Donald Byrd at the Half Note Cafe Vol 1 (1960) Blue Note

donaldbyrdatthehalfnotecafe-vol2-frontcover-1600-LJCSelection: My Girl Shirl


Donald Byrd (tp) Pepper Adams(bars) Duke Pearson (p) Laymon Jackson (b) Lex Humphries (d) recorded live at the “Half Note”, NYC, 2nd set, November 11, 1960


The introduction here is credited to singer Ruth Mason, who kicks off with the mind-boggling opening confession: Wow, this is some, awkward…, position… Any other MC would have demanded a retake, but live is live.

Guardian jazz critic John Fordham, declared in 2004 this album is not an essential, exactly, but an interesting glimpse of a jazz might-have-been. AllMusic say:

This is one of the most essential hard bop purchases in the canon. The performances of Pearson showcase his improvisational acumen at its height. His soloing on studio records pales in comparison.

This was a hot quintet, one that not only swung hard, but possessed a deep lyricism and an astonishing sense of timing, and one need only this set by them to feel the full measure of their worth.

I say amen to that. AllMusic has my vote, Guardian, go stand in the corner, wrong again. This quintet swings without mercy.

Pepper Adams had been a regular collaborator with Byrd in the late Fifties, recording together for Blue Note on Byrd in Hand back in 1957. For some time after Byrd had been working with Jackie McLean and Hank Mobley, but in late 1960, Adams reappeared with Pearson and a new rhythm section, in form of the new quintet.

Van Gelder plunges you into the front row again, and you get a sense of what it must have been like in the presence of the New Donald Byrd Quintet, especially the  irrepressible angry-buzzing of  Pepper Adams baritone paired with Byrd’s bright upper register and mercurial phrasing, a perfect combination and refreshing change from tenor-driven standard bop fare.

These two-volume live Blue Note club dates, like the Blakey Café Bohemia and at the Corner of the Jazz World sessions, are an awe-inspiring experience, offering an immersive evening-in the likes of which many of us will never otherwise enjoy in the flesh. Add to the list the Riverside Village Vanguard sessions of Bill Evans, Miles Davis at the Plugged Nickel and at the Blackhawk, Shelley Manne at the Manhole, Thelonious Monk’s Europen Tour, Newport Festival, there really ought to be an LJC Poll of “Your favourite Live Jazz Recordings” but I feel inadequate to compile the right candidate list. If any of you feel you can  offer some suggestions I will put a Poll together, on the theme of What would be on your list of the greatest live jazz recordings?”

Vinyl: BST 84060 

47 West 63rd labels, DG, RVG STEREO great Van Gelder stereo master, I believe the first stereo pressing, from 1961. Interestingly it carries the imfamous and inscrutable 9M engraving.

A few clicks audible in the band introduction piece, but music stays well on top


Shot before I developed the all-in-one label and run-out “forensic view”.

Its that 9M again. No-one knows what it means. It is never any other number or letter.


Collectors Corner

Source: Ebay some time ago, I have only just now got around to finishing the draft post.

From the W F Meyers Collection. I need to up my level of ambition and have my own LJC rubber stamp. Sadly Mr Meyers didn’t take care to protect his collection from water damage. Or may be the submarine on the way to his secret island sprung a leak, who knows.

LJC call for action

ljcthinks2Don’t be shy. Send me your suggestions for the greatest live modern jazz recordings, through comments on this post. If I get enough requests, or even if I don’t, a poll will be launched. This is your chance to offer an opinion before rather than after. What’s on your list?



22 thoughts on “Donald Byrd at the Half Note Cafe Vol 1 (1960) Blue Note

  1. I agree this is a fine recording that swings like nobody’s business all the way through, including the intro which is simply wonderful and there should be more of it. My top live jazz albums would include Miles Davis “Four & more” which is a jaw dropper almost entirely due to Tony Williams amazing performance. Bill Evans released many great live albums and I must have listened to “Sunday…” and “Waltz For Debby” a thousand times each, but I seem to keep returning to a live set he recorded with Philly Joe Jones and Eddy Gomez called “California Here I Come”. Evans rarely performed with such energy. Wes Montgomery “Live at the Half Note”, Horace Silver “Doin’ The Thing”, Yusef Lateef “Live at Pep’s”, Joe Henderson “Live In Japan” Monk “Thelonious In Action”, Ornette Coleman “At The Golden Circle Vol II”. Awesome documents that I use regularly as time machines.

  2. Unfortunately still only on CD, but Mingus at Cornell ’64. I find I keep going back. Excellent recording!

  3. Firstly, thanks for a fabulously informative website. I have been collecting jazz on vinyl for a decade, especially Blue Notes.

    Quick question about the Donald Byrd LP. I have a stereo copy of Vol 1 (BN 4060) DG times 2 , RVG stereo – no 9M though. In your guide to first pressings – Vol 2 (BN 4061) does not have DG. Another website states that BN4059 was the last of the DGs for a first press. Any idea which one is true ? Or is it just the mono pressing ?

    In the meantime – keep up the great work !!

    • Hi Krish

      Both your posts were tagged by the spam filter for some reason. May be WordPress doesn’t like your ip address for some reason. No matter, I always do a quick check before emptying the spam box.

      I prepared my amateur guide over a year before the blessed Fred Cohen published his more definitive Guide to Blue Note First Pressings. Mostly I cribbed other peoples opinions. I am aware Kenny Drew’s Undercurrent is said to be the change point. I would generally yield to what Fred reckons, but there are a few areas which are still controversial. One is the view that Plastylite operated an absolute strict policy of which pressings got the new non-DG dies and which got the older DG dies is one of them ie that any appearance of DG after BLP 4059 is “proof” of second pressing. Personally, I am not going to lose sleep over it if its a second press. I am not a First-pressing Fundementalist.

      There might be a difference between the stereo master and the mono master – stereo was often pressed some time after the mono. The absence of the 9M on your copy is a puzzle. I have always believed the 9M is one of the engravings that was part and parcel of the master. I don’t have an answer.

      I forgot to note – my copy is 186 grams vinyl weight, which is sort of consistent with older Blue Notes, though that isn’t definitive proof as there is some crossover from one sample to another and it’s too close to be a decider. Curious on the weight of your copy.

      • Hi LJC

        Thanks for the swift reply. I had a look at the record again – it does have the 9M sign. The weight is the 180g plus mark. And it sounds absolutely fabulous. Yup, you are right – not worth losing sleep over !

  4. I think some of my favourite records are live recordings:
    Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers Live at Birdland Vols 1&2 Blue Note
    Coltrane live at Birdland, Impulse!
    Ornette Coleman At the Golden Circle Vols 1&2 Blue Note
    Kenny Dorham ‘Round About Midnight at the Cafe Bohemia, Blue Note
    Frank Sinatra with the Red Norvo Quintet: Live in Australia, Blue Note
    Ella in Berlin: Mack the Knife, Verve
    Mile Davis Live at the Plugged Nickel, Columbia
    Gato Barbieri Alive in New York, Impulse!
    Dave Holland Extended Play: Live at Birdland, ECM

    Written, standing on one leg in the toilet, to make use of my holiday cottage’s ‘wifi’.

  5. Miles Davis Friday and Saturday at the Black Hawk (Mobley!)
    Miles Davis Plugged Nickel (Shorter!)
    Dave Brubeck. Jazz goes to College ( Desmond!)
    The Jazz Messengers at the Cafe Bohemia (Dorham!)
    Max Roach and Clifford Brown In Concert (Brown in Jordu!)
    If I would have to vote:

    Jazz at Massey Hall PARKER and POWELL !!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. Lennie Tristano Quartet at the Confucius Restaurant, 1955; Lee Konitz, Warne Marsh, Bill Evans, Paul Motian and Jimmy Garrison at the Half Note, 1959.

    • Justin: in what form do you have this (great) music? I have some Warne Marsh solo material on Revelation Records, condensed from this session and then a CD on Verve with full length interpretations. Any others known to you?.

  7. Ugetsu by Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers

    Could be my favourite Art Blakey album, best version of Ping Pong.

  8. Monk – Monk In Action
    Wes Montgomery – Full House
    Wes Montgomery/ Wynton Kelly – Smoking At The Half Note
    Ornette Coleman – At The Golden Circle
    Jimmy Witherspoon – Spoon Sings and Swing, Live at the Bulls Head
    Gil Evans – Live at the RFH
    John Handy – Live At Monteray
    Miles Davis – My Funny Valentine
    Miles Davis – Live at Carnegie Hall

  9. Bill Evans- Sunday at the Village Vanguard
    John Coltrane- Live Again at the Village Vanguard
    Miles Davis- Live in Europe
    Charles Mingus- Mingus at Antibes
    Thelonious Monk- At Carnegie Hall
    Cannonball Adderly- In San Francisco

  10. coincidentally, this set is recorded one week after ‘motor city scene’ on bethlehem (no slouch set itself, but i’ve always thought it the warmup for this masterpiece(s)….)

  11. I don’t know this one, but may have to give it a whirl someday. Thanks LJC! n addition to the question of “what are your favorite live jazz recordings?” there is also the question “does one prefer original mono or stereo for live jazz recordings?”

    Normally I am a mono man for sessions. But for live recordings, I am on the fence and haven’t made up my mind yet – mostly because I am reluctant to buy both mono and stereo for mere testing purposes! I do, however, own originals of Waltz for Debby on both mono and stereo and much prefer the stereo. Has more life to it and puts you front row.

    Perhaps one way to look it is this: if you want to be front row then stereo might be ideal. If you’re that close you will inevitably hear the instruments at different locations. Although, if one is sitting further back then mono would give a similar effect to that sitting location. Just some thoughts.

    • Unlike most people in this blog, I generally prefer stereo recordings unless the mono is significantly better than the stereo (as is the case with “The Atomic Mr Basie”).

      • Horses for courses, I like to think I prefer whatever sounds best, and it can differ from one record to the next.. My speakers are three metres apart. Roy duNann’s Contemporary and Columbia Six Eye stereo really hit the spot, while some Van Gelder early stereos I find quite off-putting – particularly his habit of putting the primary lead instrument entirely on left, It may be five or ten minutes before you get a squeak out of the right speaker, – mono is preferable because the stereo is so awkward. I don’t think it is mono for own own sake. With some line-ups the position of the instrument “adds value” to the presentation, with others it’s at best a distraction.

        • Well said. It is always a case by case basis, of course. I generally define monos as having more punch and stereos having more swing. All depends on what one is in the mood for so it’s nice to have a selection of both!

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