Potayto, pottato: two nations, Prestige and Esquire, back to back

Esquire-Prestige-split-label-LJC-800

An occasional post, on the subject of US Prestige and UK Esquire records

Prestige is one of the treasure chests of audiophile quality vintage Modern Jazz recordings, along with Blue Note, Riverside, Contemporary, Impulse, without which our lives would be considerably poorer. Artistically , imagine the re-issue industry without anything to re-issue.

Inspired by Dottor Jazz Blue Note magnus opus, I have given some time to kicking off a guide to the ’50s/ early ’60s Esquire releases of Prestige records. A Prestige original pressing guide may be a longer term aspiration, but a first step is the affordable equivalent of Esquire Records is a good starting point.

Coming face to face with Prestige covers has in itself been an education. This guide follows the release schedule of the original Prestige titles. Following the order of Prestige catalogue numbers tells the story of the  artistic evolution of Prestige as much as about Esquire. The early releases of the giants, Miles, Monk Mobley, Coltrane, McLean, Byrd and Rollins, through to the power-tenors and soul jazz in its twighlight years, searching for a commercial formula that would stave off financial pressure, to no avail.

For the audiophile, uniquely among overseas releases of US recordings, Esquire records were pressed in the UK ( and Europe) with original US supplied stampers and not re-mastered locally from tape, so are sonically the same as original US  Prestige, in most cases showing van Gelder stamp and originating US matrix and plant codes. What differs are the alternative covers, a mixture of quirky native whimsy, kitsch graphics, alternative duotone colourings, and line-drawings based on the originals: sometimes you can see the original as inspiration, while others clearly start with different cultural reference points, the denizens of London’s smoke-filled Soho clubs as against  52nd Street New York., two jazz-loving  communities separated by only approximately  the same language. Potayto, pottato. That is what makes Esquire covers so intriguiging.

Why are album  covers of interest? Well, what do downloads and The evil Silver Disk not have?  The cover is sort of restaurant menu, that helps you decide if you want to eat here. It is the equivalent of the smell of the food arriving, before than the taste, it is part of the experience of consuming analog music. If you doubt their value, try selling a vinyl record without its cover.  More interesting still they are a view through two different cultural windows on the same listening experience.

The guide is permanently located under the Esquire page of the LJC guides to record labels, as of today. It includes almost every title, as a reference source, not just those I personally have or recommend.  I thought it deserves wider viewing than just search-engine based visitors or ebay sellers, and I’m briefly stepping off the treadmill of reviewing individual records. Click below.

Part One: Prestige / Esquire complete, back to back.

Part Two: New Jazz / Esquire complete, back-to-back

Comments as always are welcome, as are corrections, suggestions, note of omissions, and gratuitous expressions of appreciation.
PART 1 – PRESTIGE / ESQUIRE

7002-vs-32-011

7003-vs-32-009-

7004-vs-32-0277005-vs-32-024

7006-vs-32-0147007-vs-32-0127008-vs-32-0167012-vs-32-0627013-vs-32-052

7014-vs-32-021

7017-vs-32-027

7018-vs-32-020

7020-vs-32-038

7021-vs-32-033

7020-vs-32-035

Prestige 7029, typo on cover states 7020

7023--vs-32-0367024-vs-32-02497025-vs-32-1187027-vs-32-119

7031-vs-32-042

7032-vs-32-032

7033-vs-32-0407034-vs-32-0287035-vs-32-041

7038-vs-32-025-1

7039-vs-32-047

7043-vs-32-039

7044-vs-32-0307046-vs-32-0267047-vs-32-0587053-vs-32-1097054-vs-32-0887057-vs-32-1247058-vs-32-1557058-vs-32-1347061-vs-32-0297062-vs-32-0727064-vs-32-0467065--vs-32-043
7068-vs-32-1117074-vs-32-0597075-vs-32-1157076-vs-32-0987077-vs-32-1127079-vs-32-0457080-vs-32-0607083-vs-32-0777084-vs-32-065Esquire-vs-Prestige7092-vs-32-0937094-vs-32-0487095-vs-32-0757098-vs-32-0667100-vs-32-0637102-vs-32-1207103-vs-32-0577104-vs-32-1137105-vs-32-0797109-vs-32-0847109-vs-32-0907110-vs-32-0977113-vs-32-056

7115-vs-32-050

7116-vs-32-074

7118-vs-32-0807120-vs-32-0707121-vs-32-071
7123-vs-32-0917125-vs-32-1437126-vs-32-0857127-vs-32-0677129-vs-32-0687130-vs-32-0997135-vs-32-0737137-vs-32-083

7138-vs-32-082

7139-vs-32-0967141-vs-32-104

7142-vs-32-089

7143-vs-32-086

7144-vs-32-092

7150-vs-32-100-alt2

Esquire alternative cover

7145-vs-32-110 7146-vs-32-1477147-vs-32-0877150-vs-32-100-alt17152-vs-32-0947153-vs-32-1227156-vs-32-1027157-vs-32-1167158-vs-32-1017165-vs-32-1547166-vs-32-1087167-vs-32-1847170-vs-32-1267171-vs-32-128-not-found-vs-Prestige7175-vs-32-1847181-vs-32-1367186-vs-32-1277187-vs-32-1677188-vs-32-1297189-vs-32-1317191-vs-32-1447193-vs-32-1467200-vs-32-1387206-vs-32-1747207-vs-32-1757209-vs-32-1667210-vs-32-1647215-vs-32-1717223-vs-32-1897225-vs-32-1627226-vs-32-1867232-vs-32-1827235-vs-32-1927236-vs-32-1887243-vs-32-1797257-vs-32-178

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21 thoughts on “Potayto, pottato: two nations, Prestige and Esquire, back to back

  1. For some reason my previous comments don’t seem to appear in the comment field, so I’ll post them again here: full photo set including a lot of details of the Monk 7053 can be viewed HERE.

    Full set of photos of Modern Jazz Quartet 7057, also with many close ups can be viewed HERE.

    Make sure to view in slide show mode for full HD experience on all the photos with zoom-in option.

  2. For even more courageous people there is still another chapter to the Prestige/Esquire story: the Esquire 10″ Long Play collection.
    I count nineteen 10″ albums ex Prestige in the last issued Esquire catalogue. The catalogue goes up to 20-097. It is much less exclusively Prestige than for the 12″ 32-000 series

  3. WHAT a labor (labour) of love! thank you for your very arduous and painstaking presentation. i’ll spend a lot of time with this… in some cases, the esquire is a clear winner due to sheer creativity and quality of illustration. in other cases, not so much. viva le difference.

  4. One of my blogs dealt with the idea of two nations separated by a common language and I ended up in a worse mess than when I started. Don’t mention crotchets and quavers over there!

  5. Lovely to see all those Esquire sleeves, a great resource, just a small point, Esquire weren’t the only label to use US metalwork for their pressings, I seem to recall some early Atlantics use US stampers and there are possibly a few others, if only I could remember what they were.

  6. stupid question #2:
    some Prestige were published with different covers: to name a few (but we could make a complete list)
    7005, MJQ Concorde
    7012, Davis Dig
    7013, Davis Conception
    7014, Davis the new MD quintet
    7027, Monk
    7029, Rollins with MJQ
    7038, Rollins plus 4
    7123, Coltrane with Red Garland
    7130. Garland All morning Long
    did Esquire publish different covers?

    • Just one I am aware of just one Esquire alt cover, the modern giants.

      Your list of Prestige alternative covers is a fantastic one, I would not be able to compile such a list with my limited knowledge. Prestige recordings were issued in the UK through Esquire, then Nat Joseph’s Transatlantic, so we never saw the imports at the time.

      More work required, by you and me, thank you! A definitive list of Prestige titles that had more than one cover would be a good start. Can any one add further insight to the above list?

      • not a difficult list for a First Pressing Fundamentalist because I’ve got ’em all except 7027. t’was Rudolf that confirmed photo cover instead of the abstract one. this Monk is half engineered and half remastered by RVG.

        • Dottore, I am not aware of PrLp 7027 having been re-printed with a second cover. It was re-issued though with a new catalogue number (7159) entitled “Monk’s Moods”, with a gorgeous picture of Monk by Esmond Edwards.

          • Seems we have two issues, gentlemen – the introduction of a second cover under the original catalogue number (sometimes little more than a shift in colour), and the introduction of a new cover to go with the new catalogue number, as was occasional practice with Prestige. Put your feet up gents, a forthcoming post will shine a spot light into this murky corner

            • apologize for my half mistake BUT there is a mystery on Monk on Prestige yet.
              there are 3 records published:
              7027 with abstract blue-white-black cover
              7053 with a giant Monk in black on white and some credits in blue (some attributed this design to Warhol)
              7075 with another abstract cover in red-black on white
              all bear the New York address, 446 on first number, 447 on the latter.
              in 2008 one reader, Jon, asked a question on 7053 cover and received two answers, from Al and Rudolf.
              I copy and paste:
              I’ve got a question for you. I always thought that the Monk Prestige 7053 original record cover was with MONK written on the front of the jacket. I have the Prestige 7053 record with a photo of Monk with a 50th st. NY address on the back of the jacket. And I have another Prestige 7053 cover without his picture with MONK only on the front with the NJ address. Which is the first pressing? Thank you. Jon


              . Al Says:

September 30th, 2008 at 5:41 am Hi, Jon. I have to confess my ignorance on this one. I’m familiar with the MONK 7053 cover and not the one with the photo. If the photo cover has the NY address it sounds like it could be an original. I’m hoping one of the readers to the site will have the answer. I’ll post it here for now, but maybe highlight it later and see if we can generate a more knowledgeable response. Anyone else have an answer to this one?


              . Rudolf A. Flinterman Says:

September 30th, 2008 at 4:43 pm The photo cover is the original. The white letter cover is the 2nd issue, which coincides with Prestige’s moving from NYC to N.J.
              I think I’ve seen somewhere, and maybe I have but can’t remember where, this phantom photo cover of Prestige 7053 and would like it published here.
              can Rudolf, again, help?

  7. In the category of “there are no stupid questions” but this clearly is one, why did Esquire release the records with different covers? If they were able to license the recordings, I would imagine that they could license the original covers, perhaps for not much more than they paid the students from the Sidcup Art College to design new ones.

    • I think because they wanted to give a chance to British artitsts. It would have been cheaper to keep the original designs. So, in a way, they deserve to be praised.

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