note. If it is rare, collectible or from a name label, up goes its price. Nobody knows what it sounds like, who is to say?
You can see the problem. Wave Jazz Classics, George Washingmachine. Who? Japanese. Zero provenance, no internet footprint, no Popsike benchmark, no date of production, no information – in English at least. Effectively, its worthless. I was inclined to agree, as I couldn’t think of a reason to add it to my already-heavy armful of half price records. Except one. At the sale price, it was only a fiver. What’s to lose?
And so it came to pass, the best sounding modern vinyl re-issue I have ever heard, easily surpassing the sound of many original and first pressings. A fiver, dammit, a fiver. It’s not right. I’ve a mind to complain, though I can’t think to whom. “Let me see if I have got this right, sir. This record is too good. And too cheap. And your problem is, sir ..?”
The other lesson I took away from the shop sale is how much fun you can have freed from the tyranny of eBay prices for collectible records. For the price of one collectible eBay record in three figures I went home with eight interesting records. Now that has to be fun.
Did I mention? The music is fantastic.
Update: February 23, 2017 – photos updated, this is almost certainly a digital transfer, the review comments seem a little over-enthusiastic, but this was early days, still in short pants as a collector.
I recently purchased another record form the “Wave Jazz Classics” Series: “Right Down Front” by the Modern Jazz Disciples (Prestige/New Jazz). This, too, is a very fine pressing, dating from 1991 (according to the Japanese insert), and it has cost me 20 EUR. According to discogs and popsike, this title has previously only been issued in mono, but the reissue is very nice stereo. I can’t tell if it’s a digital transfer, but I doubt it, as this recording has never been issued on CD until recently.
Yes, those are the bargains. Five quid… Superb score.
Great story. Nothing like finding a beautiful sounding record at a bargain price. Some of my favorite records are ones I paid very little for. It’s easy to forget the price and quality do not always directly correlate in the world of vinyl. This is especially true for Classical records. The best sounding Classical record I own is a 50s Decca (London here in the States) pressing of Ansermet conducting “Petrouchka” which put me out all of $4.
I recently acquired an original Atlantic stereo pressing of “Knight Music” by George Wallington also featuring Kotick and Stabulas. It’s a nice sounding record (engineering by a Mr. “Van Gelder” who occasionally did work for Atlantic), but I have to admit it has not really drawn me in thus far.
On another note, how about that Esmond Edwards? What a beautiful cover! He is one of my favorites. I love the enigmatic steam roller in the background of his cover for “Workin’ with the Miles Davis Quintet”. I also understand that he took over as a session producer at Prestige as Weinstock became less involved in recording sessions.
Appreciate the comments, thanks Mr Strange. Your “Knight Music” sounds a real find. Half the fun, as you tread the intended path, is the treasures you find “accidentally” along the way