Kenny Clarke Francy Boland : The Golden Eight (1961) Blue Note/Toshiba

One of the few Blue Note recordings made outside the US ( Dexter Gordon in Paris, Dizzy Reece and Tubby Hayes in London, perhaps you know of others). Blue Note does Yrup, next stop, Cologne (Köln, not the after-shave). Produced by Italian jazz enthusiast and café patron, Gigi Campi, Eltern gehörte das Eiscafé Campi in der Hohen Straße in Köln.

It’s Oktoberfest, and it just makes me want to get up and dance.

Oktoberfest

BNST 84092 (Toshiba EMI, Japan)

Kenny-Clarke-Francey-Boland-Golden-Eightcover-2000-LJC

Selection 1: La Campimania (Boland)

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Selection 2: The Golden Eight (Boland)

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Artists

Dusko Gojkovic (trumpet) Raymond Droz (alto horn) Christian Kellens (baritone horn) Derek Humble (alto saxophone) Karl Drevo (tenor saxophone) Francy Boland (piano) Jimmy Woode (bass) Kenny Clarke (drums) recorded Cologne, West Germany, May 18 & 19, 1961 Recorded by Wolfgang Hirschmann, producer Gigi Campi .

Predecessor to the Clarke Bolland Big Band, with artists from USA, Belgium, Yugoslavia, Switzerland, UK and Austria, European Union big band, Brussels-led, full-on lederhosen, dopple-espresso all round. Future members of the KCFB Band would include Ronnie Scott, Jimmy Deuchar, Eddie Lockjaw Davis, Johnny Griffin and Sahib Shihab. More great stuff still to come, make space on your shelf for Kenny Clarke Francy Boland.

Music

With initial misgivings, not being a fan of big band, I found The Golden Eight an unexpected delight. It is a lean big band, an octet (Golden Eight), not more than one of any instrument, which is where I part company with the “three of everything” stimulus-package big band, everybody standing up and standing down on cue. The arrangements are not straight-jackets, there is lots of open space for the soloists (in an orderly fashion, of course), great energy and excitement, and virtuoso performances.

Cohesive without being regimented, KCFB have a richly varied tonal palette and meter, and an enthusiasm which is infectious. It was a brave choice for Blue Note, and a pity that Campi’s Army did not go on to get wider exposure in the US, carrying the flag for tendance Ellington-Mingus. The US jazz centre of gravity was moving elsewhere, and instead, Europe and BASF-MPS maintained the blood-line. This changing retinue of jazz loyalists recorded together until 1972, leaving a trail of great jazz in their wake.

Vinyl: BLP 4092 – BST 84092 Toshiba EMI Test Pressing

The label says in very small print  “BLUE NOTE RECORDS OWNED BY LIBERTY RECORDS A DIVISION OF CAPITOL RECORDS MFD BY TOSHIBA EMI LTD IN JAPAN UNDER LICENSE FROM CAPITOL RECORDS INC. Text sponsored by Specsavers.

An outstanding recording which sounds fresh and open – well-delineated soundstage, full richly detailed tonal range, fast response, great sense of movement and clarity.The stereo presentation is well-suited to an octet format, and this is one of those cases where stereo might be preferred over the original mono (he he he). Test pressing status delivers the promised quality.

Curiously for a test pressing, however, the stampers are numbered 5 and 6, which blows a hole clean through the theory that stampers are numbered sequentially, starting with 1 as the first. What happened to the other four? Bad day at the factory?

R-5734514-1401211243-5103.jpeg[1]The edition is also unclear. Toshiba list two reissues of The Golden Eight. The 1984 first Toshiba reissue (left) has an alternate BNJ catalogue number BNJ 71035, not in evidence here. Probably this is the December 1992 second reissue. Contrary to expectation, from the early Toshiba’s being superior, it sounds great. May be the earlier one sounds greater still.

There is also something strange  in those Toshiba Japanese pictograms – left, this record  BST 84092, right, a test pressing label of BST 4089 from the very excellent LNJ series a few years earlier.

Toshiba-Factory-Samples

Calling TokyoJazzCollector!  助けて!The meaning of extra character number three in the top row? What does it mean, if anything?  12/24 as compared to 6/20? 12/24 what?  Could any of our friends in Tokyo help us out here please?

Kenny-Clarke-Francey-Boland-Golden-Eight-Labels-2000-LJC

Back Cover

The back cover repeats test pressing/ factory sample, bottom left hand corner. This the first time I have seen a Japanese test pressing covers annotated this way. In US and UK record production the promo has a particular financial significance, in that it is not sold/for sale and therefore not liable for purchase tax/ sales tax. Big deal to Accounts.

LJC SOAPBOX : in many walks of life, producers of goods and services inadvertently became tax-collectors. UK Purchase Tax on vinyl records in one year was Luxury Goods rate over 50% of the record selling price, compared to the few cents the artist who created it earned. Judge who gave better value.  I look forward to petrol stations having the guts to rebrand petrol pumps as tax extraction machines, with a separate price display for the actual cost of the petrol. However oil companies have no backbone, nor many other commercial organisations. I don’t object to them making a profit, I object to them feeling they have to apologise for it.

Back to the subject in hand. How the promo record business worked in Japan I have no idea, I just know that any audiophile  collector should be very happy to see that stamp. It is usually a sign of a record at the front of the pressing queue, and my few test pressings have all had that excitement factor.

SPECSAVERS SPONSORED LINK: I am looking for ways to make the liner notes more readable. The current new way involves a duplicate layer with strong unsharp mask applied, multiply blending mode, reduced overlay transparency.  Continuous improvement is a goal here. Hopefully you can see an improvement, it looks better to me. Any pro photographers out there, I’m not proud, I’ll take advice. Tight crisp text is not yet there.

Kenny-Clarke-Francey-Boland-Golden-Eight-back-2000-LJC

Collector’s Corner

The original Blue Note release of 4092 is something of a rarity, which can fetch over $300. The Toshiba is a good introduction to the music at a tenth of the cost.

Ebay Golden 8 - 305USD

I have seen the original only a couple of times at auction, and it spiralled over my house limit. I would guess it wasn’t  big seller for Blue Note, hence the scarcity of copies in circulation. Alfred Lion would have felt comfortable with its European roots, but would your typical ’50s  New Yorker feel at home in Yrup, with so many unfamiliar names?

Anyway, this is one book you don’t judge by its cover, The Golden Eight is worthy addition to any Blue Note collection, and this copy’s test pressing status (which the seller was unaware of. Brush up your Japanese!) was an unexpected bonus. Priced barely in two digits, I felt guilty, if only briefly. .

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14 thoughts on “Kenny Clarke Francy Boland : The Golden Eight (1961) Blue Note/Toshiba

  1. I just won a first-pressing of this on Ebay for a reasonable amount of money. I had never heard of it, but listened to a couple of tracks on Youtube and liked it quite a bit.

    If you think about it, the variety of music put out by Blue Note under the “New York” label is astounding.

  2. Actually have the original version of this, bought a Horace Silver album and the seller shipped me the wrong album. I decided to check it out, hesitant because its a big band, but I was totally blown away by the music and since it’s somewhat of a rarity, asked the seller if I could just keep it. Wasn’t too sure about shipping such a sensitive thing back either, she decided that was fine, paid the difference and kept it. Music Matters version just came out I believe, should be great as well.

      • that’s the one…

        gotta tell ya, those BN titles recorded in Europe are just as impressive as the RVG recordings.

        Speaking of Jazz LPs recorded in Europe. I listened to an LP I’ve never hear before this weekend over at friend’s place. The album in question is Tommy Flanagan Overseas. It was reissued by Analog Productions as part of their Prestige Mono 33rpms. Have to say that is one of the nicest mono recordings I’ve heard. To me a well recorded mono LP will make you forget any distinction between mono and stereo. On the back it says the record was recorded in Sweden by Gosta Wilholm, but originally mastered by RVG. Kevin Gray carried out mastering duties on the AP reissue. Hands down one of his best jobs ever!

        Unless you already have an original Prestige Mono, I seriously recommend this one folks. The combination of Music and sonics on this thing is down right mouth watering.

  3. My understanding is that this is one of the rarest of the ‘4000’ series NY USAs. Nice record – sort of mid-sized ‘proto’ version of the Clarke/Boland Big Band. Some of the key players e.g. Humble, Gojkovic already in place.

    • I was always under the impression that whilst rare, it doesn’t really attract the high prices – maybe because I paid a reasonably small amount for it twenty years ago.
      A look at popsike seems to confirm this thought – lots of copies seems to have gone for under $100, but perhaps times are changing.

  4. KKFB Big band records are uniformly great. They gathered the best musicians of the western world together and FB’s charts are terrific. The character 盤 simply means ‘plate’ or ‘disc’.

  5. Excellent record. I was extremely fortunate to find a nice clean copy two years ago and I play it often. Jacket had a bit of tape but the vinyl plays dead quiet, even moreso on the mono cart.

  6. LJC

    I have always wondered about this recording.

    Thanks for your typically pithy, concise review, & for posting.

  7. In my ignorance I have always passed over KCFB band recordings — but I won’t any longer. I really enjoyed that first track.

    And they’re affordable!

  8. The extra character in the top row just means record. The whole thing says ‘Sample record; Not for sale; Release[d on] 12/24, i.e. December 24th.

    Your copy is definitely a later pressing – the ‘BN 4092’ at the bottom on the back cover is your catalogue number, BNJ would be there if it were the 1984 one.

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