Track Selection: El Barrio
Joe Henderson (tenor sax) McCoy Tyner (piano) Bob Cranshaw (bass) Elvin Jones (drums) recorded Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, November 30, 1964
Recorded at Van Gelders studio just one week after Duke Pearson’s Wahoo!, Henderson recruited Rollin’s sideman Cranshaw on bass, adding Tyner and Jones from Coltrane’s unit, a fearsome combination.
Henderson is a stylistically interesting tenor player, whose musical range encompassed not only his youthful hard bop upbringing but extended to latin influences and more exploratory work, such as his Blue Note sessions with Andrew Hill and Pete LaRoca, later moving on to the black consciousness movement with a suite of albums for Milestone.
The saxophone is the instrument that most closely resembles the human voice, and as with the human voice, every saxophone player has an individual distinctive timbre. Henderson is no exception: his tone is hard and bright, grruff in the lower register, leaning towards buzz-saw, and scalded cat in the upper register; his vocabulary is lyrical with bursts of energy, and an exploratory instinct that often wanders into unfamiliar territory, but not for too long.
His sessions for Blue Note frequently include Latin references such as Blue Bossa and Recorda-Me (in Portuguese, “remember me”) on his iconic album Page One. On the selection here, El Barrio, Henderson’s tenor grunts and squeals against Elvin Jones hanging cymbal strikes, Tyner’s percussive vamp on just a couple of chords, with Cranshaw’s bass circling. Great! Genial!
The Penguin Guide to Jazz gave the album a four-star rating (of a possible four stars), describing the music as “dark and intense”, a fitting description of music, words since devalued today by advertisers to describe a few seconds experience of a chocolate bar or cup of coffee. This is dark and intense, immersive post-bop, which All Music concluded as perhaps the best Henderson recorded in his long and illustrious career, and stands easily alongside the best records of the era. So, summing up, it’s quite good then.
All about Jazz goes further: “I consider it not only one of the best dozen Blue Note sessions ever released, I hear it as one of the major statements of jazz in the ’60s, actually recreating the political, economic, and social realities of the turbulent times more precisely than most recorded music of the ’60s in any style. An absolutely essential listen and a major masterpiece”
Vinyl: BN 4189 NY labels VAN GELDER no ear 148 gm vinyl
I hear hardened collectors shaking their heads: your copy has got no ear, lad. Thought you collected only original vinyl?. It was released originally in 1965 pressed by Plastylite, and top copies with the ear fetch $200-800. None have come my way, and I am unconvinced of any need to “upgrade”. This copy was pressed for Liberty probably a year later at All-Disc, legacy Van Gelder metal, labels left over from the original pressing. I have heard enough NY/Liberty to know they are sonically indistinguishable from a Plastylite, especially given the variation in sonics within any pressing between first and last off the stamper.
If there is little if any difference in sound, there certainly is in price. The collector needs to be aware the ear is missing from the vinyl, not just overlooked in the seller description, and priced accordingly.
2013 New Year Mystery Bonus!
Always read the label! 4189 also available on LJC in STEREO
Whoa! The mono is on New York labels, but the stereo is on….Division of Liberty
Holy New Year Bonus!! Track Selection 2: Inner Urge (Stereo)
Vinyl: Blue Note 84189 Division of Liberty VAN GELDER 145 gm
Labels printed for both records by the same printer, Keystone (same inks, fonts and paperstock) and both records pressed without the ear at effectively identical vinyl weight:
Vinyl weight: Liberty label: – 145 gm NY label: 148 gm
In all probability, both pressed for Liberty at the same pressing plant, Liberty’s All Disc, Roselle NJ. To all intents and purposes, apart from one being mono and the other stereo, they are identical twins. The three grams difference may well be just the difference in vinylite between the fill of a mono and a stereo pressing of the same tracks – slightly different wiggles in the cutting stylus.
So what’s the mystery, LJC?
Both sides of each record have the same inscription in the run-out – a ghostly number “114” in faint but legible handwriting. No other number, just 114. It is more faint on the Mono (top left and right) but it is still there, to the left of the catalogue number.
You can hardly see it in normal light, it just showed up during extreme tweaking of the contrast of the run-out photos in Photoshop. A quick check determined it was on both sides of both records, each written on a separate occasion, though possibly by the same hand.
What does the number 114 signify? I went to Wiki in search for potential clues, where I discovered:
There is no answer to the equation φ(x) = 114
114 is the police non-emergency number in Denmark
114 is the exit number on the Garden State Parkway in New Jersey that leads to the laboratory where the cosmic microwave background radiation was discovered
It is clearly a secret urgent call for help, scratched on to records with a pin. Help! I am Danish and I am being held prisoner in a record pressing plant in New Jersey, near a top-secret laboratory off a Garden State Parkway exit. If you are reading this message in the future, I will have ex pi ..red…. “
Photos updated January 13, 2017