Sonny Rollins: 4001 Newk’s Time goes Stereo

More taking Liberties: Blue Note mono original, Liberty first Stereo. Now read on.


Selection 1: Tune Up (Miles Davis) Blue Note original mono

.  .  .


Sonny Rollins, tenor saxophone; Wynton Kelly, piano; Doug Watkins, bass; Philly Joe Jones, drums; recorded Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, NJ, September 22, 1957, original mono release  January 1959, first release in stereo later 1966, by Liberty Records Inc.


In the preceding year, Rollins recorded his most iconic works: Saxophone Colossus, Tenor Madness, Way Out West, Sound of Sonny, and two Volumes for Blue Note. Newk’s Time shows Rollins in his most fertile period, prior to his lengthy sabbatical (’59-’62).

A mixture of Tin Pan Alley show-tunes and  strong bop compositions from Miles Davis and Kenny Dorham, this is a classic Rollins set, noted for the interplay between Rollins and Philly Joe rather than the ensemble work, which is nonetheless sympathetic. Wynton Kelly’s  piano comping is both harmonic and  rhythmic, freeing drums to spar with the lead instrumentalist.

Rollins demonstrates his mastery of improvisation around the heads and changes, with witty or ironic quotes, and sparkling exploration around the melody. The result is an eagle soaring over the landscape of Coleman Hawkins and Charlie Parker. All these Rollins records are essential, and Newk’s Time is no different.

Vinyl: BLP 4001

Mono edition, RVG stamp, Plastylite P, mixed +/- ® labels both printed by Keystone Printed Specialties

Side 1: -DG, 47 West 63rd label heavy ink, with ® and INC
Side 2: +DG, 47 West 63rd label fine ink, no ® no INC – original 1959 printed label

The first of the Blue Note 4000 series, one of the last acetates with 9M in the runout, + ® Side 1 label indicates later manufacture:  a repressing from1960-1.


The 1959 original release as seen below is 47W63rd label, fine text, DG both sides and no ® either label,


The label is only one aspect of authenticity. The re-use of original plates (mother/stamper) is more relevant to audiophiles, who are getting original sound quality without original labels. Here the collectors divide according to their aspirations, 1st pressing fundamentalist, or Van Gelder engineering enthusiast.


The Newk’s Time session was recorded by Van Gelder at Hackensack in September 1957, (released in January 1959). Van Gelder had commenced experimenting with two track tape recording several months previously, in March 1957, with Blakey’s Orgy In Rhythm. Whilst Van Gelder later began recording only on two track tape (hence mono fold-downs from two track), in the interim, he ran simultaneously a full track and a two track Ampex tape recorder. The purpose of two track tape was not to issue stereo, which barely existed commercially, but to provide greater flexibility in mixing the mono release. However those two track tapes provided the foundation for later “stereo” releases of these early Van Gelder recordings.

When the commercial demand for stereo began in earnest, Van Gelder went back to the two-track tapes of some sessions, and created a stereo master. BLP 4001 however did not see a Van Gelder stereo release and remained issued only in mono.

In the absence of a Van Gelder stereo master, a first stereo metal master, BST 84001, was mixed and cut by Liberty engineers in 1966. We know from the differing label print (Keystone and Bert Co) that copies were pressed on both East and West coast, and neither master bears the VAN GELDER mastering stamp:

Who cut either of the masters remains unknown, and with them, the mystery of the differing stereo mix of “Tune Up” from the other tracks


Selection 2: Tune Up (Miles Davis) Liberty stereo

Vinyl: BST 84001 Liberty – West Coast (Bert Co label)

Curiosity prompted me to add the Liberty stereo to my collection and we know what curiosity does to cats.

Saxophone, piano and drums on top of each other in the left channel, bass on the right. (Charitably, Rollins may be left of centre, as DGmono has opined, but the rhythm section is definitely out on the limbs) On full stereo rig with speakers 10 feet apart (not just a pair of PC speakers) I found it a complete car crash, cats in a sack. If you were to judge the album by the first track you would be forgiven for taking an axe to it.


But wait!  First track Tune Up is not the whole story. As you  move on to the remaining tracks, a ray of sun shine opens up. Normal audio service is resumed. Take the presentation on track two, the sprightly Dorham composition Asiatic Raes.  (Raes? No, my spellchecker didn’t like it either) very pleasingly balanced stereo.

Asiatic Raes, the second selection, is apparently the tune Lotus Blossom recorded by composer Kenny Dorham on his Prestige album Quiet Kenny. There is also an Asiatic Raes credited to Dorham on Hubbard’s Blue Note Going Up. One can’t but help think the connection between Lotus Blossom and Asiatic Raes might be a forced misspelling of Asiatic Race? (From ancient times the lotus has been a divine symbol in Asian traditions) . Perhaps the intention is ironic.

Selection 3: Asiatic Raes (Dorham) Liberty Stereo

It’s a mystery how one track can go so badly adrift when every other track is fine. Its not just one thing or another for the whole album. Bad Stereo one track, good stereo the others.  What the story is behind this I have no idea.  Perhaps Liberty had to revert to the mono tape for just that track, reasons unknown, and electronically fake it for stereo, but had good two track tape for all the other songs titles. That’s my theory, but I could be wrong. It wouldn’t be the first time.

 Back Cover

For the benefit of readers of liner notes, I’ve experimented  here with RAW processing and the application of a judicious amount of unsharp mask before conversion to jpg, rather than shooting in jpg to start (where the camera decides sharpness).  Judge the results yourself at full screen. Perhaps this is in reaction to crawling over blurred Ebay shots of Prestige covers, squinting to read the cover address that distinguishes early from later pressings. Posterity deserves something better. It’s not difficult.


Collector’s Corner 

For completeness, I couldn’t leave this post without the original fabulous mono presentation of Asiatic Raes on BLP 4001

Selection 4: Asiatic Raes (Blue Note mono original)


Or a taste of the Freddie Hubbard / Hank Mobley version, courtesy of YouTube

Liberty reissues both mono and stereo

In the later ’60s Liberty understood the market expectation for stereo. However, Liberty issued both a mono and a stereo Division of Liberty copy of this title, one of the few they put out in both formats. Somehow, I sense something unusual was going on here. The Liberty mono has Keystone printed labels. Did Liberty revert to the original mono Van Gelder metal?  If not did they access the original full track tape, or did Liberty create a mono fold down from the two track tape? So many question, so few answers.

4001 mono and stereo Liberty releases

There was clearly a story behind 4001, Perhaps our friends form Tokyo know the answer.


30 thoughts on “Sonny Rollins: 4001 Newk’s Time goes Stereo

  1. I’m very green in grading jazz vinyls but have already experienced a bad sounding Blue Train to Very good sounding Blue Train per si. I just ordered a marked down 2015 75th anniversary reissue of Newks Time and am very doubtful it will sound good. It’s of Walmart’s site lol. I’m sure I will have to rerun it and defer to Discogs to grab a better 2015 copy. My question is, with the 75th anniversary reissue initiative, why in the world would blue note release different versions? I’m not sure what version I’ve ordered (but judging from the cover) it looks like it’s then 4001z


  2. I have the Liberty ‘stereo’ and always presumed it was fake stereo albeit still quite close to the original mono. The CD version I have with ttransfer done by Yoshio Okazaki is identical.
    To me it doesn’t sound like a stereo recording but I may be wrong.


    • Andy, I am positive that LJC’s “Tune Up” rip above is real stereo, taken from two track master tape. With fake stereo, such channel separation (just listen to that well-defined bass!) would never be possible. Did you ever listen to your Liberty and CD versions via headphone?


      • Tune Up on my copy sounds like not-too-disastrous fake stereo – apart from the intro which sounds as though it’s been doctored somehow to really sound like stereo – I’m not convinced that this record is from a stereo recording at all.
        If I can be bothered or have the time and inclination i’ll run it through Audacity to see whether there are two separate channels.


        • Though I prefer relying on the listening experience in this case, you will notice that the stereo nature of the wave diagram is becoming more and more conspicuous around 1:28.


  3. My full screen of the liner notes (from RAW files) was readable, but I suspect the resolution was a little low, so it was not super crisp. But still quite readable. I also find that RAW isn’t needed for text, just more resolution. Add another 50-75ppi next time?


    • I agree it’s not as crisp as I would like. The default resolution for screen output is 72ppi as I recall. Next time I’ll try doubling up, thanks for the tip. I certainly noticed the difference when shooting some stuff for print publication in 32 bit uncompressed TIFF. I also noticed the file size – Godzilla!


  4. “Or was Liberty the first stereo release?”

    According to Cohen’s book the Liberty is the first time this was on stereo.

    not sure what that forum thread someone linked below is on about, I do not hear any drop outs or Sonny walking around in the samples LJC provided of the stereo Liberty.


    • Well, if you read the entire link, you’ll see that there is a difference of opinion about this. Steve Hoffman and Kevin Gray, along with Joe Harley (one of the heads of Music Matters label) were all in the studio together listening to the tape. The consensus was that it was not tape damage, but Rudy Van Gelder using the fader as Sonny Rollins walked around the studio. I haven’t listened to the original tapes myself, of course, or was in New Jersey at RVG’s house, but I have seen Sonny Rollins perform numerous times and indeed, he is constantly pacing when he plays, so the story makes some sense to me. I wasn’t sure which tracks it affected myself, but just posted the link as an interesting aside for those who have heard the entire stereo release. I have only heard this on Mono myself–I have a Liberty Mono pressing and sounds quite good to my ears.


      • It makes sense to me as well, I have caught Sonny live in early 2000 and he does like to roam around the stage.

        But wouldn’t Van Gelder have put a stop to it? From reports he was known to be “grouchy” about musicians moving his mics, etc.


    • I don’t heard any issues whatsoever with Rollins’ volume or position on “Tune Up” in LJC’s stereo Liberty clip. So perhaps this actually is tape degradation that occurred after the Liberty cut was made in the late ’60s…??? (LJC: Why the strong distaste for the stereo version of “Tune Up”? It sounds very similar to “Asiatic Raes” to me from an engineering standpoint…?)

      On a side note, switching back and forth between the original mono and the stereo Liberty quickly just now, the high end detail sounds noticeably improved on the stereo Liberty.


  5. This is an interesting recording. I’m pretty sure that there is no Van Gelder stereo master for this title (see my mono/stereo guide at, so LJC’s stereo copy may very well be the first stereo pressing of this album.

    On headphones it sounds like the drums are left, the sax and piano are both center, and the bass is left. I’ve done quite a bit of research into Van Gelder’s early stereo technique and IIRC this was a one-off odd panning schema the engineer used. What I’m guessing happened was that he decided to try something different for the more sparse arrangement for this record, so he put Rollins in the middle (instead of left) and the drums on the left (instead of the right), the idea being to take the sole horn from the side and put it front and center yet maintain a balance by moving the drums so the left wasn’t completely empty.I do like the ‘clarity’ and ambience of the stereo presentation but for me the bass being naked on the far right of this recording is a killer for me and leaves a lot to be desired in the mix overall.

    I also just realized that the Dorham-penned tune “Asiatic Raes” would be renamed “Lotus Blossom” and appear on “Quiet Kenny” two years later…great song!

    PS – Your mono copy sounds killer, nice find.


  6. As a 70s kid i admit of being a stereo fan – unless it׳s an album with only one horn player which i tend to go for mono. Having said that the stereo mix on this one sounds gorgeous, much more open & airy than the mono (to my ears anyway). Thanks for bringing this album up LJC, wasn׳t aware of it.
    (Btw anyone want to swap a stereo Mode For Joe for a mono copy…?)


  7. as an unwavering rule, I listen in mono strictly.
    your friend 1st pressing fundamentalist can’t help you BUT I’m very interested in a first Stereo audition judgment.


    • When “Rudy Van Gelder was doing some radical fader moves to keep this guy on mike” (quoting Hoffman) we should bear in mind he was monitoring in MONO. Quite a bit of a job considering that (quoting Hoffman again) “in mono you wouldn’t even notice any of this but with this full stereo soundstage it’s very obvious.” So RVG must have been relying mainly on his VU meter – i.e. his eye rather than his ear – throughout his cat-and-mouse game with Sonny. No easy task.

      BTW I love the stereo version.


    • jump to about 8 minutes in this video. Bernie Grundman says there are drop outs/tape damage on Newk’s Time. I don’t really think it’s Sonny “walking around”


      • Bernie Grundman did all of the Classic Records reissues. He had access to the tapes probably a decade before the MM People? The questions remains, When did he fix the SR Newk’s Tape? I don’t think Classic Records Reissue it. At least I don’t have it and don’t recall ever seeing it. So Sonny was walking around? hmmmm.


        • Ohhh I think I see what he did. He took older versions, which I guess were from CDs (not vinyl?), chose the spots where the tape had degraded, recorded those to tape and spliced them in to the original tape. Crazy but cool!


          • Or, better still: He did the whole splicing job digitally, without tampering with the original tape, and without telling everybody that the end product was, mmh… digitally contaminated. That would be really state-of-the-art.


        • migkiller1971 in that video he is talking about the Blue Note reissues on vinyl that are currently being released, I think there are around 2 dozen out now. I don’t think the Newk’s Time reissue is out yet.

          Does anyone have the Japan King? That is in stereo as well.

          DG MONO- the stereo transfers that LJC put up sound fine to me as well.


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