Adventures in collecting "modern jazz": the classical music of America from the Fifties and Sixties, on original vinyl, on a budget, from England. And writing about it, since 2011. 100% coronavirus-free content.
Bennie Green (trombone) Eddie Williams (tenor saxophone) Gildo Mahones (piano) George Tucker (bass) Al Dreares (drums) recorded Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, NJ, January 25, 1959
A recording by Bennie Green, the Chicagoan trombonist, not to be confused with Benny Green, the pianist. Bennie reached his career peak with Blue Note, including the last but one Blue Note 1500 series, BN 1599 Soul Stirring recorded just six months previously, and BN 1587 Back on The Scene, sporting the same hat and coat as the original Walkin’ and Talkin’ cover.
A hard-driving exuberant player, Green originated in ’40s big bands, playing alongside Parker and Gillespie.. His trombone is forceful rather than silky, and partners well with like-minded big gritty tenor, in the best Chicago fashion. I don’t think I have heard front line bop-trombone live, if I had, I dare say I would remember it. It moves a lot of air.
A curiously flexible instrument, the trombone can be played tunefully in a linear bluesy fashion like Green and another favourite, Curtis Fuller, or liquid gold like JJ. Or in the hands of someone Grachan Moncur III or Roswell Rudd, turn into a menacing harbinger of free and unsettling tonality, malevolent thunder in the air, full of menace. All from a long piece of brass tubing. Remarkable.
Every one swings, especially Gildo Mahones, who was at one time Lester Young’s regular pianist, and Eddie Williams, an old school tenor who feels quite at home in unison with Green, grinding balancing harmonies on the right channel to Green’s solo on the left. An altogether bright, likeable album.
Bell-bottoms alert! Alternative youth-oriented boy/girl dating cover. First issued in stereo by Liberty, judged by the patented new LJC system of Dating Record Covers according to the width of trouser flares, probably around 1968, at a pinch, 1969.
Blue Note’s original first cover shows Green in shades of yellow,for the benefit of our colour-blind readers ( I know some are). Bennies’ coat dates from around 1956, and the hat a popular item for several decades but of a style not much worn in the late ’60s. See LJC Multi-Decadal System for Dating Records according to Hats ™, currently in beta.
BLP 4010 was originally released by Blue Note in February 1959, in mono only. However it was recorded three months after van Gelder had moved to recording only in two track tape (cue DGMono), so I was fairly confident a stereo recording of 4010 existed. As it fell within the window of true stereo I naturally assumed it was a safe choice, so my heart sank when I spied the words electronically rerecorded to simulate stereo on the back cover, refered to by the Ebay seller simply as “stereo”.
Everything I knew about “fake stereo” says b a d. Resigned to the worst, the record was duly mounted the turntable, before despatching it back to the ebay seller with a sharply-worded note about the difference between true stereo and fake stereo. What then transpired was something unexpected. In the topsy-turvy world of making and selling records, not everything that claims to be fake is fake.
Selection 2: Green Leaves
Now I’m no expert on sound engineering (said quickly, leaving a door open to back out in case of inevitable argument). I have heard some pretty horrible examples of recordings reprocessed for stereo – high and low pass filters to separate off bass and cymbals, reverb and timing mismatch on one channel, all the tricks of stereo-fakers. What I hear here is clean separation and placement of instruments, reasonable soundstage, pretty well just stereo. If anything, a lot more listenable than some of Rudy’s primitive stereo.
So what does electronically (redundant word, all recording is electronic, ) re-recorded to simulate stereo actually mean? With some early van Gelder recordings, made on full track mono, there was no option but to perform electronic tricks. Here a two-track tape certainly existed. In the absence of an RVG STEREO master ( 4010 was never issued in stereo) perhaps Liberty engineers simply re-mastered it from Rudy’s two-track tape, doing what engineers sometimes do along the way: try to improve it. Perhaps “re-recorded” means something different to “re-processed”.
Why simulate stereo if you have effectively got a two-track recording? The answer to that may be that by 1968, there were a lot more tools in the engineers box, and maybe a van Gelder two-track recording destined only for mono mastering needed things done to it.
The interesting thing about the vinyl run-out is the absence of engravings, anonymous, merely the catalogue number. Connoisseurs of Liberty Blue Note pressings will also note the label colours are cream off-white, the blue with a cyan bias, pointing to later Liberty manufacture. Not Blue Note’s Keystone Printed Specialties, Scranton, PA. Taken with the bell-bottom trousers, I confidently assert 1968.
Liner notes and pictures direct from the original BN 4010, plus the usual Liberty hallmarks, Liberty Records Blue Note logo, and fateful stereo warning.
It’s fake fake stereo to me, and no bad a thing at that for a 1959 recording. All discovered by accident, of course.
The experience led me to re-evaluate the few other electronically re-recorded Blue Notes sitting in the LJC records sin-bin, with some more considered judgements. More in future posts, hugging the mono-stereo curve.
Am I wrong? No doubt the usual suspects will try to call me out. Bring it on.
The Prestige Research Project has proceeded well, thank you to the brave thirty two readers who have contributed data on their collections. And thanks to the tireless effort of Diego in the basement shovelling data.
In return contributors get advance previews, the lurkers can wait. If any want to contribute data on their Prestige NYC collection , it’s still open.
The project has taken time away from regular blog posts, I can’t do both, so posts will continue be a little infrequent. Some people might consider that a good thing. But I’m not going away. Normal (i.e.poor) service at LJC will be resumed as soon as possible.
We have firm conclusions on Prestige first pressing status in the offing, some unexpected twists and turns along the way. It will still take some time to assemble the final product, and there is a lot of work still to do.
One thing that has come up is a previously unknown engraving that turns up on titles in the range 7131 to 7139, described mostly as hand-etched “8J”. Blue Note aficionados will know that the Plastylite ear (P) is horizontally and vertically inverted letter P.
The question needing an answer is suppose the 8J etching is also inverted etching, applied by a pressing plant in the same way as Plastylite’s “P” (except here it is mirrored horizontally only) . LJC’s trusty 1:1 macro tells the story:
If you were a normal (right handed, I assume) pressing plant operative, and you had a scriber to write a code onto the acetate/master, where would you start and finish the strokes to make the character 8, J, or 5? . All ” 8 J”s I have on my Esquires all have the curve of the “J” turning down, not up as in the true letter J.
Any theories what this etching means means? Budding graphologists, is it an 8J or an 85 code? Pressing plant? It is not found on AB pressings, and it is not like 7E. It appears only on around ten records whose release coincides with the move to Bergenfield, N.J. and the last NYC labels.
If my theory is right, that it is an 85, at which stage in manufacture would it have been applied to end up on the record as backward? Acetate positive, mother negative, stamper positive, record negative.
The floor is yours. If you want to contribute data on the flare width of old bell-bottoms in your loft…be off with you.