September 7, UPDATE!
“Eleven out Ten LJC readers who expressed a preference asked for more comparative rips, to hear for themselves what alternative editions sound like”.
Actually, I just made that up, but seeing as how a lot of what you read nowadays is made up, I thought: why not LJC too? Reader Evan H kindly offered to supply two rips of Poor Eric, 320 kbs, Audacity. The rig obviously differs from LJC‘s, nothing’s perfect, especially not me. but all I have to do is put my feet up. Collaboration! Great!
Selection 1: Eco (Jackie McLean)
Selection 2: Poor Eric (Larry Willis) ’70s Liberty/UA
Selection 3: Poor Eric – 1965 Blue Note, mono, original pressing
Selection: 4: Poor Eric – King Records, Japan, 1977-1980 “Blue Note Masterpiece Selection 150” Series
Jackie McLean (alto saxophone) Larry Willis (piano) Bob Cranshaw (bass) Clifford Jarvis (drums) recorded Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, January 29, 1965
I have been meaning to add a post on this McLean record, but I have a United Artists West Coast reissue copy. However after playing it I reckon it stands the test of “vintage vinyl” so I’ll go for it. One of the last recordings in his Blue Note Further Out series, now all five reviewed here at LJC:
Whilst Eco is my favourite day-to-day listening from the album – a classic piece of McLean mid-’60s inside/out – no post on this record would be complete without Willis and McLean’s lament on the passing of Eric Dolphy, Poor Eric. The piece is not a celebration of Dolphy’s music, which would be one of wild devilish exuberance, but a heartfelt expression of a sense of loss, which is a quite different narrative. Larry Willis’s solo is especially poignant.
The quartet format is a hard taskmaster. There is nowhere to hide, sit out and take it easy. With a dynamic frontman like Jackie and no alternate brass, the “rhythm section” steps forward to join the front line. Cranshaw grabs the opportunities to walk the bass hard, and Jarvis fires on all cylinders, but it’s Willis’s percussive comping that helps hold it all together.
This was Larry Willis’s first appearance on record as sideman to Jackie, appearing also on Jacknife. He arrived on the mid ’60s scene just as it was beginning to run out of commercial steam. He has more than a shade of Hancock, and he had a strong melodic lyrical side on the right hand, which adds contrast to this McLean outing. He went on to a successful career right up to the present day, fitting around whatever trend followed, but leaves an important contribution to this best of the post-bop era.
Wonderfully expressive typography from Reid Miles: giant typewriter style font with ink bleeding into paper at the edges, title all lower case with shriek-mark for emphasis underscores the implied “political” message – “right now!” – we are impatient (for change). Artist name proper capitalised to separate it from the message but bonded through the same font. Such simple elegant design, signposting ideas.
Vinyl: BNST 84215 Liberty UA, Los Angeles
Shamefaced, it is not an original Blue Note, but a second Liberty/UA issue, nevertheless “vintage” circa 1970, and sourced from the Van Gelder master and its metal descendants, so an acceptable alternative. Dustier than it should be, I’ve put it down for a second wash, though this is unlikely to have any effect on the milky discoloration in the vinyl, which doesn’t look healthy but which “doesn’t affect play”™
The record in this post is a Liberty/UA reissue from the very early ’70s and for the most part these are a very good alternative to the hard-to-find and harder still to afford Blue Note originals. For original vinyl from elite jazz labels, the only practical strategy is to seek out the alternative quality vintage reissues, reissued by subsequent owners or lessees of the historic catalogue.
Here are some alternatives I have liked, as always, your own experiences may be different.
LJC Cheapskate Guide to Good Alternative Pressings: The 2nd Division
Blue Note: There are some good sources for Blue Note recordings from Division of Liberty , Division of United Artists label, the black/light blue label and some select beige twofers. Presence of RVG master stamp is a good sign, absence is ususally a very very bad sign. Our friends from Tokyo – King and Toshiba, offer an acceptable reissue for the most rare titles (prior to around 1988 and not more recent). French Pathe Marconi remastered in France – re-edition 1982-5 have some acceptable issues but patchy.
Prestige: for Prestige and New Jazz recordings there are the later second issues on Yellow/black Bergenfield or Blue Trident label. European pressings from original US metal on Esquire and Metronome are an excellent find. .Some of the very first green Fantasy label 1972-3 are acceptable, but nothing any later.
For Impulse early catalogue, ABC Records second pressings on black red-rim label are very acceptable.
On Riverside, seek out Orpheum Productions (mid/late ’60s) , or European Interdisk issues, pressed in UK initially by Decca and latter by Philips UK or Holland.
anything on white or black fan plum/orange label, and some few early Red/Green 1841 Broadway address, not beyond.
Columbia: can be quite acceptable on two-eye and the very earliest one eye Columbia All Round label (sadly not later). UK CBS are very mixed in quality – seek any pressed by Philips, avoid those pressed by Oriole.
Nice quality reissues of Victor and Verve can be found on their Japanese counterparts, Victor Japan
Contemporary recordings can be found on UK Vogue, and UK Contemporary Vogue. With a few exception these are mono, and high quality Decca pressings.
Savoy: the one disappointment, not only are the reissues by Savoy of their own imprint very unsatisfactory (even those with Van Gelder remastering) the few originals I have acquired are not to the standard of other major jazz labels at the time. Historically interesting and important music, but I assume the absence of an engineering champion has left a legacy of rather underwhelming recordings
In the UK you have the excellent Decca pressings of recordings licensed from Savoy, Dot, Jubilee, Carlton, Chess, Bethlehem, Imperial, Atlantic, United Artists and Riverside.
Just the headlines that come to mind, there is more to be said.