Original Stereo LP: Riverside RLP 1139 Blue Spring Kenny Dorham (1959)
Riverside Recording engineer: Jack Higgins Mastering: Jack Mathews
Selection: Spring Cannon (1959)
Kenny Dorham (trumpet) Dave Amram (French horn) Cannonball Adderley (alto saxophone) Cecil Payne (baritone saxophone) Cedar Walton (piano) Paul Chambers (bass) Philly Joe Jones or Jimmy Cobb (drums) recorded NYC, January 20 and February 18, 1959, recording engineer Jack Higgins.
WARNING!: frank-speaking alert! YMMV!
Dorham’s song title Spring Cannon is a hat tip to Adderley – Cannonball’s unmistakable soaring flowing alto dominates the track, replete with sly show-tune quotations, but where is the rest of the band? 1959 stereo is a pretty crude affair, with Riverside engineering not always living up to its hype:
The US stereo title may well have been released some time after the mono, no release date found. “45/45 system in re-recording stereo”. Re-recording? 45/45? Eh?
US Riverside is one of those labels which I often prefer the UK mono release engineered by Decca or later, Philips, to the US original. I wouldn’t put Higgins / Reeves Sound Studios / Mathews in the sound engineering super league. Another Riverside title attributed to Higgins is Johnny Griffin’s Little Giant, which I acquired recently and has so much reverb applied to Griffin as to be all-but unlistenable. Higgins was responsible for many Monk and Bill Evans titles which are “OK” but not stellar and should be super-stellar given the content.
US Riverside pressings I have often found superficially clean but noisy pressings (though not to the extent of recycled vinyl, Weinstock’s cardinal sin on some later Prestige and New Jazz). I don’t know which plants pressed US Riverside (aside from Research Craft) but I sense compromise in the final product, something other labels would not countenance. A bit of a mixed bag.
Twenty years later, Van Gelder 1983 recording and mastering
Selection: Uptown Records, Music of Kenny Dorham – Spring Cannon (1983)
Recorded at Englewood Cliffs ,November 12, 1983 by Rudy van Gelder, mastered by RVG.
Once again, Van Gelder delivers lively, bright, richly-detailed sonic presentation, nicely balanced stereo, and an ensemble quintet production rather than a saxophone plus rhythm section.
The arrangement and artist performance at Englewood Cliffs is excellent, Sickler and Heath produce a “well-tempered” performance, but does it stand up against a cannonball attack? It is hard to dislike the larger than life, swaggering salty alto of Cannonball Adderley on Riverside, driving through the Dorham composition like it belongs to him, which I guess it does.
I saw this record again in a store rack the other day for just £8. It doesn’t look like a lion-hearted collectable record, which is what it should be. It looks cheap, with a throw-away jazz museum title, and little artist branding: what happens when all-important jacket design is gifted to someone’s wife or girlfriend, instead of a proper graphic designer/ photographer, the likes of Reid Miles or Don Schlitten.
All the love and care and attention that goes into the product inside the sleeve is buried in bland packaging that belies its royal contents and fails to distinguish itself from the other bland reissues surrounding it in the record store rack. On the cover at least, the Riverside wins hands down.
On the contents, I’ll let you be the judge.