Dexter Gordon: One Flight Up (1964) Blue Note

An LJC follower wondered why I had omitted to cover this excellent Dexter Gordon title. I couldn’t think of a convincing answer, so here it is,  hot from the LJC collection. More Americans in Paris, in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, and not an accordion in earshot.

BLP 4176 Dexter Gordon One Flight up cover 1800

Selection: Tanya ( 18:00)

Artists

Donald Byrd (trumpet) Dexter Gordon (tenor saxophone) Kenny Drew (piano) Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen (bass) Art Taylor (drums)  recorded at Barclay Studios, Paris, France, June 2, 1964 engineer Jaques Lubin.

Music

Dexter moved to Copenhagen in 1962 to take up a residency at the Montmartre, and had established a line up including the then 16-year-old Danish bassist known as NHOP. Try saying Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen after several litres of Carlsberg and you will understand why.  This is I think his only appearance on Blue Note. Guardian jazz writer John Fordham notes in his 2005 obit of NHOP:

“Where most bass players pluck the strings with a single finger (or a single clump of fingers) NHOP has the strength and dexterity to pluck the strings with four fingers individually, much as a guitar player would pick the strings of that instrument. The result is a fluency and an ability to develop bass line runs with rapidity and complexity that is seldom heard on the instrument”

So the album adds another string to its bow, to mix metaphors. The other highlights are not so much Dexter, who puts in an eloquent performance as normal, but the presence of Donald Byrd, intermittently a Paris resident from the late ’50’s, in sparkling form. It could just as easily be billed as a Donald Byrd album, or of the rhythmically gifted Kenny Drew, who had also moved to France.  It’s good to escape to Europe, (while Europe lasts, how long, no one knows for sure). I can recommend it.

Having a few earlier Dexter albums where he solos more or less continuously, it’s great to find him give lots of space to the other players, particularly in the Byrd-penned “Tanya” which  occupies all of side one, almost eighteen minutes. A minor modal vamp, shifting backwards and forwards, resolving in a boppish rhythmic romp, only to restart. Dexter is quietly restrained, Byrd plays to Hubbard, Drew plays to Pearson and Hancock, Taylor mixes Blakey with a touch of Williams, and NHOP walks dreamlike through the 18 minute space. Choose your own analogies and adjectives, hypnotic, intoxicating stuff.

Rather than the conventional LP formula of three or four tighty choreographed tracks a side, a couple of standards and one destined for radio play, unusually for 1964 One Flight Up offers an extended opportunity for each of the soloist in turn to work out all their musical ideas as they float above the theme. Your job is a sit down and listen along with those ideas as they are being worked out, which is why I opted for the 18 minute rip. Bandwidth, ouch!

Dexter’s unmistakable big-toned, forceful tenor earned him the soubriquet “vice-pres” decades previously. Resolutely old-garde, his phrasing proceeds at a measured pace, in steady footsteps, only occasionally slipping up a gear to bursts of figures and grace notes.  Not for him the yelps and squeals ejected from the tenors of the”new thing” back home. His move to Europe allowed him to play jazz his own way, unfree jazz, eschewing the dissonant harmonics of the avant-garde and the commercial life-raft of soul-jazz then pumping out of labels like Prestige. It has a modal modernity of its own, standing on the shoulders of bop and beyond. This is great music, no question.

Vinyl: BLP  4176 mono, ear, no dg.

Not a “1st pressing”, which should be “dg-s1” says Fred. This copy is with ear but no DG. The accompanying corporate inner sleeve is the final 1966 one (unique identifier fittingly Dexter Gordon Gettin’ Around). Circumstantial but consistent with being a “later” pressing, but you have to ask, how many “pressing runs” were there for One Flight Up between August 1965 and July 1966?

LJC Devil’s Advocate slot
LJC-Looking-Quizzical-the-full-devillWhat do we really know about what happened inside the Plastylite pressing plant? With around 6,000 pressings per stamper, a few days into a pressing run, someone in the factory loads a fresh stamper, or may be has a rush job that commandeers press 1 and switches job to press 2, or two presses run simultaneously to speed up the job .  By chance, one press operator picks the dies out of a bucket full of  non-DG dies and a few  still serviceable old DG dies, mounts two stampers on the press, loads hopper with labels, off they go. One batch are DG one side, the other are no DG.

It might explain why there are reckoned to be approximately 40 first pressings that have a deep groove on one side among the 160-odd new releases between 1961 and 1965: 25% ( the DottorJazz Guide put to use). Here we don’t buy the Alan Songer myth that a grunt in the factory decreed new dies for all new releases, old dies for reissues. Its a well-meant rationalisation but it papers over the messy cracks of the real world . By mid-1965, the difference between 1st pressing and “later pressing” could be next to no time at all. Could be a year, could be a day. No one knows. There is just a presumption that because deep groove appears on all 1500 series and early 4000 series, deep groove must mean “older”, which means “first”.

The hunger for certainty is understandable, even where there is none, especially where sentiment and money are concerned.

Popsike’s most expensive auctions seem to be dg s1, but the chicken and egg question comes to mind: one follows the other, but which leads? . One auction of this record ($406 final outcome)  notes” Side 1 has a deep-groove; BLP 4176 was never pressed with a deep-groove on both sides” (no mention of other permutations). Such apparent certainty, considering the non-DG dies had first come into use four years previously, in 1961.  Here is another high value interesting auction result courtesy of Popsike, 24 bids $270 …

Auction-Dexter-

deep groove and no ear”  (? Free IQ check included, should have gone to LJC)

Professor Jazz

Professor Jazz

Let controversy rage, but I consider the distinction “orginal Blue Note” (= “pre- Liberty 1966”) more useful than the term “original” or “1st pressing”, especially where the twilight years of Blue Note are concerned. However others are welcome to take a different view, we are a broad church, but I favour “uncertainty”.  By way of reassurance, I once took an IQ test. Much to my relief, the results came back negative.

Recorded in Paris, did van Gelder not “do Yrup“? Apparently not. Recorded at  Studios Barclay – Hoche Enregistrements, Paris,  sound engineer one Jaques Lubin. Jaques recorded  Dizzy Gillespie in the early ’50’s so knew his way around jazz, but also from his credits, a jobbing engineer who recorded all different genres. Did he have van Gelder’s ear, or van Gogh’s?  You decide. One of the small number of contemporary Blue Notes not recorded by van Gelder, but mastered by him, and not released for a further year, until August ’65.

BLP-4176-Dexter-Gordon-One-Flight-up-labels-1800-LJC-

BLP-4176-Dexter-Gordon-One-Flight-up-back-1800

Collectors Corner

One Flight Up concludes my Dexter Blue Note years, oddly, the earliest being the only stereo.

84077 Doin’ Alright
4083 Dexter Calling
4133 A Swingin’ Affair
4146 Our Man in Paris
4112 Go
4176 One Flight Up
4204 Gettin’ Around

Dexter complete, and I add some early Danish Steeplechase Live from Montmartre, which must have been a great place to hang out. Waiter, another round of Carlsberg for my friends. Yes, all 373 of them. (stage whisper: is service included?)

 

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33 thoughts on “Dexter Gordon: One Flight Up (1964) Blue Note

  1. I ran across this clip of Bill Evans and Lee Konitz in Europe in 1965 which features a nice close shot of Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen’s technique during his solo.:

    I wasn’t familiar with Alan Dawson. He’s phenomenal!

    • Great!. And how revealing, the camera concentrates on capturing the dexterity and technique of the artist who is playing at that moment. Compare that with the MTV video-jockey looking for who is scowling, doing the splits, jumping up and down with windmill arm movements, or has the most interesting haircut,. How times change, and audiences.

      Bill Evans plays simply one handed better than most with two, and Konitz illustrates how there is only a small step between breathing, playing and singing, the alto as voice. NHOP is remarkable, Dawson likewise. .Excellent ‘Tube, thank you.

  2. I have Tanya on one of the Blue Note Reissue Series – Dexter Gordon compilation. I though it sounded pretty good until I heard this mono version. While that LJC turntable is obviously much better than mine, it really is almost like listening to a different recording.

  3. What a fantastic record! I think I may have played this record more than any other Blue Note LP for the past couple of years. “Tanya” always gets stuck in my head. I love sitting at the piano and playing Kenny Drew’s riff with it’s beautiful suspended chords. Magical and haunting.

    I think that this is the only Blue Note LP where Francis Wolff gets a producer’s credit (although given the sound of the finished record, I strongly suspect he arrived in Paris equipped with pretty explicit instructions from Van Gelder and Lion). The drums mics seem to be a little awkwardly positioned for a Blue Note session, but other than that, fantastic sound.

    I’m curious as to where “6000 pressings per stamper” came from. I know that, for example, UK Decca discarded stampers after 2000 pressings and I vaguely recall hearing the number 3,500 about US Columbia. I also seem to recall that at least one of Columbia’s plants (Pitman, NJ, I believe) tracked the number of pressings with tally marks etched in the runout area of the stamper, but I wonder how and if other plants tracked this number or simply discarded stampers based on visual inspection or by play testing the resulting pressings.

    Stamper wear is one of the great mysteries of record production to me. How does pressing quality degrade as stampers wear? What are the audible artifacts of an LP pressed with a worn stamper? Is there anyway to discern a pressing created by a worn stamper by visual examination? The law of averages dictates that all of us must have both records fresh off a new stamper as well as pressings done towards the tail end of a stampers lifespan.

    • Good points, ol’ buddy, ol’ pal. I think I’ve heard estimates as low as 2,000 but as high as 10,000!

      I think it makes sense that as a stamper heats up and wears, the first thing to go would be all those tiny little details in the grooves–in other words, the high frequencies. So it makes sense to me that a record pressed with a worn stamper will lack high-end detail and clarity. However, if a company is pulling stampers well before the effects are “audible” (generally speaking, of course), this should never be a problem, right?

      • 1) This is certainly a risky comment in this environment…but:
        How do the “stamp number degradation” compares to the “quantization noise” ?
        in other words, invoking subjective arguments, what’s the highest ordinal position of a pressing with the same stamper resulting in sound “as undesirable (replace with preferred adjective) as” a CD?

        2) I guess (hope) that some light could be shed on some of these mysteries about what was going on at the plants by interviewing one or two (already?) retired employees. 🙂

        • It’s collectors, not engineers you have to interview to get an answer. Only they can tell you what’s “desirable”.

        • “what’s the highest ordinal position of a pressing with the same stamper resulting in sound “as undesirable (replace with preferred adjective) as” a CD?”

          Wow, that’s quite a question. Unfortunately, I don’t think quantization noise and stamper wear are easy to compare.

          The good news is that quantization noise (which can manifest as unpleasant odd-order harmonic ringing artifacts) can be almost completely eliminated with noise shaping even at 16 bit (CD) depth. In my adventures with digital audio, I’ve come to believe that the true issue with CD rate audio is repeated resampling.

          Sampling once at 16/44 is not so much an issue (assuming noise shaping, etc.), but many digital releases represent audio which has been resampled at 16 bits many, many times over. The signal may have also been converted from digital to analog and back multiple times through the signal chain (all at 16 bits). As I see it, the true advantage of “high resolution” audio is that all the potential artifacts induced by repeated resampling are rendered practically inaudible.

          Again, these are only my opinions and I am not a professional, so you can take them for what they are worth.

          With regard to artifacts of a degraded stamper, I think we have yet to establish exactly what those are. There has been speculation that there may be a diminished amount of high frequency sound. In my experience, altering the structure of record grooves almost always manifests as some kind of noise or distortion rather than something as neat and predictable as a high frequency rolloff.

          “I guess (hope) that some light could be shed on some of these mysteries about what was going on at the plants by interviewing one or two (already?) retired employees.”

          While in years past it may seem that the answers to the questions we are seeking answers to could only be provided by retired record plant employees, the happy news is that the record pressing industry is currently booming (at least compared to the past 25 years). For example, United Record Pressing in Tennessee recently had to open another pressing plant because they couldn’t keep up with demand even running there current plant 24 hours a day.

          It seems to me that if some enterprising reader of this blog attempted to contact a plant like United (or perhaps Pallas if that person spoke German), they might be happy to put them in touch with someone who is very familiar with the problems of plating and stamper wear as a fact of their day-to-day work.

          There’s also the Secret Society of Lathe Trolls:
          http://www.lathetrolls.com/

          For me, the two main questions we lack the answers to are this:

          1. LJC has established that only about 4 mothers can be created from a matrix. What happens that precludes plating any more mothers? Is the quality of the of the 4th mother compromised when compared to the 1st mother?

          2. What happens to a stamper when it degrades through the pressing process and what is audible impact of this degradation. Is there any way to visually identify a pressing from a degraded stamper?

          • Felix,

            I can appreciate your reluctance to accept oversimplified “salesman” answers to questions that also have complex answers. In this case, maybe just email a vinyl mastering engineer and ask them first-hand instead of waiting for one to come along here and hop into the conversation.

            I do my best to understand things like electrical engineering and audio engineering in part because I am fascinated with them, but also, admittedly, because I have a tendency to obsess and analyze. But I also strive to understand simply because I strive to make smart choices when it comes to buying records. Unfortunately though, my experience has shown that finding fantastic-sounding LPs is ultimately a crap shoot.

          • Also, I don’t personally reduce anybody’s opinions on here to merely being those of “armchair quarterbacks” (as you did in the Maiden Voyage post). I think we all have something useful to contribute to the conversations here, and it can come from experience with music performance, audio engineering, or maybe just music appreciation in general. I personally have real-world experience with recording, mixing, and mastering engineering (both bands and electronic artists), and I’m just trying to make my own unique contribute to the conversation.

    • 6000 I light-heartedly quote is an upper limit figure based on practice at JVC’s Yamato plant in Tokyo, where, according to an article by Barry Fox in HiFi News (July 2010 issue) “Secrets from the Groove” which I treasure.

      “6000…though the practice required careful control of press pressure with equal force all over the stamper area and the bare minimum required to form the groove, and the press kept running without stopping…Teldec (Telefunken/Decca) worked on 3,000 LPs from each stamper for a normal commercial release”.

      I have read the 10,000 figure elsewhere but it is quoted as an extreme example of bad practice.

      According to the same HiFi News article (quoting the wonderfully-named Doug Sax), “a single metal master copy of the original lacquer could safely give three or four positive mother copies, and each of these should produce five negative stampers before the quality start to fall off. ”

      Applying the math is easy if you have some basic figures. Teldec’s Alpha Toolex presses from Sweden could apparently press around 4 LPs per minute, 240 an hour, somewhere around 2,000 a day.

      Numbers are hard to come by. These originate from site visits, engineers and factory managers interviewed by the author, rather than the eponymous Google search and echo-chamber of the internet,

      This article unearths some other quality influencers: the length of time allowed for the pressing to cool before being bagged (several hours at Decca, a few seconds at other plants) and the label drying time before application (any moisture from the label and ink causes steam which creates surface noise in the pressing). Great insight.

      • Wow. That’s some great info! It seems that the time and care taken during the pressing process is a large factor in the quality of the outcome as well (it doesn’t surprise me to hear that New Malden was the leader there). Evidently, carefully used stampers last longer than manhandled ones as well. This seems analogous to me to care taken during the electroforming process, such as careful cleaning, leading to longer lifespan of matrixes and mothers. All of this serves to illustrate how critical a pressing plant’s practices and quality control are to getting a great pressing.

        While high quality pressings like Decca’s seem to be largely a thing of the past, I have to say that pressings from Germany’s Pallas plant are as good, or maybe even better, than anything I’ve ever seen. Certainly the vinyl is so amazingly quiet you may think you forgot to turn on your preamp when you play one of their pressings.

        It’s interesting to me that evenness of pressure during stamping is mentioned. This leads me to think that the geometry of the stamper is affected leading to deforming as it’s used repeatedly. I’ve certainly wondered about this from my experience transcribing very late pressings of classical 78s. Many of these are pressed with off center stampers and thus have to be skewed away from the spindle hole to play without ‘wow’. Even so, some of them seem to have deformed geometry, meaning that the spiral grooves seem to have become somewhat ‘elliptical’ and even when properly centered the tonearm can still be observed swinging back and forth.

        “the eponymous Google search and echo-chamber of the internet”

        Amen. It’s amazing how many “facts” arise from speculation that has been repeated so many times people have ceased questioning the origin of the information.

  4. Gentlemen, DottorJazz has now released into the wild Part 3 Blue Note Illustrated Guide Second Edition – BLP 4000-4100 – free to download, as long as Mega remains up. Paste entire link into your browser, including the long decryption key.

    https://mega.co.nz/#!1sd0nL7D!syZS4Y2D_6AZrRcxfzM0TOWc5dMeWbKsdQCJX6XQ0A0

    Links to all three parts, and previous Edition are to be found on the permanent Blue Note pages:

    https://londonjazzcollector.wordpress.com/record-labels-guide/labelography-2/dottor-jazz-blue-note-first-pressing-reference/

    LJC

  5. Mesmerizing Tanya! I could play it over and over in its entire length without getting bored. NHØP was only 18 and week years old during the session. The beginning of Byrd’s solo is incendiary.
    Tanya opens chapter 12 of Ken Burns documentary with a thorough introduction of Dexter’s persona.

  6. Funnily, one 1989 Capitol Records CD re-issue of this music includes the well-known info found on a lot of BN re-issues, saying that “The classic Blue Note albums which span the mid 1950’s to late 1960’s were recorded directly on to two track analog tape. No multitrack recording was used and consequently no mixing was required. Therefore, this CD was made by transferring the one step analog master to digital.”
    Now given the fact that “One Flight Up” was recorded at CBS Studios in Paris, and that RVG wasn’t part of it, how credible is that “no multitrack, no mixing, one step analog master” claim?

    • From listening to the record, my feeling is that Francis Wolff must have done his best to carry out a standard Blue Note recording session in Paris, including recording the mixer straight down to two tracks. In 1964 a lot of European studios didn’t have multitrack tape machines. Even EMI’s flagship Abbey Road studio, for example, was still using 4-track Telefunken tape machines. From what I’ve found, it’s highly likely that Studio Barclay-Hoche had an Ampex 300-2 just like Van Gelder’s.

      It would be interesting to know if Wolff also brought things like RVGs microphones and mic preamps. This might be a little bit of a stretch since RVG is notorious for not tolerating anyone touching his microphones. Even he wears white gloves when handling them.

  7. From Dexter Gordon with Blue Note you have to speak about the excellent “Clubhouse” with Freddie Hubbard, Barry Harris, Bob Cranshaw and Billy Higgins recorded in may 1965. With a beautiful version of “I’m a fool to want you”.

    Released with the LT series at the end of the seventies but avaible in better quality (in my opinion) in a Japanese King pressing.

    A great record !

  8. I made sound comparison of Gordons “GO” (BLP 4112 NY) One with “ear” and DG and one without DG and ear. Could not hear any different at all. So dont cry your heart out if you have Blue notes without the ear 🙂

  9. I know this has been discussed here and elsewhere recently, but I see no provable difference between a one-sided deep groove and no deep grooves of this pressing (with ears). No way to tell, from the same time period, all the same to me.

    • I’m with you, Joe. Like Andy said, for all we know the factory workers would randomly choose the dies, so I think both DG and non-DG after Undercurrent should be considered originals, in most cases, provided the addresses and dead wax are all as they should be. The ’66 inner sleeve with this record is a formidable suggestion that it was not part of the first run, however.

    • Overall I agree. I believe Alan Songer drew his conclusions that first pressings from Undercurrent on had no deep grooves based on experience with review copies and test pressings. While these so rarely come on the market it is a bit like trying to discover what a Brontosaurus looked like from a femur, a skull and some vertebrae. Theoretically parts may fit but without the whole picture, incorrect conclusions may be drawn. Possibly only Michael Cuscuna or a collector like Leon Levitt would have access to enough test pressings/review copies to help clear the waters. But for me it is completely irrelevant, what I look for is RVG cuts in clean condition, the DG and label minutia is just the cherry on top, not the sundae.

      • Ah! I learn from Aaron I’m a paleontologist too, thanks, I was unaware.
        Songer’s theory looks very (too much) simple: I married Fred and Larry’s.
        I submitted more than a doubt re test pressings ( please see 1597, Kenny Burrell on the illustrated guide, chapter 2). see also 4059, just to be messed up (chapter 3 is on the way).
        while I usually refer to Oscar Wilde, for BN I must quote Socrates:
        There is only one good, knowledge, and one evil, ignorance: I know I do not know.

      • I actually believed Songer’s theory until one day on eBay I saw a McLean review copy (I cannot remember which) with a deep groove on one side. At that point, I gave up lol. Thinking back now, maybe records were swapped in and out with jackets, who knows. 😛

        And Dottor, you criticize Songer’s theory for being too simple, but Cohen and Cohn’s theory is just as simple! Both are dogmatic approaches to the issue.

  10. Nice write-up, I think Jaques Lubin did a fine job on this recording! Regarding that auction result courtesy of Popsike, 24 bids $270 “deep groove and no ear”, either that seller doesn’t know what a deep groove is or has failed to notice the ear.

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