Thad Jones Mel Lewis Quartet: (1977) Artists House

LJC-Michael-Caine- Professor Jazz fastshow30LJC Reminder: data request for your NYC Prestige records! Whether you have few or many, the collector community need good data to identify early and original Prestige pressings. Go to the Prestige post to pick up the template, and contribute data on your collection, even if it’s small. (Mine is, blush) . It’s just a few clicks. Results will be shared on LJC. It’s the right thing to do.

Not every collector has deep-pockets for trophy records. Searching for exciting jazz-on-vintage-vinyl on a tight budget can often lead you into disappointing reissue territory, but great sounding music can still be found, if you know where to look, and what to avoid. Introducing a new feature for the budget-conscious collector: the LJC  Cheapskate Bargain Basement Collection – exceptional sound quality on vinyl on a budget. First up, the tiny 70’s Artists House label.


Selection: Autumn Leaves: (long! but good, 15 minutes)


Thad Jones (cornet),  Mel Lewis (drums),  Harold Danko (piano), Rufus Reid (bass),  recorded live at Airliner Lounge, Miami, Florida, September 24, 1977, engineer Mack Emerman, mastered by Phil Stern and Ed Michel, mixed at Kendun Recorders, released by Fantasy Records CA.


Brother of pianist Hank and drummer Elvin, Thad Jones featured on several well-regarded early Blue Note titles that generally end up in the $1,000 – $2,000 bin, The Magnificent Thad Jones (clearly modesty was never Jones strong point) and Detroit New York  Junction. However neither grace my collection aside from a rather lack-lustre Japanese copy of Detroit, so this session caught my attention, being a smaller ensemble format rather than one of Jones trademark big band.

This session was recorded  in 1977, shortly before Jones moved to Denmark, where he went on to help shape the  Danish Radio Big Band and his own big band, Eclipse. Other Americans musicians resident in Denmark at the time included Horace Parlan, Sahib Shihab, Ed Thigpen and Idrees Sulieman.  At a time when big band had largely fallen out of favour in the US, Europe was big enough to support two big bands: Danish Radio and the excellent Francy Bolland.

Jones-Lewis-Reid-Danko- Quartet is a delightful laid back club set, bluesy meets straight ahead. Whilst musically quite satisfying, the sound quality is outstanding, and once again thrusts you into the club front row, reaching for the now rapidly emptying whisky decanter. Bartender, another single malt. No, make that a double.

Sound Engineering Porn (Parental Advisory)

See below, now that’s what I call audio-porn! The drum kit is miked at every point, bass is direct to console recorded without noise reduction, the piano gets two mikes,  even the audience gets a Neuman. I love it when they talk microphones,  I don’t understand any of it but I know what I hear.  And audiophiles weep, if vinyl is not enough for you, you could order reel to reel tape one-to-one from the master at 15 i.p.s. That is probably better than “musicians in the room”, more like joining the musicians on stage.



Hey, get the Artist House designer in here, my office now.

Thad’s trademark obscuring hat, that’s ok, but sponsorship by his dentist, can we discuss a cut? And who chose the yellow? I know the colour-wheel Blue and Yellow are opposites,  but here? It’s horrible. Yes, I know this is 1977 but I have to tell you: horrible doesn’t become fashionable for another 30 years.



For those of you with sight-reading, you get a musical transcription:


Vinyl: Artists House AH3

The link between Artists House and Fantasy Records is the presence of Ed Michel, late of the Impulse label, who survived the acquisition of everything in sight by Fantasy in the early ’70s, including Prestige.  Anything to do with ’70s and ’80s  Fantasy Records I tend to avoid, with just a few exceptions, often disappointing. Fortunately I had no idea who was behind the Artists House label, merely that this was a very inexpensive toe in the water with a label that had been recommended to me. The Artists House label was short-lived, managing a catalogue of only fourteen titles, including Andrew Hill and Ornette Coleman, and an excellent Art Pepper.

A superb piece of audio engineering and pressing but no distinguishing marks in the runout. I guess the artists and engineers get the credit,  “pressing” plant was not worthy of mention.


Back Cover


 Collector’s Corner

The Artists House label was recommended to me a while back by reader Andy C, but I had never come across one in the wild until this came up on Ebay, caught my curiosity, and I took a punt, no other bidders.

The sound is among the best I have heard on this sort of vintage vinyl. Astonishing sense of live presence. Coming hot on the heels of the last post Art Pepper Live at the Village Vanguard, yet another excuse for a night in with the hi fi. More single malt required.


13 thoughts on “Thad Jones Mel Lewis Quartet: (1977) Artists House

  1. “The Magnificent Thad Jones (clearly modesty was never Jones strong point)…”

    The records were titled by Albert Lion.

  2. Artists House is a fantastic label – too bad it was so short lived. I recall the original concept was to allow increased control by the artist over music selection, cover design, etc. – this might explain the unique color scheme of the Thad Jones / Mel Lewis release. I frequently see AH in the used bins for $6-$8 US, but often as cut-outs and missing the detailed booklet. Art Pepper / So In Love is a personal favorite.

  3. Ha! This post is quite ironic for me. I’ve been trying to stay away from this site lest it inflames my collector’s lust. We’re in the process of moving house and need pennies for the inevitably brutal cash outflow. I even got a Spotify subscription!
    Seeing this stuff about Artists’ House and budget records has made me laugh now having just returned from my local record shop where I hadn’t stepped foot for sometime.
    Having succumbed at the weekend, the owner of said shop saw me and produced a first pressing of Grant Green’s First Stand.
    ‘There’s a slight mark on it which doesn’t sound so you can have it for £20,’ he said.
    Budget or not how could I resist?
    ‘I’ve got another one you can have for £20, I bring it in next week,’ he added. ‘It’s Andrew Hill, err, Point of something?’
    So here I am, listening to a first pressing of one of my favourite Blue Note records for a price I could never have imagined paying for it.
    Life is a funny thing indeed.
    I have two Artists House records Ornette Coleman Soapsuds Soapsuds, as mentioned by Dottore, and Tales of Captain Black by James Blood Ulmer. Both are great records.

    • Welcome back, Andy, I wondered if this would pique your curiosity. Look, mortgage commitments, I assume growing family, these things are all important, of course, but mortgages eventually get paid off, and family get up and go. It’s important to invest in your own future listening pleasure. If you don’t, no one else will. Sounds to me you have already got the message, well done!

      • The same pair’s excellent big band work is well documented on Blue Note 84346 – Consummation. Not sure what makes for an original with this. The copy I have has a Liberty Inc label with a shallow groove and ‘Solid State Series’ on the lovely water colour gatefold cover -so I presume it may be a later pressing but sq is excellent. It seems to come pretty cheap in whatever guise.

  4. Artists House: that’s the name of a space Ornette opened back in 1970 in Prince street, NY.
    here many young lions could perform their new music without having to pray for a stage in clubs, Braxton and Jenkins among them.
    all records are accompanied by a detailed 8 pg booklet.
    Artists House’s life was very short: there have been two pressings: the first one with catalogue number AH-1… that was briefly on the market, soon substituted with AH-9101…
    this Jones-Lewis is a first pressing.
    for those interested I recommend: Ornette Coleman-Charlie Haden duo, Soapsuds soapsuds, AH-6

  5. Artists House are fantastic LPs, and the included info is superb. For example, Chet Baker’s “Once Upon a Summertime” is not only a nice record, but includes a full discography in the insert. And the sound is terrific (except for the ’70s-era Ron Carter boing-boing-boing too-loud bass). They are real bargains and contain a wealth of info.

  6. Funny, I was just listening to Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra’s “Monday Night, Recorded Live at the Village Vanguard” this weekend (on the Solid State label). Enjoyable stuff. I particularly like Jones’ “Mornin’ Reverend.”

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