John Coltrane: Dakar (1957) Prestige

coltrane-dakar-cover-1800

Artists

John Coltrane (ts) Pepper Adams, Cecil Payne (bars) Mal Waldron (p) Doug Watkins (b) Art Taylor (d) recorded Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, NJ, April 20, 1957

Music

A 1957 recording featuring Pepper Adams with Coltrane as sideman, released by Prestige in 1963, riding on the coat-tails of moved-to-Impulse Coltrane’s rising star. Dakar includes one side of a 16 rpm (the failed revolution) Baritones and French Horns LP originally credited to the “Prestige All Stars”.

Vinyl: PR 7280 mono Van Gelder.

Upgrade from my 1967 Transatlantic UK reissue blogged last October, to a 1963 US Prestige “original” (first or second cover).  The vinyl is borderline VG, a trifle noisy but not unacceptably, a few short clicks, and the quintet is well on top with a lot happening musically such that its not a distraction.

I was unable to resist the opportunity to finally upgrade to a real Van Gelder Prestige, finding myself with three copies of this Pepper Adams classic session featuring the most intriguing front line of double baritone with Coltrane as sideman, my “new best friend” on piano, Mal Waldron,  and Watkins/Taylor in the engine room driving things along nicely. An opportunity to put my mantra “the original is (almost) always best” to the test, and learn anything of advantage from the situation.

A game of three halves, we have three vinyl pressings of the same track, the pacy Adams composition Witches Pit, as delivered by US Prestige for its first 33rpm LP release in 1963 (mastered by Van Gelder),  four years later by UK Transatlantic ( mastered by whichever engineer was on duty) , and nearly two decades later by the eponymous reissuer, Fantasy (mastered by whoever hadn’t been breathing in too much of that special strength Los Angeles “smog”)

coltrane-dakar-Three-covers

Listen Up! – DJ VeeG-minus, of comparethepressing says:

Comparethepressing meerkat veegeeRecorded at the same volume settings, notice how the volume progressively falls compared with the beefy Van Gelder Prestige. A tweak on the volume control may be required.  Listen out particularly for the differences in the percussion – the cymbals,  and the effect this has on rhythm and timing and cohesiveness of the ensemble in each pressing.

Selection: Witches Pit (Pepper Adams)

1. Prestige PR 7280  1st US “Original” (?) LP (1963) Van Gelder – 140gm

2. Transatlantic PR 7280  1st UK pressing (1967) – 166gm

3. Fantasy P24104 US Reissue (1981) – 108 gm

money-coins-three

VFM note: Records cost money, originals cost more than reissues, its all about perceived worth and scarcity. The respective vinyl price in these three records is in the ratio 3 – 2 – 1 between the above

The Prestige original “Fireworks Label” with  VAN GELDER stamp.

coltrane-dakar-labels-2000

Liner notes courtesy of music writer David A Himmlestein, who has forsaken his some times histrionic beat journalism for a fairly lucid assessment of the players, the compositions, and the musical context. May be the New York fresh air has been getting to him.

Coltrane-Dakar-rear-1800

Collector’s Corner

Source: Ebay

Sellers Description:

Original American prestige 1967 with gold U.K.  E.M.I. import sticker on sleeve and VAN GELDER stamp on deadwax. Sleeve is has slight damage to top left and bottom left corner and a name & shop sticker on reverse. I have played both sides without any problems. Clean vinyl with only minor marks, but obviously played several times as it is over 40 years old. Rare original jazz vinyl. Graded VG.

Harlequin record shops sticker – nostalgia – after work hunting grounds in London’s West End in the Sixties and Seventies.

Philosophy class

LJC Thinks some moreWe seek opinion, and we offer opinion, we live in a world saturated with opinion, from professional journalist to amateur and enthusiast online reviewer, customer reviews, trusted sources, comments on opinionated blogs, even. Given how much time we devote to garnering opinion, we need to become more discriminating as to the worth of the opinions to which we attend.

The most common opinion I come across is the “I like/ I don’t like” opinion. It is based on an impenetrable source – some unknown individuals unknown set of preferences, and is actually the least informative (no offence intended) . A friend of a friend once persuaded me to watch a film because it was “the best film they had ever seen”. I thought it was absolutely dreadful, but then how was I to know their taste ran only to chick-lit when I love guns and explosions?

Another frequently-offered opinion is the sample of one. I have a Bildengurgle pressing and its really great!  Or: I have a Nagasaki II DAC and its absolutely fantastic!! Really? I recall this music-hall line:

“Hi Henry, how’s the wife?”

Henry: “Compared to whose?”

Henry is happily married to just the one wife, and hasn’t tried any other people’s wives. Admirable, but lacking in breadth of experience.  King Henry the Eighth could tell him a few things about wives, he was always chopping and changing. The Nagasaki II is their entry model. The Nagasaki IX is what you want to hear..

The second-hand opinion, or meta-opinion (“wisdom of crowds”), is prey to collecting together many of the above. Until you have a frame of reference, you can not weigh the opinion.

The “multiple samples” is an attempt to move beyond these limitations, your “opinion” is tentative and open to change as a result of new and conflicting evidence. None of us have experience of every possible variation, or would want to – life is too short. AFAIK is the relevant disclaimer – As Far As I Know… I often find my expectation upset by experience. Experience is the only thing I trust. I test it often, and sometimes I have to change my opinion. Opinions are like clothes, to be changed when dirty.

The “unknown unknown” was Donald Rumsfeld’s great insight. For all I know, the Prestige might be an early press from a fresh stamper and out there are many other possible outcomes, much worse. Uncertainty is as good as it gets, beware of certainty. Keep on exploring

This time, the original outperforms the reissues. Again. Day may come when it doesn’t. Then what? Stick with experience. That is never wrong, even when it is inconsistent with what you think you know.

Postscript:

180634724273[1]An example of “late discovery”, an unknown unknown.

First or Second cover? Popsike includes examples of both the purple and a grey cover (right, referred to by Rudolf in Comments)  both variously described by sellers as the “original”

One of them is, but which? Or is there another explanation? Search me.

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16 thoughts on “John Coltrane: Dakar (1957) Prestige

  1. To my ears, the US original LP might be the only version based on the original master tape. The other two versions (and, by the way, the CD reissue I have been listening to) sound weak in comparison, almost like tape played back with faulty azimuth adjustment. I don’t think the master tape itself could have deteriorated significantly between 1963 and 1967.

  2. If I’m not mistaken, (and please correct me if I am) these tracks first made their appearance on Baritones and French Horns, Prestige 6, a 16 rpm record. Never heard a 16 rpm one before; wonder what the audio fidelity was like.

    • “Dakar includes one side of a 16 rpm (the failed revolution) Baritones and French Horns LP originally credited to the “Prestige All Stars”. I did credit this.

      I don’t think I have had a 16rpm turntable in thirty years. I have read that the audio quality was dreadful and lead to the demise of the format. Just hearsay.

      • I keep my LENCO 75 to play oddities (stereo, 45 rpm and 16 2/3 rpm). Prestige LP 6 was the last in Prestige’s short-lived 16 rpm adventure.
        Prestige 6 is titled “Modern Jazz Survey 2 / Baritones and French Horns”.
        A stunning sleeve design by Peter Davies/Esmond Edwards. Most informative liners by the ever reliable Ira Gitler.
        I cannot compare the 16 rpm to the 33 rpm version since my Lenco and mono/stereo stylus are not the same as my 100% mono system (Dorian).
        My Prestige 7280 has a grey photo cover, with coloured title (blue/orange). Same picture of Impulse-period Trane (he took some weight) as on your violet version, which I think is a second (désolé LJC!).
        Good to see Harlequin. Sweet memories. They supplied me with lots of deleted Esquires.

        • La deuxième?
          Bah humbug. However you are usually right, Rudolph.
          Footnote added to post – that grey cover pictured.

          • thank you to do a P.S. showing the other version. The only thing I can do to contribute is that, when this title first appeared, it was in the shops with the grey picture sleeve. Later on I noticed the violet/purple version. Of course, this no proof, but a beginning of.

            • IMO, it makes sense that purple tinted cover is the later version. As we all know courtesy of Abbey Mfg.’s special ‘Xtra-Hissy®’ secret vinyl blend, Weinstock was always trying to cut LP production costs in the 60s and would imagine that the single-cover sleeve was cheaper to produce.

              • Now I’m not the argumentative type, but surely penny-pinching Weinstock wouldn’t pay an art studio to tint the cover, he would just tell them to print more of the original cover for which artwork already exists. May be I’m missing something, there may be another explanation for the change, but I don’t know what it is. (Columbo-mode, hand to forehead) Did Weinstock ever have a girlfriend who fancied herself as a graphic designer?

                • I guess my assumption is that Prestige provided B&W cover art which was then printed at Abbey (or whoever printed the sleeves – 50s original Prestige sleeves have “Printed and Packaged by GEM Albums, Inc. N.Y.” even though the records were pressed at Abbey).

                  I imagine that the printer would offer single color, multi-color or full color printing options depending on the cost and the purple color would have been a single color print job vs. the two colors needed for the blue/yellow black and white cover. When Weinstock ordered subsequent runs, he would have gone with the cheapest options.

                  I’ve always felt that you could see a fairly continuous steady decline in pressing/sleeve quality with Prestige from 50s GEM frame-sleeve first editions into the bland blue-label cheap vinyl pressings of the 60s.

                  I do think, however that the hissy vinyl pressings were limited to a stretch in the early 60s just before the abandonment of the Yellow Fireworks label and about concurrent with the creation of the “Status” marque (whenever that was).

                  I have a “Status” pressing of “Groovy” (PRLP 7113) which has the original Prestige sleeve with a “Status” sticker pasted over the Prestige name. The LP, however has no indication of its “Status” status(?), however, but upon playback you can hear that trademark hiss we all know and loathe.

                  Later Prestige pressings, particularly the labels with a circle around the trident logo, never seem to have this issue, so my guess is that there were consumer complaints and the ‘Xtra-Hissy®’ secret vinyl blend was abandoned and its formula lost to history.

                  Perhaps I am out on a limb by now. Wouldn’t be the first time.

                  • Plenty more room on that branch, I’m convinced.

                    That vinyl cut with recycled is utterly evil, I will never forgive Weinstock for that. So many other companies boasted their vinyl was fresh and pure, I can’t believe he didn’t know, more likely he didn’t care to know. I try to avoid New Jazz originals, who seemed to be the main victim, but every now and then I hit something in the early Sixties tainted by it.

                    I read an interview with Weinstock at his home in Florida, and he still hasn’t a clue what he did to part of America’s musical history to save a few cents..

                    • A couple of thoughts on the covers.
                      1/ The change of cover may well be down to something as simple as the loss of the original films when they came to do a reprint.

                      2/ The two covers must have followed fairly quickly after each other, as the second press still has the yellow rather than the trident label. When was the changeover.

        • Great post LJC and thanks for going to so much trouble. It’s no wonder that customers deserted vinyl when CDs came along , given the steady decline in standards from the 70s onwards.

          I too have a LENCO 75, fitted with a Linn arm. No 16rpm discs but brilliant for 78s. Gets pressed in service to play vinyl occasionally. To matters at hand Prestige really made a dogs dinner of Trane’s releases over the years. None are especially wonderful to permit me to buy multiple versions. Dakar is as good as any but Lush Life is my personal favourite. My Dakar is a Japanese Victor which sounds very nice but I’ve nothing to compare it too.

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