John Coltrane The Believer (1958) Prestige/SABA

Track Selection: Nakatini Serenade (Massey)


Donald Byrd or Freddie Hubbard (tp) John Coltrane (ts) Red Garland (p) Paul Chambers (b) Louis Hayes or Art Taylor (d) Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, NJ, January 10 and December 26, 1958


Released in 1964 on Prestige Records , another after Coltrane moved to Impulse, with  three previously unissued tracks by Coltrane as a leader from two separate recording sessions in 1958. I don’t know what possess people to record on Boxing day December 26th. Coltrane perfecting sheets of sound, “Nakatini Serenade”, later recorded by Lee Morgan,  is a dark, exotic-tinged piece, with Coltrane forever restless and exploring the musical space.

Vinyl: Prestige 7292, German SABA issue

Prestige European licensing in Germany, to SABA (later known as MPS). My first German Prestige.  However SABA, for reasons known only to themselves, remastered from copy tape, and did not press from US-supplied stampers like UK Esquire and Sveedish Metronome.

This was probably a mistake.

The Matrix

Local matrix codes indicating the source recording PR 7292 and the SABA pressing plant master code.

A 1, B 2

It was not a great day for anyone this record was released in Germany. Either the original or copy tape was sub-standard, or the engineer mastering was having a bad day. SABA and German pressing quality is supposedly  legendary, however this is a very poor transfer, and probably among the worst I have heard. Dull, hollow, sounds like it is under a pile of blankets.

At LJC I don’t just share the good, I share the bad too

Pressing quality can not make up for a poor source or transfer. Even the brilliance of Coltrane struggles to shine through the dull playback. I have no idea whether this pressing is typical of the original Prestige, or other German SABA Prestiges, but it does not bode well. The UK Esquire and Sveedish Metronome Prestiges don’t have the same issues: they shine and can often be preferable to a noisy Prestige original. SABA has a black mark for this effort.

Oddly for a German release, the liner notes remain in American. Fortunately many Germans speak English, which is a fairly similar language to American, apart from the insertion of the word “like” three times in any sentence.

Collectors Corner

Source: North London record shop

Cunningly disguised by shades and paint-on stubble as famous Primrose Hill  film actor and hearthrob Jude Law,  I managed to slip undetected from South London over the North London border. Pausing only to sign a few autographs, I ransacked North London of everything collectable.

Returning incognito to South London required a quick change of disguise, as one of the colourful characters found south of the river. Humming Get up stand up, stand up for your rights usually does the trick.  North London jazz collectors rarely come South without a bodyguard, and should be warned they will need a good grasp of the Polish language in order to ask directions here.

That’s modern London for you. Jeszcze jedno piwo proszę, Władisław. Woooman no Cry… Great.

11 thoughts on “John Coltrane The Believer (1958) Prestige/SABA

  1. The problem is not SABA. The problem is that it is US early 60’s re-channelled for ‘stereo’ effect crap. I own some real german SABA’s that are impeccably mastered. The sound is among the best. Just look for a Dave Pike or similar recording from the 60’s on that label. Or maybe The KCFB big band if you might prefer…

  2. After few unsuccessful tries i’ve decided to stay away from German pressings – for some reason they usually tend to re-master everything in strange & peculiar ways, still wondering how they managed to make Waltz Like Debby sounds like a whole different album from any other pressing…

    • SABA’s reputation is all hype. I turned up another SABA recently, same story: flat and uninteresting, really quite lame engineering. Its successor MPS seems to have it sorted, but overall the reputation of “Made in Germany” isn’t a great recommendation, on the limited range I have. Or maybe I’ve just been unlucky. Apologies to any (remaining) friends in Germany.

  3. thanks for posting… ‘The Believer’ is a rare gem no doubt. . incredible how Trane plays so many notes, and yet none of them are superfluous, his phrasing was UNIQUE

  4. By the way, I just checked the OJC CD reissue of this title and “Do I Love You Because You’re Beautiful” is the only track that is in stereo, the rest is all mono.

  5. Well re-channeled stereo it is indeed. It sounds terrible in phones or on a stereo for that matter. The only way to save the day is to reach out and press that mono/stereo button on your pre-amp!
    Pressing is probably OK as stated before.

    • Nothing helps re-channelled early 60’s trash. The master tape was not created by SABA. They got it from the Americans. I doubt RVG had anything to do with it’s creation.

  6. Ah, good old “re-channeled for stereo”, a.k.a. fake stereo. Gives you a headache.

    So here’s my theory for the mess you’re hearing. In 1958, Rudy Van Gelder was already recording in stereo for quite a few labels, but still mono only for Prestige. That’s what the kind of cheapo Bob Weinstock was at the time. Fast forward a few years, it’s 1964 and Germany stops releasing mono records, ahead of everyone else. It’s stereo only from now on, for better or for worse. Still a few years on, SABA decides to release this 1958 Prestige recording, requests a stereo tape and gets this re-channeled version. Probably not even their fault. To me the pressing sounds quite good and tonally well-balanced. It’s just that godawful fake stereo.

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