Leader of the pack of United Artists’ Blue Note “twofer” Reissue series. I started writing this a while back, then it slipped my attention as I went chasing Prestige. In the midst of the holiday season, I thought I might just finish off the post for an easy life, in between trips to the beach and the brasseries. It reads just the same, apart from the suntan lotion stains and Mojito watermark.
(Apologies, there seems to be all sorts of problems with WordPress, server update issues, duplicate postings, things appearing and disappearing, looks like a lot of their team are on summer leave)
Selection 1: Moonscape
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Artists: Quartet Jackie McLean (alto saxophone) Larry Willis (piano) Don Moore (bass) Jack DeJohnette (drums) recorded Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, April 18, 1966 Selection 2: Climax
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Artists: Quintet/Sextet Lee Morgan / Charles Tolliver (trumpet ) Jackie McLean (alto saxophone) Larry Willis (piano) Larry Ridley (bass) Jack DeJohnette (drums) recorded Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, September 24, 1965
A heady combination of post-bop, avant-garde, and soul jazz, recorded on the cusp of the sale of Blue Note to Liberty.
Double trumpet, irrepressible Lee morgan and thoughtful Charles Tolliver, inspired thinking, less familiar names in the rhythm section – Don Moore, and two Larrys. Intended to be released as Blue Note BLP 4223 Jacknife and BLP 4236 High Frequency, instead, Liberty gave priority to re-issuing the grand back-catalogue, and these sessions were perhaps out of favour with Libertys’ pursuit of West Coast sunshine and funkier sounds. These sessions still smell of ’60s cigarette smoke-filled New York air.
The tapes languished in the Blue Note vaults for a decade until Michael Cuscuna discovered them and produced this double-helping for United Artists. Jacknife should already be on any jazz-lovers shelf. If it is on your shelf, and you haven’t played it a while, give your turntable workout and ears a treat.
Vinyl: BN-LA 457-H2
Issued by United Artists latter part of the ’70s For disciples of the Evil Silver Disk™ CD issue, someone came up with an inspired pastiche of a Reid Miles cover, with very effective typography lookalike of the shatter family of fonts. Or did Reid have artwork already prepared? Makes you wish Blue Note had actually delivered this, like it should be on vinyl, with a heavy laminated cover, it just looks like it belongs in a Blue Note collection. (In passing, the CD issue is itself quite rare and commands a hefty price tag). A little more attractive than the plain beige of the twofers, but the covers do not speak for the music within, razor-sharp Van Gelder recordings which United Artists engineers manage to capably reproduce. As Cuscuna said, the only thing you have to do to a Van Gelder recording is keep your hands behind your back and not mess it up. Gatefold: Collectors Corner
Some of the mid-’70s twofer series are a must, especially the Booker Ervin/Horace Parlan sessions, and the Freddie Hubbard double. Among the duds in my opinion are the Art Pepper sessions, Gerry Mulligan, Horace Silver Trios (some better than others) , Herbie Nichols, Jean Luc Ponty, Cecil Taylor (!!! or may be that’s just Cecil) and the painful Chick Corea title. The Sam Rivers Involution title is borderline, the Coltrane/ Paul Chambers title is “enigmatic”, but so cheap you have little to lose.
In many cases the good ones are high quality Van Gelder recordings that for one reason or another never made it to vinyl at the time. Many are not even really “reissues”, making their first appearance on vinyl in the twofer series.
The twofers are vastly superior product compared to the end-of the-decade Liberty/ United Records Inc. LT series, which despite being derived from the same musical stock I find sonically very disappointing, and can’t understand why, it was just four or five years after the twofers were released. I have around ten US LT series issues collected in the early days, and mostly they don’t cut it, and the straightjacket uniform covers don’t help.
The UK pressed editions are poorer still, suggesting third or fourth generation tape transfers sent to the UK. May be we deserved it, a #BostonTeaParty pricetag. If you must, avoid the UK releases and stick to the US.
Perhaps there are some of your much-loved albums among those titles here in the LT series (just a sample pictured above) . The music is mostly fantastic, taken from the same peak period of Blue Note output, and they sell for next to nothing, cheap as chips. Don’t be put off by my take – speak your piece, recommendations welcome, I’m
often um sometimes um very occasionally wrong.
Andrew Hill’s Dance With Death is still a personal favourite despite the sonics, but my three or four Mobley and Morgan titles do not have the life I think they should have, or may be I miss-heard. The floor is yours. Just don’t get any beach-party sand in your keyboard. And no jumping up and down throwing high-fives.
UPDATE August 8, 2015
Reader Rolfe has reminded me not all “twofers” are the beige cover series. Some, like Art Blakey Live Messengers (BN-LA 473 J2) have a different non-beige photographic cover – this one at least is a goodie, previously unissued discoveries.
I don’t have any of these – I have avoided them, for some reason, perhaps assuming they are compilations of previously released tracks that I probably have already, so the material is less compelling – and I am less confident on sound quality.