Bill Evans, Jim Hall: Undercurrent (1962) United Artists

billevanshimhall-undercurrent-frintcover-1920-LJC2

Track Selection: My Funny Valentine

Artists:

Bill Evans (p) Jim Hall (g) recorded at Sound Makers, NYC,  April 24 and May 14, 1962 sound engineer: Bill Shwartau

Music:

A triumph for Bill Evans and Jim Hall, another exercise in telepathic communion, intertwining piano and this time acoustic guitar in away I’d not previously experienced. Recorded the year following the death of Scott Lafaro, in which Evans must have been searching for new partnerships before settling for trio format again, Chuck Israels bass, and later, Eddie Gomez. Jim Hall manages to fill the role of solo guitar melody, chordal counterpoint, percussion, and bass, all in one. It is a remarkable recording that should sit on the shelf of every Evans fan, and for some reason it wasn’t on mine. Ah, that would be because I had’t got it. Easily remedied, Ebay to the rescue.

Cover:

I couldn’t understand why most copies offered on Ebay showed the cover seen right, not the eerie lady in white floating below the surface. (A friend described the floating lady almost like a “modern” cover. I think he meant that as a compliment). Others thoughts on that cover here. The original photograph in HD by fashion photographer Toni Frissell of a woman floating in the water at Weeki Wachee Spring, Florida was published in Harper’s Bazaar in December 1947.

billevanshimhall-undercurrent-gatefold-outer-1920-LJC2

Opening the record mailer yielded an unexpected surprise because the cover is a …  gatefold!! You get both covers.

Vinyl:  UAJS 15003

Stereo (also issued on United Artists UAJS 14003 mono)

Despite being a committed mono fan, I have always wanted my  Bill Evans in stereo . All my UK Riverside Bill Evans are mono. With just two players intertwined like Evans and Hall, stereo has to be the way to go.  And beautiful stereo it is. And the decision to go the extra mile for original vinyl in stereo fully vindicated. And the cover is a marvel.

The Matrix

United Artists Jazz matrix code formats are unknown to me – I have no more than one or two. But this for future reference is what you find in the run out.

The liner notes are a piece of literary fiction –  a cross between Mike Hammer’s Mickey Spillane and William Borroughs cut up beat poetry.  Perhaps Nat Hentoff, Ira Gitler, and Leonard Feather were busy that day. It asks to be read in a Brooklyn accent, or La-di-dah Greenwich Village,  and has dated in a way the music has not.

billevanshimhall-undercurrent-gatefold-inner-1920-LJC2

Collectors Corner

Source: Ebay US ; Sellers Description:

Original 1960’s Pressing Stereo Record Album made in the U.S.A. by UNITED ARTISTS JAZZ (UAJS 15003)

RECORD CONDITION:

VG++ to Strong VG++  ** Full Gloss & Great Sound on both sides – both sides play Excellent!   LABELS have several light spindle trails on one side

GATEFOLD COVER CONDITION:

Strong VG++ / not far from NEAR MINT   *** Thick TEXTURED GATEFOLD COVER shows only some very light wear at th very tips of each corner, a very small light crease mark very close to the tip of one of the corners  only a very tiny hint of light storage wear in a few spots.  there are No Seam Splits / No Writing / No Torn Spots

I had taken a couple of years rest from the hype and overgrading of some US ebay sellers, but reluctantly, I had to go to a US seller to find this record, as there didn’t seem to be any copies in Europe. No doubt someone will post in to tell me they have seen hundreds, selling for sixpence. People do that, to cheer you up.  I had seen the bendy tenor United Artists Jazz label only once before, and possibly giant United Artists didn’t feel they needed a licensing arrangement outside the US. Since Evans was signed to Riverside, then Verve, I do not understand why this release appears unusually on United Artists.

The auction attracted stiff competition – seven bidders – enough to push the price up a fair bit. Sometimes, there is a sense of relief when you receive an “Outbid” notice – you have saved yourself a fistful of dollars, and are not going to go through the overseas postal charges and customs trauma followed by two weeks wait to see if your beloved purchase is “as described”. Instead, with no sense of irony, my mailbox registered an “Enjoy your purchase” notice. My first reaction, “Oh shit, now it starts”

Ten days later, the postman called. From its description, I would guess the record had not been play-graded. It certainly looked “perfect” but the vinyl had persistent crackle. Not scratched, not hissy, but it crackled, more than you would want. Last resort is to return the record, first however random crackle is usually a symptom of unwanted residue in the grooves.

Enter the Vinyl Scrubbers! Four sequential record cleaning machine cycles, one cycle with my usual alcohol-based  cleaning fluid  (British Audio Products  – 3 parts distilled water 1 part isopropyl alcohol) , followed by three cycles with non-alcohol based cleaner which targets mould-release on new vinyl (Disco-stat). After each cycle the crackle reduced, to the point where it is now fairly inconsequential, but it was very persistent. “Factory fresh” and ” near mint” tells only half the story.

As for renewing the Special Relationship, so far, so good, but I am sure that a record from Hell (Michigan) is still just around the corner.

Postscript

Don’t you just love blogging? Katharsis suggests it may be a Plastylite pressing. Mattyman pops in a reminder to check when I am back home. I snoop around Popsike while at a loose end in France, and as a result I find one auction result with the magic words, ” ear”!   Ruddy Hell!!

Its all too much, thanks guys, time to open a bottle of Cotes de Rhone. Great here of course because CdR should be drunk at room temperature, which in the Med right now is 27°C. N i i i ce! Cheers!

UPDATE no.2: (31/07/12) The stereo, or at least my stereo, has no Plastylite ear in the runout. Perhaps the mono was pressed by Plastylite and the stereo pressing job went to another plant. Another thing I noptice is that some sellers of these “bendy tenor” AU records downgrade to VG condition because of many clicks and pops. That is where mine started from but around 80% of this have been eliminated by intensive “professional” cleaning. My surmise is the factory that pressed them operated poor environmental cleanliness practices. No other explanation.

 

 

 

 

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35 thoughts on “Bill Evans, Jim Hall: Undercurrent (1962) United Artists

  1. Another rather nice pressing of Undercurrent is the Solid State from 1968 SS18018 in Stereo. 180 Gms and superbly engineered. .

  2. The matrix on the runout for the mono pressing,is indeed 14003, but it is not UAJ”S” that signifies stereo. I own the first pressing mono UAJ 14003-A-1A and UAJ 14003 14003-B-1A …
    I don’t believe this album was made to be listened to,in stereo. Just an opinion,and not a qualified one,as I’ve never heard the stereo pressing.
    Still,one of the best jazz albums ever made. MFV off the cuff …

  3. I just recently got my hands on a stereo original of this record and I found that I had the exact same issue with crackle. I haven’t cleaned mine as extensively, but the gentleman who owned the record was pretty meticulous about how he handled them. He bought it new in the 60s and there’s not a mark on it. Yet, I get quite a few pops and crackles that stand out. Combine that with the fact that my receiver doesn’t have much power to it, so I’m cranking the volume, and unfortunately a rather quiet intimate affair has some incidental noise to it. Yet, I really dig how Jim Hall’s comping really pops out during Bill Evans’s agile solo on “My Funny Valentine” on the vinyl…totally worth a little noise.

  4. Sorry, now I look closer and see you clearly do have the same spine listing both, and your inside left is the Stereo version. The difference is my logo strip is at the bottom below the text box for the mono whereas yours is at the top. Weird little differences… 😉

  5. Wow, great thread, but I am very late getting here.
    I have a mono “bendy tenor” with the ear.
    Runout:
    Side A: UAJ 1403A-1A (ear)
    Side B: (ear) UAJ 1403B-1A

    One thing you do not mention here that confounded me when I bought it is the spine, mine lists both versions!

    BILL EVANS JIM HALL – UNDERCURRENT – UNITED ARTISTS JAZZ – UAJ 14003 STEREO UAJS 15003

    with a long space before the word STEREO.
    Yet the inside left cover has a large UAJ 14003, so I presume it is not the same cover for both, but maybe same somehow for the spines, the artwork was done once? Is your inside left showing UAJS 15003?

    Also, boasting tag on, I have a yellow-label Verve “Disc Jockey Copy Not For Sale” mono pressing of the companion LP “Intermodulation”. Two of my favorites!

  6. Riverside seem to me to have understood the importance of the sound engineer, up there with the musicians, but completely blind to the importance of the pressing. There is never any consistency in pressing quality. The few American Riversides I have are all over the place. In the UK at different times they contracted Philips, Decca, and some anonymous plant, again no consistency, a sign of “whoever is covenient/ whoever took me to lunch/ whatever…” It is very frustrating because you have what you know is going to be great music, but hostage to whether it is going to sound any good.

    • I should have mentioned that I felt he doesn’t sound as good on the Undercurrent reissue, but in either case he is a lot more dark sounding, as opposed to that bright brilliance piano can have (of course…that could be the player…I never think of Evans as overly jaunting or boppy…smooth but at times wonderfully precarious)

  7. I have a vinyl reissue of this that I purchased new a few years ago…the vinyl seems relatively weighty and the label and cover are exact copies…of the MONO version, including catalog number and addresses on the cover.

    Tons of information in the run out – a four digit number, followed by UAJ 14003, plus an additional number on the line below it. No other sign of a different company producing it besides some sort of squiggly signature or something.

    Listening to it…it sounds nice! A bit dark in timbre, especially Evans…I just recently got a copy of Interplay in mono and I feel he wasn’t recorded as well on this album. Does anyone have any more information on this particular reissue? I suspected the same company that does all the Blue Note vinyl reiusses, but this sounds a bit more dynamic than those. Also…I’m wondering if this is truly a mono pressing, or if the company doing the reissue worked a little too hard to duplicate the original.

  8. I have two original United Artists Jazz with the grey bendy sax labels. Undercurrent 14003 mono, and Matador – Kenny Dorham 14007 mono. Both have the ear.

  9. The copy I was talking about was Duke Ellingtons “Money Jungle”. Sax Player label and ear. But I don’t know if it’s stereo or mono, because the record is tucked away right now.
    But interesting to see, that there’s a lot more to find and learn.

  10. I’m out of town too, till September, so I can’t check Plastilyte.
    I’ve got the mono, 14003 and confirm the sax player label is the first.
    there are at least two more interesting numbers with the same sax player label, but are reissues: Charles Mingus Wonderland, UAJ 14005 (original named Jazz Portraits, same number but different cover) and John Coltrane Coltrane time, UAJ 14001 (original on UAL 4014, under the name of Cecil Taylor: Hard driving jazz/ stereo UAS 5014, same leader but different title: Stereo drive).
    these UA sort of soft touching covers are wonderful.
    Bill and Jim are at the top: if possible check Skating in Central Park with a MJQ version, UA too.

  11. ” I had seen the bendy tenor United Artists Jazz label only once before, and possibly giant United Artists didn’t feel they needed a licensing arrangement outside the US. Since Evans was signed to Riverside, then Verve, I do not understand why this release appears unusually on United Artists.”

    MGM (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) purchased Verve from Norman Granz in 1963, and my suspicion is that around that time United Artists entered into some kind of record manufacturing arrangement with MGM (although MGM did not actually purchase UA until 1980). Looking at MGM and (Non-Blue Note) UA pressings from the mid to late 60s, they seem to have similar mastering marks/matrices and both feature very poor quality pressings (your copy of Undercurrent sounds like a typical case).

    My current theory is that UA kept Liberty’s pressing arrangements in place for a few years after purchasing them in 1965. These are the pressings that occasionally feature the mysterious serrated edge and are usually of very high quality. I don’t know for certain where those records from this period were pressed. I do know that Liberty had relied on the RCA plants for many, many years prior to the buyout and that RCA maintained high pressing quality for sometime (until the Dynaflex disaster, that is).

    Then, sometime around 1970 the quality drops off, and this is where I believe Blue Note titles began to be pressed at the same plant as Verve and United Artists titles. My working theory is that this change coincides with the switch to the black/light blue label:

    For the time being, I am unable to track down any real evidence of UA records being pressed by MGM.

    Here are some interesting links for anyone interested in pursuing the mystery:

    http://www.zappafrenzy.com/pressing_plants/pressing_plants.html#verve_usa
    http://www.stevehoffman.tv/forums/archive/index.php/t-53336.html

    • Thanks for the extra input. Respect.
      Music quality and pressing quality is a connundrum. It is not like you have a choice. Undercurrent was not well pressed. If you want the music you have to accept it. The pressing is not so bad that I want to turn it off. I have the CD, so some critical listening is required. Sometimes you have to accept that the evil silver disc dos a better job than vinyl because of poor quality pressing.Vinyl is capable of the finest quality sound, but if some suit somewhere to save a buck screwed it up, that is how it goes.
      I am convinced the Liberty/RCA 1966-7 combination produced great pressings. I have many. Where it went after that, who knows.

  12. I may be wrong, but I believe that the album was first released only in Mono with the original United Artists label similar to the one shown below:

    I have what I believe is an original pressing with the Plastylite ear.

    My suspicion is that the original stereo release came later with the the sax player label only and was not pressed at Plastylite. The last time I put forward this theory, however, I was rather tersely corrected:

    http://jazzcollector.com/blue-note/watching-some-stereo-jazz-vinyl-sell-and-not-sell/#comments

    However, I have yet to see any evidence of Stereo pressings with either the original UA label or a Plastylite ear. I’d be very interested if someone happens to have such a pressing.

    Incidentally, this record was produced by Alan Douglas who went on to release the ‘Iron Man’ LP by Eric Dolphy (which is not, despite the title, a collection of Black Sabbath covers) as well as two somewhat controversial posthumous Jimi Hendrix releases.

    No party has yet claimed responsibility for the ‘liner notes’.

    • Thanks for that link to the Jazz Collector discussion. I neeed to check my stereo when I get home – I am out in France right now.Next week. I rather suspect the black label UA mono Plastylite may be an anomaly. The day my auction closed, a black label Undercurrent closed at a third of the price of my bendy tenor Stereo.
      Popsike has many both stereo and mono but no-one has put up the crucial label difference. I suspect my stereo will be earless. I certainly didnt notice one when I shot The Matrix.
      My issue with UA Jazz is the crap in the grooves. I get similar problems with some Riversides. Too much crackle. Somebody had a dirty pressing plant!
      Both the mono and stereo Undercurrent claim to be 1962 in Goldmine, and all the UA Jazz were issued in both formats. 14000+ for mono 15000+ I have added a guide to UA Jazz “bendy tenor” series in my label guide. They sure released some interesting stuff!
      https://londonjazzcollector.wordpress.com/record-labels-guide/united-artists/

  13. I guess sellers use the other side of the gatefold cover simply because it contains both artists’ names and the title. Personally I like the other side of the cover with that scary scene of the girl floating in the water best. Last but not least I’m curious to know if your copy does have the Plastylite “ear/pretzel/P” in the trail off. Please let us know once you’re back 😉

  14. I totally discarded this album the first time around. Thought it was boring slow tempo jazz. How wrong I was. The interplay between the two is at times mesmerizing. This has quickly become one of my favourites. I have a Japanese (King?) pressing from the 70s, but this one sounds much more detailed than that one.

  15. I have one United Artists pressing and that features the familiar Plastylite ‘P’. Couldn’t you find it on yours?

    • I am out of town and away from the collection right now, I’d be surprised if I had missed an ear, but often you see what you expect, and I wasn’t expecting an ear so I wouldn’t have been looking for one. But will check on return.

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