Curtis Fuller: The Opener (1957) Blue Note

Curtis-fuller-the-opener-cover-1800-LJC

Note: this is a Division of United Artists cover, not the original Blue Note cover

Selection: Oscalypso (Pettiford) Blue Note 47 West 63rd, RVG mastered

Artists

Curtis Fuller (trb) Hank Mobley (ts) Bobby Timmons (p) Paul Chambers (b) Art Taylor (d) recorded Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, NJ, June 16, 1957

Music

“Curtis has buckets and buckets and tons of soul.  He has wonderful natural qualities and is bound to mature into a very important voice.”

Gigi Gryce

Fuller, longer. And it’s not just a Fuller album, it’s a Mobley album! And as a bonus you have Bobby Timmons on piano. Trebles all round!

We will do the obligatory comparethepressing comparison. For anyone who still wants proof about the gap between originals and reissues, here is a rip of the Division of United Artists remastering and pressing dated from 1970-3. I actually thought this was a brilliant pressing at the time, but then I had never heard the original for comparison:

Oscalypso:  Division of United Artists reissue early Seventies, not Van Gelder

I deliberately don’t alter the USB tt settings between rips, to get the nearest like for like comparison. The reissue is outed as much quieter – these 47 West 63rd originals are so feisty! – but even if you pump up the volume, the spark is missing. I don’t know why but the explanation is secondary to the experience.

I thought it would also be interesting to contrast the original composer’s conception – Oscar Pettiford’s own recording of his composition Oscalypso for Bethlehem in 1955, to compare what Fuller and Mobley made of it in their cover of the composition two years later.

Selection: Oscalypso (Oscar Pettiford Vol 2, Bethlehem – Brookmeyer,  Gryce, Byrd, et al 1955, Decca pressing for London Records)

Love the tune, love them both, but so different. Pettiford compositions have extraordinary force – Bohemia After Dark is another classic.

Vinyl

BLP 1567 original 1957 Blue Note vinyl pressing – 47 West 63rd labels no Inc or R, deep groove, RVG and ear.

Francis Wolff’s great photos include the shot that made it to the cover, illustrating how Reid Miles interpreted it. Neither Fuller not Mobley appear to be smoking so suspicion falls on Wolff adding it for dramatic effect Reid’s choice of font for the title in red is quite startling. I  am certain the laminated original cover is a true beauty.

curtis_fuller_hank_mobley-The-Opener-800

Curtis-fuller-the-opener-labels-1800-LJC2

Curtis-fuller-the-opener-rear-1800-LJC

Note this is the back of a Division of United Artists reissue, a copy of the original but without the Blue Note address.

Collectors Corner

Source: A sorry tale.

BLP 1567 The Opener was the subject of a previous post  back in September 2011,  based on my  Division of United Artists reissue from the early Seventies. At the time I noted there was an original copy of 1567 on the wall of a west London record shop, for many hundreds of pounds which I eyed enviously but at several multiples of my house limit, I concluded it was never going to be mine. But  a  sequence of  events has unfolded in the intervening two years, which has lead to an wholly unexpected outcome.

Self Help Psychology

In an act of extraordinary selfishness, a thief lifted the original cover from the wall of the record shop, along with a couple of others, and made off with it, leaving the record store with a very desirable vinyl but without its’ vintage cover, for all practical purposes, worth a fraction of its true value. The cover on its own is not worth anything financially to the thief, merely a passing decorative amusement.

Worse, by separating vinyl from cover, the thief reduced the world’s supply of a very rare artefact by one. It is like killing one of the few surviving creatures of a rare species. Original Blue Notes in the 1500 series are rare as hens teeth, and in tip top condition, rarer still. The Opener catalogue number is easy to remember as it was immediately followed by  Hank Mobley’s 1568, the most valuable Blue Note of all time, due to the very small pressing runs at that time. This was a crime against the record collecting community, who are deprived of the opportunity to own a copy of BLP 1567. Even when a collector takes one out of circulation, it may eventually go back into circulation, but not this – the vinyl and cover have been fatally separated.

In an act of selfless generosity on the part of the shop manager Mr T,  last week I was given an opportunity to adopt the vinyl and give it a good home.

It likes being played but what it really wants is to be reunited with its cover. All stealing is wrong but this is more wrong. If you know of anyone with an original  cover of Curtis Fuller’s The Opener on their wall (and no vinyl), please, spit in their face, they deserve nothing less.

I offer a small reward for its recovery, but I am not optimistic.

12 thoughts on “Curtis Fuller: The Opener (1957) Blue Note

  1. Great album, I have a Japanese pressing of this title as well as Volume 3 and Two Bones…

    Thank god the Japanese are “jazz crazy” like we are…

  2. Oscar Pettiford first recorded his composition “Oscalypso” for the Mercer Records label around 1951 (I have a copy). The label was named for Mercer Ellington, the Duke’s son, who was president. Leonard Feather was general manager. The label’s distributor was Prestige Records.

    • Francis Wolff took countless photos during the Blue Note recording sessions and there are many, many shots of artists smoking in the studio, even while playing (check the front cover of Miles Davis 1501 and 1502: Davis playing the trumpet with a burning cigarette between his fingers! Or Mobley’s Workout 4080, with Hank lighting up in, what I reckon, must be studio), so Rudy’s microphones must have had their share of smoke 😉

  3. “It is like killing one of the few surviving creatures of a rare species.”
    This is the *perfect* analogy. I’d look for a beat up record with a VG+ jacket on ebay.

    This audio comparison is phenomenal…if there are other ones like this on this site or elsewhere the web, please let me know! Mobley sounds much more present on the original, and overall it sounds “fuller”, which makes sense since RVG mastered stuff particularly “hot”.

    HOWEVER…I’m surprised you’re still not summing the channels for mono records! This may not make as much of difference upon playback through a stereo speaker setup, but in headphones the difference is remarkable. Again, by summing the channels not only is some of the noise cancelled since the noise in the left and right channels is inherently out of phase, but much of the surface noise gets “masked” by the music. As it is *all* of the music is dead center whereas *all* the noise is hard left and hard right. Summing the channels can be done one of three ways: for analog playback, one can use a mono switch on an amplifier or a Y-cable, and for a digital file one can use an audio recording program to pan both the left and right channels center.

  4. Ehrrr… LJC? I can’t listen to the rips: the audio players don’t appear for me today. A glitch in WordPress perhaps?

    Anyway, you now have the real deal on vinyl, just checked the details in Fred Cohen’s book and oh, look at that lovely, one revolution trail off groove 😉 And the cover… yeah, well, it would have been ace to have the original cover as well, but at least you can feast your ears on the music. But for the life of me I can’t figure out why the little audio players don’t show…

    • Hi Matty, I am at a loss to explain the invisibility of the audiostream player in your browser. I am viewing it now in IE 10 and they look and play fine. Just tried it in Chrome with the same result, function perfectly play and sound fine. Firefox is the same – view and play OK. All latest version of the browser.

      The only glitch I can find is the minutes and seconds counter on the audiostream, which doesn’t work. I have reported in to WordPress, they acknowledge its a bug, reported to the technical team, who have done absolutely zilch about it in six weeks.

      Update 19:00: Spoke too soon, I have stuff disappearing from WordPress now – images and audio. There seems to be a WordPress problem, over which I have no control. Sorry, I will raise it and see what’s going on.

  5. I’ve been looking for a cover for this LP ever since I got it. Paid 4 bucks for the UA pressing. The hunt goes on!!

  6. I would not be surprised if you came across a destroyed pressing on eBay with an acceptable cover. As a bargain bin trawler, whenever I come across an original, rare pressing with a salvageable cover, I ALWAYS buy it and then re-sell for peanuts, hoping someone is looking for the cover. Did that recently with a Lou Donaldson BNLP 1537 – a full-blown honest-to-god original Lexington with frame cover, etc etc. Vinyl was beat (although strangely did not skip), but the cover, while hardly perfect, was not half-bad; I “rescued” it from a bargain bin, and sold on eBay properly advertised for a few bucks, hoping that someone could match a decent cover with an original orphaned pressing. So don’t give up hope!

  7. thanks to the thief, you have an original pressing, sad as it is. Your hope for an original sleeve may one day become true. Good luck, we are with you.

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