Charles Mingus Ah Um (1959) Columbia Six Eye

(Images updated May 27, 2016)cl1370-mingus-ah-um-6eye-front-1920-LJC].jpg

Track Selection: Better Git It in your Soul (Mingus)

Too much to choose from, so Side One, Track One.

Artists

Jimmy Knepper (trb) John Handy (as, cl) Booker Ervin (ts) Curtis Porter (ts, as) Horace Parlan (p) Charles Mingus (b) Dannie Richmond (d) recorded NYC, May 5 & 12, 1959

Mingus Chronology LJC links: Pithecanthropus Erectus (1956); The Clown (1957); Mingus Five (1957) Tijuana Moods (1957) East Coasting (1957) Jazz Portraits (1959) Blues and Roots (1959) Ah Um (1959) Mingus Dynasty (1959) Mingus Presents (1960) Reincarnation of a Lovebird (1960) The Black Saint and the Singer Lady (1963) Mingus 5 (1963) Mingus at Monterey (1965)

Blog history: first Blogged August 2011 UK Philips 1st press Ah Um! Sample how things have moved on in eighteen months.

Music

1959Mingus’s towering work, and a sonic richness which is almost overwhelming, ranking alongside Kind of Blue, a record which you must have on the original Columbia Six Eye, stereo or mono..

However you will be short-changed musically compared with The Evil Silver Disk. When Columbia first issued the album in 1959 six of the album’s nine songs were edited in order to fit them on the LP, shortened by several minutes.

ah um CDThe Evil Silver Disc™ (Warning! – avert eyes, do not stare directly at the disc!) TESD offers the seductive lure of extra minutes. A shapeshifting spectre, in a certain light it can even look like a stereo six eye label. Resist! That way damnation lies . Once a slave to bonus tracks, you’ll soon be on downloads; ever shortening attention-span, flicking compulsively through playlists like a casino slot-addict, hoping each time the next spin will be The One. And you will have only yourself to blame. If only I had listened to LJC!

Put your trust in vinyl. This is how music was meant to be heard: twenty minutes per side, from the spinning Less Evil Black Disc. Anything more is the Devil’s handiwork.

Vinyl:  Columbia CL 1370 Six Eye mono US LP 1st press, 1B/1E stampers.

The quality of the recording I believe owes a great deal to Columbia’s legendary 30th St. Studio with its 100ft high ceiling and stone walls, a former church, lets not bring the spirit world in to this, but all that ambient reflection (Alert! LJC may be “talkin’ bollox” again!)DavisEvans30thSt

 

cl1370-mingus-ah-um-6eye-labels-2000-LJC

cl1370-mingus-ah-um-6eye-back-1920-LJC.jpg

Collectors Corner

Collection of the late Brian Clark

Initially I turned this one down as I already had a copy of the UK first press by Philips. However I recall being very disappointed with the British pressing, so I decided eventually to include it in my parcel. Good call. When you put on the Philips, it’s all a bit tame and withholding, dull and worthy. It is great music, so you want to forgive it, but it sounds dull.

Stick on the Six Eye and suddenly the room explodes, that soundstage opens up, fills the room. Whoa!! That’s Mingus Ah Um!!.

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35 thoughts on “Charles Mingus Ah Um (1959) Columbia Six Eye

  1. Bob,

    I can appreciate your in-depth responses, as I hope you do mine, and I can only hope that LJC and his followers can at least tolerate our exchanges on here. (“Get a room, you two!”)

    I feel like I have some closure at this point. In a final effort to clarify my point of view here, you are correct when you say it seems like I am dismissing a significant batch of mono masters in the process of labeling them as fold-downs. But I believe my reasons are valid…

    At this point it’s clear to me that you have much more first-hand experience than me with all kinds of mono masters. I get the impression that you have been a collector of vintage records for a lot longer than I, and that in your experience you have listened to way more mono masters and done way more first-hand comparisons withs stereo than I. You could say I’m coming into the game late (dating myself), so my goal is simply to give myself a starting point. in a perfect world, I could afford both mono and stereo copies of a release and choose for myself. But I don’t have the resources or breadth of experience to do or to have done as much A/B-ing as you have, so the only way for me to make a choice of mono or stereo with a particular recording is to research the means of creating the respective masters and to make a choice based on that. But reading your comments is making me think I might want to start doing this, especially with Columbia.

    My golden rule with respect to choosing a “starting point” is to simply choose whichever was given more “care and attention” in its creation. With Blue Note, it’s clear that Van Gelder’s focus was mono but the final piece of the puzzle is nailing down when he started to “give more care and attention” to creating the stereo master.

    With Columbia though, you have made a very valid point, that I shouldn’t be dismissing those mono masters simply because the stereo sounds good in and of itself and definitely not because they “paid less attention” to the mono master because at this point it’s clear that this is simply not true. I think you’re suggesting that the mono Columbia masters may have actually been mix-downs. I want to be clear that I am not trying to create a mass generalization that all mix-downs from this time period are inferior. I was just under the impression that they didn’t really happen in jazz at this time, but I understand now that you’re suggesting that Columbia mono masters actually were mix-downs.

    I also wanted to add that I agree that it was an overstatement to say that absolutely zero care went into all fold-downs from this era, and it is also clear to me now that there are many good sounding mono fold-downs that were created at this time with much care and attention. This is news to me but seem very plausible. If I had the resources, I would give fold-downs a chance, but for the time being, if my choices are stereo and fold-down mono–WITH THE EXCEPTION OF RVG–I will always choose the stereo, but rest assured, this is only as a starting point.

    I agree to disagree regarding the definitions. I will continue to use the term “fold-down” strictly in a technical sense and never aesthetically, as I believe the term refers to a very real and tangible process of audio engineering and nothing more. Further, I want to be clear that I would never label a “dedicated” mono recording (mixed on-the-fly) a fold-down, for it doesn’t fit my technical definition. This is the crux of our difference: it’s clear to me now that you are using the term to describe an aesthetic category of mono masters.

    Another point of clarification: for me, “dedicated” means the session was recorded straight to full-track tape, while I am using “fold-down” to describe something done after recording and during mastering; if there was a mix-down involved (altering of balance, EQ, etc. of individual tracks in relation to one another), it’s not a fold-down to me.

    ============================================================================
    “In my view, strictly for the purpose of creating a DEDICATED mono mix (both definitions – yours and mine), there really isn’t any significant PRACTICAL difference in mining the channels after they were already recorded (your “modern” definition of mixing) and manipulating the live feed of the two (or more) sound sources before and during the recording itself (traditional method).”
    ============================================================================

    I am in 100% agreement with this, i guess I wasn’t clear about that. And if the recording is from the 50’s or 60’s, I will always choose the mono master as a starting point if it’s mixed on-the-fly or mixed down (but only as a starting point). It makes sense to me now to give mono mix-downs from this time period a chance when the resources are available to me.

    ============================================================================
    “Obviously, you prefer monos whose mix was created during the recording process itself, and i definitely do not blame you.”
    ============================================================================

    Again, I typically prefer mono masters that simply were not fold-downs (sans RVG because of his unorthodox record-to-two-track/mono-in-monitor method), whether they were mixed on the fly or mixed down.

    (On a side note, I like how articulate you were about what I would call the “punchiness” or “cohesiveness” of mono masters, especially WRT the low end 🙂

    ============================================================================
    “I recognize that you dislike many mono mixes from the era.”
    ============================================================================

    I hope it’s clear now that ‘dislike’ is the wrong word; I simply have chosen to go with stereo first for some recordings as a matter of practicality.

    ============================================================================
    “…you are [I think] saying that anything that is not mixed “live” during the actual recording must, by definition, be a fold-down. In your view, this is both a necessary AND sufficient condition for something to be disqualified as a dedicated mono mix.
    ============================================================================

    To further clarify, in a word, no: I don’t consider mix-downs fold-downs, whether there were two or sixteen tracks on the tape. A fold-down, by my definition, does nothing to alter each track with respect to the others.

    I have only been using the term “dedicated” to describe mono masters that were mixed on the fly, but I now see our misunderstanding: you’re putting my mono “mixes” and “mix-downs” into the single category “dedicated”…ah sooo! I think that’s right…I sure hope it is! Cuz it feels good to understand and to be understood, especially online.

    ============================================================================
    “Your approach has the obvious benefit of immediately filtering a tiny sliver of (very early) dedicated mono mixes which sound dramatically different – almost always better – from their stereo counterparts, but comes with a significant drawback of summarily dismissing massive amounts of mono recordings as, ultimately, a priori inferior. My approach has a benefit of not immediately dismissing as fold-down anything that does not sound dramatically different from stereo, but has a drawback of having to carefully gauge the difference between the stereo and mono mixes and take other elements into consideration before forming a judgment.”
    ============================================================================

    Nailed it. I am attempting to choose a starting point for many titles by virtue of informed discrimination. You are making your choice (or choosing both in some instances, I’m sure) based on first-hand experience…I wish I could afford the mono and stereo for many recordings right now to compare first-hand! (but I’m still “dedicated”–no pun intended–to RVG mono 😛

    • Hi Rich:

      Many thanks for your kind and generous words, most of which – alas – are unwarranted and undeserved, for I am (believe it or not) just another collector with firmly formed and solidified (sometimes unyielding) ideas [record collectors ONLY come in rigid and unyielding form 🙂 ; this is the only variety that exists]. I generally go by a motto which I once saw posted in one of the local record stores “You will never own everything; you will never hear everything, and you will never know everything”. If I occasionally come across as someone who does (know everything), it is only a marketplace persona, an identity I am forced to assume against my will and through no will or fault of mine; a big commercial ego I do not possess in reality. Believe me, there are huge gaps in my technical and artistic knowledge. There always will be. I am billions of light years away from all-knowing and all-wise. I see knowledge and experience as nothing but a permanent, evolving (and intermittently devolving), process. It most certainly isn’t either the beginning or the end of anything in particular, EXCEPT gaining more knowledge and more experience.

      All our technical definitions are purely scholarly and of no particular value or merit UNLESS they take into consideration (IN ADDITION to other things) a subjective value of our listening experience and perception. We are all in this for one reason and one reason alone: to satiate a certain emotional or intellectual need, How we sense and perceive the music and how we react to it is the crux of our hobby and our habit. Everything else is a purely a secondary, or even tertiary, add-on (I could say something more about this in a purely psychological sense, but this is no time or place).

      To condense your argument in as few words as possible: if my understanding is (finally) correct, you are saying that, if the mono “mix” was created ‘on the fly’, during the live recording , i.e. as a result of live feed adjustment (your preferred mode) AND there are no after-the-fact compression and equalization BUT the end result is clearly a labor of love and a qualitatively different listening experience, then and only then the mix should be considered “dedicated”, from what I could determine, you would also accept a mixed-down (modern) mono mix method as dedicated, as long as it does not compress the sound or otherwise crams indiscriminately multiple channels into a single one and as long as it conveys a personal vision of the recording engineer. .

      Correct?

      In short, you – as you said – consider the “tender loving care” that went into the mix as the crux of your definition of what constitutes a “dedicated mono mix”.

      Fair enough.

      But, see, this is precisely where the problem lies.

      First of all, there is only one – and one only! – method to determine – to quantify, if you will – the amount of tender loving care that went into the mixing job, and it is our personal experience, the subjective “feel” that pervades us as we imbibe the recorded sound. Alas, like all human experience, our music perception is fragmented and fractured in the extreme. Allow me to give you an example. I feel very strongly that the mono mix of the Byrds’ ‘Younger Than Yesterday’ (early 1967) is the best thing since sliced bread, and the finest dedicated mono mix under the sun, ever! – but that their next (and final in mono) release: ‘Notorious Byrd Brothers’ (late 1967) is a lowly fold-down with only a few sporadic episodes of sonic brilliance (having, most likely, been mixed and mastered after Columbia had already fired their mono team). My friend George, however, feels just as vehemently that it is PRECISELY the other way around: that Notorious Byrd Brothers is a perfect gem of a mono mix, but that Younger than Yesterday is merely an uneventful also-starred (he prefers a (gasp!) – stereo. )

      Or, another example. A few months ago I sold a copy of an acetate of the unreleased version of Bob Dylan’s 1974 ‘Blood on the Tracks’ (not only was the MIX different — this was A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT SESSION AND COMPLETELY DIFFERENT EVERYTHING). At the suggestion of his friends and advisers, Dylan had the entire first draft of the album (the one I sold) scrapped and replaced with a re-recording made with a completely different band and with massively altered arrangements. Critics and cognoscenti alike dismissed the unreleased version as dull and boring while heaping praises on the released version as the work of genius.

      On hearing the unreleased version of the album for the first time, I bore a quarter-sized hole in my skull from scratching my head. What were these people thinking? Have we been listening to the same album??? To me, the unreleased version was head, shoulders and toenails above the released version in every conceivable sense.

      As hard to believe, and as politically incorrect it is to say, we do see things differently (if God created all people after his image, then there must be at least six billion Gods, for no two human beings are alike). While I LOVE the original stereo pressing of the Miles Davis’ ‘Someday my Prince will come”, my good friend John Lambert (of the Princeton Record Exchange) finds the sound of Miles’ trumpet overly harsh and too coarse, even abrasive, in the mix..

      And guess what? We are BOTH right. There is no “truth” to be found in music; only emotion and abstract, amorphous, fleeting feeling. Where music meets truth, music ends and argument begins.

      Now, you may ask yourself: why do we even have to know anything about the nature of the mix? Why can’t we simply enjoy the gorgeous mono sound based solely on our pleasure principle, or based on the simple joy we derive from the recording itself. To paraphrase Deng Xiaoping, who cares if the cat is black or white, as long as it catches mice?

      Here’s why.

      Our ears only tell us a part of the story. And our brain processes only a fraction of that part. We routinely and as a matter of course block out massive segments of the sound, and even entire sections of the frequency range.

      This is PRECISELY why I stated previously that our ears cannot and should not be the sole judge in determining the nature of the mix, BECAUSE OUR EARS CAN DECEIVE. I have met hundreds of records where, on initial spin, the mix sounded shoddy, mediocre or dull, just to partially (or even completely) reverse my opinion on subsequent, repeated listens. We hear things differently in the morning, at noon, in the afternoon, we hear them differently when hungry and when fed, when peaceful and when irritated, when rested and when fatigued or when joyful and when depressed. I can give you myriads of examples where, after decades of listening to a particular album, I was able to hear in it something completely brand new in it for no apparent rhyme or reason (just recently, I discovered that Leonard Cohen’s first album has celeste and triangle bells buried deep in the stereo mix). It took me decades (literally) to get to know and fully appreciate the acoustic marvels of some of the Layton-Mohr’s Living Stereo classical works. On repeated spins when I was younger, these recordings sounded remarkably and decidedly mediocre, even painfully dull. It was only the aging and the experience that forced me to finally, at long last, understand and fully appreciate what I was actually hearing.

      So, that’s your answer. This is why we need to know at least a wee bit something technical about the nature of the recording or the mix: so that we can determine, later on, as we age and get more seasoned, what pieces of recorded music need to be revisited or reevaluated, and to fully appreciate what our ears convey to our cortex..

      This is why we need ALL THREE pieces of information about the mix: technical (how the recording was made), emotional (how we instinctively react to it) and historical (why and when the mix was made). This, final – historical – tidbit is NOT irrelevant. If the mono mix is a true (in my definition) promo-only mono fold-down, the odds that it will prove revelatory decades after we first heard it, or that it conceals hidden bits of engineering brilliance are slim to none; those mixes typically – but not always – do not merit repeated spins and should be used for reference only.. And, of course, the can be used for other purposes: they are eminently marketable 🙂

      One final thing. Obviously, you – like most aficionados – consider compression and EQ a major no-no, a faux-pas of galactic proportions, which is rather understandable.

      The problem is: EVERY SINGLE PIECE of recorded music since the advent of the modern LP (1949) has them. Every single one. There is no such thing as uncompressed, live vinyl pressing. Recorded sound MUST go through the compression and EQ phase in order to prepare a workable, viable production tape source, or else your audio equipment would go up in flames in a hurry and your ears would implode, Compression and equalization, simply put, are the necessary and unavoidable Siamese evil twins in the history of the modern recorded sound. Without them, even the most beautifully recorded, mixed, mastered and pressed RVG mono recording would sound like being at a Metallica concert without ear plugs. In short, the concept of “High Fidelity” can, and should, be accepted at face value ONLY in a highly symbolic sense, and with a sizable chunk of salt.

      • ===============================================================
        “If I occasionally come across as someone who does (know everything), it is only a marketplace persona, an identity I am forced to assume against my will and through no will or fault of mine; a big commercial ego I do not possess in reality.”
        ===============================================================

        Wow. So humble and honest…and I know the feeling.

        This is such an intelligent pice of writing, Bob. I love that you’re suggesting that the listening experience is not ONLY about what we’re hearing (most people readily embrace the idea that it is the most important factor, however). Needless to say, I am in complete agreement.

        At this point though, Bob, I think you’re overstating the obvious: of course it’s better to judge a particular mastering of a recording from first-hand experience than to dismiss it without ever hearing it–I’m not trying to argue against that! I just hope I haven’t come across as being neglectful of what I’m hearing or could potentially be hearing in my attempt to weed out various options while looking to make a purchase, for I do believe that listening is the most important element of your holy trinity (technical, historical, and emotional), and I think any true music fan would.

        We all know that at the end of the day, it’s all about the music. As collectors, however, we get caught up in the details from time to time, but we eventually regain sight of what’s really important. As a collector (opposed to someone who is strictly an appreciator of music), I have passed up less expensive reissues that could have potentially sounded better than the VG original I have, but I just want the original and that’s that, and I accept that this is my burden as a collector!

        ==============================================================
        “One final thing. Obviously, you – like most aficionados – consider compression and EQ a major no-no, a faux-pas of galactic proportions, which is rather understandable. The problem is: EVERY SINGLE PIECE of recorded music since the advent of the modern LP (1949) has them. Every single one. There is no such thing as uncompressed, live vinyl pressing.”
        ==============================================================

        I have a feeling you think I’m a bit more of a stereotypical, principle-oriented audiophile snob than I really am 😉

        This is not news to me. I have extensive experience with audio engineering and its history and I am well aware of the need for compression and limiting in any audio recording format. In no way whatsoever do I think equalization and compression are evil, as I understand many audiophiles do…in fact, this is one reason why I DON’T consider myself an audiophile: “colored” sound can be a lot of fun to me!

        I think you have gotten the impression that I prefer on-the-fly mixes to anything else. Sorry but you misread me on this. Perhaps my final statement below will help clarify.

        I think this is my bottom line and then I’ll shut up:

        As a collector on a budget, I can’t bid top dollar on both the stereo and mono copies of a vintage record. So to make a choice regarding which one to buy first, I like to know what went into making the respective masters…pretty harmless so far, right? I think Blue Note and Columbia are two good cases to look at to help me make my point.

        I was originally misled by the Music Matters’ infamous article on RVG masters to believe that the real care and attention went into the stereo mixes. So I bought a couple stereo Blue Notes. Then I ran into a mono copy of one of them. Upon comparing the two, both had their strengths and weaknesses.

        Now I have never been the kind of person that wants two different copies of a record in my collection, one stereo and one mono. For me it’s just too stressful to always feel a nagging to try both and to think critically about the differences, so I asked myself, “how do I choose one?”

        So I did a s**t ton of research and finally drilled down to the bottom of it: Van Gelder not only focused on mono but he paid very little attention to stereo. So as much as I liked hearing the nuances of the drums more in the stereo spread, I sold my stereo copy in favor of the mono, and I’m happy that I made a choice.

        Regarding Columbia, I don’t have any first-hand experience with both stereo and mono copies of the same record. I have monos and stereos but not of the same title. Now again, how do I choose the one I’m going to bid on, how do I choose which one I will spend my hard-earned pay on?

        You have shed a tremendous amount of light on the Columbia story here. Again, in a perfect world, I would have both copies and make the decision with my ears as well as my understanding of what went into the creation of each. But again, I have to make a choice of where to start, and because of the historical significance of the stereo Columbia sound, that is my choice. Hopefully it’s clear now, though, that I’m not going to forever dismiss the mono; if it comes my way, I’ll give it a spin. I can’t say that I will completely disregard all technical and historical knowledge I have in making a choice at that point, but I wouldn’t dismiss it just because it doesn’t fit my neat little categorization of the real world.

        So I guess my point is that I realize I’m not perfect and that sometimes I can be too much of a “collector” in the sense that I want what I want and in process I lose sight of what’s really important–the music. But that doesn’t change the fact that not only will my wallet not usually allow me to make a choice by actually listening to all of my options, but in theory it’s impossible to listen to every option anyway, so at some point we need to abstract the idea of what we’re experiencing comparatively (as you were saying) and just make a choice based on what we know and have experienced, which for me, usually doesn’t include hearing both the mono and the stereo versions of a recording. So what I’m trying to say is if I can’t listen to both the mono and stereo masters of a recording created by a particular label, I have my technical and historical reasons for choosing the one that I ultimately ended up with 🙂

        That’s it! And I’m out.

        • Thanks Rich: your generosity of spirit and your kindness are acknowledged with appreciation; although I must discount some of the lavish praise I received from you on the grounds of my fake modesty and belabored humility 🙂

          Since this discussion is taking us further and further away from our appointed topic and straight into metaphysical waters (I bear most of the blame), just a few quick comments before I get beamed up…at least from this particular thread.

          You are absolutely, positively and most certainly correct in saying that a choice must be made (in life, as well as in record-collecting) and that every reasonable collector must draw a line in the sand somewhere. I have seen so many painfully dysfunctional characters in this line of work, people who wanted (and actually attempted) to own every possible mix, variant, format and permutation of every disc under the sun, that my soul hurts at the thought of how their lives and their loved ones must have suffered for their compulsive-obsessive disorder(s) . In other words, you are a truly the rarest of the record-hunting specimens: an impressively SANE and functional collector rooted in physical and economic reality. Please stay that way.

          Likewise, I made my own choice long ago, and it is a decidedly odd one. I elected to be pragmatic (I am talking about record-collecting, not about my personal life 🙂 To me, records are a continuum, an endless plane of infinite variety. This is a decidedly curved and extremely warped time-space, something where the rules that apply to quadrant A do not apply to quadrant B and so on . When it comes to records, exceptions are the ONLY rule, and all the logical and acoustic patterns are purely subjective. For me, stereo is the way to go on one title, mono on the other and (gasp!) a quad on the third (yes, I even have a few of those). An artist can have a gorgeously recorded, mixed and mastered stereo title one day, only to have his next stereo title seriously botched by the bad engineer or studio and listenable only in mono. And then, of course, there are cases where both stereo and mono have something distinct to offer. Or the cases where neither one does.

          Of course, I had a benefit of starting to collect at a time when I could afford to experiment and make a qualified choice between various alternatives. When I started, decades ago (my first record was a classical record (I believe it was Chopin or Strauss, I am not entirely sure anymore) , followed in rapid succession by Nana Mouskouri, Santana, Doors and Cream titles — please don’t ask me anything, I am taking the Fifth) , records were dirt-cheap, and they were still relatively affordable when eBay took off. Alas, all this had changed, rapidly and massively. The new generations of acoustic buffs has to – whether it likes or not – rely on reissues and even CDs in order to form a judgment and make a choice.

          Still, I am a firm believer in technology. I am reasonably hopeful that someday, somewhere, somehow, when we no longer have to spend $1 trillion a year on wars and conflicts, we will be able to invest in new acoustic technology that will bring back the long-gone artists and their long-deteriorated master tapes to life as they themselves heard them when they originally came out. I am reasonably – or perhaps I should say, pragmatically – optimistic.

          Thank you for a fascinating and intriguing exchange.

          Over & Out. Roger!

  2. Hi Bob! Happy to clarify:

    ===============================================================
    (Bob:) “If my understanding is correct, you were previously saying that either (a) this particular Mingus mono mix is a fold-down, = or = (b) that multiple (if not all) commercially released mono mixes from the era (1959-1968) were nothing but fold-downs (a statement which – if intended – I could not dismiss fastly or furiously enough)”
    ===============================================================

    Sorry to confuse you Bob but I wasn’t suggesting either of these things.

    ===============================================================
    (Bob:) “First of all, direct mono recordings created straight from the sound room (e.g., RVG prior to 1957) cannot be called “mixes” because there is no “mixing” involved in any sense of the word (only equalization, compression and reverb/echo), therefore, in a correct semantic sense, the mono mixes created from multichannel source tape are ALWAYS “fold downs” from multitrack sources.”
    ===============================================================

    Your point here originally went completely over my head and I see what you’re saying here now: you’re talking about the modern use of the term “mixing”. But I wouldn’t go as far as calling them “fold-downs”…more on that below.

    ===============================================================
    (Bob:) “In a STRICTLY TECHNICAL sense, there is no difference between a dedicated mono mix and mono fold-down. To “mix” is to always use more than one channel (otherwise, you wouldn’t have anything to “mix” with) — either to change the ratio and relation of the instruments, to create a different mood and ambience, or to create a master mono mix.”
    ===============================================================

    Both of your comments seem to be drawing similarities between the concepts of “mix” and “fold-down” but don’t really make any distinction between them. I see your point about saying that the balancing of the channels when creating to direct-to-full-track recording is essentially the same thing as “folding down” in the sense that both are summing multiple signal sources. But I believe there is a very important difference between “mixing” and “folding down” that needs to be addressed.

    The technical definition of “fold-down” is (should be) to sum both tracks of a two-track STEREO recording into one channel without changing anything regarding balance, equalization etc. with each other. On the other hand, the MODERN definition of “mixing”, or “mixing down”, as I will call it, is a summing of the channels of a MULTITRACK recording (usually more than two but it could be as few as two) that almost always involves altering the balance, EQ etc. of the individual tracks. However, a more TRADITIONAL definition of “mixing” would include any on-the-fly manipulations of the channels on a mixing console during direct-to-full-track mono and direct-to-two-track stereo recordings. Heck, you could even attempt to extend this traditional definition to the positioning of people and microphones in a room, as was the case in the days when the performers played into a large horn and the recording was made directly to a lacquer disk!

    During this time period, two track tape machines were sometimes used to MULTITRACK and with the intention of “mixing down” (this is opposed to creating a direct-to-two-track STEREO tape of which the balance, EQ, etc. of the individual channels would not be altered). For example, the earliest two-track Beatles recordings were done this way: one track was for instruments and the other was for vocals. Then, between recording and mastering to lacquer disk, the balance, EQ etc. of the two tracks were manipulated individually. My understanding is that this was never a practice with jazz in the late 50’s and early 60’s, i.e. all ‘mixing’ was done ‘on the fly’.

    I was already under the impression that Columbia did NOT create “fold-down” mono masters, but your in-depth treatment of Columbia’s recording practices helped to clarify this and is worth its weight in gold. I knew that Columbia took great care in creating their stereo mixes in the late 50’s and early 60’s but I had no idea that they had such a dedication to mono! So are you saying that the they actually had two control rooms, one for stereo and one for mono??

    I now this is off-topic, but as for RVG, a full treatment of his practices will have to wait for my first article on my upcoming blog/website, Deep Groove Mono (thanks for the inspiration, LJC). But briefly and again, after 1958, he only recorded to two-track tape for several reasons and all his mono “masters” (lacquer disks) after were in fact “fold-downs” according to my TECHNICAL definition above. However, his mixes can’t be considered “fold-downs” in the AESTHETIC sense that zero care or attention went into making them, as is the case with all other instances of fold-down that I know of. The missing link and key to understanding the RVG mono-stereo dilemma that I think most people are missing is that, although he did not ‘mix down’ the two tracks on tape after recording and before mastering, HE WAS MONITORING IN MONO AND THUS SETTING THE BALANCE, EQUALIZATION ETC. FOR THE TWO-TRACK/STEREO TAPE WHILE LISTENING IN MONO AND WITH THE MONO “MIX” AS HIS ULTIMATE FOCUS AND GOAL. I will lay this all out in excruciating detail in the coming months on my website.

    • I wanted to make sure I was clear that I was talking about the MONO masters of the two-track Beatles recordings, and that the practice in jazz during the late 50’s and early 60’s I mentioned was also with respect to mono masters.

      • Hi Rich:

        An invaluable information and update, for which I am very thankful.

        Apparently, we have a significant divergence in our opinions when it comes to defining dedicated mono mixes Vs.. mono fold-downs. I am not sure we can bridge our gap. Perhaps we should not even bother to – that’s the joy of vinyl-collecting. We can always agree to disagree.

        Where we apparently do agree in our definitions of the two is that relatively little (if any) care went into the production of the “true” fold-downs of the promo-only variety (my definition of the term “fold-down”) and that, on the other hand, a significant effort and resources – both human and technical – went into those that are indisputably and palpably dedicated mono mixes (both your definition and mine). Even so, I should stress that there is no such thing as technical supervision-free promo mono fold-down mix. A modicum of technical input had to be invested into EVEN the most perfunctory fold-down jobs. And yes, as I indicated before, they (promo-only fold-downs) can, in fact, sound rather differently from their stereo peers, IRRESPECTIVE of the amount of technical supervision involved (I could warmly recommend all four posthumously released Otis Redding’s ATCO 12″ LP mono fold-downs — actually three, because the first one in the sequence (“Immortal Otis Redding”, February 1968) appears to be a dedicated job for all practical purposes, most likely having been scheduled as a regular (dedicated) mono mix before the industry standards suddenly switched to stereo-only and before Otis was killed in a plane crash),

        Where we obviously disagree is the distinction you perceive between the (to use your terms) MODERN mixing (mix-down) and TRADITIONAL, impromptu manipulation of the sound feed from the recording room (before it reaches the mixing console. Your (unwarranted, I would say) treatment of the two recording/mixing methods as separate and unequal then drives your definition of the “fold-down” mono, which, in my view, is too indiscriminate and too wide and, consequently, covers too massive a swath of recorded works between, say, 1960 and 1968 which definitely do not deserve to be called fold-downs by any standard or measure. In effect, it impels you to perceive huge number of mono recordings (pressings) which are patently dedicated in every sense of the word as nothing but lowly fold-downs. I, on the other hand, call for a more restrictive and discriminative use of the term “fold-down”, so that we can differentiate mono recordings that bring absolutely nothing (or barely anything) new to the listener and those that – inadvertently or otherwise – reveal a whole new dimension, distinct and apart from the stereo recording. In short, one MUST employ aesthetic and empirical considerations when assessing the nature of the mono mix, but (!) EVEN this is not sufficient to form the accurate judgment, because ears can easily deceive. To truly understand what is and what isn’t a fold-down job, one needs to take into account NOT only the mixing method (“traditional” or “modern”) and not only any perceived, subjective difference in the sound dynamics, but ALSO the time-frame involved and the PURPOSE for which the mix was originally created. Those three elements should go into how we see the “dedicated” vs. “fold-down” mono mixes.

        In my view, strictly for the purpose of creating a DEDICATED mono mix (both definitions – yours and mine), there really isn’t any significant PRACTICAL difference in mining the channels after they were already recorded (your “modern” definition of mixing) and manipulating the live feed of the two (or more) sound sources before and during the recording itself (traditional method). Both methods create a unique mono mix which is clearly and undeniably something new and qualitatively different — sometimes better, sometimes worse, but always more than a sum of its constituent multitrack parts – than the stereo mix (or direct stereo recording). While the traditional mono “mixing” method tends to produce wide-channel (and wildly unbalanced) stereos and brilliantly vivid monos, the latter (modern) method tends to produce fabulously balanced and nuanced stereos and decent-to-excellent (but rarely extraordinary) monos. Either way you look at it, NEITHER method creates monos that are concocted merely as afterthoughts or as sonic orphans.

        Obviously, you prefer monos whose mix was created during the recording process itself, and i definitely do not blame you. Many people do. It is an undeniable fact of life that some of those early dedicated, almost “live”, so to say, “mixes” are nothing short of spectacular. I suspect that, for example, Ike Quebec’s ‘Heavy Soul’ was probably mono-mixed this way (even though it came relatively late in the RVG’s “traditional” method), because the results are SPECTACULAR in mono (ditto any of the first three Dexter Gordon BN volumes and any number of other late ’50s and early ’60s titles).

        But “spectacular” only goes so far, and only goes as far as the rhythm section is involved and where a certain sonic “oomph”, typically associated with the bottom of the dynamic range (lower-frequency register or deeply-resonant instruments, such as tenor sax, bass drum, tympani, cello or organ) or where East Coast school of hard bop is concerned. In other words, if you want your Paul Chambers and your Philly Joe Jones and your Doug Watkns and your Art Taylor to blow up the magnetic membrane of your subwoofer, this is DEFINITELY the way to go.

        However, defining “spectacular” where there is little or no rhythm section involved and where sublime nuance and subtlety is the whole point is a whole different animal. I assure you that I will not be listening to my Bill Evans or my West Coast Cool (or my Bossa-era Stan Getz, or my select Chet Baker titles) on anything but stereos (where, of course, stereos exist) any time soon. There should be a nationwide law banning listening to Evans-LaFaro interplay in anything but wide-channel stereo. In fact, the wider, the better. Ah, but wait — I can almost hear you saying: “Wait! you are now comparing monos and stereos, not dedicated monos and fold-down monos”, but hold your thought, please — I am not done just yet! My point is that EVEN the (what YOU – but not I – define as fold-down) can STILL sound superior to the dedicated (“traditional” in your definition) mono mix, depending on the type, dynamic range, genre or intended artistic effect of the recorded music. Bill Evans simply wasn’t meant for direct live feed manipulation. He is a prima faciae evidence, an exhibit “A” in favor of post factum mixing (what you call the “modern” method).

        Yes, I recognize that you dislike many mono mixes from the era. So do I. I think we have already reached a consensus on both technical, artistic and aesthetic superiority of early Columbia stereos to their monos (Mingus’ Ah Um. I assume, included). But, in a larger sense, our personal preferences do not really matter. These monos STILL sound discernibly different from stereos and they do clearly involve an extensive human effort.

        If this all sounds complicated and convoluted, allow me to simplify: you are [I think] saying that anything that is not mixed “live” during the actual recording sound must, by definition, be a fold-down. In your view, this is both necessary AND sufficient condition for something to be disqualified as a dedicated mono mix.

        I, on the other hand, am saying that, to distinguish a dedicated mono mix from the fold-down you must use your technical information (how the recording was made and/or mixed), your ears and your cognitive faculties, as well as consider the time-frame and purpose of the creation of the mono mix. Absence of ANY of these three integral elements would disqualify the mono mix from being considered a fold-down.

        Your approach has the obvious benefit of immediately filtering a tiny sliver of (very early) dedicated mono mixes which sound dramatically different – almost always better – from their stereo counterparts, but comes with a significant drawback of summarily dismissing massive amounts of mono recordings as, ultimately, a priori inferior. My approach has a benefit of not immediately dismissing as fold-down anything that does not sound dramatically different from stereo, but has a drawback of having to carefully gauge the difference between the stereo and mono mixes and take other elements into consideration before forming a judgment.

        I cannot comment on how Columbia mono and stereo engineering teams operated or whether they were housed in different sound rooms and operated separate consoles. I doubt that they were so drastically separated, but I may be wrong (I would have to ask my good buddy Bruce Dickinson of Sony/Columbia’s NY office for some feedback on this). Most likely, they shared the same premises, but worked different times and schedules.

        Blue Note Jazz, perhaps, is not a good battle ground for my argument (that not all “modern” mono mixes are, eo ipso, fold-downs). I am operating in a hostile environment here and I could easily be outargued by anyone with a good knowledge of early Blue Note and RVG’s recording practices. To demonstrate how dramatic “fold down” (your definition) mono mixes can sound, we would have to expand our discussion beyond Jazz and into the Rock and, particularly, R&B and Soul, where examples of dramatic mono “fold-downs” (your definition) truly abound. Among the Columbia’s post-1960 output, I would point out to Aretha Franklin’s 1964 “Unforgettable: A Tribute to Dinah Washington”, any of Bob Dylan’s 1965-1967 mono albums (Highway 61 Revisited is a massively different listening experience in mono — note the dramatic oomph during the opening salvo of the Hal Blaine’s bass drum, for example), and Charlie McCoy’s significantly boosted bass (what a great bass player!) on his 1967 ‘John Wesley Harding’ mono version renders it a, for all practical purposes, a whole different album.from a dry and thin more common stereo version.

        But my favorite A-and-B argument would most certainly be the Everly Brothers’ 1960 “A Date with the Everly Brothers”. If you only associate the fraternal duo with celestial Nashville harmonies, think twice. This mono baby not only barks and bites, it not only kicks ass, it also does a whole lot of other unspeakable things to your nether organs and to your viscera. According to YOUR definition of the dedicated mixes, neither one of these (Aretha, Bob Dylan, Everlys) would be considered dedicated mono mixes. And yet, the moment your stylus hits the intro groove, you are no longer in the fold-down galaxy. You are in a very special, and rather dramatic, sonic space.

        Please pardon the length. I could not compress my thoughts any further.

  3. (Bumped from below to make Bob’s reply a little more readable. WordPress is outwith my control in the way it nests replies to replies, sorry guys, “its a feature” The only way around is to post reply as a new comment,. Not ideal, but it may be better than nesting – LJC)
    Bob Djukic writes:

    Rich, I am responding to your following comment:

    “Yes, Bob: “fold-down” implies that absolutely ZERO care or attention went into the creation of the mono master, that monitoring, recording (and POSSIBLY “mixing” by today’s standards) was done in stereo, that a stereo master was then made, THEN the two-track master was “folded down” to (choose your favorite explicit) out a mono master for release. As you and I both well know, this couldn’t be any further from the truth regarding the RVG mono masters”

    Rich: either we are not communicating, or you are speaking in jest, or there is a massive case of terminological confusion between us. In any event, your response speaks past my previous comment and does not directly address any of my points, possibly because my previous comment was based on a wrong premise.

    If my understanding is correct, you were previously saying that either (a) this particular Mingus mono mix is a fold-down, = or = (b) that multiple (if not all) commercially released mono mixes from the era (1959-1968) were nothing but fold-downs (a statement which – if intended – I could not dismiss fastly or furiously enough)

    If this is what you trying to say, I could not possibly disagree more. If I misinterpreted your previous post, my apologies; if so, you may want to clarify for everyone’s benefit.

    However, I have to reiterate: until recently, historically speaking, the term “fold-down” (or mix-down) was used STRICTLY for promo-only mono mixes created (in many cases by distributors, rather than recording labels themselves) in order to circumvent technical limitations of the FM radio broadcast when stereo became the industry standard in 1967. These “true” (promo-only) fold-downs were produced over a period of only about five years (roughly 1967-1972), more often than not with a negligible input from the competent technical personnel, and were then discontinued, for a variety of technical and commercial reasons, although some Latin labels, like Fania and Tico, did continue to maintain their mono catalogues well into early 1974). Mind you — and this is EXTREMELY important to stress – EVEN the promo-only fold-down mono mixes can sound significantly different from the corresponding stereo mix, but for all the unanticipated reasons. I can give you AT LEAST two cases where a mono fold-down sounds better and superlative to a commercially released stereo (Dr. John’s 1972 ‘Gumbo’ comes to mind). This is because there is absolutely NO WAY that you can render a mono mix totally identical to the stereo, EVEN if you desperately wanted to. By merely cramming the two (or more) clusters of recorded sound onto a single channel, you absolutely MUST introduce changes to both, since the two (or more) channels are now compressed onto the same bandwidth (and overlapping, to boot). This can produce some rather unpredictable and, often, interesting results: any segment of the frequency range may end up getting compressed, dulled or inhibited by any other range (my experience with those “true” fold-downs is that, typically, the bottom of the dynamic range suffers immensely).

    Why the term “fold-down” is now being introduced to cover an earlier recording era in which dedicated mono mixes were the norm, and in which fold-downs were neither the custom nor the the standard, is beyond me.

    Columbia, like most other large labels, maintained two separate, distinct and for all practical purposes equal teams of engineers: one for stereo, one for mono jobs. When Clive Davis was appointed Columbia’s General Ops Manager in 1966, he made it his exigent priority to discontinue mono releases (ostensibly to shrink Columbia’s warehousing costs, but in reality to cut down on the company’s labor overhead). As a result, Columbia became the first label to eliminate monos. Throngs of Columbia’s mono engineers were sacked on the spot (practically the entire mono team) and, starting with the second quarter of 1967 (and ending in the third quarter of 1968), the entire Columbia’s rapidly-shrinking mono catalogue turned into fold-downs, whether regular releases of promo-onlys (the exception being various Greatest Hits-type compilations, for which dedicated mono mixes already existed). [minor exceptions to this general rule – such as Simon & Garfunkel’s massively different mono mix of “Bookends” (March 1968) do exist, but are exquisitely rare].

    The idea that, for eight yeas (between 1959 and 1967), Columbia had the entire squad of overpaid mono engineers whose only job was to hit a stereo-to-mono switch in order to create a fold-down mix totally indistinguishable from the stereo does not hold even a droplet of water. Obviously, these people did serve some constructive purpose and did do some credible job for the label (the proof is in the pudding: off the top of my head, I can come up with at least 10 incredible Columbia mono jobs from the period — recordings that are absolutely, totally and beyond reasonable doubt brilliantly dedicated mono mixes, and not just dedicated, but EXTRAORDINARY dedicated monos). It’s not like Columbia mono team’s sole raison d’être was to wait for the stereo team to finish their job and then bastardize it by meshing the two channels into an incoherent and amorphous mono fold-down mess.

    That you do not happen to like a particular mono mix does not necessarily render it a fold-down. It simply means that, according to your senses and your perception, you found that Columbia’s mono engineer did a rather poor and substandard job (a highly subjective call, mind you). Believe me, a lot of effort made into Columbia monos. And not only Columbias. They should only be called fold-downs as an attempted insult, but this they were not, either technically, historically or otherwise speaking, in any sense of the word. (having said this, I will repeat: I still prefer Columbia’s early stereos — by a wide margin)

    A MUCH bigger problem mix-wise were the stereo releases from the period. Namely, while most labels started recording in two- and three-track technology as far back as 1954, relatively few started using those multitrack tapes immediately. More often than not, they would release dedicated mono mixes (or straight mono recordings, like RVG did prior to BN 4003) only to revert to their multichannel sources when stereo became popular and more commercially viable. Unfortunately, when this happened, many labels were caught off-guard and without qualified STEREO engineers, which resulted in shoddy, unbalanced and just plain dreadful stereo releases. Anyone familiar with, say, Shirelles true stereo verson of their first album (Scepter, 1960) released in stereo no less than five years after the mono (1965) probably knows what I am talking about. Or, if this hits closer to home, you can pick ANY Prestige “stereo” or stereo release from 1962-1964 and cringe at the shallow, tin and entirely unimpressive sound.

    Because LJC’s response format shrinks the width of every subsequent comment ad infinituum and renders later responses all but unreadable, I will refrain on posting further on this particular post unless and until LJC can come up with some more user-friendly format. I do not expect an outbreak of mass-despondency )

  4. Evil Silver Disk or not, but I have to tell you guys: Legacy’s 50th Anniversary Edition (with Mingus Dynasty as second disc) is an absolute marvel and sounds perfectly fine to me. It pays off to read the production details of this reissue as well, ’cause there you’ll find the information that they did not use the kazillionth generation production master, but that they returned to the original three track masters for this beauty.

    And the fact that ‘they’ edited the album tracks down simply to make sure that the music would ‘fit’ on one LP is all the more reason for me to own this Legacy edition. After all: who says that Mingus approved the album edits? Complete solos are missing because of that practice and to listen to the album tracks on CD, in their original length, makes it clear to me that now we can finally listen to Ah Um as it was intended by Mingus.

    I’d still like to own the original album on vinyl, of course, but if you know that tracks were “butchered” to make them fit on one vinyl disc, then I honestly think that you can’t dismiss the songs in their original length 🙂

    • Mattyman: the unedited tracks from the Mingus Ah Hum and Mingus Dynasty sessions were issued in 1979 on vinyl. The Columbia double album “Nostalgia in Times Square” # Columbia 35717,, stereo only. Some people say that Mingus took an active part in the editing and that it was part of his composing skills. Whether true or not,, the original edited albums are final statements which are amongst my favourite jazz albums of all times. I do have the Jazz Legacy 3-CD issue, which I see as a very nice and informative supplement, just as the aforementioned two-fer..

      • Rudolf: granted, I wasn’t aware of this, but whether Mingus was actively involved in the edits of the original full length versions or not, to me it’s still a joy to be able to hear the full tracks no matter what. I left a similar comment here at LJC in reference to Straight No Chaser by Thelonious Monk. That CD reissue also contains the full, unedited album titles. And about audio quality: wouldn’t an edit be a ‘second generation master’ by definition? After all, I don’t think that an engineer would actually edit the real master to turn it into an album cut, but rather record his edit on a new, blank tape and use that tape with the final edit on it to use as master for a stamper. Anyway, I love 1st pressings if I can afford them, but still I have to keep banging the drum that some reissues of seminal classics really are worth checking out. If you read the booklets and see what heavy weights are usually involved in the CD reissues, then I think you should at least give the Evil Silver Disk a chance and look beyond its vinyl counterpart 😉

        • Mattyman: the truth is that I do have the evil silver discs with the full length takes. I am just too curious to savour how these full length tracks sounded. Apart from the two-fer, I have the first US editions in stereo and mono, plus the original Dutch Philips pressings, (for sentimental reasons. It is on Philips that I got acquainted with this timeless music)..
          I think your remark re edited versions on a new blank is very pertinent. Thank you for giving me this insight.

          • Rudolf: yes, I understood fact that you do have the CDs as well, my remark was aimed at the other cats here on LJC who obviously don’t have them 😉

            And of course I can only wish that I had an original first edition of this one whether it’s stereo, mono or on Philips (maybe easier to obtain 2nd hand since I live in The Netherlands), because just like you, I too, would like to compare the vinyl to the CD with the longer tracks. Maybe a cheap reissue would at least give me the opportunity to hear the edited tracks; thanks to LJC’s sample above I can at least listen to the LP version of Better Git It In Your Soul 😛

        • See what happens if you bring out the Evil Silver Disc after dark, Matty? Moon rays react with the silver to dramatically increase its auto-suggestive powers: you actually believe you are hearing extended original recordings, new mixes… Nah, you are right of course. Quite pertinent.
          I have the CBS European Edition (CBS 88337) of Columbia 35717 Nostalgia in Times Square / The Immortal 1959 sessions on double vinyl myself. Stupidly I didnt twig how all these fitted together. Duh. I have some side by side listening to do myself now.

          • And not only that, LJC, but as you may know, also the freaks come out at night 😀 If I try to explain our conversation to the Mrs, she’ll most certainly play the freak card at some point.

            But it’s true: the mere fact that you have the Nostalgia in Times Square / The Immortal double LP, just like Rudolf, means that you, too, -even without the CD nearby- can listen to the full length versions and compare them to the edited cuts on the album. Justice after all, CD or no CD 😉

  5. In complete agreement, Rich. I just happen to prefer stereo version. It possesses the benefit of fine nuance mono does not. The rare Super-Audio CD – long out of print – suffers from the same ailments as the regular silver disc and may, in fact, have been mastered from the (gasp) umpteenth generation production tapes as the lowly silver disc. Yes. avoid like a leper.. Indeed, therein lies the damnation. I almost ended up in a boiling cauldron with a pitchfork in my derriere :-))

    • Apparently, Columbia took care in creating both the mono and stereo mixes for sessions from this time period, though I personally prefer Columbia jazz in stereo for anything after Kind of Blue (Columbia is pretty much the only exception I make to preferring mono around this time period). It seems like Columbia had a solid theory of stereo before anyone else; I’ve read that they used a combination of close mics and room mics for these recordings. This coupled with the 30th St. space creates a quite natural stereo spread and ambience despite the fact that everything was panned either hard left, hard right, or center (this is unlike Van Gelder stereo from this era, which is really a two-track recording made with close mics only and intended for a mono master with one track panned hard left and the other panned hard right).

      • Nice comment but I do not really agree with your view on Van Gelder. Although the soloists usually were panned hard right and left he (apart from the very first stereo recordings like 1957) never had the dreaded “hole in the middle” effect since he put piano and bass in the middle of the soundstage. I think he mixed it like that on the fly. Anyway I think it sounds very good most of the time an I don’t mind hearing the soloists in either left or right speaker 😉
        However I would agree that Coumbias recording together with Contemporary was probably the best sounding of that time. The Capitol studio was very very good too. They seamed to have lot of resources to go into their recordings.

        BTW regarding the mono fold down of RVGs stereo recordings would mean that the stereo tapes are the absolute masters and the fold down tapes would be one generation down with some loss in sound quality. If you guys have heard the Music Matters LPs or the Audio wave CDs you can believe it too 😉

        Funnily enough when Van Gelder started his RVG editions he almost folded these stereo recordings into mono and put in some EQ and compression. He claimed that it was the way he remembered it sounding in the studio. And he might as well be right since he only had a single speaker for a long time! Later in hisRVG series he had a wider span an better sound in my opinion. However listening to these early japaneese RVG in earphones make for a great listen since the soundstage is more like 90 degrees than 180 degrees.

        • Shaft,

          Kindly refer to this previous LJC post where there was an extensive conversation on this very topic: https://londonjazzcollector.wordpress.com/2012/12/08/taking-liberties-the-poor-mans-blue-note/

          Van Gelder only had one monitor in the control room at Hackensack, which he recorded at until mid-1959. I have heard an original stereo pressing of BST 4008 (Horace Silver’s “Finger Poppin'”, recorded near the very end of the Hackensack run in January 1959) and no doubt everything is hard left and hard right except for the bass and the artificial reverb (the reverb being mono makes perfect sense since it was part of the mastering process and he would have still had the mono unit he would have acquired when he only recorded in mono). Note that the piano is not center in this configuration. Further, he has explained in interviews that well into the 1960’s he focused wholeheartedly on the mono mix of the records while paying little to no attention to the stereo. So actually, apart from bass and reverb, there is indeed a hole in the middle (until the piano moves later). I would think it’s even possible with the earliest stereo tapes he ran that he didn’t even have the bass in the middle, but eventually figured out he needed to do that for several reasons…I will need to look into this at some point as well.

          I do understand that eventually the piano would move to the center of the stereo field and I am very interested in nailing down the point in time when this happened. My theory is it happened when he moved to Englewood Cliffs, which had both mono and stereo monitoring systems. Regardless of when the piano moved in the mix, though, he has never specifically identified the move to Englewood as when he started to pay more *attention* to the stereo mix, as he has said it was “a couple years after the move”.

          I have long, long been familiar with the Music Matters team’s claims regarding this issue. I originally interpreted their information the same as you, that the stereo mixes are the artist’s (Van Gelder’s) true intention. The MM team aren’t incorrect in stating that after October 1958 he only recorded to two track, they’re just withholding (and in the case of Steve Hoffman at least, in DENIAL of) the extremely important fact that WHILE HE WAS RECORDING TO TWO TRACK HE WAS MONITORING IN MONO (up until that mysterious point “a couple years after moving to Englewood” when he claims to have started to give the stereo mix more attention). This is the missing piece of information that everyone is overlooking, which is, in my opinion, extremely important because I personally prefer to listen to music as it was intended to be heard by the artist.

          Also, your understanding of the mastering process from this time period is mistaken: there was no “bounce to master tape” so there is no generation loss with the mono mixes. (After October ’58) everything was recorded to two track, then a “master reel” was spliced together out of the “session reel” comprised of the takes to be used for the album, then the spliced master reel was used for the mastering process: equalization, limiting, and lacquer cutting. Both Hoffman and Kevin GRAY of the MM team explained all of this to me first-hand through email correspondence.

          • Add: then a “master reel” was spliced together out of the “session reel” comprised of the takes to be used for the album, then the spliced master reel was used for BOTH THE STEREO AND MONO mastering processES: equalization, limiting, and lacquer cutting.

          • Hi nice comments an lengthy too. I’ve checked the other thread but it gets hard to read when the reding area gets smaller 😉
            Anyway your infomation states that RVG used the stereo tapes (the original spliced master) when he made the mono records but what I don’t understand is why K grey an Co found all these tapes with 50/50 fold down from stereo on them? What did they used them tapes for? My guess is that secon generation mono tapes were prduced to make the mono records. If the original first generation master tapes were used to make the stereo records I have no idea. This of course depending on when the records were made. It seems he used double tape machines for a while according to the thread. We must remember that RVG was on a budget not opretating like a big studio. For example when he recorded live he had to tear down the whole studio to move everything to the recording venue. But I think Rudy did well with what he had and he created a SOUND that so many of us came to love……and pay big bucks for;-)

            • “…what I don’t understand is why K grey an Co found all these tapes with 50/50 fold down from stereo on them?…My guess is that second generation mono tapes were produced to make the mono records.”

              The mono was indeed a “fold-down” of the two-track session tape. But if you look at the pictures of the boxes they say “mono master made 50/50 from stereo”. I think what you’re missing here is that the mono master wasn’t a tape–it was a set of lacquer disks. Van Gelder was well aware that he would suffer a crucial generation loss if he created a mono master TAPE from the two-track session tape, so he didn’t, he went straight to disk. Please don’t forget though, even though he was recording to two-track, he was monitoring in mono through the mid-60’s.

              “If the original first generation master tapes were used to make the stereo records I have no idea.”

              This is correct!

              “It seems he used double tape machines for a while according to the thread.”

              He did, but only from February 1958 to October 1959.

                • The pics at the Music Matters website are of the two-track master tape boxes–THOSE say “mono master made 50/50 from stereo”…it makes perfect sense that this was written on the two-track tape boxes and not the mono ones because there weren’t any mono tape boxes! So no, no pics of the lacquer boxes…that makes sense too since they would have been shipped off to Plastylite, used and abused by the presses then discarded.

                  Another “keep in mind”: we are talking strictly about after October 1958 regarding all of this.

              • (Sigh).

                I am having a major Maalox moment here, re: the fold-downs. I think we need to do a better job in explaining the difference between dedicated mono mixes and fold-downs. First of all, direct mono recordings created straight from the sound room (e.g., RVG prior to 1957) cannot be called “mixes” because there is no “mixing” involved in any sense of the word (only equalization, compression and reverb/echo), therefore, in a correct semantic sense, the mono mixes created from multichannel source tape are ALWAYS “fold downs” from multitrack sources. In a STRICTLY TECHNICAL sense, there is no difference between a dedicated mono mix and mono fold-down. To “mix” is to always use more than one channel (otherwise, you wouldn’t have anything to “mix” with) — either to change the ratio and relation of the instruments, to create a different mood and ambience, or to create a master mono mix. There are other reasons why this particular (Ah Um) mono mix does not qualify to be called fold-down and should not be tarnished with a monicker, but since I have overstayed my fold-down welcome on another related LJC thread (Stereo vs. Mono), I will simply say for the record that both dedicated and fold-down mono mixes are often confused (make that: very often). Otherwise, I find your exchange fascinating, exceptionally well-informed and illuminative.

                • Yes, Bob: “fold-down” implies that absolutely ZERO care or attention went into the creation of the mono master, that monitoring, recording (and POSSIBLY “mixing” by today’s standards) was done in stereo, that a stereo master was then made, THEN the two-track master was “folded down” to (choose your favorite explicit) out a mono master for release. As you and I both well know, this couldn’t be any further from the truth regarding the RVG mono masters.

                  • Rich, I am responding to your following comment:

                    “Yes, Bob: “fold-down” implies that absolutely ZERO care or attention went into the creation of the mono master, that monitoring, recording (and POSSIBLY “mixing” by today’s standards) was done in stereo, that a stereo master was then made, THEN the two-track master was “folded down” to (choose your favorite explicit) out a mono master for release. As you and I both well know, this couldn’t be any further from the truth regarding the RVG mono masters”

                    Rich: either we are not communicating, or you are speaking in jest, or there is a massive case of terminological confusion between us. In any event, your response speaks past my previous comment and does not directly address any of my points, possibly because my previous comment was based on a wrong premise.

                    If my understanding is correct, you were previously saying that either (a) this particular Mingus mono mix is a fold-down, = or = (b) that multiple (if not all) commercially released mono mixes from the era (1959-1968) were nothing but fold-downs (a statement which – if intended – I could not dismiss fastly or furiously enough)

                    If this is what you trying to say, I could not possibly disagree more. If I misinterpreted your previous post, my apologies; if so, you may want to clarify for everyone’s benefit.

                    However, I have to reiterate: until recently, historically speaking, the term “fold-down” (or mix-down) was used STRICTLY for promo-only mono mixes created (in many cases by distributors, rather than recording labels themselves) in order to circumvent technical limitations of the FM radio broadcast when stereo became the industry standard in 1967. These “true” (promo-only) fold-downs were produced over a period of only about five years (roughly 1967-1972), more often than not with a negligible input from the competent technical personnel, and were then discontinued, for a variety of technical and commercial reasons, although some Latin labels, like Fania and Tico, did continue to maintain their mono catalogues well into early 1974). Mind you — and this is EXTREMELY important to stress – EVEN the promo-only fold-down mono mixes can sound significantly different from the corresponding stereo mix, but for all the unanticipated reasons. I can give you AT LEAST two cases where a mono fold-down sounds better and superlative to a commercially released stereo (Dr. John’s 1972 ‘Gumbo’ comes to mind). This is because there is absolutely NO WAY that you can render a mono mix totally identical to the stereo, EVEN if you desperately wanted to. By merely cramming the two (or more) clusters of recorded sound onto a single channel, you absolutely MUST introduce changes to both, since the two (or more) channels are now compressed onto the same bandwidth (and overlapping, to boot). This can produce some rather unpredictable and, often, interesting results: any segment of the frequency range may end up getting compressed, dulled or inhibited by any other range (my experience with those “true” fold-downs is that, typically, the bottom of the dynamic range suffers immensely).

                    Why the term “fold-down” is now being introduced to cover an earlier recording era in which dedicated mono mixes were the norm, and in which fold-downs were neither the custom nor the the standard, is beyond me.

                    Columbia, like most other large labels, maintained two separate, distinct and for all practical purposes equal teams of engineers: one for stereo, one for mono jobs. When Clive Davis was appointed Columbia’s General Ops Manager in 1966, he made it his exigent priority to discontinue mono releases (ostensibly to shrink Columbia’s warehousing costs, but in reality to cut down on the company’s labor overhead). As a result, Columbia became the first label to eliminate monos. Throngs of Columbia’s mono engineers were sacked on the spot (practically the entire mono team) and, starting with the second quarter of 1967 (and ending in the third quarter of 1968), the entire Columbia’s rapidly-shrinking mono catalogue turned into fold-downs, whether regular releases of promo-onlys (the exception being various Greatest Hits-type compilations, for which dedicated mono mixes already existed). [minor exceptions to this general rule – such as Simon & Garfunkel’s massively different mono mix of “Bookends” (March 1968) do exist, but are exquisitely rare].

                    The idea that, for eight yeas (between 1959 and 1967), Columbia had the entire squad of overpaid mono engineers whose only job was to hit a stereo-to-mono switch in order to create a fold-down mix totally indistinguishable from the stereo does not hold even a droplet of water. Obviously, these people did serve some constructive purpose and did do some credible job for the label (the proof is in the pudding: off the top of my head, I can come up with at least 10 incredible Columbia mono jobs from the period — recordings that are absolutely, totally and beyond reasonable doubt brilliantly dedicated mono mixes, and not just dedicated, but EXTRAORDINARY dedicated monos). It’s not like Columbia mono team’s sole raison d’être was to wait for the stereo team to finish their job and then bastardize it by meshing the two channels into an incoherent and amorphous mono fold-down mess.

                    That you do not happen to like a particular mono mix does not necessarily render it a fold-down. It simply means that, according to your senses and your perception, you found that Columbia’s mono engineer did a rather poor and substandard job (a highly subjective call, mind you). Believe me, a lot of effort made into Columbia monos. And not only Columbias. They should only be called fold-downs as an attempted insult, but this they were not, either technically, historically or otherwise speaking, in any sense of the word. (having said this, I will repeat: I still prefer Columbia’s early stereos — by a wide margin)

                    A MUCH bigger problem mix-wise were the stereo releases from the period. Namely, while most labels started recording in two- and three-track technology as far back as 1954, relatively few started using those multitrack tapes immediately. More often than not, they would release dedicated mono mixes (or straight mono recordings, like RVG did prior to BN 4003) only to revert to their multichannel sources when stereo became popular and more commercially viable. Unfortunately, when this happened, many labels were caught off-guard and without qualified STEREO engineers, which resulted in shoddy, unbalanced and just plain dreadful stereo releases. Anyone familiar with, say, Shirelles true stereo verson of their first album (Scepter, 1960) released in stereo no less than five years after the mono (1965) probably knows what I am talking about. Or, if this hits closer to home, you can pick ANY Prestige “stereo” or stereo release from 1962-1964 and cringe at the shallow, tin and entirely unimpressive sound.

                    Because LJC’s response format shrinks the width of every subsequent comment ad infinituum and renders later responses all but unreadable, I will refrain on posting further on this particular post unless and until LJC can come up with some more user-friendly format. I do not expect an outbreak of mass-despondency :-))

          • Couldn’t agree more, posters can’t edit, can’t save draft comments, comments get more and more boxed in as they are “nested” – limitations which are frustrating for everyone. All blogging platforms have their issues, basically, because they are “free” – no funding for development.
            If you post replies as fresh post rather than a reply, your words get bumped to the top. Helps in some ways, not others. Can’t do anything about how WordPress works, sorry, but for all its faults, its a miracle as it is.

      • Again, I am in complete agreement (a rare occurrence these days :-). However, I do not have a clear cut-off date preference for Columbia stereos. To me, the moment Columbia started issuing them, they immediately sounded eminently superior to any other stereo (except for RCA, courtesy of Messrs. Layton & Mohr) on the market. Plus, the time gap between Kind of Blue and Ah Um is negligible. According to Wikipedia, only about two months (Kind of Blue recorded in March 1959, Ah Um in May 1959 — and I believe Dave Brubeck’s Time Out came out around the same time). There is something luminous and transcendent about those early Columbia stereos. They escape description. They have a glow, a sense of space that defies depiction. You can literally and figuratively visualize yourself sitting among the players. Anyone who has ever listened to Kind of Blue or Sketches of Spain on any above-average sound system probably immediately knows what I am talking about. To me personally, early Columbia stereos (up to, say, 1962) were some of the finest recordings in the history of the recorded sound. If the term itself were not a worn-out cliche, I would say that these are audiophile recordings in one and only true sense of the word.

        A bit of trivia: did you know that George Avakian was (expletive deleted) FIRED from Columbia for having signed up Miles Davis in 1956, just before the official release of ‘Round About Midnight (for which he wrote liner notes), before someone with a tiny bit of functional gray mass (most likely John Hammond, Sr.) intervened and quickly had him re-hired. O tempora, o mores!

  6. Yet another instance where American is better than British OH! 😉

    I presume the lacquer used for your Phillips pressing would have been from the same batch as the first American pressing, so all other things considered equal, the difference in sounds must be from the respective processes at the American and British pressing plants.

    • ( My Philips UK is dull, its true) Its worth reading some of this very opiniated stuff (you thought I was opinionated!) from a Classical music afficianado who has done serious homework, and writes it all here

      http://www.high-endaudio.com/softw.html#Intro

      Columbia
      “1. Early pressings- Once again the earlier pressings do sound better. The differences are noticeable; they are warmer, with more natural body, and have a larger soundstage etc. (Similar to the typical differences between tube and transistor amplifiers from that period.) So it’s worth it to search them out, but only if the music and performance are important to you. However, none of the Columbia pressings sound good enough to make it a really big deal. Why?

      Not even the finest Columbia records approach the sonics of any high quality RCA or Mercury, let alone the best from Decca and EMI. They’re noticeably dirty, noisy and unnatural sounding, especially in the high frequencies, compared to the better recordings, let alone the best.

      2. Later Pressings- As mentioned above, they’re not quite as good, but, in most instances, it’s nothing to worry about. I suspect the reason is simple; the master tapes weren’t good enough in the first place to either make a great sounding record or to screw one of them up.

      Further- The jazz records by Columbia, Miles Davis etc., are a totally different story. The early pressings are noticeably superior and are worth hunting down and paying the price premium. The recent reissues, by Classic Records, are still preferable (overall) to any pressings I’ve heard from the past, but my experience in this area is very limited. Many people, who are both objective and with more experience than I have, still prefer the originals.”
      (End of quote)

      • Do you have any Classic Records reissues, LJC? I confirm what was written about the Columbia ones. I have Kind of Blue, the single vinyl edition, and every time I think about bidding on an original, I realize how happy I am with the one I have and I never bid!

        However, I had Blue Train for a second and it was rough…very noisy, flipped it as soon as I got it. I guess that’s consistent with the consensus: there’s a lot of criticism out there towards the Classic Records Blue Notes.

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