Gigi Gryce (1955) Signal


Quartet: Gigi Gryce (alto Saxophone) Thelonious Monk (piana) Percy Heath (bass) Art Blakey (drums) recorded Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, NJ, October 15, 1955

Selection: Gallop’s Gallop (Monk)

Orchestra: Art Farmer (t) Eddie Bert (trb) Julius Watkins (fr-horn) Bill Barber (tuba) Gigi Gryce (as) Cecil Payne (bars) Horace Silver (p) Oscar Pettiford (b) Art Blakey (d) Ernestine Anderson (voc) recorded Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, NJ, October 22, 1955

Selection: Speculation (Horace Silver)

Year: 1955

1955March 12th, 1955:  Charlie Parker, a paradox of unrivalled creativity and self-destructiveness, died age 34 from pneumonia in the apartment of the Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter in the Stanhope Hotel, New York. In an instant Parker was gone, but Bebop had far from run its course.

Memo: it’s never wrong to picture a couple of well-upholstered chicks on the front page of any publication aimed mainly at young men.



It is an article of faith that no two saxophonists sound the same, but the lyrical melodic alto lines of Gigi Grice and Art Pepper cause me a moment’s doubt. Far from it being a problem, it is a delight, as it offers an imaginary pairing of Pepper and Monk, East meets West.  Is it a Gryce record or a Monk record? Who cares. Gryce  at the age of thirty here swings sympathetically but surefootedly, unfazed by Monk’s  playful but devilish  tampering with rhythm and harmony.

The more sparse quartet is a more comfortable setting for me. The lush orchestration of the bigger line up has a more period feel, which harks back to the era of big bands, but the calibre of soloists Eddie Bert and Gigi Gryce keep it from drowning. A glance at the list of names  in the line up is awe inspiring. It invites a very dry martini, lights down, a different time and place.


The Signal Gigi Gryce cover photo credited to  Harold Feinstein,  a photographer who worked from the 1930s to 1960s capturing the essence of New York City during a period of turbulent change. Most famous for his Fifties  black and white images of Coney Island, he was described as “a photographer with the ability to reveal the familiar …in a beautifully new, in a strong and honest way.”.  A glance at a retrospective of his work pulled something from memory – Johnny Griffin’s Blue Note, A Blowing Session?


I knew I had seen a couple of those pigeons before. A pretty good montage considering it predates Photoshop by at least three decades.

Vinyl: Signal S1201. mono RVG, not a label I have ever seen before.

Nica's_Tempo_(album_cover)Signal Records was a short-lived New York label formed in 1955 by Jules Colomby assisted by producer Don Schlitten, Harold Goldberg and jazz journalist Ira Gitler. After the label folded the masters for their few releases were sold to and reissued by Savoy Records, who released the Gryce recording  as Nica’s Tempo (right)

Collectors Corner

Envy rating 3Rare RVG non-Blue Note, unusual original US label, not the sort of thing you come across every day, or indeed any day.

smug-index-0-And your copy is…umm… yes? speak up? can’t hear…(see update – smug rating falls to zero)

cool-3To those in the know, Gryce and Monk is cool, but maybe not anguished enough for the goatee strokers.

Source: London suburban record store (don’t ask), where interesting things occasionally pop up, but usually pretty fully priced. On reflection, this one wasn’t too bad.

UPDATE June 25, 2013

Rudolf “Eagle Eye” spots the original original!

Well I’ll be hornswaggled. Below item on Ebay certainly looks 1955, the REAL deal. Deep Groove and over fifty years wear and tear. Now I am baffled what I have got.


LJC forensic examination:


Artists contractual acknowledgements and address changes appear in what I now reckon to be the Signal “second edition”. Both RVG master, pressed by two different plants, two different label designs, with two different cover designs, both different covers credited to Harold Feinstein.

(Pictures updated October 8th, 2017)

20 thoughts on “Gigi Gryce (1955) Signal

  1. Just lucked out and found a copy of the first Signal Records album, Duke Jordan’s “Jazz Laboratory Series, Vol. 1.” Great music, funny concept: the b-side has no Gigi Gryce so you can solo along with the rhythm section. But I am much indebted to this post and Rudolf’s fine detective work so I could suss out which pressing (2nd) I had found!

  2. I believe I also have an original of this but mine has another oddity about it. White label. AB in the deadwax. Address on the cover is 580Fifth Ave though. Any idea what this is worth? Im looking to sell it. Im in Ontario Canada

  3. Great album. For once, it is a pity that Rudy got his hands on the masters, because, at that time, he often added a horrible reverb, which he did for the Savoy release. He had stopped doing that by 1957.

    Anyway, the large group items are reminiscent of the Miles “Birth Of The Cool” tracks, and the quartet pieces are great additions to the Monk plus Blakey canon.

  4. LJC, A brilliant bit of visual detective work in spotting the link between the Griffin cover and the Feinstein photo. Never let it be said that record collectors are just drunken old obsessives stumbling from internet to charity shop to backstreet dealers in the quest for rare records. 🙂

  5. Looks like your copy was pressed by Capitol’s Scranton plant (note the small “anvil” shape in the deadwax and no deep groove) while the “original” was pressed by Abbey Record Mfg., see the telltale AB in the deadwax and the small ring around the spindle hole on “B” side. It is strange that a company with such a short lifespan would change labels!

    • Thanks for nailing the pressing plant variation. This is fascinating.

      See further update at foot of post. Closer examination of the liner notes gives us more clues. The address for Signal Record Corp on the Ebay DG edition is “762 Tenth Avenue”. On the non-DG Brown Label liner notes it is still Signal Record Corp. but “580 Fifth Avenue” and there are artist contractual acknowledgements for Monk (courtesy of Riverside) and Art Farmer (courtesy of Prestige), which are not present on the original DG liner notes.

      This has the fingerprints of lawyers.

      • No Signals for me, but just a simple, third pressing Nica’s Tempo on Savoy. DG, blood coloured labels, RvG in the deep wax and AB, but manually crossed out. Thank you LJC for giving me idea to put this album on the turntable. Bassist Oscar P. in the bigger formation is absolutely gorgeous. Monk as a sideman is omnipresent with the seldom heard Gallop’s Gallop. A very nice production anyway.

  6. A great new discovery to me. I like the second selection ‘Speculation’ the best (but then again, I’m a big Horace Silver fan, so that’s quite logical). How are the tunes with Ernestine Anderson?

    • I am not big on jazz singers. Correction. I am not even small on jazz singers. It’s my loss I know, but I don’t “dig” singing. That said, Ernestine sounds good, if you like singing.

      • May I be so bold as to recommend Sarah Vaughan’s Emarcy record with Clifford Brown. Here you’ll find the perfect integration of jazz singing into a small group format. There are exquisite solos from Brown, Paul Quinichette and Herbie Mann. It really is up there – simply impossible not to dig it.

          • Agreed on both. I would also add some Carmen McRae Decca material (the backing can be a bit spotty) and anything by Anita O’Day on Norgran. O’Day may not have emotional impact of Vaughan or Merrill, but the lady swings and scats like there’s no tomorrow.

      • Oy freaking vey! Not even small on Jazz singers???.

        The end is near, for sure.

        How about this? Your better half leaves you for George Michael, and you need a warm, loving female voice backed by emphatic orchestra in which to drown your sorrows (gin optional)..

        One spin of Billy Holiday’s ‘Lady in Satin’ and Jazz Vocals will be explained to you in a hurry.

        But you’d better start practicing right away! One never knows 🙂

  7. I didn’t realise,but my copy has the right cover(as shown on ebay),but the wrong label(as yours) .I always thought that the record was original.I bought the record years ago on an american auction.The record has no deep grooves.Consolation: the record is mint and sounds great.

  8. P.S.
    by sheer coincidence: saw today on the same album, on original Signal 1201, with different cover and labels. Search Under Gigi Gryce quartet Signal. Seller fogysmoldees. The labels on this one are the traditional Signal labels as I know them. LJC’s version never seen before. The sleeve design of LJC’s copy is the one I saw for years advertised in Sweden/Denmark by Metronome in their 1958 and 1959 catalogues. The one now on EBay has got an alternative design. No idea which ones came first, although the white label may be a later one, since it is also on my S 1203 (Cecil Payne)..

    • Smugness downgraded to zero, Rudolf.

      No doubt in my mind, the Ebay copy (see update at foot of post) is THE Signal original. So what is mine? I can make no sense of it. The company failed quickly – why go to all the trouble of a new label design? Who would have the masters after Savoy?

      On the positive side, the vinyl condition is Ex (no 1955 radiogram arm destruction) , and with a Van Gelder master source, should sound little different. But mine’s no original. Who’d be a record collector, huh?

      • Andy, yours is definitely a second pressing, but I speculate coming from the same pressing stock as the first, only with a different label attached. I would be willing to bet that the difference in sound is either zero, or actually works to the detriment of the first pressing. In any event, you may want to up the smugness factor by, oh….one quarter?

  9. I envy you for this purchase. All the people that counted at the time together in one record: Gigi, Thelonious, Colomby, Schlitten, Gitler, RvG. Feinstein. But, alas, their business went broke, which proves that artistry and artistic minds rarely make succesful businessmen. We saw Jules Colomby back as the organizer of the Monk concert “Orchestra at Town Hall”, RLP 12-300 (Feb. 1959)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s