Cannonball Adderley Quintet in Chicago (1959) Mercury


Selection Limehouse Blues (Braham/Furber)


Cannonball Adderley (as) John Coltrane (ts) Wynton Kelly (piano) Paul Chambers (b) Jimmy Cobb (d) engineer Bernie Clapper, recorded at Universal Recording Studio B, Chicago, IL, February 3, 1959 – one month before “Kind of Blue”, the Miles Davis Sextet sans Miles.


This is a classic straight ahead driving session, and its nice once in a while to have Miles Davis sit out – on all tracks. Adderley’s exuberant alto crosses the streams with Coltrane’s relentlessly exploring tenor, both riding high on New York’s  nonpareil rhythm section.

Adderley’s alto here really has wings. He soars, he swoops, the sheer joyful exhilaration carries you along a rollercoaster ride. If you are sat in your armchair you should throw your hands in the air, no wonder Adderley is many people’s favourite alto, though the list is a long one. The contrast couldn’t be more delicious with Coltrane stepping up to the plate to match Adderley’s  bubbling pace, but probing, nagging, burrowing in the lower register, determinedly Coltrane and not Cannonball, a sweet and sour perfect mix. You have got to love this album, it is one of those essential anchor points from which to follow the evolution of the world’s greatest music, modern jazz.

LJC’s Record Collector Quiz

Polls are fun, but we need variety and I feel a pub-quiz coming on. First, crib notes, you can peruse the hint sheet before tackling the questions.


Quiz Night

I’ll start you off with an easy question, and then progressively tax the old grey matter. Pour yourself a drink, get your reflexes tuned, and press that buzzer to be first to answer the question.

1. How many musicians are there in the Cannonball Adderley Quintet?

2. Can you name the musician who is the leader of the Cannonball Adderley Quintet?

3. In which city was Cannonball Adderley Quintet in Chicago recorded?

4. Which well-known tenor saxophone player appears alongside Cannonball Adderley in the Cannonball Adderley Quintet?

5. Which type of microphone was used to record Cannonball Adderley Quintet in Chicago?

6. And finally, are the outer dimensions on a deep groove 1959 Pitman-pressing:

a: 2.734375″ , b: 2.78125″, or c: 2.8125″?

If you scored 5 or less, you show promise but have some way to go to achieve collector-jedi status. If you scored 6 correctly, you are WB . If you scored 7 or more, congratulations,  you have all the attributes required to become a successful record seller on Ebay

Now back to the serious business in hand, the Adderley in Chicago vinyl

Vinyl: Mercury MG20449 (post updated August 31, on basis of new information)

Mono US pressing, not to be confused with the stereo Mercury SR 60134, Limelight LM 82009, or any of the many other reissues where it was often retitled Cannonball & Coltrane. However, as is often the case,  there is more to the story of this recording than might first appear (hat tip Felix).

The label here is one of five different variations discovered by Mercurologist ,  Matsubayashi ‘Shaolin’ Kohji. (I have taken the liberty of reproducing his label scans here, for ease of reference, I claim no credit, and I recommend you read the whole thing here)


Note the primary difference between 1 and 4 is the presence of line-spacing between the track titles, and the shade of grey.”It is highly probable that this (1) label type is the earliest one of MG-20449“. ie the LJC copy, for which I take no credit either since I had no idea of the variation that existed, and the copy I chanced on was simply the only one on offer, and I am certain the seller had no idea of its provenance either. Pure chance, and there is no certainty about it either


However, it gets better. The Matrix carries the “post fix” MS1, rather confirming Shaolin’s hypothesis about the label chronology and the matrix reference, the earliest edition.


Though it is not all good – the inscrutable (until now) “five bar gate” etching in the runout at the 9 o’clock position indicates a possible mother sequence and stamper generation, in this case both suggest a “second”.

However, as we all know, nothing in record manufacturing is always straightforward, such as the number of times we see a matrix reference A-1 or even A-2, simply because the first attempt was judged not good enough by the engineer, who scrapped it. Equally, as was sometimes practice, pressing may have been commissioned from two or more plants, each of which simultaneously received different copies to work with. More importantly to the audiophile rather than the archaeologist,  a pressing of  true “original” status may still be a brilliant first or the lamentable last off the first stamper, so it is no guarantee of audio performance.

As Shaolin notes:

it’s just a too-easy guess…we need more strong facts and many more examples of the matrix stamps to determine the answer.

I don’t have an answer. Until now I didn’t even know there was a question.


Shaolin’s reseach arrives at these tentative conclusions about the Adderley’s recording:

  • “was originally intended for release as EmArcy MG-36161 / (stereo no. unknown) in 1959;

  • but cancelled by unknown reason, then changed to Mercury MG-20449 / SR-60134;

  • furthermore it was NOT released in 1959. it was late 1960 when the LP was finally released;

  • there is only one variation for stereo/mono jacket cover each;

  • there are many label variations, and it’s rather hard to determine which was used very first;

  • but if I dare to say, the label design which was very common in the similar era should be original 1st pressing;

  • that is to say, [M1] or [M2] for mono issue MG-20449, and [S1] for stereo issues SR-60134;

  • the earliest copies should have DG (deep-grooves) on the label

  • dead wax of the earliest copies should have MG or SR matrix prefix and MS1 postfix;

  • unfortunately, I have not found MS1 copies of [S1] yet;

  • copies whose matrix’ prefix starts with MGC or SRC were probably pressed at the Columbia’s plant; (MGT is still unknown)

  • the LP seemed to be discontinued in late 1962 or early 1963.

It may be true, or it may not be – so what is the real story?”

You have got to marvel at the tenacious quest for truth, and the commitment to evidence based on direct observations (not a computer model in sight).  Bravo.

Collectors Corner

Source: Ebay

Sellers Description:



DESCRIPTION:  Rare original 6-track mono vinyl LP on black label with silver text, housed in glossy pasted picture sleeve.  Quintet personnel: Julian ‘Cannonball’ Adderley, John Coltrane, Wynton Kelly, Paul Chambers and Jimmy Cobb.  This session was cut at the Sutherland Hotel in 1959, while the quintet were working as sidemen for Miles Davis

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:  Pasted rear of sleeve has a neatly repaired 2cm tear, a very faint radio library rubber stamp, a small sticker stain and 3 very small ball point pen marks



Envy rating 2smug-index-2-cool-3
Coltrane’s presence at that crossroads of 1959 – a short while before Giant Steps, is a real bonus. One of the interesting features of this auction was the relatively inexpensive ticket, due to absence of “COLTRANE” in the main short description, where it may not have been picked up on.
Attention to detail is everything. I failed to pay attention, as the very same week I was delighted to find myself winning another Cannonball Adderley record. Different title, this one featured both Adderley AND Coltrane – how exciting. On unpacking the record, the track listing had a strangely familiar feeling to it…
The New Arrival
It’s grey and has balls.
Vinyl: Limelight LM 82009 mono DG second pressing 154 gm
Mercury’s own reissue vintage label
Pressing plant mayhem – someone called RR sneaked their initials onto the runout.
Gatefold cover:
Another of those beautiful Limelight booklet inserts,  juxtaposing Trane and Cannonball, neatly summarising the musical essence of this Chicago date.
They ran out of things to say on the rear jacket.
So two copies of the boys in Chicago in the space of one week, a tale of two covers, and a lesson on paying attention to detail. Not unexpectedly, the Limelight which included “Coltrane” in the album title attracted many more bids and cost me double the original Mercury, though neither could be considered expensive by any stretch.
Does the original Mercury have the edge in sound over the Limelight? The Limelight gatefold is very attractive, but what matters, does it sound any good. Most people will never know as they won’t be in a position to play each side by side, and probably have only the CD anyway.
Comparethepressing meerkat veegee You can judge for yourself. Compare The Pressing – only from LJC
DJ VeeGeeMinus from comparethepressingdotcom has made a rip of Limehouse Blues from the Limelight edition, all settings identical, only the vinyl differs.. Listen up, my verdict after.
Compare the pressing:
Reminder, the original Mercury press:
Now, the Limelight reissue:
The Verdict: LJC says
Judge-LJCListening on “Big Brother”, the Avid/Linn system, there is an immediately notable difference between the Mercury original and the Limelight reissue. On the Mercury, the contrast between Adderley and Coltrane is absolutely edge-of-the-seat stuff, you are gripped, the emotion is palpable. With the Limelight it is all rather flat and unexciting. The notes are all there, but the experience is quite different.  No idea how it sounds to your ear, but around here I am the judge. What I say goes. Take the Limelight down
Please refrain from telling me your STEREO is better… It may well be, but that would be rubbing salt in the wound, contempt of court, the sentence for which could be very very very long. Next !

36 thoughts on “Cannonball Adderley Quintet in Chicago (1959) Mercury

  1. hi ljc & friends, I do have an early (hopefully 1st) jpn king pressing with cat# MC 3031, has deepgrooves. sounds phenomenal even if its in mono. I also have the “in san Francisco” both the US and Japanese orginals. those sound superb too, both also sporting deep grooves.

  2. Another part of the equation: Until about 1967, Mercury’s studios cut mono lacquers with BBC Grampian Feedback cutterheads. The sound emanating therefrom tended, regardless of material cut with it, to have a gritty, crunch, tinny and brittle quality to it. This may have some bearing on how 1959-60 Mercury vs. 1964 Limelight issues sounded. Also, apparently before 1961 the Richmond, IN plant that Mercury acquired in 1958 from Decca, had been known under the National Record Pressing banner, before becoming Richmond Record Pressings. (The labels were printed by a local firm, Wayne Printing, which may have had some connection to Mercury.) Whether what looked like an interlocking “FF” as in the deadwax, symbolized that, is a mystery to me. There’s also the matter of wear and tear on the master tape having some bearing on the sound quality of the Limelight reissue. Definitely the Mercury original would be a keeper.

  3. Hello from Heidelberg,

    I have a Mercury Mono copy with label design number 4 – but the Matrix numbers are:

    MGC 20449A MS1 P
    MGC 20449B MS2

    So it is quite different from the descriptions of the Japanese Mercurologist, who wrote (wrongly) at his homepage that by his knowledge only the first two labels with MG matrix had MS1/MS2.
    Yesterday I have send some photos of my label and Matrix numbers to Japan by mail – no response so far…

    Greetings from Germany

    • Hi, sorry for not responding to your e-mail (yet). It was not intentional but I just had no time to do so.

      I don’t think I wrote “WRONGLY” – on that article I just wrote about what I had collected (so far at that time). It’s natural that “MGC” prefix copies with “MS1/MS1” exist. So your MGC copy is definitely earlier than my MGC copies (MS3/MS2 and MS4/MS2).

      • Alright, and no offense.

        So one question left (for me) : what does the ‘P’ in the dead wax on side A indicate – maybe the record engineer’s signature?
        On side B there is no ‘P’ but a very small and very thin ‘II’ in the dead wax, barely visible….
        I have no other edition of this record for comparison. Since the ‘MG’ copies are obviously soundwise preferable to the ‘MGC’ copies, well, I hope that this goes not necessarily for my MGC copy with ‘MS1/MS2’.
        I hope that there is a chance that it comes close to other MS1/MS2 copies (with MG prefix) , even if they are presumably from different pressing plants….

        Greepting from Germany

  4. Just noticed there has been great deal of information based on my web pages – thanks a lot to you all! Kohji Any questions and information would be welcome!

    • Esteemed Mercurologist, Shaolin, Welcome, and Respect!

      To your ear, are there any discernible differences in the sound of various copies of this recording you have accumulated? Do they all sound much the same or is any one notably better? It is a rare opportunity gifted by having different pressings.

      • Hi, thanks for the compliment 🙂

        To my ear, (1) and (2) sounds the best among all mono variations, while (3) and (4) sounds very edgy (these are highly probably Columbia pressings). Not sure about the latest variation (5), as I still don’t have a chance to obtain it, but according to the label typeset it should be also Mercury Richmond pressing like (1) and (2). Limelight mono is little bit equalized and not fresh like (1) or (2).

        We can easily distinguish which copy is Richmond pressing or Columbia pressing by inspecting matrix info as well as label typesets, as described on my website.

  5. The MS1 as on the pic would most likely indicate a mastering job by Mercury Sound Studios in New York (the editing and mastering arm of which would be spun off in 1973 as Masterdisk). The stamped type is exactly as was seen on the deadwax of many a Columbia LP, 45 and 78 beginning in 1952 – though it was in 1959 that Columbia’s mastering department began bunching the characters closer together, and had some characters up and down to conform to the curved deadwax area. In those days, Mercury would have had two places cutting their records: their own, and Universal Recording Studios in Chicago. By the time ‘M1’ and ‘S1’ became the norm, Mercury Sound was handling such lacquer cutting exclusively for Mercury.

    The fourth label in the pic would appear to have originated from Columbia’s Terre Haute, IN plant; that plant, in those days, was top heavy with a Linotype font, Trade Gothic Bold Extra Condensed, for the label copy.

    By the time of the Limelight reissue ( ), the ‘RR’ signified Richmond Record Pressings (which in 1966 became known as Mercury Record Manufacturing Co. [with ‘MR’ etched in deadwax – but not to be confused with West Coast pressing plant Monarch Record Mfg.], then in 1970 to Philips Recording Co., Inc., and finally in 1972 as PRC Recording Co.).

    • Hey there WB, do you happen to have any background on the stereo version ending in ‘MS3’ which is the one I have? Any info you may already have on it would be appreciated!

    • Wow, W.B., you are my hero! A true goldmine of information.

      I was just looking at a Mercury Living Presence pressing last night and wondering at the meaning of the tiny ‘R R” inscription. Another mystery solved!

      If you don’t mind my asking, how did you come to have such a vast knowledge of the record manufacturing industry? Are there any resource you would recommend for those of us who want to become better educated about where our treasured LPs came from?

      For what it’s worth, it turns out I have the CRFR (Piros cut for Columbia Records) master. The sound quality is not great to my ears, but based on my experience with George Piros mastering, I would tend to fault the original recording.

      • Years and years of research and study, my friend (poring through old Billboard International Buyer’s Guides, paying attention to test pressing labels from various plants, checking reference acetates from various studios, etc.). Plus having rulers on hand that were divided to the nearest 64th, to measure deep grooves, pressing rings, etc. As well as studying the various label fonts and connecting them to the plants in question.

        B.T.W., RR / MR / PR / PRC product wasn’t just “iffy” in terms of LP pressings. They were notorious for pressing their 45’s in styrene – and to collectors, are among the worst such pressings.

        And the Piros cuts of Living Presence LP’s would have had three variants, viz Columbia: CBFR (for Columbia’s Bridgeport, CT plant pre-1964), CPFR (Pitman, NJ) and CTFR (Terre Haute, IN). The ending “FR” was for Piros’ then-employer, Fine Recording.

    • W.B., I have another question about Mercury mastering. Some of my Emarcy pressings have ‘MF’ lacquer sequences instead of ‘MS’. According to Shaolin’s site this was used up to 1956 (I’m not sure how he came by this info):

      Does this still indicate Mercury’s own in-house mastering? Is there any significance to this early mark?

      • Since W.B. deciphered the meaning of the etched ‘RR’ mark, I’ve since come to associate that mark with poor quality pressings in my collection of Mercury Living Presence records.

        It seems Richmond Recording had lax quality control during the electroforming/plating process and their pressings often exhibit noise due to non-fill and other pressing flaws.

        I just had this experience with a mint condition RFR-1 pressing of Mercury SR 90378 Bartok/Dorati “Concerto for Orchestra”. I noticed the ‘RR’ mark and while cleaning the LP saw the telltale sparkly spots at various areas in the vinyl that indicate pressing flaws. Sure enough these cause annoying crackle and fuzz noise as the stylus tracks through them.

  6. I have the stereo Mercury which compared to the mono is infinitely [redacted].

    According to the Internet’s resident Mercury expert, Matsubayashi ‘Shaolin’ Kohji, it seems that there are at least two other flavors of this release: mono and stereo masters pressed (and cut?) by Columbia. All that and so much more can be found on his 6-page(!) expose on this release:

    It looks like your copy is a

    All of my belongs, LPs included, are currently in boxes, but I will check my copy at the first opportunity and report back which variety it is.

    • You have got to love these guys. They do the science, I feel humbled, they sit and listen to the examples, make comparative judgements as to audio quality. So interesting, (especially dissing the “stereo mix” – ahem)

      I have updated the post with some of the discoveries from Shaolin and put some more detail of etchings. I think if I did this depth of research before pushing the “publish” button, nothing would ever get published. Thanks for pointing us, and thanks to Shaolin.

  7. I am sometimes bitten by the “best version of…” bug. So I appreciate that you post multiple versions of the same song, but from different sources, for us to listen to and compare. I did find the original pressing on Mercury to be brighter and more detailed. But I must say that the Limelight re-ish was by no means awful, it was simply veiled, as if the edge were taken off the treble. The Limelight was less invigorating, but I could certainly live with it.

    I find your blog very informative and unlike others, non-judgmental. “Philosophy Class” was a confirmation of that. Thanks for being open minded about the process of listening. Too many haters online.

  8. Thanks for the timely warning note, LJC…
    Aside from that, I quite agree with your verdict. To me, the Mercury also looks much better. Some people prefer the cover art used for the UK and Dutch pressings:

    • strange, this U.K./Dutch re-issue looks very cheap to me. The Limelight cover with the cannon balls is awful and tasteless. The original Mercury is fine with me, although not the absolute top.

      • There is this other, notorious “cannon ball” cover by Savoy:

        Small wonder. Savoy covers used to be the epitome in bad taste.

        • the Savoy is tasteless too. The same Cannonball album was also issued by Savoy wxith a nice black and white photo cover though.

          • Those are both terrible covers.

            Was never a fan of the Savoy design style. Very studio, very wooden, not appealing.

  9. Always in our small rotation – top-notch group in peak form, great sounding vinyl, one of the best pieces of cover art. It’s all there, and inexpensive. What’s not to love? “Stars Fell On Alabama” is a personal favorite. Just outstanding all around.

  10. Thanks for the excellent review and juxtaposition of both recordings. I agree that the Limelight version sounded rather flat and uninteresting since there wasnt much separation of the horns at all. Just out of curiosity, do you know how the Speaker’s Corner reissue compares?

    • No personal experience of Speakers Corner reissues but I have read they are mastered mostly by Kevin Gray at Acoustech. My three Acoustec’s have each been a disappointment when compared with the vintage original (if and when you can find one), but coming from the other direction, a step up from the evil silver disc and other modern reissues. A lot of posters on the Hoffman Forum say the are very happy with SCs, and who can argue with that? It’s all relative

      Unless you are able to do a head to head on a revealing vinyl system, you would probably be none the wiser. Dangerous to generalise but having done it many times now, sadly, it is rare for a later reissue to come up trumps. The only exceptions I have heard are vintage second pressings, which I reckon to be “almost as good” as vintage originals.

      • Thanks LJC. Good advice and greatly appreciated. I’ll weight my options prior to going w/ the Speaker’s Corner pressing. It seems there have been orig pressings going for roughly the same price as the SC pressing. Maybe not pristine copies but I might be fine with a not-perfect copy of an orig pressing. Hope that’s not heresy to say….

      • Re: that SH discussion – strange than anyone would pay $30 for a Speakers Corner reissue of a Verve record which can easily be found in NM condition for $10.

        • Yeah I’m not entirely sure why people would do that myself and pay that much more for vs. the Verve NM pressings. Unless of course the sound quality is that much better on the SC reissue than on the orig Verve pressing; I don’t have any basis for comparison there though. Not sure anyone else might….

          • This album is on Mercury, not Verve. Mercury and emArcy pressings from the USA in my experience can be fairly noisey even when NM. So depending on all the usual factors the SC pressing might be a good option for some.

            • Not 100%, but I believe Joe was referring to the comments on the Hoffman forum about Verve and Speaker’s Corner being a good alternative to those.

  11. It’s a great date which seems to get passed over. I have it as a UK Mercury (20035MCL) which just sounds fine in mono. Luckily it has the original cover art !

  12. The Mercury is graced by superb cover artwork! I was unaware of this session and will seek it out. Thanks for your hard work on this blog LJC. It both fascinates and inspires me whilst encouraging me to add to my collection.

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