Track Selection: Senor Blues
Donald Byrd (tp) Hank Mobley (ts) Horace Silver (p) Doug Watkins (b) Louis Hayes (d recorded Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, NJ, November 10, 1956
For Crissake, what more do you want? Mobley, Byrd, Silver, Watkins, Hayes! This is real music: inject it, inhale it, snort it, insert it anyway you like as long as you get it into your life. This is coming to you personally, directly from 1956, unlimited reanimating power embedded in the grooves of fifty year old vinyl, as fresh as if you opened the windows on 1956 and breathed in.
The Vinyl: Another case for DJ Sherlock
However not everything is as it appears. A massive 205 gram vinyl, flat edge, with deep groove both sides, Lexington labels both sides, catalogue number written in large open hand, RVG hand-inscribed initials,the 9M no one understands, ears, No INC or R on either label or cover. You might think, an open and shut case Lexington, however there are two discrepencies. First, the A side matrix indicates its origin is second master – A1. Observe:
Exhibit 1: The Matrix
A second matrix A-1 is difficult to explain. I have seen only just the one or two A-1 matrixes. Why A-1 but not also the side two a B-1? Was it a huge seller that needed remastering? Most Blue Note did not sell in the sort of quantities that exhausted the potential number of mothers and stampers. Pressing was localised to New Jersey so no second master created for a West Coast plant pressing to work with. Perhaps it required a fresh master because the original was damaged in some way soon after its creation? Van Gelder spilled the coffee on it, as happens to my keyboard regularly.
The sound quality – piercing, vivid sound – is up there with my other Lexingtons. And that waistline, at 205 gram, is inside the range for a Lexington, way heavier than the 1957-61 47 West 63rds (170-190gm) and out of the question for later pressings. I swear on a stack of Fred Cohen Guide to Original Blue Notes, the vinyl dates from 1956, and it is in a cover that was first introduced in 1957, possibly an extended first pressing run and replenished cover stock.
Or perhaps it’s a trick being played by the notorious Blue Note elf, who delights in driving collectors crazy. Did you know that while you are asleep, the Blue Notes on your shelf get together and talk about you?
Right was another example of a suspect Lexington, the subject of an earlier post.This has everything right, including the cover, except the weight is a skinny 165 gram, the norm for mid Sixties Blue Note NY pressings. Clearly an impostor.
Exhibit 2 – The Cover
The cover address is the latter 1957 address, 47 West 63rd and not 767 Lexington Ave. It is the “wrong address” by at least a year for a Lexington, possibly two years.
Possibly a second print run of covers soon after the original stock ran out. Maybe it sold better than Lion expected, they still had stock of Lexington labels but needed more covers, which I would guess were a major expense compared with the cost of labels so low in inventory. Another theory.
Cover condition is better than the vinyl, another inconsistency. Somewhere in the past one or more owners who are a little careless in their handling of the black plastic – a few spindle-skates, paper and vinyl-on-vinyl scuffs, the odd light scratch. Why would they take such great care of a cover? It is a near mint cover. It doesn’t make sense, so I have another theory: the cover and record didn’t originally belong together.
Is there an answer? We consult jazz sage and mystic LondonJazzConfucious
LondonJazzConfucious says: When pieces of puzzle do not fit together, do not discount the possibility some pieces are from different puzzle.
Source: Pre-owned record shop with a smart cosmopolitan West London address, occasional purveyor of odd Blue Notes of mysterious provenance.
Tell us about the Master and we’ll go easy on you. Then Hey Lexington, nice cover. Shame if anything were to happen to it. “Nowadays vinyls got all these rights”
So the vinyl remains an enema. No, thats thats something else, it remains an enigma. We may never get to the bottom of it.
Fortunately, Lexington or not, the record sounds amazing. Mobley swaggering with confidence of youth, everyone gels, and the bebop thing is still fresh and powerful. It wasn’t to stay like this forever, but it’s yours to enjoy, here and now.
UPDATE: BLUE NOTE SECRETS FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE
Thanks to Matty for sharing pictures of his 47 West 63rd St copy, which brings into sharp relief the similarities and differences between two pressings of the same recording. To make comparison easy I have mounted the pictures in forensic comparison mode (best viewed at full screen)
UPDATE 2. Matty’s copy close up ‘n’ personal
The position of the ear is a variable whilst the RVG and catalogue number are fixed, and the clock position of the whole lot varies. It confirms the ear is a Plastylite controlled input added to the mother or final stamper metalwork (as it stands proud), and varies from one stamper to another, as our posting detectives deduce below.
It feels like the call heard on the boating lake: “Time’s up, come in number six – err… number nine, are you in trouble?
Fascinating. Good work, chaps