Freddie Hubbard (trumpet) Tina Brooks (tenor saxophone) Duke Jordan (piano) Sam Jones (bass) Art Taylor (drums) recorded Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, June 25, 1960
Holy Grail status: Another one that isn’t going to happen any time soon. A couple of thousand dollars short of Mobley 1568, but eye-watering just the same.
The Quest: affordable alternatives that offer near-original quality.
So we go fishing in the alternatives, and see how they measure up. No original this time, unaffordable, or Music Matters I’m afraid, how many different editions does a collector need? If you find a website that buys dozens of different pressings just for the sake of comparing them all, tell me about it, before calling the men in white coats. What LJC is doing is happenstance, from my own collection, “triangulation”, a bit at a time, comparing this with that, then that with something else, hoping to build up over time a body of knowledge, in the search for the affordable good stuff, and may be learn some lessons along the way.
Contestant number 1: Toshiba-EMI RVG remaster (1998)
Selection: Good Old Soul (RVG digital re-master)
Must have Tina Brooks as leader, one of only a handful of titles. Find him as sideman on Jimmy Smith’s The Sermon, House Party and Cool Blues; other titles with Kenny Burrell, Freddie Redd, Freddie Hubbard, and Jackie McLean.
Brook’s tenor voice is youthful and wayward: satisfyingly unpredictable, sensitive, bluesy runs which don’t stop when and where you expect, accelerando & retardo like a learner driver alternating between accelerator and brake, decorative figures roll off anthemic headline statements, speed deployed for effect stopping for the odd quotation from a popular tune, and off again in an unexpected direction, all the time his tone a poignant timbre and an unstoppable flow of ideas. Who knows what Tina Brooks might have become, if not a victim of heroin dependency, succumbing to liver failure aged just 42. Drugs not cool.
Vinyl: Toshiba EMI TOJJ-6516 Stereo 185 gram vinyl
“Limited 2004 Japanese 180gram Vinyl released as part of Toshiba EMIs Blue Note 65th Anniversary series remastered by Rudy Van Gelder using the best available master tapes with the lacquers cut by legendary 小鉄徹 (Toru Kotetsu), mastering engineer for the JVC Mastering Center at Victor JVC in Japan.. The silk laminated sleeve replicates the albums original artwork”
There are not just “Japanese pressings”, all the same. It’s a rich seam of vinyl production over several decades, but here trying to come to terms with the digital format, primarily the Evil Silver Disk, as a new generation confuse portability and convenience with quality. It’s modern it’s new, it’s progress, it must be better. Really? Putting it back on vinyl however, I applaud the effort. TokyoJazzCollector’s verdict, who knows, raise you another thousand.
Contestant Number 2: Mosaic Records, Michel Cuscuna’s 80’s/90’s brainchild four LP set
Vinyl: Mosaic MR4-106 : Tina Brooks Quintet Complete Blue Note box set -1990s, OOP. Number 3276 of limited edition 7,500 pressing run, engineered by EMI’s Ron McMaster from original tapes owned by EMI; 113 gram vinyl
Selection: Good Old Soul
EMI’s Ron McMaster signature in the runout. Can McMaster outshine his mentor the revered Rudy Van Gelder? Or is it really an unequal contest, analog versus digital?
Which is your preference – the Van Gelder 24-bit Toshiba Digital Vinyl, or the Mosaic “natural analog”? Both cost around the same on a single LP comparison, and each is about one twentieth of the cost of the original Blue Note (which I don’t have)
Post Match Analysis
Rising to the challenge of some LJC commentators, I sought out another triangulation of vinyl quality between low-cost options as an alternative to unaffordable originals.
This Toshiba is not like any other I own ( around fifty, if you want to know. ) It is the only one to claim contemporary remastering by Van Gelder personally. I assume he sat at a digital desk and turned his own 1960 analog tape into 24-bit digital master, from which JVC wizard Toru Kotetsu cut an acetate laquer which they turned it back into an LP. I assumed, wrongly, that must be a good thing.
What happens to a piece of music when you take it from an analogue tape to a digital format, pimping it as the digital format encourages, and turn it back into an analog medium? Well, in my opinion, it is what happens after freezing and microwaving food – somewhere along the way, the flavour gets lost, and what appears is strident over-produced, musical botox. Music with a trout-pout.
I have had the Toshiba for several years and every time I took it out and played it, it was dead, wooden, lacking the sparkle I had grown to expect from the best Blue Note from Japan. It weighs over 180 gram – so what? I switched off, which is a great shame. The Mosaic re-awakened my taste buds. The recent tonearm cable upgrade finished the job. This is music I can listen to over and over, it is magnificent.
“Digital” is widely accepted by people as The Future, but far from being progressive, it is regressive. Who knew? 24-bit master? They say 32 bit is the way to go. Analogue is infinitely resolvable: there is always more detail in the groove, if you can get it out.
Vinyl is apparently cool, making a comeback. Recently in one of my favourite record stores I head the words ” Oh my God” “Cool” and “like” in every sentence, sometimes, several times, from uber-cool young urbanites, mostly referring to records by artists they last saw at “Glasto”. Yet when I showed my daughter my LJC website and explained “I photograph records” she collapsed in a fit of giggles. Oblivious to any contradiction, last year she bought her husband his first turntable. Oh my god, like, cool.