Alternative pressing comparisons round II: London vs. Tokyo
Compare The Pressing subject: New Jazz 8210 Roy Haynes Trio “We Three”
Phineas Newborn (piano) Paul Chambers (bass) Roy Haynes (drums) recorded Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, NJ, November 14, 1958 ; released as New Jazz NJLP 8210
Guest MC VeeGee Minus, now of The Hackney and Shoreditch East End DJ Collective (washing up rota – Tuesdays), makes a welcome return to LJC, taking on the turntable duties for this CompareThePressing spot.
VeeGee has been asked to spin two overseas releases of this Prestige New Jazz title . Not the US original New Jazz, but the UK first release from 1959 by Esquire Records (same mastering and metal as the US original) , compared with the similarly mono Japanese Victor reissue manufactured twenty years later in 1979. London vs. Tokyo: tuck into the raw sea urchin rice bowl, wash it down down with a pint of best bitter.
My choice, the jaunty swinger Reflection written by pianist Ray Bryant, given the signature snap crackle backbeat treatment by Roy Haynes, with Phineus Newborn’s usual sparkling piano licks, Paul Chambers solid as always. I love this track, but who offers it up best?
Van Gelder recording at home in Hackensack, 1958, captures the ride cymbal and hi hat, the transients of the piano notes, the tuneful bass. Does the groove survive in these British and Japanese pressings? In one better than the other? Does the trio swing, drawing you in, or does your attention wander to thoughts of updating your Facebook page?
Vinyl: UK Esquire pressed, as usual, with metalwork supplied from the US by Prestige. Heavyweight doesn’t describe this vinyl. At 246 grams, the heaviest known at LJC, enough to make two copies of the Victor.
Selection: Victor Japan, 1979 Featherweight at only 119 grams, but does it punch above it’s weight? Japanese silky pressing from Victor, and you can’t fail to notice the cover is of the Prestige original, Mr Chambers a full head and shoulders above his fellow musicians. Ahead on points on the cover alone. But the vinyl is no slouch.
Unfortunately, I have no original Prestige New Jazz copy to establish the original as a baseline. However these are both mono, whilst my other Victor doubles are mono vs stereo, and my Walt Dickerson New Jazz titles are evil recycled vinyl) The Esquire should be pretty closely matched to the sound of the original New Jazz, coming from the same metalwork with Van Gelder mastering.
The verdict: VeeGee Minus says:
This is really tough to compare! It’s a stonking piece of music, and both the Victor and Esquire do a stonking job. (stonking. British colloquial: Impressive, wonderful). Listening on the big system I felt the Esquire had the edge, but on the 160kbs rips, I feel the Victor has the edge. LJC says orginal is best and it’s his blog, but I is da judge. I call it a draw. (Do I get to keep the wig?)
LJC says: Another unpredictable result. I fully expected the Esquire to wipe the floor with the Victor, but things don’t always turn out as you expect. That is the whole point of A:B testing: reality check: Victor have done a great job, which I hadn’t fully appreciated. According to the label, the Victor was produced/copyrighted 1979, if I read that right, so it falls within my definition of vintage vinyl, there shouldn’t be any digital part in the production chain, so some honour is preserved.
Prestige are a pain in the proverbial for a British collector. US original pressings rarely appear because of the UK licensees Esquire and Transatlantic. Sourcing originals from US sellers is double jeopardy – gambling the seller’s grading meets your expectations, high postal cost from the States – and the cost of posting it back if you need to return it – and the hazard of UK Customs wanting a bite too.
On the positive side, European editions avoid Weinstock’s unforgivable use of recycled vinyl for some Prestige/ New Jazz pressings. (He knew, and if he says he didn’t, he should have). Though I generally stick up for Esquire editions – their track record is strong – I am surprised by the quality of this alternative from Japan’s Victor. I have a half dozen vintage Victors on the shelf, and have never consciously rated them because I had never A:B’d them purposefully like this.
Maybe because of Blue Notes high profile among collectors, King and Toshiba Japanese pressings get more exposure. I guess I just missed the alternatives to Prestige beyond Esquire. Victor get my thumbs up. Well worth a listen, though I still prefer the Esquire, push come to shove..
Thanks for the comparison suggestion, Charlie.