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.
Selection: Tanya ( 18:00)
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.
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
What 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 …
“deep groove and no ear” (? Free IQ check included, should have gone to LJC)
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.
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
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?)