Clarke – Boland: The Golden 8 (1961) Blue Note MM33

LJCsaysSome weeks ago, I reviewed BLP 4092 The Golden Eight (Toshiba 1991 re). In an unexpected turn of events, I find myself reviewing it again. But this time no jokes about lederhosen: the more serious business of modern audiophile reissues. I previously declared myself impressed by a Music Matters MM33 edition of one of my most sought after Blue Notes (never secured), 4059 Kenny Drew Undercurrent. Question is, can they pull it off again? Let’s see. Kenny Clarke Francy Boland, The Golden Eight, Music Matters 33:

4092-Clarke-Boland-The-Golden-Eight-MM-cover-1900-LJC

Selection:Gloria (Kaper-David)

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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, engineer Wolfgang Hirschmann.

Music

Selection Gloria, theme from the MGM 60’s film Butterfield 8, in which  Elizabeth Taylor plays a “tramp” Gloria Wandrous – (a “homewrecker” tramp, not the fishing-in-dustbins variety) The choice of her character name suggests a too long L.A. lunch, but it won Taylor her first Oscar. For context, the Wiki tells you everything that happens in the film, but not once tells what it was about. I mean, Godzilla was a homewrecker too. Wiki also omits any reference to the music score in the footnotes.

Gloria is a beautiful poignant ballad, exquisitely rendered by Austrian tenor Karl Drevo. Wistful and haunting refrain, pure liquid tenor, breathy, Hawkins-like vibrato and tremulous sustain, absolutely gorgeous, makes you fall in love with the music  (and possibly the young Ms Taylor, were she not such a tramp)

All the tracks have tight-knit ensemble mobility. Swinging, brassy melodies, big, full-on but never over-heated, and many contrasting solo voices to keep it crackling with interest. Playing this through got me reaching for my other somewhat neglected Clark-Boland albums on the shelf. This stripped-down forerunner of the CB Big Band is a great half-way house between Mingus-sized portions and  Ellingtonia hardcore Big Band. Recommended listening.

Vinyl: BST  84092 – Music Matters 33 Edition (2015) – 183 gm vinyl.

4092-Clarke-Boland-The-Golden-Eight-MM-Review-copy-Label-1000-LJC

This is big music, firing on all cylinders, and Music Matters take no prisoners, delivering all the raw excitement of Clarke-Boland octet (and Hirshmann’s recording) in spades. The soundstage is correspondingly big, so much so, one wonders whether original mono was the right vehicle for music of this size. My only comparator is the 1991 Toshiba stereo, also a promo/ factory sample as it happens, and that offers a pleasant but thinner, more compressed dynamic range compared to the MM.

I have been critical in the past of some modern audiophile vinyl for “botox” presentation, boosted bass, pimped and polished, face-painted with hype.  Music Matters 33  seem to me to have pulled off a remarkable breakthrough. Not necessarily sounding like original Blue Note, but sounding very good and satisfying in their own right, a mix for the 21st Century, and less shoe-leather wear than the 2x45s

In the presentation here, instruments are caught in the spotlight with precision, very three-dimensional and sounding like real instruments. Drevo’s warm earthy tenor oozes life, Kenny Clarke’s  brushwork is snappy and  his cymbals sizzle, Boland’s banging piano has all the attack and decay and jangling resonance of a real piano. The kick drum here gives a solid rhythmic underpinning almost entirely missing from the Toshiba reissue.

I think what we are hearing is the amount of information MM have managed to pack into the groove, especially at the top end, with a very expansive dynamic and tonal range, all shades between black and white, loud and quiet. All on very quiet vinyl.

A word of caution – whilst there is no doubt that music matters, which it does, so does what you play it on. In auditioning this copy, I played it on three different real world systems, including two very different  high-end systems and one period vintage one, all with a lot of tubes involved. Getting all that information out of the grooves requires a very fast responding system which can cope with the amount of detail thrown at it. On the vintage system it sounded warm and pleasant. It required a more fiercely analytical system to truly bring it to life.  If hi-fi didn’t matter, we wouldn’t be spending thousands on it, would we?

Gatefold “Packaging”

MM’s usual premium packaging, but this bar-raising gatefold in colour, redefining “musicians in the room” as “you, in the studio”. Spine-tingling.

4092-Clarke-Boland-The-Golden-Eight-MM-gatefold-1900-LJC

Liner Notes:

Crisp black and white, with full-screen readability. You can check for yourself this review isn’t a rehash of the liner notes. It isn’t.

4092-Clarke-Boland-The-Golden-Eight-MM-back-1900-LJC

Collector’s Corner

LJC-Michael-Caine- Professor Jazz fastshow30LJC is an independent opinion source, no commercial interest, none before, none now. Hopefully you find this review helpful in making music choices. I say hopefully because I have a couple more in the pipeline.

I have strayed from my  “original” mission if only because I find it sometimes an impossible goal. Prices are beyond affordable. There seem to be some collectors and not a few dealers treating Blue Note as an investment medium.

I’ve no problem with Capitalism, it drives the search for better value alternatives, and MM33’s  are certainly now in my opinion a genuine better  value alternative, especially for hard-to-find titles. The alternatives previously didn’t cut the mustard musically, but I think there is now a genuine realistic choice.

I still love the sound of Blue Note originals. The stereo is shonky in the early days, but everything has an organic warmth, the packaging has yellowed a little with age, laminate un-reproduceable, corners are no longer sharp, and the sound has a character of its own,  though the music is of the same original passion, timeless. Mono can be the best presentation. Down to you the consumer. You are still king.

 

 

 

 

 

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29 thoughts on “Clarke – Boland: The Golden 8 (1961) Blue Note MM33

  1. Terrific choice of track, and — to my ears — the usual stunning detail of MM33s. I’m a big fan of them. Or was. The company’s recent decision to cut out all of its previous resellers (or at least, online sellers — I understand it still plans to supply a few handpicked stores) and consolidate all sales through its US website will put $28 international shipping onto the price of a MM33 — if you live in the UK. It looks like my days of buying MM33s may be over — which is a shame because as an occasional treat they are glorious.

    • You may find this note from the MM stockist in UK Alan Ross helpful:

      Those of you who occasionally take a look at the web site may have noticed that the Music Matters banner has disappeared.There are legal reasons for this,but I am still stocking many MM 33rpm and 45rpm issues. Please ask if you’d like a list of my current MM stocks.

      Best wishes
      Alan Ross

      Jazz House Records
      Unit 50, Vulcan House,
      Vulcan Road,
      Leicester LE5 3EF
      UK

      Tel: +44 (0)116 251 8333
      E-Mail: sales@jazzhouserecords.co.uk
      Web: http://www.jazzhouserecords.co.uk

      • Yes, I’ve seen that message, LJC…which means that JHR won’t be able to get whatever forthcoming MM33s there may be…

        • Alun,

          Is there no brick and mortar store that might help with your situation. The reason I ask is cause I see European Pressed Jazz LPs here in the States all the time in small indie record stores.

          MM is placing an embargo on online retail of new titles not to deny you a chance to get one or two titles that you want. They are simply trying to survive a tough competitive market place.

          I’m fairly certain there is a way to get 1 MM title to you without financial crisis.

          • Got the new Speak No Evil and the Idle Moments…cost came to 78 for the records and 31$ for shipping to Canada for a total of 109$ US. the impact for us Canadians is the impact of the echange rate for our weak dollard…..another 36% is added to cost for the exchange rate.

          • Spencer, If there is a UK store able to stock the MM reissues, I haven’t yet found it. Perhaps one will emerge over coming weeks or months. There does seem at least some suggestion that MM will supply trusted retailers, where they exist.

            Personally, I have become adjusted to not having any more MM33s. Life’s too short to worry about such things… Or, to put it another way, if that was the most pressing anxiety I had, life would be a lot easier and very different…

    • Can I suggest buying a couple at a time directly from MusicMattersJazz. The shipping for two titles is only marginally more (or the same), the packaging and sales service are second to none and at current exchange rates (Dec 2015) two 33s cost about £70.

      • I would almost never consider buying two at a time! That seems like over-indulgence. But in any case, I have just checked again and even buying two LPs the international shipping charge to the UK is over $37.00. That would mean that for every two LPs I buy I pay almost the cost of a third one in shipping. No, I’m afraid my MM33 days are sadly over…

        • In fact, checking again, I find that two x MM33 LPs with UK shipping would cost about £79.00. I could previously buy two for £64.00 from my previous supplier. Yes, there would be postage on top of that, but only up to a maximum of about £7.00, I think, irrespective of the number of records. The attraction was that I would occasionally buy an MM33 along with three or four or five other secondhand records. That’s what I will miss most.

  2. Have to agree about the drums on this LP. I just gave it a spin this morning. Very beautifully captured. I wonder if Wolfgang Hirschman recorded another album for an American Label.

  3. In 2010 Rearward issued “The Golden Eight-Encore”,a May 1961 recording with unissued tracks.A hidden treasure for more than 50 years.It comes with a booklet( many foto’s) about Gigi Campi.The record is in Mono and sounds great.I think it is still available.

  4. We are living in different times…
    It says in the liner notes Dorian 0437 is Kenny Clarke’s Paris phone number.
    One would only imagine what fans will do in these day and age of cellphones if an artist made public the phone number in their Paris Apartment

    • I found a 1960 copy of Leonard Feather’s, “The Encylopedia of Jazz” that had over 2000 biographies of musicians with their home addresses at that time. The addresses were eliminated in the updated, “The Encyclopedia of Jazz in the Sixties”. I always wondered if this was done at the request of the musicians.

  5. I have music matters 33rpm versions of all the heavyweights like “cool struttin”, “undercurrent”, etc. I’ll never be able to afford 4 figures to find these in mint condition! Where it gets dicey is titles like “unity” for example..a clean copy could be had for a few hundred tops – so in that case does one get a MM33 version of that title? Or get both!? Decisions…

    • I don’t have an original of Unity or an earlier reissue. What I do have is MM 45 and 33 of Unity and I must say either of those should do it for anyone who wants to hear the music.

      Like some people I have an inbuilt prejudice against organ music; it’s an instrument that often sticks out like a sore thumb. The MM45 was good but it did not alleviate my prejudice against the organ but the 33RPM for some reason pulled me more into the music. I’ve listened to the MM33 3 or 4 times since it arrived a few weeks ago. In all the years I’ve owned the 45RPM I can recall listening to it that much.

      There is very that separates both sonically. The 33 is more immediate in my opinion.

        • Because it is Blue Note.
          Because it is Music Matters
          Because the sound is impeccable
          Because it has a universally loved cover
          Because like you I sometimes own album I don’t listen to.
          Because I already have 111 out of 112 MM 45RPMS
          Because it is good to listen to music you don’t understand
          Because I could afford it
          Because….

          Can you honestly say you don’t have an LP in collection that you rarely pick up?

            • then you’re the exception not the norm. Most collectors I know have multiple versions of different albums. It’s the same impulse that drives most own more than one set up.

              The quest for perfection is never-ending… it is the hobgoblin of the audiophile mind.

              Shocks me that I’m the only collector you know who has more than one version of any LP.

              • I think I have five variant copies of Rollins Vol1 BLP 1542, four of Grant Green Idle Moments, quite a number of copies of Kind of Blue, UK and US Mono and Stereo copies of Friday, and Saturday night, Miles Davis In Person at the Blackhawk (Mobley!) I know of people who have roomfuls of copies of Blue Train.

                There are certain albums where we seek the holy grail of perfection.

                Anyone else want to own up?

                • Kind of Blue is one that I know people with tons of versions.

                  Also Blue Train is popular.

                  Most Blue Note fans I know own more than one version of almost their entire collection. Of course it makes us record geeks seem like we are battling OCD.

                  Seeking rationality with record collecting is a waste of time. What’s rational about dropping $2200 on a copy of Undercurrent like a chap recently did on eBay. Yet, I promise that if a sealed copy of Undercurrent showed up tomorrow the same buyer will bid $4K for it.

                  Record collecting is many things but rational isn’t one of them

                  • I don’t actually know any collectors in real life. I don’t even know anyone who likes jazz. In fact, buying jazz on vinyl (as opposed to CD) has made me listen to less jazz in general.

                    I have been lucky enough to score a few big-ticket LPs for peanuts, and now I’m too scared to play them!

                    Like you say, no rationality with vinyl…

                • I have multiple copies of a few records but only the ones I really, really like only to see if I could get a better copy than the one I have. I don’t have 2 copy’s of a record I don’t like….actually I don’t have a record I don’t like….these I don’t keep. All records I have (about 2000 and 157 Blue Note) are appreciated but some of them I have not listen for quite a while. Some even since high school . Tea For Tillerman for example….Listen to it the other day,,, great record but probably won’t play it again….I don’t know.

                • Guilty, my Lord!
                  I couldn’t even begin to list the titles of records that I have in multiple copies. When it comes to Blue Notes, I am fit for the asylum. 🙂

                  For example: Larry Young’s Unity
                  -the Mosaic Box
                  -MM 45s
                  – MM 33

                  When the Mosaic Box LPs were the best reissues available to me in North America, I bought them all as they came out. I enjoyed listening to them.

                  Then Classic Records did their thing and I collected almost everything they released. Enjoyed them.

                  Then MM came along and their 45s were simply way better than what I had heard. So I collected them all. I picked up the Analogue Productions re-issues too, notwithstanding their awful packaging and, to my ears, sonically less satisfying than the MMs. (Their 45s re-issues were different from those by MM.)

                  Then the MM 33s were issued. Hesitated until I called Ron at MM. He told me to try the first 2 and let him know what I thought. The rest is history.

                  I have been buying every BN reissue series since 1985, including those terrible DMMs from France, the BN titles by Japanese Toshiba (early issues) and some truly awful American efforts from the 70s and 80s.

                  Did I say I am a Blue Note addict? 🙂

                  To my ears, the MMs are in a class of their own.

                  • I just received the MM Speak No Evil….will give it a spin this weekend. If it sounds better than my Liberty Bluenote probably will sell it. If I had a orignal copy i would keep it…I have quite a few original BN , Song for Father, Sidewinder, Fickle Sonance, One Step Up, Una Mas, Finger Poppin etc…I will not buy reissue of these unless someone can give me a good reason…

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