Workin’ with the Miles Davis Quintet (1956)

Selection :  the contest:

The Theme (Take 1)Prestige original pressing (1:57)

The Theme (Take 1) – Esquire UK release pressing (1:57)

The acid test is to get one to run  just out of synch with the other, and see if you notice any difference. Damned if I can on the PC. You will be glad to know I have run the Prestige versus Esquire argument into the ground, so this is the last time.  Enough of the competition, now on with the music!

Track Selection: In your own Sweet Way (Dave Brubeck) – from the Esquire

Artists

Miles Davis (tp) John Coltrane (ts) Red Garland (p) Paul Chambers (b) Philly Joe Jones (d) recorded Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, NJ, May 11, 1956

Music

One of no less than four albums recorded in 1956 by The Miles Davis Quintet, with John Coltrane.  Walkin’ , Steamin’ , Cookin’ and Workin’: the Four Horsemen of the Apostrophe. The Quintet 1956-8 was one of the definitive hard bop groups of all modern jazz, along with the Brown-Roach Quintet and the Jazz Messengers. Wind the clock back to 1956 and enjoy a different time and place.

Cover

The  Prestige cover (right) I never had, and still don’t have. Instead the UK Esquire turned up, and why not give it a go? But I would really like a nice copy of this cover. Very cool. Look at the Esquire. Blue font on green background. Basic rule of graphic design and typography – readability – fail.

Vinyl Contest

Esquire:Esquire 32-108, a 235 gm monster, probably heaviest record in my collection.

 This “mutha*****” , as Miles would have said, is heavy. Not so much deep groove as Mariana  Trench deep groove.

Prestige: around 160gm, a flyweight in comparison

Verdict: It’s no knockout. Esquire captures a solidity of bass which the Prestige fails to match. Esquire takes it on points for sound, but total fail on the strength of the cover. I would declare Prestige the outright winner, but for the small matter of money, as  the Esquire cost only £20.  I call it a draw.

Forensic inspection: – they are “twins”. They are not similar, they are not close, they are twins, the same father and mother, just a different stamper. (Click picture to view full screen at 1600 px.)

The original Prestige liner notes , right, for the benefit of those who prefer to read their liner notes “Printed in USA”. Apart from gratuitous changes to layout, they are textually identical.

Collectors Corner

Source: eBay

Sellers Description:                                                                                                   “The outer and inner sleeves have been graded as VG; some of the laminate has started to come away on the outer sleeve… The record has been pressed on black vinyl and has been graded as VG: some back ground noise but not obtrusive; a nice copy”

I agree with the “nice copy” I had no expectation of a decent vinyl, as I already owned the Prestige original, sans couverture. The idea was to find an interim cover for the Prestige. A pleasant surprise to find the vinyl cleans up to VG plus with no major issues, though at 235 grams the act of mounting it on the turntable qualifies as aerobics.

Grimace, clench teeth, drop down on all fours, take firm hold of vinyl edges, sharp intake of breath, and….lift! 

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14 thoughts on “Workin’ with the Miles Davis Quintet (1956)

  1. Well, my Esquire pressing of ‘Workin'” arrived on Monday.

    It is in excellent condition as described by the seller, despite the fact that the cover is somewhat ragged. There are no significant marks present and only a couple of spindle marks on the label.

    As this is one of my favorite records, I happen to already have four other pressings: Two Prestige yellow labels, one Prestige blue label with a ‘VAN GELDER’ stamp on side A indicating a remaster, and a Swedish (?) pressing on the Metronome label.

    The Esquire is easily the nicest pressing out of all of these. It’s on very high quality vinyl and is just as heavy as you describe with curved, smoothly machined edges. The sound quality is superb. I doubt that any Prestige pressing could match it. Certainly my two Yellow label pressings are of inferior quality. It’s almost dead silent and features very solid, clear bass reproduction which seems to be an issue for one reason or another with many Prestige pressings.

    Additionally, I believe I’ve finally found the answer to the question of where Esquire records were pressed: The British Homophone Co. Ltd.

    This link to an interview with Peter Newbrook, one of the founders of Esquire, contains an abstract that seems to clarify this once and for all:

    http://sounds.bl.uk/Oral-history/Oral-history-of-recorded-sound/021M-C0090X0084XX-0400V0

    I would love to hear the entire interview if anybody happens to have a way to access it.

    I haven’t been able to discover too many facts about the British Homophone Company or their plant. The company was founded by a William D. Sternberg and seems to have specialized early on in pressing direct-to-wax cuts of live performances to shellac for rebroadcast on a quick turnaround for the BBC:

    http://www.ips.org.uk/audiocompendium/index.php?title=British_Homophone_Company

    Finally, my pressing features a very thin, faintly etched ‘B’ on both sides along with a mark that looks something like a closed-top 4. I am curious if you can locate these marks on your pressing (the label and die marks are identical to mine).

    Some more British Homophone links:

    http://www.normanfield.com/labelsh.htm
    http://bit.ly/ONdGtt
    http://bit.ly/QeqSE2

    • Felix thanks for this, more gold. I picked this from the abstract:
      “…Getting discs pressed Moving to Decca. Running label as ‘family’ concern from Krahmer’s home. Post-war jazz clubs in London. Signing up new talent. Owing rights to foreign labels…”
      You need a University or College log in the get the lot, but I take from that reference that at some point after the war Esquire “moved to Decca” and “rights to foreign labels” must mean Prestige. Perhaps British Homophone was responsible for their very first pressings prior to a move to Decca.?

      My copy has, unusually, the catalogue number at 12 o’clock instead of the usual 6 o’clock position (using the label as clock-face), RVG at 2 o’clock, a handwritten “B” at 6 o’clock, and a machine stamped letter “C” at 3 o’clock

  2. When it comes to Jazz, for me, this is the record.

    From Esmond Edwards’ enigmatic green/blue-tinted cover to the final notes of “The Theme”, this record is an immersive experience.

    There is something hypnotic about Red Garland’s intro to “It Never Entered My Mind” that grabs hold of me as soon as I hear those first few notes, which are then followed by Miles’ delicate rendition of the melody. To me, Miles’ earlier playing features a kind of heart-breaking tenderness that gradually featured less and less on his later records until it had vanished completely by the 1970s, replaced by an almost sarcastic and bitter tone.

    What I have always found most exciting about Jazz (and music in general) is the potential for a group of human beings to interact together at a moment in time and create something which transcends their individual talents and vision, something truly sublime. Miles’ first quintet is one of the great exponents of this phenomena.

    The rhythm section of Philly Joe Jones, Paul Chambers and Red Garland seems to function as one mind on tunes like ‘Four’, each anticipating the developments of the other with a kind of psychic precision. Their unstoppable driving beat and rich harmonic foundation provides a platform for Coltrane and Miles to truly soar free.

    Miles displays his genius for transforming catchy pop tunes into profound moments of music with Dave Bruebeck’s “It Never Entered My Mind”. The contrast between the nonchalant, strolling opening with the mysterious pedal-point chorus summons a kind of longing feeling, almost like watching that girl who got away fade off into the distance for the last time.

    I could go on and on, but really the music speaks for itself. I feel like I can live inside these tunes.

    Like most great ensembles, this group existed only briefly in a very special time and place and the forces that brought them together ultimately also tore them apart. For me, Miles success on Columbia records meant that his playing would never again be part of an ensemble in the way it is here and on his other Prestige recordings. I am endlessly grateful that Mr. Van Gelder was able to capture this music there in his parents’ Hackensack living room and pass it on to those of us who were born long after those notes had died out.

  3. I’m confused here. Just to get things straight: you have a Prestige copy of Workin’, but only the vinyl and not the cover? And now you have an Esquire of the same album including the cover.

    Since you at least have both the Prestige and Esquire vinyls, you were able to “rip” the audio from both copies for us to compare, correct?

    Given the fact that the trail off etchings of both copies are identical, it means that they were both pressed from an identical stamper, which -in my modest opinion- means that both vinyls have to sound exactly the same; something I’m willing to confirm based on the two audio samples. Here at home my PC is connected to a hifi-set (the joys of a man cave attic) and for the life of me, I can’t tell the difference between the two. Maybe the Prestige version of The Theme sounds a bit more beaten up, but that’s about it.

    Pray tell is my above assumption correct? 😉

    • Correct on every item. I have the original Prestige vinyl and the Esquire vinyl.and they are to all intents and purposes identical in sound. It is sort of negative knowledge, but whenever I have the opportunity I will buy the Esquire knowing for certain they are the same.

      • Hello LJC,
        I bought an early pressing of Workin’ today and i notice few anomalies it appears. Mind you, i have only recently started buying Jazz records and most of what i know, i know from your site (thank you for that b.t.w. It’s fun and educational being here).

        Anyway, my copy has the yellowblack fireworks label, the DG, RVG the Bergenfield adress etc.
        Two things differ from the info i can finf here, on discogs or on any other website.
        The font of the title is slightly different, the lettering is broader plus there is more space between the two lines that read “Workin’ with the” and the with “Miles Davis Quintet”.

        Then there is the HI FI/ High Fidelity thing. You see, Side A has HIGH FIDELITY, Side B has HI FIDELITY.
        Anyway, my guess is it’s probably a second or third pressing, but i wss surprised that i could not find mention of a similar case anywhere. The exact pressing doesn’t really matter to me, i’m just happy to have a somewhat original Pestige (my first, not counting fabulous New Jazz 8269). Oh, and the cover is indeed very cool.
        Cheers!

        Bas.

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