Rare Blue Note: what’s the collector alternative? UPDATED extra sample and poll added

Audiophile Alternatives: USA and Tokyo go head-to-head Music-Matters-vs-King-Japan-balanceRecord Test:  BLP 4059 Kenny Drew title “Undercurrent” (1960)

Contestants: Music Matters 33  edition vs late 1970’s vintage King Records, Japan. NEW!  a third contestant, Classic Records added at the last minute, rip courtesy of LJC reader Aaron.

The problem

Original Blue Note are increasingly difficult to find and expensive items, frustrating in a world of immediate consumer satisfaction and unlimited supply through digital media. As my audio system improves  the superiority of analog vinyl over digital grows ever larger. For much-loved music, original is sometimes unrealistic. It is time to make decisions about which edition is on the shelf – original at a price, or best available alternative. I suspect I am not alone at this juncture.

Kenny Drew’s Undercurrent:  I have wanted the original for many years but each time it has slipped through through my fingers.  Hank Mobley and Freddie Hubbard in absolutely on top form, from the golden age of Blue Note, the turn of the decade. It’s the familiar problem: insufficient funds, please contact your bank for further information. Popsike tells the story:

Popsike kenny Drew Undercurrent Original Undercurrent nudges into the $1,000 bracket, in its most desirable condition, of course mono.  Not quite up in the stratosphere with rarest Blue Notes but a hefty price tag for The Black Vinyl Disc. Popsike’s lowest auction values bar in the price distribution is composed almost entirely of Toshiba, King,  the odd Classic Records and not a few Music Matters 2×45 editions. In the face of expensive originals, alternatives have made it onto the Ebay auction radar.

The Evil Silver Disc™  is an always a possibility, though a last resort for one with a  hearing condition, digital-intolerance. I am not generally a fan of modern vinyl either, but I read somewhere people singing the praises of the new 33rpm Music Matters releases. Perhaps it was the Music Matters guys themselves. The MM33s come with the same beautiful gatefold covers as the 2x45s but a more affordable price tag. Significantly, not dissimilar to the going rate for vintage King pressings. What’s a collector to do?

Generally I  find  King as the best of the Japanese vintage pressings. Manufactured at the end of the ’70s and early 80’s by engineers fastidious about quality, with little digital contamination and in near-mint condition, King are in many cases a good alternative (Mobley 1568 being a case in point). However some lack punch, and a few spins of the turntable of my King pressing of Undercurrent left me quite dissatisfied with the transfer. I know the sound of original Blue Note 4000 series and  West 63rd well enough,  and I know it should sound better than this.

Music Matters have a strong and vocal following, I know, a full postpag tells me. An LJC previous head-to-head between  original  Blue Note ( BLP 1541 Sonny Rollins Vol 1) and MM 2×45, put the original out in front to my taste (I appreciate, not everyone’s, but that’s my take). With an original Undercurrent not in prospect any time soon, my quest was for a satisfying alternative, and King wasn’t doing it for me. Could the recent claimed improvements at MM offer a better alternative? If you don’t compare, you don’t know. I need to know. Time to put it to the test.

MM_Captain_America_Blue-Note-Shield Candidate no. 1 – Music Matters MM33 Edition Kenny-Drew-Undercurrent-cover-1800-LJC Selection: Funk-cosity

Artists

Freddie Hubbard (trumpet) Hank Mobley (tenor saxophone) Kenny Drew (piano) Sam Jones (bass) Louis Hayes (drums) recorded at Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, December 11, 1960 . A month after this recording, shortly after Christmas,  Kenny Drew returned to Englewood Cliffs studio to record on Jackie McClean’s Bluesnik, and shortly after that, Kenny Dorham’s Whistle Stop. Such were the diaries, those were the days!

Music

Bop at the transition between decades: bluesy minor themes, strong headline statements,  tight rhythm-section,  Kenny Drew, driving in front and behind, and power soloists Mobley and Hubbard. You couldn’t ask for a better pairing, Hubbard’s trumpet burnished gold, Mobley’s mocha tenor. Praline jazz,  “must have” music.

1960, Van Gelder was beginning to get the hang of stereo but it is still largely “two-channel mono”, hard panning, instruments at the extreme edge of the field,  a few blank spaces at times, not the way he would record just a few years later. A challenge for the Blue Note enthusiast, both editions here are stereo.

Vinyl

Music Matters 1×33 rpm, 205 gm vinyl. I had to check the scales twice. Yes, 205 . Very heavy vinyl has an unexpected hazard – the spindle clamp runs out of thread! Kenny-Drew-Undercurrent-labels-MM33-1800-LJC Gatefold cover: Beautiful Francis Wolff portraiture, immaculately reproduced tonal range in black and white: no burned out highlights, detail retained in the shadows, a perfect visual metaphor for the audio aspiration. Kenny-Drew-Undercurrent-gatefold-1800-LJC Kenny-Drew-Undercurrent-backcover-1800-LJC   Sumo-square Candidate no. 2: King Records, Tokyo

Complete with obi – the vintage King Records edition,1977-80 Blue Note Masterpiece Selection 150, skinny 122 gram vinyl, but flawless.Kenny-Drew-Undercurrent-frontcover-KING-JP-1800-LJC Selection: (same) Funk-cosity

Kenny-Drew-Undercurrent-labels-KING-JP-1800-LJC Kenny-Drew-Undercurrent-cover-King-Japan-1800-LJC Stop Press!

New Contestant: Classic Records

Reader Aaron throws a musical spanner in the works with another affordable contender, Classic Records edition of Undercurrent, ripped, he tells me, on a Clearaudio Champion turntable L-22206-1080327934.gif[1]w/Ortofon Cadenza Red cartridge, at our standard 320 kbps mp3 . Whether you are listening to differences in pressing or hi-fi, heaven only knows. but I thought I would give it a go, and at the end, I have added a Poll:

Which do you prefer, LJC’s Hi Fi or Aarons? No teacher’s pet, you can only vote for the affordable alternative of your preference – Music Matters MM33, King Records, or Classic Records on the merits of their presentation here, as it is. I’ve got an open mind, some would say empty, but we will check the wisdom of crowds.

 

Collectors Corner

Judge-LJCHere comes da judge. LJC is impartial (if “opinionated”), has no inducements from any commercial organisation or any conflict of interest. Opinions here are based on my own listening history (150 original BNs + many re’s) played on a fairly highly-tuned rig, not the mp3 included here simply for illustration.  Remember: no-one really knows what others hear.  I recommend to experiment for yourself, your mileage may vary. Headphones recommended.

Overall LJC Verdict between MM and King: 

I haven’t made up my mind about the Classic records so Ill restrict my comments to the original pairing.

To my ear, the MM33 has an overall  freshness which is closer to the sound of original Blue Note than the King. The MM33 delivers a wider sound stage, and more information than the King.  As a result, it captures the timbre of the two brass voices, and its superior channel separation and tonal balance renders passages of brass in unison on this recording quite thrilling. Thumbs up, MM. A thoroughly enjoyable and better than expected romp.

33 1/3 Format

The 2×45 format has its fan base, but I feel more at home with 1×33. It saves shoe leather, and offers  a more natural listening time of 20 minutes on the sofa rather than 10.  I have never felt 45 rpm sound in practice lives up to its theoretical promise. To my ear this 33 sounds easily as good as my 45s, possibly better. I am in no position to compare sound quality like with like for the same title, but if anyone out there has experience to share, the comment floor is open.

Stereo processing

Faithful to the Van Gelder Stereo Master, the stereo has fairly hard panning characteristic of RVG circa 1960. The thought did cross my mind, wouldn’t a 2×33 package be nice – a mono and a stereo within the gatefold? (Cue lengthy arguments about fold downs, true mono, and forthcoming jazz blockbuster books What Rudy Did and What Rudy Did Next…)

King in perspective

The King Undercurrent, in contrast to the MM, offers a slightly more congested and muddy presentation. The midband is more prominent, and the bass more forward and less controlled, eating up a bigger share of resources at the expense of the top end, which as a result comes across more ragged and woolly. The overall result of the mix and instrument placement  is that the soundstage is more centrally focussed and closer, oddly, to mono presentation. It is not unpleasant, but at the end of the day doesn’t have the authority of the Music Matters 33 edition, though some may prefer it.

Conclusions

At a similar price-point, with its luxurious packaging, this MM33 offers a superior alternative to the vintage Japanese alternative, and very acceptable listening experience to this lover of Blue Note originals.

For titles where original Blue Note is an affordable option (“Affordable” = Desire x Ability to Pay), I would always pay the premium for original Blue Note.

For those titles where scarcity puts the price out of reach (see league table bottom of post) , the new MM33s are, on this outing, a very satisfactory alternative, and I have no hesitation in praising them. For a much-loved title where you have a lesser pressing, and little prospect of an original, I think you will enjoy the upgrade. I know I have.

Poll

Vote for your preferred affordable alternative between the samples presented here

Hopefully Polldaddy will be working, its been a bit flaky since WordPress “improved” its editing screen. One vote, poll open for one week, choice between three samples posted here, and one extra for the MM45 diehards, who always insist they are the best, I’ll let that voice be heard too. You can nominate any other under “other”, but… say no to The Evil Silver Disc ™. This is an all analogue poll.

“Don’t be dumb, be a smarty, come and join the Vinyl Party”

Come back frequently check out your preference against the wisdom of crowds

Analysis:  Blue Note Top 10 premium auction titles

Popsike’s Ebay auction results can be cut many different ways, which brings out my inner analyst. Here’s one cut, the league table of auction values restricted to Blue Notes which have a presence in auction results over $1,500 – the “premium auctions” which are about 1% of all Blue Note auctions.It is not the same as the highest value, or the mean of all auctions which includes the crud and the reissues. It is the “average price of the cream”.

PREMIUM LEAGUE POSITION BLP ARTIST TITLE AVERAGE PREMIUM PRICE (USD) COUNT OF PREMIUM AUCTIONS ($1500+)
1 1568 Hank Mobley Hank Mobley 3,097 51
2 1588 Sonny Clark  Cool Struttin’ 2,751 24
3 1530 Jutta Hipp  With Zoot Sims 2,519 24
4 1533 Johnny Griffin  Introducing Johnny Griffin 2,355 13
5 1538 Lee Morgan  Lee Morgan Indeed! 2,197 12
6 1550 Hank Mobley  With Farmer, Silver, Watkins, Blakey 2,149 14
7 1557 Lee Morgan  Volume 3 2,145 10
8 4041 Tina Brooks  True Blue 2,135 28
9 1590 Lee Morgan  Candy 2,078 24
10 1574 Hank Mobley  Peckin’ Time 1,872 14

Commentary: some things I notice:

Mobley 1568 is not only the most valuable Blue Note on record, it is the most frequently sold (58 premium auctions) Investor trading?

Though Sonny Clark Cool Struttin‘ is the second most valuable Blue Note, the second most frequently auctioned in the Top 10 league is actually Tina Brooks True Blue (28 premium auctions).

Lee Morgan just pips Hank Mobley as the most frequently mentioned leader in the cream Blue Note Top 10 most valued.

Now, where was that list of Affordable Alternatives?

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121 thoughts on “Rare Blue Note: what’s the collector alternative? UPDATED extra sample and poll added

  1. I live in Chicago and regularly visit Music Direct for my new vinyl fix. I recently copped the MM 33 releases of Herbie Hancock’s Empyrean Isles and Maiden Voyage. Both are a big improvement over my Pathe Marconi pressings, but compared to my 45 copy of Joe Henderson’s Inner Urge, there is a noticeable difference to my ears. The 33s sound just a tad less dynamic and ” up front” . They sound a little smoothed out, less full from top to bottom. Still, they are really wonderfully refined sounding pressings. However, just yesterday I got Lee Morgan’s The Sidewinder and was very disappointed. As always, the quality of the jacket, photos and pressing is superb but, the music is not as dynamic sounding as on others in the series. It sounds much softer and fluffier than my old New York label Plastylite pressing. It is tidy but tame sounding. The drums are especially less defined on the new MM LP. I have several titles from the MM 33 series, including Blue Train, Go, Matador, Cool Struttin, Something Else, and the aforementioned LPs. All have been sonically and visually excellent but Sidewinder sounds like a clean Liberty pressing next to the NY label P pressing. Anyone else hear what I’m hearing?

    • I have a couple MM 45s and a 33 and I think they all sound great.

      I think Liberty pressings generally have an unfairly bad reputation. I’ve never heard a Liberty copy of Sidewinder, but I’m tempted to say that unanimously I find Liberty pressings to sound great–much more consistently than originals due to the lower likelihood of groover wear affecting later pressings. Don’t get me wrong, I think near mint originals often sound stunning, but they’re few and far between in my experience.

  2. This is all very interesting reading, with telling thoughts on records, labels, and sound. I only have Blue Notes I bought when they came out, so high auction prices make no sense to me–just curiosities. If I wouldn’t buy a record at $5.98, why would I pay hundreds or thousands of dollars? This includes Riverside and Prestige. I bought some of my Riversides from the warehouse where they were being discounted. I was told about this by drummer Philly Joe Jones, from whom I was taking drum lessons at the time. I saved a bunch of money. I also bought some of the recordings made “live” at New York clubs because I had been there at the time of the recording. To put this in perspective: I bought my first 78 in 1942 at age six (Frankie Newton Bluebird), and my first LP in 1950 (Goodman Carnegie Hall Concert).

    • “…telling thoughts on records, labels, and sound…”
      Being one of those who have been contributing a little (too often) about the latter, I want to keep it short: I really like your perspective.

  3. Nice post, I have made quite a similar experience comparing the King pressings to MM´s (no matter if 45 or 33rpm). In fact, I usually sell off the King pressing and keep the MM. The first record that I had a face to face poll on, was Matador from Grant Green. Not only the looks convinced me here! I can recommend anyone to get your hands on the MM33 pressing when it comes out in May(?). The MM45 is sold out and hard to come by at a reasonable price.
    In fact I can strongly advice to consider looking at the MM pressing of unissued BN sessions that came out both on the King/Toshiba catalog and MM.
    My inside tip is Hank Mobleys “another workout”, how sweet it sounds if you dont mind getting off the couch more often!

  4. I was playing the entire Tina Brooks Mosaic record set last night. It sounded very good. Just as an experiment, I chose an authentic stereo “Blue Note” for comparison. I don’t remember the title now as I sit in the waiting room of a doctor’s office. All I can say is the sound of the Blue Note was radically better. It’s hard to put its quality into words. Even though it had audible scratches, it had something that pulled me in and made me want to become part of the music. I can only think of a quote by William Blake that has stayed in my memory since my University days. He wrote, “Exuberance is beauty.” What a wonderful expression, don’t you think? It’s a quality that goes beyond any equipment or recording technique. But Van Gelder knew it when he heard it. So did the musicians. The high quality vinyl and excellent sound engineering helped bring it out. But I think that identifying which take to print was of more significance. It’s something like capturing magic in a bottle.

  5. I’ve found this paradox with certain hardware improvements: They improve clarity but also bring out a record’s defects. I’ve read reviews of some high end cartridges that claim they are able to improve sound quality while minimizing the sound of scratches. I view these claims with skepticism. On the other hand, I never bought a $5,000 phono cartridge. I would welcome feedback about this topic. I currently use a “Sutherland” 20/20 solid state phono preamp with Modwright preamp and amp. “Modwright” is a small Americaan company that has received excellent reviews. The preamp is tube and amp is SS. The only thing I want to change is to replace my AT phono cartridge with a Dynavector 20X2L. I broke the stylus off my old Dynavector 20X2h after it was retipped by SoundSmith. ( Ouch) My At cartridge doesn’t come close to the sound of my

    • Someone recently asked me what amplifier I could recommend for $x,000 and the same spend, which speakers. Maybe stating the obvious, but all these things are downstream of original signal generation, they simply do as they are told. Where the spend repays is in those things closest to the starting signal that is then handed over to the heavy lifting gear, whose task is then not to mess it up.

      Among these “first contact” components I count the turntable and the electricity that enables it, the cartridge and the stylus that makes actual contact with the vinyl groove, and a cleaning process that ensures nothing comes between the stylus and the vinyl wall. Not to forget first stage amplification, the phono amp. This is where you need the highest quality gear. Nothing else will make good weaknesses in the original signal capture, it will just amplify the weaknesses.

      The reason some styluses (the Dynavector TKR – long profile stylus) are more vintage-friendly (aka scratches and surface abrasion) is that due to their profile they sit lower in the groove where the information in the curves of the vinyl wall has been more protected from surface damage, and provided they are held rigidly by a quality arm (SME V)and unshakeable turntable rotation and tend to simply “ride through” the damage rather than being deflected by it.

      A friend with radically different kit plays mostly modern vinyl where surface damage is rarely an issue. Clicks and bangs are loud. On a system geared to different condition of vinyl (50 years wear and tear) , the same defects are often just a soft pop (though nothing covers up a 1950s 20gm tracking weight radiogram arm slicing through vinyl)

      If you play old vinyl, you need stuff which works with it, not against it. A high end cart should do that for you.

      • Thank you for the advice. If I had the money and the space, I would get The Lyra mono cartridge and a spare VPI arm wand for mono Blue Notes. Lyra cartridges usually get great reviews. I don’t know anything about the ultra high end cartridges. ( $25,000+) But unless I won a lottery, I couldn’t consider anything in that price range.
        The best change I made to my system was the purchase of Harbeth 7 ES-3 speakers. They’re perfect for the size of my bedroom and have a wonderful clarity. I don’t even use a Subwoofer with them. They put out excellent bass without any muddiness. Their transient response can sometimes be frightening on loud transitions in a classical piece. Yes, the Brits know how to make the best speakers, IMHO.

      • This is an update. I finally purchased a new Dynavector 20X2l. I’m still using a Sutherland 20/20 phono preamp. The difficult part is fine tuning the VTA. LJC wrote an excellent piece on how significant a small change in VTA has on overall sound quality. The problem is, that on my VPI Scout, changing and testing a particular VTA setting is a time consuming process. A further complication is that the sweet spot can vary between record labels and even individual records. I recently read an interesting article on setting the VTA for various Decca pressings. (Yes, I confess to owning some vintage classical records.) The author, who appeared to have a comprehensive knowledge of Decca pressings, wrote about the very small VTA sweet spot for certain Decca pressings. It caused me to think about how this issue affects popular jazz labels. I can’t afford a rig with an easy, on the fly VTA adjustment. If I had to set a different VTA for every record, it would take the fun out of playing them. Then there is the sweet spot for loading on my Sutherland preamp. Dynavector recommends loading anywhere from 30 10 1000 ohms. That’s a pretty wide range. I guess the answer is to make adjustments for records that you play the most. But I will never defect and go over to the evil silver disk!

        • You are quite right about best VTA adjustment depending on record thickness – ie vinyl weight. When I moved up to the Avid Acutus Reference SP tt a couple of months ago, VTA was shot to hell. Arm and cartridge “looked level” but it was killing the sound.
          What I did to rebalance it was pick an album of average weight, around 160 grams, seek out the sweet spot for that, and then test it on a monster (220grams) and an anorexic (92 grams) to see if the adjustment still proved functional. It did.

          Unless you want to constantly fiddle with VTA, “normalise” it for average, and what you get with weight outliers is just what you get.

          • LJC, I should have added that the article I mentioned is the one you quoted in your “Tonearm VTA adjustment” department a while ago. However, your conclusion that “very small adjustments create very large changes” is almost contrary to what the author wants to convey. He seems to be very skeptical about this matter.

            • A friend who follows such things in HiFi Forums tells me there are people who do not believe VTA adjustment (“fine tuning”) makes any difference. Perhaps for them it doesn’t.

              My experience tells me it makes a very significant audible difference, just a quarter to half a turn up or down. Which is why I don’t mostly bother with HiFi Forums.

              • All I want to say is that the source you were quoting out of context to support your view was meant to shed doubt on the conviction that incredibly tiny changes in VTA would result in audible improvement. Let me quote from that same source:

                “All the evidence I’ve so far found (I’d be grateful if anyone could send
                scientific evidence) I would class as hearsay and as any lawyer or scientist
                will tell you, hearsay is worthless. I find this incredibly frustrating as it’s
                an interesting subject, and contrary to what you might think I have no position
                on the importance of VTA (except that currently I can’t hear it and that my
                system/records arn’t capable of showing it – which proves precisely nothing) and
                am merely seeking truth. Nothing would make me happier than to pin down the
                critical nature of VTA or otherwise so that we can either move on or change the
                way we listen to music.”

  6. I have a Japanese pressing of “Booker Little and Friend.” I have no idea which company did the mastering. It’s a duplicate of the original “Bethlehem” label. The only English on the cover is “1984 11 Nippon Columbia Co. Ltd.” On the top it has “PCM mastering” written in English. This album sounds absolutely beautiful. Perhaps it’s the session. On the song “If I Should Lose You,” Booker Little brings tears to my eyes. The record has clarity and depth that I haven’t found on any other Japanese pressing. Perhaps whether it’s “King” or “Toshiba” isn’t as significant as who did the actual sound engineering. I don’t know for sure, but imagine that there was more than one sound engineer who worked on “King” and “Toshiba” pressings. If I were able to read Japanese, it might unravel the mystery.

    My son, who is into rock music, assures me that a Bernie Grundman pressing is better than the records pressed by “Music Matters.” I know he pressed a few jazz records but not that many. I never really compared Grundman pressings to the those by “Music Matters”

    I will add my 2 cents about modern 45 rpm pressings. I stopped buying them because getting up every 7 minutes to flip the record ruins my musical experience. This is just my personal idiosyncrasy.

    I’ve lately been boycotting eBay “Blue Notes” (the real ones) because mis-grading has become endemic. I just received one this week that was rated near mint. It’s so scratched up, it won’t even play through. This happens to me so often that I’m just tired of sending records back. One seller banned me because I had to dispute his mis-graded record. Too many sellers don’t even play grade their records. And I, unfortunately, don’t live in a great city like London where record stores abound. The only record store in my city, that even has a decent jazz collection, overprices their records to ridiculous levels. And they have no original “Blue Notes.”

    One more thing about the evil silver disks: I found one format called XRCD that sounds closer to the sound of records than anything I have ever heard. The official name, “XRCD24” is a proprietary mastering method invented by “Toshiba.” Unlike SACDs, they can be loaded onto a Tablet or smart phone for playing in the auto. They recently issued a whole jazz series under the “Blue Note” label. As I mentioned, they’re good for playing jazz in my auto. I don’t have the knowledge or equipment to transfer records to a digital format. My son has an inexpensive analogue to digital converter but the results are far from good. I would welcome any suggestions in this area. I’m still astounded by the high quality clips that LJC posts to this site. He must have a magic box.

    • “My son…assures me that a Bernie Grundman pressing is better than the records pressed by “Music Matters.” I know he pressed a few jazz records but not that many. I never really compared Grundman pressings to the those by “Music Matters”

      Bernie Grundman mastered nearly 100 Blue Note titles on vinyl for Classic Records.

    • So much interesting info in this post! You bring up a good point about the Japanese King and Toshiba-EMI pressings: I rarely hear anything about the mastering engineers…though I find that information about Japanese pressings is sort of cloaked in darkness over here in the states.

      A lot of audiophiles will strongly disagree with your son’s comment. I personally think they all sound great, though I will say that Music Matters seems to exercise an exceptionally high amount of quality control that is difficult to top.

      I had the exact same experience as you on eBay trying to buy original Blue Notes when I first started collecting. But the more I bid on eBay the easier it is to weed out the amateur and shady sellers. I find that patience and practicality are an important part of being successful on eBay. In 99% of situations I pass on VG+ now; there can’t be any mention of VG+ whatsoever, I’ve found it to be too much of a grey area. But even exercising that rule I still end up returning records due to disagreements in grading…comes with the territory.

  7. Hey LJC, enjoyed your noting that the photos inside the Music Matters LP cover don’t have blown highlights and retain shadow detail. Ansel Adams would be proud.

  8. I am not an expert like you are, Spencer, but looking at that “typical Hoffman remark” you’re quoting…

    …”The old RVG LP masterings were compressed at least 3:1 dynamically, had a giant upper midrange boost, (at least 6 db) and a boomy upper bass boost while filtering the good low bass and the tip top end completely out”…

    …I must confess that this amounts to a precise description of the typical RVG sound I was hearing when (for lack of vinyl records) I was listening to Blue Note recordings on the radio many years ago. What they were playing then must have been originals of some sort, for it was at a time preceding both the CD era and the return to RVG original master tapes.

    However, I also must admit that hi-fi at that time was not what it is now. But I clearly remember that Roy DuNann always sounded remarkably good to my ears, even when taped from radio.

          • Perhaps you should create a dedicated Blue Note thread. I’ve noticed at Hoffman the MM thread is by far the busiest individual thread over there. If you created a dedicated Blue Note/MM/reissues thread it would become the go-to-spot for all lengthy discussions pertaining to BN

            • That’s a good idea because maybe it would attract some interest. It’s interesting because now that you’ve set it up I can see that it might be a bit difficult to get a forum snowballing.

              Also, good idea putting a link in the top nav, LJC.

              • Make it happen LJC
                We fans of BLUE NOTE need a forum that is not dominated by an egomaniac who ejects you from the discussion the moment you express a dissenting opinion that repudiates his narcissistic agrandizement

    • Spencer,

      1. I wasn’t being sarcastic, I didn’t know the history of that stuff.
      2. Trust me, I know exactly what thread that quote is from. Since this Robert fellow got banned from there, I’d say I must be public enemy number one over there, though I think I’ve done a decent job of keeping it civil to avoid being exiled. Check this out. Start with Hoffman’s comment then proceed downward:

      http://forums.stevehoffman.tv/threads/which-50s-and-60s-van-gelder-blue-note-recordings-have-the-best-audio-quality.341721/page-3#post-10021027

      1. I do not consider myself an audiophile either, pretty much because a lot of know-it-alls have tarnished the name.
      • I myself was hounded out of Hoffman not too long ago cuz I exposed one of his minions, a cad by the name of Scott Wheeler in the act of spreading falsehoods: the chap claimed that Hoffman mastered 88 of the 112 MM 45s. In actuality Hoffman was involved in the mastering of only a 1/3 of the entire series before he was fired. To expose this falsehood which Hoffman did nothing to abate I spent a whole weekend looking at the deadwax of all 224 vinyl that are in the complete MM 45rpm set, looking for Hoffman’s initials. Like I said 1/3. Shortly after I was hounded by all sorts of axmen until I was fed up and basically published my whole feelings regarding the entire affair on the thread. Hoffman and his staff immediately deleted the bulk of it. There is still some of my posts left on part 6 of the thread. Investigate for yourself:

        http://forums.stevehoffman.tv/threads/music-matters-definitive-blue-note-45-rpm-and-33-1-3-rpm-vinyl-series-pt6.344664/page-36

        I AM LA ROCA

    • Was it AM or FM? Both AM and FM heavily compress the signal, but AM might sound like upper-mid boost because AM cut everything about around 5kHz. However, both AM and FM have excellent low frequency response. I’d also be suspicious that depending on the time period, the originals may have already been replaced by reissues at a station like that. That’s what appeared to have happened at my college station in Albany, New York. They had a bunch of blue label ’70s reissues, and while I couldn’t find any originals, it’s quite possible that they had simply been looted by students.

      Too bad that DuNann worked for a label so far removed from the blossoming hard bop scene in New York, and too bad he didn’t have a greater output. I’m sure you’re familiar with the Stereophile article where DuNann goes into detail describing his equipment from that time. Coincidentally it all matches up with Van Gelder’s gear list, save the AKG’s I guess…I’m positive Van Gelder used other mics beside U47s but I don’t know what they were.

      • It must have been early FM stereo, with a great deal of stuff still being played in mono. Late sixties. I was still recording my favourite jazz programmes in mono at that time.

        As for DuNann, I really think the AKG’s were making a lot of difference. Can’t prove it though.

        I know the Stereophile article, I once even linked it elsewhere on this blog. Well I think his output was smaller than RVG’s, but he is omnipresent all across the Contemporary catalogue.

    • Hardly the expert. I enjoy the music immensely and enjoy the historical and anecdotal info that I can find here and there. Technical matters I leave to guys like yourself with more understanding of such things. I majored in theatre arts in college so that should tell you how un-technical I am.

  9. I was thinking of picking up a copy of the Classic Records ‘Soul Stirrin’ from Acoustic Sounds, that record is so hard to get in good condition without re-mortgaging the house. Does anyone have this version?

  10. No doubt the Classic and the MM sound the best. The King is muddled. The Classic had more bass in this file presentation – but it could just as well be changes in the setups/rip we hear. I got somewhat interested in the Classic edition after hearing the samples. The MM is surely great but the titles I already have are a bit of a hassle to change sides every 10 minutes. ;-(

    At the end of the day – the only really useful comparison are rips from the same system done in the same way and exact handling of the files to mp3.

  11. No Fair on the Comparison between the Classic Records and LJC’s cut. There is a $2k difference in Cartridge! I’ve owned the Classic Records for many years. I’ll pick this up to compare.

    • Yeah, I’m not really into comparisons of different issues done on two different systems. But the CR issue sounds great as well…I’d be happy to have any of these. Again, the only dramatic difference I hear is in the treble, where the King is considerably darker…and the spread on the King sounds more pulled in. If I don’t obsessively switch back and forth between the files, the King sounds great in its own right.

      • I’m with you Rich… the CR does sound fine but my brain won’t let me compare it to the “other two”… speaking of my brain and the other two, I kinda get a sense of the King being “fuller”, like as in more substance, than the MM. True, as far as treble goes it did seem like someone removed the grilles of my speakers when the MM plays, and put them back on when the King plays, but the MM kinda seems to be lacking that “substance” (fatness, perhaps?) that I dig in the King. It’s tough to come up with the correct verbiage here, there’s a gift to it and I’ll leave that to LJC. Suffice it to say I’d be THRILLED with any of these 3 reissues! That’s coming from a guy who’s pretty sour over yet another Amazon / Blue Note 75th anniversary reissue of this very title. I keep giving them a chance, and they consistently disappoint me. The Undercurrent is pretty sadly warped and the transfer seems to be typical of Scorpio quality, but I digress. Not my soapbox. Thanks once again LJC for the chance to do these fun comparisons. I’m off to vote for the King, just ’cause.

        • That ‘fullness’ may have to do with the slight pulling in of the stereo channels, and perhaps more compression/limiting has been applied to the King. The MM releases are supposed to have the widest dynamic range (and stereo spread) of all the various issues, so those might indeed sound and feel a bit more ’empty’ in that regard.

  12. LJC – Fun comparison! I agree that the new MM 33 1/3 releases are quite special. I personally put them ahead of King pressings as the Kings seem quite variable to my ears. Some excellent and close to MM in quality, but many others sound a bit muddy likely due to the second generation tapes used. The clarity and precision that these new MM releases have is unmatched even on originals. The originals obviously have more guts and personality and I still prefer them when possible, but if an original is unattainable then these new MM’s are my top choice. They really do have the widest soundstage and make the band sound like they’re playing in your room. I do wish they would release more of the records on your list above plus others that have not seen multiple versions throughout the years. Hopefully that will happen down the line. In the meantime, I would recommend upgrading some of your gems such as Soul Station and True Blue and Cool Struttin to these new MM’s. Well worth it IMO.

  13. I have yet to acquire duplicates, but to add a bit to the Classic Records, they are from the original tapes, mastered by Bernie Grundman, and cut with a mono cutting head. The MM crew uses a stereo cutting head on their lathe. Does it matter a whole lot? Just offering it as a data point. I do have dedicated mono and stereo setups.

    I just did a 24/96 needle-drop of Hank Mobley’s Blue Note 1568, Classic Records, 200g Quiex SV-P pressing with my Ortofon Quintet Mono and think it sounds excellent. I may try to pick up the MM pressing for a comparison, see if that cutting head stuff has any appreciable impact with a mono cartridge.

    Overall, I am very pleased with the listening experience of all my Classic Records BN titles as well as the MM (subscribing to the new 33 BN series), but serious analysis is something I have not done much of, other than Up at “Minton’s”, which I have original promo copies of both volumes, and a friends’ needle-drop of the MM. But, obviously done on different rigs, would really like to acquire the audiophile pressings myself and re-rip on my current setup for a better “shoot out”.

    This is a really a great dialog to me, as I am always waffling over which pressing to buy, so thanks!

    • My experience with the Classic Records Quiex pressings have been mixed to say the least (unbearably fizzy treble on both Hank 1560 and Dial S for Sonny, even with the channels summed). I only have a stereo cart. Have you tried playing these Quiex pressings on your stereo setup?

  14. I own original copies of many of the Blue Note titles and the Music Matters re-issues never fail to exceed them in terms of sound quality, presentation and overall musical impact, and by a wide margin. It is a great time to be a Jazz lover.

    • I agree with you. For me original Blue Notes are just historical artifacts, excellent ones at that. They are no different than owning a vintage Cartier Tank watch. In both cases the rarity of the object has inflated it’s actual value.

      • Spencer, your observation coincides with a suspicion/prejudice I have been cherishing for a long time. I think in its heyday, Blue Note was far from being the best sounding jazz label. This title IMHO goes to Contemporary, followed by Roulette and some major labels.
        However, I am not talking about the fact that RVG did the mastering to suit contemporary audio equipment. I am talking about the hundreds of CDs that I have listened to, sourced from original master tapes. In particular, I never cared much about the way RVG recorded the bass register.
        Now I am perfectly aware of all the pros and cons usually brought forward in response to such over-simplifying – but did I ever have a complaint about Contemporary? Can’t say at this moment, but must have been a very rare occasion.

        • Ed, I’d agree that Roy DuNann did get an exceptionally clean sound, as did Columbia, but I have read multiple times that many were floored by Van Gelder’s records in the fifties and sixties. The sound was very bold, immediate and therefore exciting, and it was a radical departure from the past and what his contemporaries (no pun intended) were doing.

          You lost me on the point that compared his original mastering to various CD releases…?

          For me, the most important thing is the actual music, and I can’t say that I’m a fan of any Contemporary releases yet…care to point me to anything? Please also feel free to make some recommendations on Roulette.

          • As for Contemporary: Way Out West, Tomorrow Is The Question, (Ornette’s) Something Else, The Arrival Of Victor Feldman, Shelly Manne At The Black Hawk, Phineas Newborn, Harold Land…
            Roulette: The Complete Roulette Studio Recordings Of Count Basie (Mosaic) – but this is really a different department, as is the Ellington & Armstrong date. But there’s also Bill Russo’s “The Seven Deadly Sins” and “School of Rebellion”…

          • While I don’t agree that Contemporary or Verve or Columbia or any other label is better than an original Blue Note, Contemporary, in particular, does sound spectacular on my system. In fact, perhaps the single best-sounding record I own is . . . Benny Carter – Jazz Giant on Contemporary. Not only a superb record, but it is so warm and vibrant; just amazing. Other Contemporaries to watch for are the Art Pepper releases (Smack Up being my personal favorite); The Curtis Counce Group; Maggie’s Back in Town; Together Again (McGhee and Teddy Edwards); and, of course, Way Out West.

            • Interesting to note that Roy DuNann wasn’t any better euipped than RVG. Perhaps the answer is a very simple one: He was using AKG mics. One of the first Contemporaries I heard, and whose sound immediately caught my attention, was the 1954 quintet recording of Lennie Niehaus. It was done with ONE SINGLE OVERHEAD MICROPHONE. One AKG, that is.

              • To me, the big difference between Van Gelder and DuNann sounds like it’s mostly about DuNann being less extreme with his mic placement and not going as heavy on the compression and thus not being nearly as close to approaching distortion as much as Van Gelder.

                • That’s right, Rich. I’m thinking about Art Blakey’s cymbals in particular, which IMHO were captured much better by Columbia, for instance, than by BN.

          • My favorite on Contemporary is Prince Lasha Quintet The Cry!

            A bit more avant-garde and does have flute (in case you weren’t a fan)!

        • I’m in agreement with you. The best sounding labels were the RCAs, Verves and Contemporary and Columbia.

          Take for instance: a friend and I recently played Sonny Rollins’ Newk’s Time, the MM 45rpm followed by Sony Rollins’ The Bridge reissued by ORG Music. We were not really comparing the sonics on both reissues. My friend observed that MM for their reissue of Newk’s Time should have used the fold down mono tape instead of the stereo. The reason being that Rollins when he played tended to move his sax around and in the course of doing so often missed the mic sweet spot. On the stereo version of Newk’s time, this created an inconsistent level of volume with sax as it would fade out and in.

          On the other hand this effect was not present on The Bridge which Rollins recorded for RCA. I asked my friend how RCA could record Rollins and avoid that problem and Blue Note couldn’t. He bluntly said, Because RCA was state of the art back then and RVG and Blue Note were the low budget outfit. This might sound dismissive to some but it was not meant that way. In fact it’s a praise because it kind of revealed to you why BN is so revered. BN was able to do so much with so little which makes all their accomplishment more remarkable.

  15. The digital mono masters used are the same used by Disk Union one year ago, please take a serio us listening also to that pressing.

    • http://forums.stevehoffman.tv/threads/blue-note-premium-vinyl-reissue-series-by-emi-japan.264946/page-4#post-7291644

      This rumor has been disproven by a SHF member named Mark, a guy from Russia who is a serious collector of the Disk Union reissues. In the above SHF post he explains that he had email correspondence with Kevin Gray, the mastering engineer for the Disk Union project, who in turn explained that the Disk Union series is indeed cut from the original master tapes. The only different is that on occasion they elected to sum the two channels of the two-track tape for a mono release just like Van Gelder did back in the day, which is something MM has never done to my knowledge.

      • I seriously doubt the veracity of this post from SHF. I will contact my source but if I am not mistaken those are digital. I will check on it.

          • All you need to know is my source is legit. while I wait for answer perhaps you could chew on this tiny article.

            http://robertmusic.blogspot.com/2012/04/few-more-of-those-dubious-mono-japanese.html

            Furthermore, you should know original BN tapes have never been used for any pressing done outside the U.S. Many of the earlier Japanese pressings were done with like Toshiba were done with 2nd Gen copies. To be even more blunt, all current BN reissues with exception of Analogue Production and Music Matters are all digitally sourced, especially the Japanese.

            Still waiting on word from my source.

            • Already chewed on that tiny article, thanks. I don’t personally put much faith in that bloggers occasionally extreme, harsh opinions.

              These indeed would be the first Japanese Blue Note pressings mastered in the United States from what I understand, and–lo and behold–they are mastered by the same engineer who mastered the MM issues.

              By the way, no need for the sharp sarcasm I’m detecting…forgive me if I’m off about that.

            • And who is this mysterious source? You don’t have to name names, just explain why he has inside information that carries more weight than the man who actually cut the records (which is the same guy who cut all the Music Matters and Analogue Productions BTW).

              • Honestly, I can’t mention the source.

                I’m just giving you a heads up about those Disk Union reissues if You want to drop $50 to $60 on those then be my guess.

                Just cause they come from an analog source does not they are cut directly from an analog source. Classic reissues come from mono masters not Disk Union

            • I’ll email Gray myself if I have to, who I have been in correspondence with in the past. We have a legitimate community of jazz lovers over at SHF and it’s easy to sniff out the trolls. Mark, the poster of the Gray quote, was engaged in an extensive, fruitful discussion about these reissues with the rest of us. He didn’t merely ‘pop in’ the forum and start spouting about the subject one way or another, unlike another commenter in that thread (JHC3) who claimed, just like you, that the DU reissues were from digital, and again–just like you–he wouldn’t reveal his source…

              • I disgree. Robert doesn’t like Hoffman but that is purely a result of the personal style of clashes between those two. Steve Hoffman does not like people on his forum who challenge his eminence and Robert did that so Hoffman banned him from SHF. Very low of Hoffman if I might add. If he’s such a stud then a dissent of opinion should not hurt his feelings so much and he should have some respect for freedom of speech.

                Robert’s dig at Hoffman can be personal at times but I have never known an instance where he would falsify information to make Hoffman look bad

                • I support your comments about Hoffman, but in that blog post the author is merely skeptical about the DU issues being from the tapes and proceeds to claim he can simply ‘hear’ that they’re from a digital source…this is far, far from concrete evidence. Should I contact Gray?

                    • The best thing you can make is to engagé a good rip with an ADC and compare to the other versions! I have made just to of this comparison and some editions are very excellent not only to my ears. But the fact is another. Is claimed clearly but the Emi : Is an official production claimed as from Analog tapes.regards

  16. MM is a winner for me!
    I like to listen old LPs and unfortunately Blue Notes are ever so lightly too pricey. The funny result is I don’t really listen Blue Note records! Or maybe I just don’t like this stuff 🙂 Now I definitely want hear new MM pressings. I remember buying some Classic Records 180g copies almost 20 years ago and getting very excited about the sound of a brand new analogue LP pressing.

    And anyway I really appreciate there are reissue labels working hard spending their money trying to do their best to please us. I think it’s not so easy. Although in this case the tape seems to be in excellent condition.

    ps. On holidays I started reading A Biography of Buddy DeFranco: A Life in the Golden Age of Jazz. And I’ve been listening those great early Buddy DeFranco Quartet Norgran records with Kenny Drew (and Sonny Clark). Now I sadly discovered DeFranco had passed away on 24th of Dec. He was 91.

  17. Music Matters just put out both Out To Lunch and Maiden Voyage on 33rpm and the sound is out the ball park. First, Maiden Voyage has been been a much maligned record not cause of the musical content but due to the sound quality. MM has produced the definitive 33rpm version of this record with their version. Second, many of you have posted here about loving the sound of MM’s Something’ Else; the recent 33rpm of Out To Lunch is holographic in presentation. Ten out of ten times I will pick it over the 45rpm. Though I have never heard an original RVG pressing, I doubt it will be as lifelike as the MM 33rpm.

    So shocking were these two 33rpm that I gave away the 45rpms in my house.

    • Spencer, Are the Dolphy and Hancock issues you refer to US ones? I have seen widespread reference – especially to the Hancock – but no sign that they are yet available in the UK.

      • Yes they are US. I suspect they will be available across the pond soon. Absolutely fabulous sound on both. Maiden Voyage is particularly quite revealing. The is that the original master had suffered some serious defect as magnetic tapes often do. The new Music Matters 33rpm is cut from an unused safety tape made from the master.

        • If you haven’t heard the needle drop here already, LJC has an absolutely stunning original mono pressing of Maiden Voyage (which I’m consequently very jealous of).

          PS – I can’t help but be skeptical of what you seem to be describing as a dramatic difference between Out to Lunch of 45 and 33. Forgive me but ‘holographic’ doesn’t do much as a descriptor for me. Care to try again?

            • Agree with you on Dolphin Dance being the highpoint of Miaden Voyage.
              I heard both Maiden Voyage and Out To Lunch back in 2000 on RVG CD. Immediately fell in love with Maiden Voyage. Out To Lunch left me perplexed. It was not until I received the new MM 33 that I began to enjoy it more.

          • When I think of what a totalitarian world might look like I think of SHF. Since he got fired from the MM reissues Hoffman and his acolytes are even more fanatical about throwing out stiffling dissent on that forum.

            • I agree with that sentiment! It’s a tough place to hang around. Nonetheless, it’s the most popular place to go online to talk audio and thus I know I’m highly likely to find any topic I’m interested in that I wanna talk about, so that is one good thing about it.

              My understanding is that he wasn’t fired, rather that the MM team was happy with his input, but because Van Gelder’s work was so consistent they didn’t really need him past a certain point, as Gray could adopt his suggestions on his own. And the truth is that the opinion of the overwhelming majority there is that all of the MM reissues are worthy of high praise, regardless of Hoffman’s involvement. The majority of jazz fans there practically worship the MM project.

              • FIRED! FIRED! FIRED!
                Hoffman was FIRED as in CANNED. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Mainly cause he thought that rolling off the top end on those 45RPM reissues and bloating the bottom made him a better engineer than RVG. Ron Rambach and Joe Harley felt that no one was better than RVG and the originals, certainly not Hoffman with his “breath of life” so they let Hoffman go.

                Since Rambach and Harley were content with Gray (who did not place himself above RVG) they decided to keep Gray on the project but as you can tell Gray and Hoffman operating Acoustech while Gray continued working on the MM reissues would have made for some awkward work environment. Gray and Hoffman parted ways (dissolution of Acoustech) and Gray started Cohearent Audio.

                I THOUGHT ALL THIS WAS COMMON KNOWLEDGE.

                The explanation you gave as to why Hoffman was no longer part of the MM crew sounds like one of those press releases that politicians put out when they cut a deal with a prosecutor to leave office to avoid a public trial

                I have a more pertinent question for you: we know Gray has moved on to bigger and better things since the Acoustech days; can you tell me exactly what Hoffman has done post MM reissues?

                • Veeery interesting, indeed…something to consider at the very least. HOWEVER, the ironic thing about your statement regarding Hoffman’s preferences is that Van Gelder rolled off the top too apparently–on some records, to a large extent. I have also read comments by Harley where (in a much less negative and crass tone) he is critical of Van Gelder’s mastering (mastering, not recording engineering) in a way that echoes Hoffman’s opinion. Both fall back on the belief that Van Gelder ‘had to do what he had to do’ to make the records sound good on portable players of the day, thus assigning Van Gelder a walking pass of sorts, and this is now a very common belief–regardless of its truth–as Hoffman has significant influence over audiophile-dom. (Interesting…doesn’t seem to be any info online of the disbandment of AcousTech or Hoffman leaving Music Matters…)

                  All that being said though, Gray does seem much more humble than Hoffman and I could see why MM might prefer him to ‘finish the job’.

                  And thank you for the history lesson–I never knew that Hoffman and Gray co-founded AcousTech, and I wasn’t aware that Cohearent was formed form the disbandment of AcousTech.

                  • Now I feel you’re being sarcastic.

                    But that Harley statement you referenced sounds similar to your original explanation of why Hoffman is no longer part of the MM project. You and I know reading thru Harley’s statement that it doesn’t add up.

                    There was a PR component to deal with in the wake of Hoffman being fired and both camps dealt with it by putting out statements that suggest all is well within the kingdom, but I assure you that was all for public consumption

                    Whatever Van Gelder did or did not do Hoffman never misses a chance to inform his doting band of sycophants that he knows what is better for Blue Note sound than Van Gelder.

                    Here’s a typical Hoffman remark on the RVG originals:

                    “Sorry to keep butting in on this thread but geez, guys, get a clue. The more mellow presentation is pretty much what the stuff sounds like. The old RVG LP masterings were compressed at least 3:1 dynamically, had a giant upper midrange boost, (at least 6 db) and a boomy upper bass boost while filtering the good low bass and the tip top end completely out.

                    We’ve talked about this many times here. The original LP’s are the originals and can be worshiped in the dead of night by candlelight, bowing and kneeling but really, they stink sonically. All subtle dynamics lost. All natural overtones lost.

                    You might like them if you like that old-fashioned “hi-fi” sound of the era but they sound nothing like the actual master tapes, nothing at all. That’s the reason that Joe and Ron started to do this Blue Note reissue project in the first place, so people could hear what the real deal actually sounds like. Sorry to offend rare Blue Note LP collectors but RVG’s LP mastering of the era is so false to the sound of his wonderful master tapes, it ain’t funny.”

                    http://forums.stevehoffman.tv/threads/music-matters-definitive-blue-note-45-rpm-and-33-1-3-rpm-vinyl-series-pt7.361195/page-80

                    Hoffman has repeatedly on his forum disparaged the sound of the RVG originals and if anyone of those doting minions dared to question his wisdom for saying such ridiculous things they will find themselves barred from the forum like Robert

                    Hoffman’s influence over “audiophiledom” is greatly exagerated. You need only answer my earlier question about what has he done lately since his dismissal from MM project to come to the same conclusion. If he (Hoffman) is so influential why is not so busy like KG mastering some of today’s best sound reissues?

                    Incidentally, I don’t consider myself an audiophile. The music matters (no pun intended) more to me than the perfect sound and frankly speaking some of the more expensive audiophile rigs I’ve heard remind more of CD than vinyl. This is in part due to the obsession by audiophiles that vinyl sound clean. part of the charm of old records is that they do not sound clean.

                • For the record, this is the quote from Joe Harley and this is a link to the post it’s from:

                  “As time went on, we all became intimately familiar with what needed to be done to RVG’s tapes in the mid 50s, late 50s, early 60s, mid 60s and so on. Rudy was very consistent in what he did, thankfully.

                  At a certain point … I forget the exact session, it became clear that we really only needed Kevin to handle the session duties. That’s when you start to see only his scribe in the dead wax. This is NOT a cut on Steve. It’s simply a matter of having done so many BN sessions at that point that we all had a great understanding of what was needed for a given RVG master.”

                  http://forums.stevehoffman.tv/threads/music-matters-definitive-blue-note-45-rpm-and-33-1-3-rpm-vinyl-series.324032/page-15#post-9805493

                  • Read it and could only muster a smile. A clever way to keep the acrimony of Hoffman’s dismissal from spilling into the public.

                    It’s a good one though

          • Not dramatic difference. Just that the 33rpm is as good as the 45rpm and better in some ways.

            One thing for sure Music Matters 33rpm is disproving the notion that 33s are inferior to 45s.

              • Simply this: with the 33s you get a better feel for how the recorded was originally intended for presentation. I am not talking of sonics, just the overall presentation and effect of the records. Listening to these records as 45rpms at times feels like taking a classic Hollywood movie shot 1:33.1 aspect ratio and then reframing it to a 2:70.1 panorama aspect ratio.

                While this might seem like a wonderful idea it is flawed cause it changes the presentation

        • Thanks — I have certainly heard great things about VOYAGE and await it eagerly. My usual dealer says his will be in the UK shortly.

  18. Back in March 2014 there was a post here about Modern Vinyl Jazz Reissues which looked at adjacent territory. During the course of that debate (which has attracted 179 comments as of this evening) many interesting points were made, with some contributors concluding that they were often satisfied with a best affordable version of the recording. That’s a realistic position that most of us are forced into. It is really helpful to read about the head to head tests like the one that this post considers.
    I wonder if we ever really got to the bottom of whether the sound quality of the current Blue Note 75th anniversary releases is up to muster? I’m sitting here listening, quite happily, to Unity (Larry Young) but can’t remember there being any conclusion other than a suggestion from Don Was that the BN75’s were not aimed at the audiophile market, leading to an inference that they were therefore probably inferior (strangely I seem to remember more about strong opinions on Was’s hat and beard).
    Any head to head evidence yet?

    • I haven’t done any head-to-head’s yet but the Medeski Martin & Wood ‘Combustication’ that was also part this 75th anniversary series, sounds fantastic. I know it isn’t a classic Blue Note session, but it really is a classic Blue Note album. Pressing, packaging and sound quality were all good, maybe not quite as good as other companies dedicated to reissuing albums. But I think they’ve done a great job of bringing Blue Note’s music to a more accessible audience at quite a reasonable price. But on the other hand Music Matters new 33rpm series is quite reasonable here in North America at about $35.00 a pop…..

    • “(strangely I seem to remember more about strong opinions on Was’s hat and beard).”

      Hey, is that an Eric Dolphy joke?

    • The main differentiator between the two is that the MM issues are direct from the original analog tapes, while the 75th issues are from 24-bit digital transfers. Now, whether or not one could hear that, I don’t know, as I haven’t seen any A/B’s online yet.

      • That’s very helpful. I’ve ordered a copy of Blue Train and Cool Struttin’ from MM. I can’t imagine being able to find or pay for NM copies of either LP. MM were great to deal with on line and dealt with my order with greased alacrity. As I script this I am imagining that their package is making its way from sunny California towards cool London (well it is January). The price differential between them and the BN 75th’s is marginal but I suspect the quality and presentation will be massive. I’m looking forward to christening a massive turntable upgrade with them.

        • My first order from Music Matters arrived mid-week. The service was excellent and I’m delighted with my new pristine 33 1/3 copies of Blue Train and Cool Struttin’. They sound superb on my upgraded system and I intend to buy more of their reissues. Having attended a shootout between an Analogue productions and white label pressing of Brilliant Corners last weekend, I can now appreciate that the treble on some original pressings of some discs may sound more ‘brittle’ and that some of the low end bass may be compressed or absent. I am perhaps fortunate to prefer the fuller sound of the modern re-masters over the authenticity of a shrill original, where that is the case (but I know I may be waving a red rag amongst some of the bulls here).

          In relation to collecting music to play, rather than collecting objects of value, simply to own, the MM reissues offer me an ideal upgrade path. If a recording is not available other than in a less sonically pleasing version, I will obtain that copy and hope, perhaps, to upgrade in the future unless something else uses up my disposable money. Back in the olden days in the North of England, the only way to get hold of some great Northern Soul singles was to buy ‘pressings’ (essentially greatly inferior bootleg copies of originals). I’ve still got quite a few and although I know they are not quite the real thing, I still treasure them but have no desire to upgrade. In the case of some Jazz reissues we get the dual benefit of great sound, packaged with great care at a fraction of the probable cost of a scratchy dog-earred copy of early pressing obtained via the collectors market.

          But each to their own path, provided it actually involves listening to and engaging with the music.

  19. For less than the current price of a NM Undercurrent original on the market, you can get the whole lot of 20 reissues that Music Matters will be releasing in 2015. For me, the choice is easy to make. I don’t have the money to acquire the originals on eBay and even if I did I’m not sure I’d want all the hassle that comes with buying these used collectibles on Internet. And quite frankly, I prefer the sound the stereo Music Matters Sidewinder to my Blue Note mono original (the only comparison I was able to make). But I surely like to watch your site and others to get to recognize a Blue Note original and the vintage reissues if I see them in a bin somewhere and to listen to these interesting samples you upload. Cheers!

  20. I never went further than the first BN MM 45rpm pressing I bought a few years ago. Although great sonically, most Japanese pressings can be picked up cheaper, and also sound very good. Afterall, I dont pretend to be an audiophile and the sleeves are also a consideration for me – IMO these are much better on the Japanese, particularly King, pressings.

    Surely my best find ever, whilst on the subject of BLP 4059 Undercurrent, was finding an original in Ex/VG+ condition for $25 whilst in New Zealand (that was about £10!!!!). Isn’t this the sort of moment you dream of everytime you go into a record shop? Outstanding.

      • There is a record dealer I know who likes to say that he sells other dealers’ mistakes, as he concentrates on rare records he buys cheaply and resells at market value.
        The deities of vinyl searching have smiled at me a few times–at record stores! As you suggest, it seems unbelievable that seasoned record sellers in the age of over-information may sell a VG+ Stereo “Kind of Blue”for $6 or, incredibly, two marvelous and scarce Blue Note originals in VG+ condition for 99 cents: Empyrean Isles and Soul Stirrin’. I showed the Bennie Green record to another dealer I know and he offered me $80 on the spot. When I declined, he said he could not give me over $100 and encouraged me to call him when I changed my mind.
        Thanks to you and the invaluable information from your blog and its followers, I now only concentrate on originals, when I can afford it, or Liberty Pressings (except, of course, when the originals were released as DMMs or are part of the Cuscuna series). I have to admit that I love the sound of the few MM reissues I own, especially Blue Train. I can’t wait to listen to the Maiden Voyage I recently ordered.
        Also, I can’t wait to hear your opinions about some pressings you plan to revisit in your scoring hierarchy now that your system and its power supply has been upgraded.
        Eternal gratitude.

      • Its currently in transit….hopefully it arrives safe! Actually, I went back to the same shop a few weeks later, in the long shot that he may have other Blue Note treasures. The owner looks in the back room and comes out with an original BLP 4034 Leeway in Ex condition. This time he wants double! I said, “Well, I suppose I could stretch that far” and handed over my $50 🙂 Ok, its not as valuable as Undercurrent but that’s about as close as lightening striking twice yet.

  21. I have been acquiring these MM’s (33 & 45) for quite some time now and I love them. The music (most importantly), the sound and those gorgeous covers all make investing in these records a guarantee of future listening pleasure. My own thoughts about why these Music Matters releases are so popular is that obviously the price of owning an original pre-1965 Blue Note is getting slightly outrageous, even Liberty-era releases sound good but you have to find them in NM/M condition to get closer to that Plastylite sound…..but even those are getting pricey! Another point is that I don’t think most people have a dedicated Mono rig, but stereo (with a mono button) to truly make it worth it hunting down those original Mono editions and paying a premium for it. A point was made earlier by Rich that he thought that the new MM-33’s were either the same or better than the previous 45 series, I somewhat agree but my own feeling is that the depth of bass on the 45’s is deeper and more rich sounding. Analogue Productions 45rpm Verve Series is absolutely incredible sounding and another good example of how fantastic the 45’s can sound if done right.

    I think at this point in my life, I just don’t have such a strong collectors fetish for chasing after originals anymore. The level of quality and production being done now by Music Matters, Analogue Productions, ORG Music and many others bodes well for a bright future for Vinyl Lovers.

  22. I am so excited about this post! haha rubs hands together with devilish grin Here’s what I’m hearing:

    1. The ride sounds ‘smokier’ on the King i.e. darker.
    2. Bass is a bit deeper on the King.
    3. Both have tremendous detail (due largely to Rudy’s handiwork and LJC’s system, I’m sure 😉
    4. Both have super-quiet backgrounds (except the King in a couple spots).
    5. The MM issue has a slightly wider spread, which makes sense because I’m pretty sure they kept the spread as hard L-R as was technically feasible for those. (I’m becoming a bigger fan every day of the wide stereo versions of those spacious, solid black background Englewood Cliffs recordings of Van Gelder’s 🙂
    6. On my good headphones I did not hear a dramatic difference in dynamics, which was surprising considering that Joe Harley had at one time touted that Hoffman had not applied any compression or limiting during the mastering process for the MM issues.

    The King really does sound amazing in its own right–I’m surprised by your strong disapproval, LJC! On my crappy Sony earbuds on the train earlier I preferred the MM issues, but now that I’m home rocking my new and super-awesome Audio-Technica ATH-m50x headphones, they both sound really good. Even though I do like that wide stereo from time to time to hear the real definition of each instrument, I also like the smokier ride sound, which I think is the biggest sonic difference of the two. I would love to own either.

    PS – The inner photos of Drew and Jones in the MM issue are simply incredible!

  23. Thanks for comparing and posting your thoughts, I was wondering how things stack up but don’t have any duplicate titles with my King, Classic Records or Music Matters Blue Notes. I did pick up the Music Matters 33 of Tina Brooks “True Blue” and it is also excellent and significantly better sounding than the 180g Connoisseur reissue from the ’90s it replaced.

  24. Nice post Andrew. This is exactly where I’ve been at lately. I’ve picked up all of the MM 33’s and have added some Japanese issues along the way. I’ve found them, generally speaking, to be very nice sounding and an excellent value for the money. For what it’s worth, the best sounding MM 33’s on my system were Somethin’ Else, Blue Train, and Idle Moments–although none of them let me down at all. I did some comparisons with other versions when available and they compared well, if sometimes with a different presentation.

    • Tim, I’ll second that vote for SOMETHING ELSE and IDLE MOMENTS — they are two or the three MM33s I have (Henderson’s PAGE ONE as well) and they are terrific. Mind you, in each case, I only had Pathe Marconi French reissues from the late-80s (?) to compare them to. But the Cannonball sounds the best I have ever heard it.

      And the overall presentation is sumptuous. What a treat at thirty quid.

  25. Nice review. I admit to being one of those fans of Music Matters, but I don’t have the 33 version only the 45. A little miffed that the 45 rpm versions are all being replaced with the 33’s apparently because the new technology at Kevin Gray’s Cohearent Audio makes these sound even better (or it could be a marketing ploy, who knows). Also, I am sure you have posted on this before, but I really am a fan of the stereo pressings of all the blue notes after 4003–the last time Rudy Van Gelder had a dedicated mono mix. Sure, early stereo can sometimes sound funny–and depending on the recording, a fold-down mono sounds better that a dedicated stereo mix. But having heard a mint copy of Undercurrent in mono, I’d go stereo with this one. For me, once you start getting into a quintet, the fold-down mono mixes from Blue Note start to turn into mush and the stereo separation here isn’t so radical.

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