Lou Donaldson Blues Walk (1958) Blue Note Stereo


Track Selection: Blues Walk (NY, RVG STEREO MASTER)


Lou Donaldson (as) Herman Foster (p) Peck Morrison (b) Dave Bailey (d) Ray Barretto (congas) recorded Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, NJ, July 28, 1958

LJC History: Previously posted as King Japan reissue. You can compare what King Japan made of the track with the RVG Stereo, though the new USB TT has much higher gain, hence louder. I recall wishing I had an affordable original. Well, that day has come. There are times when a Japanese reissue, however good, is simply, not enough.


There are some records you just fall hopelessly in love with and for me, Lou Donaldson’s Blues Walk is one. At the risk of repeating myself, Lou plays alto as a blues guitar, laying down a series of licks which climax at high points, a vibrato wail, released with a figure of grace notes, laying the ground for the next phrase.  The only other player I know that executes in this style was the great Sidney Bechet, whose fleet fingerwork, the gymnastic figures with their elegant tails, leave you intoxicated by their effortless perfection.

Stereo Alert!  May attract nuts! The record is an RVG master with “RVG STEREO” in the trail-off, not simply a VAN GELDER which happened to be stereo. It is quite primitive stereo too, with Donaldson hard left, piano and bass  centre, and drums right. I don’t think anyone would opt for this presentation today, where the centre stage belongs to the leader, and often the piano and drums are stretched  the entire width of the soundstage. But it is Van Gelder’s judgement in its day, and the RVG STEREO imprint to my mind confirms it is a separate artistic enterprise from the mono master.

Vinyl: BST 1593  RVG Stereo edition, NY labels and ear, deep groove,  circa 1962-4

I had no problem with it being a second pressing on NY labels, or Stereo, it has all the pedigree I ask for. But what is this? The B Side reveals an alternate source master B-1  Is this an early replacement – they are all B-1, or some later intervention? Only Rudy knows. And may be some LJC readers.




Collector’s Corner

Source: Ebay    Location: US

Sellers Description:  Lou Donaldson Blues Walk Blue Note jazz LP NM stereo New York USA label EX cover

Jacket condition: EX    Record condition: NM

Donaldson ebay“The cover is in very nice condition with some very light ring wear detracting just a little. The labels are New York USA versions and are in nice condition with a few light spindle marks on Side 2. The vinyl is bright and glossy and shows no signs of wear. As an added bonus the record is still contained in its original Blue Note inner sleeve.Please note that for some reason the original owner cut off the top corners of the inner sleeve so the sleeve is not fully intact”. (ends)


I had narrowly missed this auction first time around, when my sniping service declined to bid as my snipe was below the current bid in the closing seconds of the auction. To my surprise the record, with its very distinctive combination of Stereo sticker and NY labels, popped up again on auction a month or so later, from the same seller. It had to be the same record.  Quizzing the US seller, he recounted a tale of woe, a parcel of a half-dozen sales which a European buyer had reneged on. Because my snipe did not fire first time around it meant I was not given the “second chance” offer, which reveals an unexpected downside to sniping.

I had already made up my mind this record was mine. All I had to do was to repeat the bidding performance, and so it transpired, it was mine. Some things are just meant to be. All I need now is to track down a mono. Not that I’m being unfaithful to my stereo, you understand. There are times when a Japanese reissue and a second pressing stereo, however good, is simply, not enough.

27 thoughts on “Lou Donaldson Blues Walk (1958) Blue Note Stereo

  1. Hello LJC,
    I picked up a nice mono copy of blues walk today. I know it is not a first pressing but am having trouble determining what year it was made. It has west 63rd st labels, ear, stamped RVG, Inc and R. 9M side 1 only. Matrix a-1.
    DG side 2 only, matrix b. Cover is laminated. 61st st address on rear cover.
    Now it has a 27 years blue note inner sleeve which I am thinking may have been switched. Any ideas what vintage this would be?

    • Hi Ed, 1593 originally released somewhere around opening months of 1959, DG both sides, no INC on the label, original cover was 47W63rd no INC, so you have a second cover after 1960, but how far after, hmm. Does it have INC in the cover address or just Blue Note Records? Its all in the detail.

      The Matrix codes seem to be swapped around, I have -A and B-1, you have A-1 and B. So Rudy did a recut early on, and when a repressing was ordered, possibly both sets of lacquers were in use. How odd. Unfortunately Cohen does not identify matrix code suffixes, so we can only speculate when Rudy recut, and why the original cut lacquers remained in use.

      A 27 Years inner sleeve could point to 1966 as date of manufacture, using original metal, old stock W63rd labels, and more recent cover. Sleeve switches do occur, and sometimes as a selling feature where original is missing, just not the right one.

      There was a second issue of 1593 on the NY label, some time after 1962. Following the practice of cannibalising old stock labels, your copy could be part of that repressing run, or an extra batch pressed between 1960 and 1962. It’s not likely any later than 1962.

      That’s as much as I can figure.

      • LJC,
        Yes it does have the Inc. in the rear cover address. I figured that the inner sleeve must be incorrect as that would be from 66 and then of course it would not have the ear. Thanks very much 🙂

  2. I have yet another variation that is really strange. First, the write-to address on the jacket is the older 47 West 63rd St one. Second, it lists BN-LP-1593-A-1 on Side 1, but not the “B-1” that you found on Side 2. Third, Side 1 has no INC or (R) on it, while Side 2 has both. Fourth, Side 1 has the 9-M inscribed while Side 2 does not. Normally, finding different labels makes me think its a later reissue, but with the 9-M, the older jacket, and the fact that the album was released in 1958, I think it may just be a strange transition-year abnormality. Thoughts?

    • My copy is from the RVG STEREO master (BST 1593), not the mono, which I think from what you say is yours (BN LP1593). Different cuttings so its unsurprising that the matrix may be different. Stereo being in its infancy at that time, also unsurprising that he had a second go, in either case, with A-1 or B-1.

      Incorporation occurred in late 1959 so labels with Inc are later. I believe labels were printed in matching pairs, but the plant used up old stock first, ensuring copyright was asserted on at least one of the two labels. Hence the mixing.

      The 9M indicates an original generation stamper on that side. We don’t know what it meant, but its use died out.

      All in all, it’s a mystery

      • I have been formulating a new theory over the years with regards to the enigmatic ‘9M’ etching: I believe this Plastylite’s internal customer code for Blue Note which presumably would have been applied to the lacquer when received by the factory.

        I have at least one other early Plastylite pressing, a Dial 10-inch, that has a similar etching: ‘3F’. I seem to recall having one or two other Plastylite records with similar codes, but I couldn’t track any of them down.

        On the other hand, perhaps we are all looking at it upside down and our esteemed colleague and resident vinyl expert was etching ‘Wb’ into RVG’s lacquers those many years ago…

        • 9M. A Plastylite customer code. That’s a good theory, I’ll take it.

          My previous theory was that M is for Mother, and the 9 is a clock position, indicating the alignment of metal in a press. That was a good theory too.

          So now we have two good theories. I think yours is slightly better.

          • Do both theories support the 9M only on a single side (with the older label) like on this Blues Walk record? I think the 9M would have to be applied at the same time as the RVG and BN #. It would seem they pressed a quantity of side 1 for the initial run and etched them as they went (or after side 1 was complete). And then they repeated the process for side 2. At that point, by the time they got to my record, they were on the 2nd pressing and had moved on to new labels and a process that didn’t require the 9M.

            • If my theory is correct, there should be other pre-1957 LPs from other labels with the Plastylite ear and other, similar codes. If anyone happens to have some old non-Blue Note Plastylite pressings it would be interesting to see what they report.

              With regard to the presence of the ‘9M’ mark, since it would have had to have been inscribed on the original lacquer provided by RVG, you should never see two pressings with the same RVG master mark, but one with 9M and one without.

              Reading your post, I’m not sure which master your side 2 of your pressing was made with. My guess is that it was a later master cut after the practice of adding the 9M mark to the lacquer was discontinued.

              • I think you might be on to something, I have a Plastylite pressed Esoteric and a Plastylite presssed Prestige and recall a different number/letter combo on each of them in the place of the 9M on Blue Notes. I’ll post what they are when I am home tonight!

                • My Plastylite-pressed copy of Prestige 7007 (Musings of Miles) has 7F in the matrix. However, my copy of Dial 901 (not the original, but the immediate second press with the drawing on the cover) has no such marking. Neither does my copy of Undercurrent.

                • I checked and the Plastylite Esoteric has 10Z while the Plastylite Prestige (7007) has 7E. Anybody else have Plastylite pressed records from the 50’s from labels other than Blue Note to corroborate or contribute?

                  • Prestige! I knew I had seen a similar code on another Plastylite pressing, but for some reason I skipped over Prestige in my head. I just checked my 10-inch Lee Konitz original blue label Prestige also has the 7E.

                    • Gentlemen, a Nobel prize in vinyl-etching discoveries. Any chance you can get a usable shots of any of these other “customer codes” ? This has defeated collectors across the world until now. Even Fred Cohen admitted in a private enquiry that he had no knowledge of the meaning of the 9M. Gotta hand it to you.

                    • Found a United Artists Jazz release from 1962 – Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers – Three Blind Mice. It has the plastylite ear, and either “LM” or “JM” etched. Not sure if its a similar type of code, given that this was released after they stopped using 9M for the blue notes.

  3. I heard this album for the first time tonight. I’ve listened to it many times before, but tonight I got it. Just a wonderful, mellow, groovy album.

    I also noticed for the first time tonight that out of all the East Coast Hard Boppers, Lou may be the closest in style to Art Pepper. He has a lightness in his bluesy swing that calls to mind the great West Coaster. Perhaps I’m imagining things. Regardless, like a good bottle of wine, good music should be both hedonistic and intellectual.

    Andy – I have the same copy as you with the A and B-1 only with West 63rd St. labels alongside the DG. It’s captivating.

  4. “Blues Walk” is a must for everyone. And it was a nice surprise to be able to play “Blues Walk” at the office this morning. Suddenly the sun came out! 😉

  5. Speaking in my capacity as one of the aforementioned stereo nuts :), I would like to offer a couple of points in defense of these early hard-panned stereo mixes.

    As far as I know, pan pots were not widely available on mixing desks prior to the mid-sixites. In many cases, there were no controls at all and stereo routing was fixed at the patch bay. Even faders (invented by the legendary Tom Dowd), which are ubiquitous today were almost non-existent in this era. In fact, since there were no commercially available mixing desks specifically for recording, most consoles were either built to spec (as with the largest studios like RCA) or converted from radio equipment (this was the case with RVG).

    This picture of Alfred Lion and Van Gelder gives an idea of the level of sophistication found in the equipment of the day:

    Even Columbia’s state-of-the-art 30th Street studio had what today seems like an unbelievably primitive mixing board:
    30th street-2 1960

    Finally, it’s easy to forget living as we do in the modern era of modular setups, that even in 1960, a top-of-the-line consumer stereo playback system looked like this:

    What’s even more surprising is that many studios’ stereo monitoring systems used a similar setup. George Martin has explained on more than one occasion that the stereo monitors at EMI’s Studio One were almost right next to each other, so when working in stereo, it seemed perfectly natural to pan everything hard right and left. It wasn’t until years later that he heard the stereo mixes played back with what we today would call ‘normal’ separation and realized the problems this introduced.

    So perhaps on your next listen, you can push your speakers together until they are within two feet of each other and listen to the music as God intended, you heathens! 🙂

    • (Apologies for post waiting moderation, Felix. It’s WordPress and the number of links in the post. LJC gets 20-40 spam posts a day, promoting rubbish and fraud, you despair of the world sometimes. Automatic spam filters take most of it out, but anything with with three or more links gets put in the moderation queue, for manual approval. Not a problem, but an explanation why your post did not appear immediately. The links are always useful, keep em in)

      I have a more harmonious solution than moving my Linn 242’s into the fireplace.
      A friend is building me an audio quality phono-stage mono/stereo switch. For the times I have a “primitive” stereo mix, click, and voila. Hopefully the benefits will outweigh the sonic degradation – the reason Linn give for not having such a switch on board in the first place. We will have to wait and see.

      • According to the common body of knowledge, Van Gelder ran separate full-track and two-track tape for this session. However, Van Gelder is on record saying that he never “heard” what he was recording to two-track until he moved to Englewood Cliffs in 1959 (I can dig this up if you’re interested), and that the only reason two-track tape was ran at Hackensack was to have the option to release stereo pressings for Hackensack dates in the future (which did happen starting in 1959).

        “Blues Walk” was recorded at Hackensack where there was only a mono monitoring system in the control room, while Englewood Cliffs had a stereo monitoring system. Stereo LPs didn’t start coming out until Englewood Cliffs was almost ready to move into (May 1959). This suggests that he moved his lathe to Englewood before everything else and did both mono and stereo mastering from there in early ’59 even though he was still recording at Hackensack (the control room at Englewood was probably finished before the live room).

        I can only guess that to find a relative balance while recording to two-track at Hackensack he had no choice but to sum the channels into the mono monitoring system and do the best that he could.

        All that being said, if you listen to this LP in mono you will most likely hear what Van Gelder heard when he recorded it.

  6. This record is my ultimate example of “original Blue Notes play much better than they look,” as I had the great fortune of picking up an original mono copy with W. 63rd label for peanuts because it had a lot of superficial surface marks. None of which are deep, and it plays a treat with almost no surface noise at all. His version of “Autumn Nocture” is gorgeous.

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