Hank Mobley 1568: downtown Tokyo Shoot-out


When it comes to the affordable pressings of classic Blue Note titles, Japanese vintage vinyl of the Seventies and Eighties offers an attractive proposition. Usually in immaculate condition, on near-silent vinyl, King and Toshiba offer an identifiably analog presentation, and they can be found for as little as $25, and no seam splits or dog-eared corners.  The question is are they as good as “originals”?. After many upgrades from a Japanese copy to an original, in my view, unequivocally no. However they are better than many other reissues and  have two significant characteristics originals lack – availability and affordability.


LJC presents the ultimate shoot out – the two Blue Note reissue giants from Tokyo Japan do battle – King vs.Toshiba. The sample record?  Why, none other than the most expensive Blue Note on record, Hank Mobley BLP 1568. Of course you all have an original, don’t you. Well some of you may. I happened to acquire a second Japanese copy, and seemed a good test.

Mobley 1568 top 4

The Fab-4 highest sales of Mobley 1568 brushing $5,000 – the highest of which looks like a Leon Leavitt copy at $5,600. I am fascinated to know how many LJC readers have a real original, we’ll check that out at the end.

First up, King Records 1981 Blue Note Collectors Item series

Mobley-1568-King-Obi detail croc -1800Holy smokin’ crocodiles! Where did they get that idea from. How very Japanese, inscrutable sense of humour. Thirty Blue Notes were re-issued in this series, including a genuine non-RVG non-digital Tina Brooks’ True Blue. That would make an interesting comparison, but I don’t have it.


Selection: Mighty Moe and Joe (King Records pressing, 1981)


Bill Hardman (trumpet) Hank Mobley (tenor saxophone) Curtis Porter (tenor, alto saxophone) Sonny Clark (piano) Paul Chambers (bass) Art Taylor (drums) recorded Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, NJ, June 23, 1957


Interesting presence on this recording, aside from Mobley, is Shafi Hadi (Curtis Porter) also on tenor – two tenors? – and alto. Hadi is found on many of the important Mingus albums between 1957 and 61 , including East Coasting and Ah Um. Apparently still living, age 84, but disappeared as a musician.

Vinyl: GXK 8225 King Record Co, Tokyo



sumo-wrestler1979 – Blue Note gets a new owner, EMI/ Capitol, but Japanese reissues continue through King Record company, partner/ licencee of United Artists. Five  years later…1984 Toshiba-EMI reissue this recording again under the Toshiba-EMI label . You have to wonder, did EMI corporate know what they were doing?


Selection: Mighty Moe and Joe – Toshiba-EMI pressing 1984

All settings remain the same, speed and volume untouched. Only three years separate the two editions. Each squashed into 160kbs rip and played back on PC speakers or worse. I understand some people access the net through their phone. It’ll never catch on, you know.



Fast forward to the present: more options (but no sample)

DBLP 017 Premium Vinyl Reissue – Quality Record Pressings (Chad Kassem, Kansas)Its cheeky,  its got a deep groove, and it says it’s from the original tapes – now fifty-five years old. Is that a good thing?


There is also a Music Matters Edition (mono) . Mobley 1568 was recorded in June of ’57, one month after RVG started recording in Stereo, but while he was also separately recording in Mono. As I know this is a subject close to the heart, I’ll quote Joe Harley, an MM guru, at some length from a Hoffman thread:

… “Rudy’s early stereo recordings actually make for fascinating study. Earlier this year I became obsessed with tracking, album by album,  Rudy’s development as a stereo recording engineer. The topic is worth of a much more in-depth discussion, which I’ll present when I get a bit more time. But I’ve come to believe that when Rudy states that he didn’t monitor in stereo he’s actually remembering his very early days recording stereo. His stereo panning in the beginning is strange, in the way that someone who is not monitoring properly in stereo is strange. On the stereo master tape of Hank Mobley Sextet for instance, Rudy has ALL of the horns on the left side, drums, bass and piano on the right and not a thing in the middle. It’s very disconcerting to say the least, to hear this big hole in the middle.

Then, you can hear, session by session, as Rudy starts to get his stereo chops together. He eventually gets into his standard trumpet left, sax right, piano and bass up the middle and drums rightish mix. (When he recorded a quartet, the lead instrument, trumpet or sax, was placed left.) But on a number of these early RVG stereos, the stereo mix makes about as much sense as those 1st Beatle stereo LPs with the vocals on one side and the “band” on the other.

As we stated on our site (MM), we will listen to each master and determine, based on what we hear, whether to present in stereo or mono. After my research earlier this year, this is actually much easier. I can pinpoint the date when Rudy got his stereo mixing together….”

Or you can mortgage the farm and fight for an original. One owner of an original uploaded a picture of their original to Discogs. Bloody show off. But it is not the controversial NY 23 on one side, or so I read.



Collectors Corner

The Toshiba was one of the first records I bought some five years ago. It wasn’t played very often, it came across as rather flat and uninviting, despite the record’s fame. When viewing the late Brian Clark collection, a King pressing came up. Usual issue – do I need two Japanese copies? Curiosity got the better of me as it wasn’t expensive. I was pleasantly surprised how much more lively and exciting the King sounded, on Big Sister of course. Do I want another copy, an original? Well, it would be nice to play one, even just the once. Someone start a Blue Note lending library? Please?

I’m curious, who has an original? If not, I guess that’s most of us,  what edition/s if any do you have? For some reason, 1568 was dropped from the Blue Note catalogue and not reissued by Liberty or United Artists domestic consumption, which seems a strange omission. So it’s the original, the Japanese, or fast-forward to the present “audiophile” editions.

More on Blue Note Japanese pressings in the just updated  LJC Blue Note in Japan Guide. Become an obi-expert, or an obi one can no’ be, MacDuff. (Macbeth). You didn’t know Shakespeare was a big fan of Japanese  pressings? Me neither.

Any comments on the comparative rips  or anything else, even Van Gelder stereo, welcome as always.


55 thoughts on “Hank Mobley 1568: downtown Tokyo Shoot-out

  1. I find this record fascinating. For the very first press, the BLP 1568, do we have a ballpark idea of how many copies were pressed? What was standard for Blue Note back then? I suppose it depended somewhat on sales, but for a first press, I wonder what the count was.


  2. just to add LJC, you mentioned the Toshiba sounds better than the king on your setup rite? i recently acquired a stereo blue train Toshiba with a circular sticker obi on the shrink released in the 80s. i was blown away. i don’t have another copy of blue train to compare but it sounds better livelier than my king song for my father and sidewinder. i think they used the same cutter head as RVG if im not wrong. i think your 1568 Toshiba is from the same series right? another indication if lets say the shrink with the obi sticker has been discarded is to look for the price in yen at the back of the sleeve bottom in fine print


  3. I’ve just taken delivery of a really well priced 2nd hand copy of The Music Matters reissue of this one and if there’s a better sounding version out there then it must be exquisite as I’m currently in raptures listening to this!


  4. dear LJC. I have the opportunity to purchase the Toshiba mono at us$24 in NM cond record, EX+ jacket, the exact ver you have featured here. shall I go for it and be patient and wait for the king version. thank you and a good day to you


      • dear LJC, thank you for your kind reply. but I thought you mentioned ” I was pleasantly surprised how much more lively and exciting the King sounded, on Big Sister of course.” thank you


        • I recall doing a play-off with all three when I acquired the Classic Records edition just a couple of years ago, and my recollection was the Toshiba had the edge. This may contradict something I had previously found, or I have miss-remembered, it wouldn’t be the first time. There are continuous changes in the hi-fi system, things change as a result. The only way to know for sure is an updated play-off, which if you don’t mind waiting, I can do later next week.


          • dear LJC, please you don’t have to do that. I am just glad you mentioned about the 1568 in your very informative website and I got to know it from you. I will purchase the Toshiba version. reason why I wanted to confirm was bcos you mentioned (I think in the Japanese blue note section) that Toshibas in the 70s were good but those released in the 80s not so? a very good morning to you over there in London 😀


            • The best Toshiba are the LNJ series which date from 1966 and 1977 before King came on the scene The later Toshiba after King are less dynamic and what I take to be more solid state and digital influenced. The late ’90s are more or less just CD transferred on to vinyl.

              It may not be any comfort to know, but I had the opportunity to listen to an original of the legendary Mobley 1568, owned by Darrrel Sheinman of Gearbox Records. Whilst beautiful to hold, the laminated cover bought tears to my eyes, the record itself was something of a disappointment, may be I had too high an expectation.


              • https://www.discogs.com/Jutta-Hipp-With-Zoot-Sims-Jutta-Hipp-With-Zoot-Sims/release/1088614 thanks so much for the info. this one was on my wantlist but I think ill just go for the king. ok from this point on, ill look out for king and Toshiba LNJ series. oh my.. you have listened to the OG 1568. in what way was it a let down? but to your ears its still the best sounding version you have heard compared to the king Toshiba and B.G.’s classic cut? thank you so much for sharing that. I wish you a great weekend ahead brother 😀


                • I wrote this opinion about five years ago and a huge amount of change in my hi-fi has happened in that time. A rather weak system can be very forgiving, a revealing one can expose faults. It is hard to keep track of these things. Looking back, some records sound much better than I originally thought, others sound much worse.

                  Of the original Mobley 1568: some of Blue Note early 1500 series are not very great recordings. Rudy had been recording since I think 1953, he learned as he went along. New microphones arrived, his methods improved. Some sessions in the early days sound boxed in, lacking the air I had grown to expect. Some sound very bright and harsh. Its a mixed bag. By around the year 1958 things sounded a whole lot better.

                  If those words mean anything, there may be a disconnect between “collectors” and “audiophiles”, Just because a record is very rare, and sells for over £5,000, does not mean it necessarily sounds good on a modern system. Whilst I still believe originals sound better than their reissues, it is a sombre fact that not all originals sound very good. Bummer, really.


                  • hi LJC, thanks for yet another tip “By around the year 1958 things sounded a whole lot better.” I heard digital versions of his early work. think they were released on 10″ originally. doesn’t sound as good as lets say a king pressing of sidewinder. thanks again for all your replies. truly appreciate it a lot. ill write again once I have received my 3 different pressings of song 4my father. so far I have received the US dmm but currently awaiting for my new phono amp (project phono mm) to arrive since I have just sold the previous one (an art dj). talk to u again soon.


  5. Important to note – ‘made in U.S.A.’ LPs (which did not have ffrr labels) featured deeper colors. Mono-maroon with silver type (instead of pale red), and stereo-navy-blue & silver type (instead of pale blue) would help to identify the earliest pressing of this label variation, as subsequent pressings returned to the pale colors seen on most ffrr labels.


  6. Just a thought on that quote from the Music Matters guy. He has decided that Rudy Van Gelder was mis-remembering about his monitoring, and his reason is because Van Gelder’s stereos became less erratic in time. It sounds like another baseless attempt to justify stereo over mono, when really there is no need – I love RVG stereos from the late 50s, but the monos also sound amazing. Sounds like marketing to me.
    I don’t know if anyone else has noticed, but twice in the last month Steve Hoffman has stated his dislike for Rudy Van Gelder’s mastering (and possibly his recording choices), calling the sound ‘squashed’. Am I right in thinking he has involvement in Music Matters reissues or is it just Kevin Gray?


    • Everyone has a right to their opinion. I will never buy a 45 rpm if a 33.3 rpm is available no matter what the fidelity. The last thing I want to do when I come home is act like I work at a pancake house and have to flip a record every so often. The fact that they have to put it on a 45rpm to even compete with an original 33 Blue Note speaks volumes. Let them slap it on a 33 rpm than compare and see if it comes close to an original. Classic Records did it! even though the true BN fidelity is not there, its an nice alternative especially if you have a system that brings out the best.


      • I’m inclined to agree with you here, migkiller1971. With the usual disclaimers LJC is apt to repeat ‘noone can hear what you hear’ and ‘what sounds perfectly good to you may not sound so good to someone else,’ I feel that I’d rather own 33 1/3 records myself and have been fine w/ the Classic Records releases (mine are 180g versions). Call me a lazy arse or whatever, but that’s just how I feel too. Hopefully the new Music Matters 33 1/3 LPs coming out this year will be of sufficient quality to make me forget what could’ve been w/ the MM 45s anyway.

        By the way, I found this thread to be interesting discussing reasons for collecting and also for collecting originals though there may be more of a focus on the end monetary result of collecting when for the majority of us it’s always been about the music and not what we can later unload everything for (I’d like to hope that my daughter will one day enjoy all of my jazz records and NOT try to sell ’em!):


        As Dean mentioned in his post above, the preference for the stereo mixes definitely smells of marketing. Speaking of said marketing, I find it comical (also as Dean mentions w/ respect to Hoffman and RVG) how Hoffman could say in the above thread about his original Blue Note records “If I liked RVG’s mastering more, I would play them.” How can you get more blatant about marketing your own product than that? I for one am glad for this blog – it’s difficult to find unbiased assessments of which version of a particular record if best but at least here we have a fair shot of doing so.


        • I think the ‘marketing ‘with those MM records is that they heard the master tapes and thought ‘we can do a better job for today’s high end equipment rather than cater for the basic TTs for which RVG was engineering his sound’.
          I’m not saying they did but that seems to be the idea. SH is entitled to say he doesn’t like original BNs – but I’ve always thought one of the reasons they are so collectible is because of how good they sound.
          Interesting on that thread to read people’s thoughts on these high-end collectors who pay thousands for rare jazz records.
          I suppose you might if you had the money but it’s the idea of buying them and not playing them that I can’t fathom. That would be like buying a Dali and not looking at it.
          Collecting for collecting sake is sad aberration of human nature – the great Polish director Kieslowski’s final film in the Decalogue series about stamp collectors is a brilliant comic illustration of the tendency.


          • Andy, maybe I just missed something but I guess when they referred to ‘original BNs’ they were also talking about the true first pressings since I know oftentimes on this forum and per LJC ‘original Blue Notes’ would actually mean having the Plastylite ear and not necessarily a first pressing. To me, if I can ever find BN New Yorks and pay a small fraction of what the others would run me, I’m still as happy as a clam anyway – as I’m sure are most people on this forum…..I’m just not sure if that detail was lost on the people posting on that thread or not. Ah well, I’ll never be a collector if it means never playing them and letting them just sit on the wall to be gazed at lovingly….


        • I just noticed that MM are about to release 33 Rpm’s. Unfortunately, The Releases are the usual suspects. Is it safe to say that most Blue Note Collectors would have these core records? I have True Blue in Classic Records 200 Gram along with Undercurrent. I read a review that stated that these 33’s are just as good and better than the 45’s. Here’s hoping that they release Tina brooks “The Waiting Game” and Eric Dolphy’s The Illinois Concert on Vinyl.


          • Yeah I just realized that there are only 12 or so titles at this point that will be released by MM on 33 1/3 LPs, not sure if there are more planned or not??? There are some of these titles that I don’t have actually so I’ll be interested in those, especially when there’s such a large premium on buying the original BN pressings (i.e.- Mobley’s “Soul Station”).


          • Joe Harley of Music Matters had this to say regarding the 33rpm releases “2014 is the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Blue Note label by Francis Wolff and Alfred Lion. For this occasion, we decided to present 12 of the most notable BN albums of all time in 33RPM but using our heralded double gatefold jackets with rare session photos included.”


            • I’m very interested in acquiring some of these titles at 331/3 – I just can’t get my head round the 45rpm thing – it just doesn’t sit well with me. Waiting for MM to notify me when they will be available. The Tina Brooks is first on the list.


              • I believe they are issuing two every two months. The first two – Blue Train and Idle Moments – will be out any day now. I’ll be picking those two up to compare against my BT second pressing and my IM Liberty. Will report on this site.


                • I’ll look forward to that – I believe from the Analog Planet site that the Blue Train edition is very nice – I always feel that this wasn’t a particularly well recorded session – but that maybe because the only copy I ‘ve ever owned is a DMM from the 80s.


  7. My preference is for the King, though the two are quite close.

    The reason I chose the King is it seems to have a bit more bite and a touch more air in the treble.


  8. “Completely satisfied with my Classic” – as I was, with wife number 1, until the day I met…

    No, seriously, these Classic Records seem to have a big following. Don’t think I have ever heard one, so I reserve judgement, but they must be doing something right.


    • They are pretty good. I have two (Cool Struttin’ and Star Bright) and they are satisfactory, as I am not banking on seeing a good original of either of those LPs anytime soon! For $25, not a bad buy. They are well pressed, nice jacket, all-in-all perfectly fine. Not as neat as an original (for example, I have an original W. 63rd of Dizzy Reece’s Soundin’ Off and I greatly prefer it to the CR Start Bright for many reasons), but they are also many hundreds and thousands of dollars cheaper than an original, and are well done; so, all in all, a nice purchase until an original comes your way (particularly for a favorite record, e.g. Cool Struttin’ for me).


      • I have “The Stylings of Silver” and “Somethin’ Else” on Classic Records. Though I can’t do an ‘A:B’ test as you say, LJC, I am very satisfied with the quality of these recordings. For the mono enthusiast, I believe most of these titles were released in mono…


        • So all this writing about Cool Struttin’ caused me to put it on. Put on my CR 200 gram copy, enjoyed it. Then, followed that by putting on my original pressing of Benny Carter – Jazz Giant on Contemporary (C 3555). Superb record, caught my eye on the shelf. It’s a bit of an apples to oranges comparison (different labels), but the original Contemporary BLEW THE CLASSIC RECORDS REPRESS OUT OF THE WATER. Ye gods, not even in the same ballpark. The Benny Carter has such glorious, rich, deep sound. So then I put on a W. 63rd copy of Dizzy Reece – Soundin’ Off, and it also crushed the CR.

          There are two points to this story: (1) Contemporary LPs are the best; (2) I desperately need a good, early pressing of Cool Struttin’!


    • Hi LJC

      I have around 7 Classic Records 180g Jazz LPs: Davis, Mingus, Rollins, Brubeck, Holiday…my first jazz vinyl records. I bought those 15 years ago. They still sound very nice, indeed! Mingus Tijuana Moods is the one I play the most. What a great band, a wild session and beautifully recorded + a stunning take of “Flamingo” in the end.

      Later CR started pressing 200g records and those had some problems. I have few of those and some are ok, some are noisy. Something went wrong with the pressing. I remember reading that many 200g LPs were returned to CR and that was no good for the business? Maybe someone knows more about this episode.

      I got a strong feeling that for making a successful remastering today one should keep the equipment VERY SIMPLE as they were when original records were cut. Most likely one should use old Tube Ampex tape machines or what ever was used in the first places to get the same sound during the playback. And for cutting a Scully lathe or similar. I wonder would that make a modern reissue that would leave us all smiling?


    • Hadn’t thought of that, good suggestion. A shoot-out may depend on whats on the shelf, what doubles. I’ll see what’s possible.

      Update: only three doubles, of which two are mono vs stereo so not a great test, however I have one shot left, which may be interesting. Keep watching the skies.


  9. I’m glad to hear that you think the King has more life on your system (which is the copy I own). It seems punchier on these rips, but at the same time tighter. I actually lean towards the Toshiba on the rips alone as the sound seems wider and the tones softer and more natural. Perhaps that’s not the case on the vinyl itself. Do you feel this is the case when you hear them via rip and on LP, Andy?


  10. I only have two King pressings in among my other Toshiba Blue Notes and nothing to compare. But although I like them all sound-wise I always suspected the Kings were superior.
    Of these two I think the King has more snap and punch, with a bigger woodier rounded bass sound.
    Almost ashamed to admit that I don’t have 1568 in any format but would definitely pay a reasonable amount for a King edition on this basis.


  11. Just my kind of comparison ! Since my jazz collection is becoming more & more Japanese i been curious regarding the difference between King & Toshiba. Good choice of title as well…looking forward to have a listen when i can


  12. LJC, the idea that RVG needed to improve on his stereo mastering chops makes sense to me and seems like a natural progression if he wasn’t used to mastering that way before. As an owner of only the Music Matters version which it seems I’m in the majority (so far), I guess I have to trust that Gray/Hoffman felt that the stereo presentation was still superior to the mono one even if it was in Van Gelder’s stereo mastering infancy. Maybe they felt that the stereo mix was better through luck alone at that early stage? I have no idea. I have yet to hear it in mono on my turntable and am only hearing it here through PC speakers and 160kbs as you’ve mentioned. But I do like the presence on the King recording. Maybe I’ll need to add another one of these smiling ‘obi crocs’ to the collection at some point too (or win the next Powerball lottery here in the States!).


      • Hi Aaron, thanks for correcting. Glad to hear that MM used their discretion in matters like this then. I don’t know why I thought it was the stereo mix, no idea….


  13. I’d be interested in others thoughts on the Classic Records Blue Note Reissue series relative to MM and the Japanese issues for those that have them. I own the Classic pressing of 1568 and have stopped chasing the 1568, even for later BN pressings. I have Kings, Toshibas, and Classics of various titles (sadly, or perhaps sanely, with no overlaps) and the Classics are at the very least the equal of the Japanese pressings.

    On the affordability front, given Classic Records’ demise, their old stock can be had for $20 – $25. Not bad for a 200g slab of vinyl. However, there are pirate, as usual, who have marked them up with toes nearly crossing the line of marketing as originals.


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