Wayne Shorter: Speak No Evil (1964) Blue Note – MM33

4194-Wayne-Shorter-Speak-No-Evil-MM-cover-1900-LJC

Selection: Witch Hunt

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Artists

Freddie Hubbard (trumpet) Wayne Shorter (tenor saxophone) Herbie Hancock (piano) Ron Carter (bass) Elvin Jones (drums) recorded Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, December 24, 1964

Recorded Christmas Eve (rapidly approaching) , two tracks went the distance to Take 25  (Fee Fi Fo Fum) and Take 27 (Dance Cadaverous). Everybody must have been tapping their watches!  Shorter noted in his time with Miles Davis Second Quintet, Miles never discussed the music, there was never any rehearsal, because no-one knew what would happen next. But Shorter here in the studio, twenty or thirty takes, a perfectionist.

Music

Musically, Speak No Evil sits in the centre of Blue Note’s mid-’60s post-bop maelstrom: Dolphy is Out to Lunch, McLean’s Destination is… Out, and Further Out, Hill is at a Point of Departure , Lee Morgan is in Search of New Land, Hancock alights on Empyrean Isles. Mystical/mythical titles, heraldic horn openings, controlled dissonances, brooding dense compositions, all exploring various shifting melodic terrains.

Graduating after five years at Blakey’s Jazz Messengers Academy, alumnus Wayne Shorter continued to develop his own personal voice. His tone is very individual: if Mclean’s alto is acid, Shorter’s tenor is sour, pungent, his lines sparse and skeletal, a Coltrane vocabulary but three quarters of the notes missing, harmonic progression held in place by anchor points, separated by intervals and pauses, but melodic ideas inherent in the tune.

In the three months up to  recording Speak No Evil, Shorter had become a permanent member of Miles Davis second  great quintet, one week recording  with Davis for Columbia, another week leading his own ensemble at Englewood Cliffs for Blue Note.

His regular pick-up band bass and piano –  Reggie Workman and  McCoy Tyner – had to make way new friends Herbie Hancock and Ron Carter on loan from Davis, though Elvin Jones remained Shorter’s choice on drums (not Anthony Williams) : Jones characteristically scattering bombs, washes, crisp rolls and accents over the terrain. Jazz writer S. Victor Aaron aptly notes “The Carter/Jones undertow of swing pulls against the overall mysterious feeling of Shorter’s compositions” (I add)… which glide eerily on the surface above.

Though harmonically complex, Shorter’s compositions are often simple melodies which move in an unusual way, forged out of horn unison or horn harmony, giving way to a modal canvas for exploration. Hancock lays down chords but sparingly, only hinting at the intended harmony, contrasting block-chorded accents with bluesy lines and figures, dancing around like a boxer, punching and jabbing at the melodic flow.

Hubbard replaces bright and peppy Lee Morgan (last heard 6 months previously on Shorter’s  Night Dreamer). Hubbard underplays, adding texture and colouring, or providing harmonies to Shorter: the post-bop oeuvre valued mood and melodic expression over solo virtuosity. Freddie could still turn up the heat when required, but the album is memorable not so much for Hubbard’s or Shorter’s playing, as for the functional unity of this individually brilliant group of five musicians.

Just three months later, Hancock launched his sequel to Speak No Evil, his iconic  Maiden Voyage…another album you must have!

This really is remarkable music deserving of repeated play. Repeatedly. To wheel out the old cliché, as fresh today as it was 50 years ago. Or thanks to MM’s silky stereo and modern mix, perhaps even fresher.

Vinyl:

MM deliver a luxurious widescreen presentation, left and right instruments extending beyond the boundaries of the speakers. Not quite as punchy in the rhythm section as some recordings, though it is hard to say how far this relates to engineering decisions now or then, perhaps the way Van Gelder recorded it, MM being sourced directly from actual original tapes. My vintage Liberty stereo pressing (see Collector’s Corner below) is markedly less spacious, with a more “mono-like” compressed stereo presentation.

For reasons unknown (to me) the MM is noticeably quieter than the Liberty and some of my other MM33s. However, the difference in volume can easily be compensated for by adjusting the happiness (volume) control .  Having done this, the MM conveys the emotion in the music more strongly than my other vintage stereo reissues. A very satisfying listen that encouraged me to revisit the music in a fresh way.

Cover

In the tradition of Miles, Shorter pictures his wife Irene on the cover. What of the original Blue Note cover? By late 1963 Blue Note had abandoned their beautiful thick laminates  for lighter card and semi-gloss flat paper finish, not as tactile, no longer the same object of desire. MM production values are premium, a pleasure to behold.

Gatefold:

Francis Wolff trademark chiaroscuro recording studio photography in the finest art-quality rendering, the standard we expect from MM, value added. The boys are in performance, Shorter listening intently ..to .. umm.. take 27, I guess, it’s a wrap.  The historical artefact is still the “real thing”. If it’s not within your budget to own a mint 1964 original, this is certainly the next best thing, cover-wise perhaps better.. beautiful in its own way.

4194-Wayne-Shorter-Speak-No-Evil-MM-gatefold-2000-LJCLabel: BST 84194 – Music Matters MM33 Review Copy

4194-Wayne-Shorter-Speak-No-Evil-MM-Review-copy-label-1000-LJC

Original Liner Notes: Don Hickman, Jazz Editor, American Record Guide rendered readable at full screen in LJC Supa-Sharp Text™

4194-Wayne-Shorter-Speak-No-Evil-MM-back-1900-LJC

Collectors Corner

Popsike Top Ten auction results for BLP 4194 (all mono, of course) $429 – $611

Popsike-top-ten-auctions-Speak-No-Evil-2

There is no escaping the collectability of original Shorter ‘s Blue Note titles. Not in the trophy-league, but in near-mint condition they are expensive. Among high-end Ebay auctions, 4194 Speak No Evil outnumbers rival 4182 JuJu by around two to one, and 4173 Night Dreamer appears hardly at all. Speak No Evil is clearly the collector’s choice.

I don’t have it in original form. What I do have is a Division of Liberty and a UA blue label, which tell a cautionary tale.

I hardly ever played the blue label, my first copy, because I didn’t enjoy listening to it. The Liberty I acquired more recently, but I wasn’t enjoying that much either so it didn’t get much play. I didn’t look into why at the time, as I have now, but just concluded that I didn’t much care for the record. Let’s get close up:

Wayne-Shorter-Speak-No-Evil-DivLib-and-UA-labels-2000-LJC

There’s the story!

No Van Gelder stamp. The Liberty reissue of Speak No Evil was re-mastered by a staff  Liberty engineer –  two or three attempts (suffix -2 after matrix). Moreover both Liberty and UA records should sound similar, because United Artists re-used the Liberty re-master. The hand-etched matrix codes are identical, pressed from the same metal. I experienced identical issues with the Liberty & UA reissues of Rollins 1542. This is not Rudy’s handiwork and it shows.

The Liberty betrays more bad pedigree. Had it been an All-Disc production in 1966-7 with van Gelder stamp things might be very different. From the look of the label, it is almost certainly late Liberty – the label print colours have off cyan-yellow bias and the ® below E circle is malformed, probably 1968-9, a jobbing local printer without a full font set,  may be an #-generation  copy tape sent out to LA, re-mastered there, hence same metal on site for use by UA a couple of  years later.

United Artists blue label black note pressings can sound very good, but not in this case. It is early UA, not yet United Artists Music and Records Group, still Blue Note Records – a Division of United Artist (pre-1973). Usually this can be  a good sign, but nothing can overcome its bad Liberty pedigree. This rules out the obvious USA vintage reissue budget alternatives for this particular record. (I make no generalisation to other records, this is a case by case matter.)  Having heard this MM33 I think the only real alternative is an original, and the price tag of that is the main obstacle for most of us.

The other lesson from this story as that the quality of engineering and all the related stuff is an important part of whether you feel you want to play the music, connect with it,  and therefore how much enjoyment you get from it. Pedigree Matters.

LJC Afterthought.

LJC-Michael-Caine- Professor Jazz fastshow30A lot of people have written about the technicalities of this music –  about augmented and diminished fifths, quartal modes; about Shorter; about Blue Note and the careers of the musicians, but I have yet to read anywhere one word about the  medium of delivery, the format, vinyl. It doesn’t enter into it the equation for any of them. We are on our own here, floating far from land, not drowning, just waving. We know something no-one else does.

UPDATE December 15, 2015
LJC reader  Niels has sent in a  rip of the track Witch Hunt from his original Blue Note mono 4194 Speak No Evil .  Lucky man to have this. We have a different format here, mono, played on different equipment, possibly other variables including very different price tag.  I am not sure  of anything other than that they should sound “different”. I base my published opinions on on the sound on my full system,  or in this case, three different systems, not  via  a PC soundcard  in MP3. However, take from what you will.

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My thanks to Niels for the rip.

 

 

 

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115 thoughts on “Wayne Shorter: Speak No Evil (1964) Blue Note – MM33

  1. As for the question of his initials on the dead wax. I’ve already settled the argument over at his forum awhile back. my published findings might still be up on either the tail end of the MM thread part 6 or at the beginning of part 7(watch your step over there).

    “snip>”https://londonjazzcollector.wordpress.com/about/ljc-comments-policy/

    If anyone have all 112 MM 45RPM and would like to repeat the count, be my guest. the results are still gonna be the same. Hoffman worked on about 42 to 44 titles before being fired. The last title he worked on is was Us Three by Horace Parlan. It had his unmistakable sonic penchant for tamping down on the top end which gave the record a darker sounding vibe.

    I have the 33RPM and can tell you that it restores the missing top end to the music.

  2. All this talk about Hoffman and who mastered what is boring; if I wanted that kind of nonsense, I’d be at his forum and not here. Can we talk about jazz music and records please?

    • Feel free to skip it, but the fact is a) who mastered records and how is the main topic of this forum–after all you can get a streaming service or use rutracker to listen to all the Blue Note you could possibly desire if you don’t fetishize the sound and b) tedious as it may be, Hoffman’s story is part of the sound of (some) Music Matters and Analogue Productions Blue Note reissues, and c) we are not in fact free to discuss these matters on his forum. The thread over there will disappear if you try to discuss this matter and your account will to if you persist. (I understand the censorship–I’d want to hide such an embarrassing past too–but it doesn’t make for good discussion.)

      • I agree.

        We are not being cantankerous. we are in a Gentlemanly way having a relevant discussion about the roles of people behind reissues we all enjoy.

        If we are boring anyone they should simply ignore this part of the discussions to the handful of participants.

  3. Despite its scientific shortcomings due to the differences in playback and recording systems, I absolutely love comparing an original mono with a Music Matters stereo, and I actually like that the original is mono and the MM is stereo because it really gives us the ultimate clash of the titans: In one corner, the “collectors” and their adornment of Van Gelder’s handiwork as a mastering engineer with a preference for punchy (compressed) mono, and in the other corner, the “audiophiles” and their undying love of wide stereo and distaste for compression akin to modern mastering engineers like Steve Hoffman (though it appears that Gray mastered this one on his own).

    The differences as I hear them (which I’m sure are to some degree due to differences in systems):

    The MM sounds much brighter, making the original of a darker flavor…different flavors, both of which sound good to me. (I’m guessing this is inherent in the records and not so much a byproduct of the variations in the playback systems.)
    The bass sounds pretty deep on both cuts.
    The original sounds (surprisingly) completely free of distortion from wear, though it did sound like it had one or two nasty spots due to surface marks.
    The MM does sound like it may suffer from some light master tape degradation at times where the original does not (in the beginning).
    There’s something about hearing those horn blasts in bold mono that is extremely pleasing and is simply not attainable from the stereo (if you summed the channels of the stereo you’d get something kind of like the original mono, but it might not ‘stick’ as much due to the probability that less compression was applied to the MM).

  4. I just listened to these samples and my black b Van Gelder LP on my office system (which is pretty nice–80s vintage high end gear). I don’t think my copy sounds all that different from the mono other than the obvious (it’s stereo). It’s muffled and doesn’t flow out of the speakers the way many Van Gelder masters do. It does have a groove to it though, just like the mono. The MM transfer is a lot cleaner and easier to listen to. Good news–I just ordered a used 45 rpm MM of this title at a nice price. Not Van Gelder’s best recording.

    By the way, there are really two MM series, and their not divided by format. The first 38-ish titles were mastered by Steve Hoffman and Kevin Gray (Gray did all the technical stuff and ran the lathe). And Hoffman was involved in all of the Analogue Productions 45rpm Blue Notes. After that, he was off the team and Ron Rambach took over his role, with Gray still manning the controls. The change between Hoffman (who likes his mids) and Rambach (who eventually started signing the deadwax) is more significant than the change from 45 to 33 IMO. The last 45s are similar to the 33s, but with a bit more ease IMO.

    • Thanks, that is a helpful insight. I was aware of the departure of SH from the team, but not which releases in each format fall which side of the SH line. I think that is something a number of people would be interested in. I would be one of them.
      Anyone?

        • Unfortunately, that list is wrong. They were announced that way. Furthermore, the 45s continued to use a hype sticker citing Hoffman and AcousTech mastering at least through the 2012 issue of Basra even though neither were true by that point. And Hoffman’s release from the team was never publicly announced. But Hoffman’s name is only in the deadwax of 38, and he stopped posting about them halfway through the series.

          The physical evidence doesn’t lie. And In 2010 AcousTech closed and Gray moved to his own studio, Cohearent Audio and changed his signature to KPG@CA from KPG@ATM. Titles are mastered in advance so some Hoffman titles may have come out after 2010. But I don’t think you’ll find Hoffman’s signature on any done at CA, though I only have about 15, so not a full sampling. In any event he certainly stopped participating.

          I am no fan of the proprietor of the blog to which I’m about to link, particularly his tone–though I’m no fan of Hoffman either. But he has examined all the deadwax and the results are here. http://robertmusic.blogspot.com/2015/01/music-matters-steve-claus-and-why.html

          • Thanks for the correction. I’m inclined to agree with you, that if his initials aren’t in the dead wax, he wasn’t a part of it. And I know that some people cough Spencer cough are inclined to believe that he was fired; I tend to believe that Gray had absorbed his input at a certain point and it simply wasn’t economically viable to keep Hoffman on. (Spencer, please save us the counterargument that he was fired, it’s already out there on the internet and a link will suffice.)

      • The interesting thing in the Grey/Hoffman list is what’s missing – no 33’s. All 45×2.
        So that would seem to be one red line. Only ten of the 77 are mono. (MMBLP). Some of the stereo (MMBST) look like they predate Rudy’s use of twin track tape (?), but you would be better placed to note which.

      • That number range seems accurate. It’s been a while but before I was booted out of Hoffman watering hole for exposing some falsehoods, I made it a priority to count the number of times Hoffman’s name is listed on the 45RPMs dead wax. If I’m not mistaken it was somewhere between 77 and 80 titles he worked on, give or take.

        I would look for the link to the list but I fear they ave sanitized it as is the custom over at Hoffman.

        I can tell you for certain that Horace Parlan Us Three is the last one he worked on before being fired from the series. As someone who has both versions of the title I can tell you that the 33 is a significant sonic improvement over the 45.

        If you add 1+1=2. It would seem that the impetus behind MM’s re-reissue of some of these titles in 33 is because they were not entirely crazy about Hoffman’s work on these 45 LPs.

    • I have received and played the MM 45 rpm of this title (on the big system) and it is terrific, restoring the album to what you imagine it should sound like. The deadwax of this 2012 issue, by the way, is signed KG and RR (for Ron Rambach, who’s running the MM show), but the sticker still says Hoffman.

  5. My first copy was a DMM, upgraded to King few years back which was like listening to this album with new ears, big improvement. Spinning the King pressing right now it is very good although i’ll imagine it can still be bettered.
    BTW i have both a Toshiba & MM copies of Idle Moments which sound almost 100% identical, really hard to tell the difference. Usually when comparing various pressings you can hear some differences but not with this one…doesn’t say anything about other albums off course.

  6. To me, MM vs. original is a matter of taste in most cases. In this one…there is an odd history.

    I have two 70s copies with VAN GELDER stampers and both are below the standard of other 70s represses with Van Gelder stampers.

    I’ve never heard an Abbey pressed RVG, stereo or mono. My guess is that it’s not great. Why?
    a) I’ve heard people say the King is the Speak No Evil to own.
    b) In 1967-8 or so, Liberty recut the album. This was unusual. Most titles continued with RVG stampers into the early 70s at least. My guess is that the Van Gelder plates on this title didn’t sound very good.

    Then again, neither did the recut. Oddly, they went back to RVG stampers for the Division of United Artists blue and white label, and for some black b copies (including mine). But they sound kind of underwater and weird–not the vibrant sound we all expect from an RVG, even via worn stampers and crappy 70s vinyl. Subsequently, my white b copy reuses the Liberty non-RVG stampers.

    Does anyone own a NY USA copy in nice shape to comment on the sound?

    • My blue & white label Liberty pressing has VAN GELDER in the deadwax, I don’t remember anything off about the sound but will have to give it a critical listen to confirm.

      • Interesting, please come back on this one. It means there are both Van Gelder and non-Van Gelder mastered pressings in circulation, issued by Liberty. This is the first time I have noted diverging provenance. A photo of the etchings if that’s possible would be even more interesting, as I guess the catalogue number would be etched in a different hand? Even in the absence of a photo, are they the same or different to the copy here? Are the pantone reference colours different? This may go some way to salvage the standing of Liberty reissues. There is a first reissue with Van Gelder origin, and a later reissue without.

        • A few posts down I mentioned that I had a Liberty copy with RVG in the dead wax. I don’t have it anymore but I’m fairly certain I wouldn’t have bought it if it wasn’t from RVG plates.

        • Will do, I’ll get a photo over to you tomorrow when it’s light out. This was the problem I mentioned in another topic regarding cataloging blue label (black “B” & white “B”) copies with VAN GELDER in the deadwax. For a given title I’ve seen blue & white label Liberty copies/UA/blue labels with and without VAN GELDER mastering. Only way to know for sure is to look (or ask if online).
          PS – Glad we seem to be back on track 😉

          • On the topic of Van Gelder stamps in post-NY USA Blue Note vinyl, I once acquired a “west coast” 70s black and light blue label Liberty pressing of Hank Mobley’s Workout with the Van Gelder stamp, and to my ears it sounded drenched in reverb beyond what I think Van Gelder would have (typically) done…it was quite a confusing listen. I’d never heard a record mastered by Van Gelder that sounded that way but this one did. Did Van Gelder remaster it in the late ’60s/early ’70s with extra reverb at the request of Liberty??

        • Here is a picture of the deadwax of my VAN GELDER cut Liberty pressing. I listened to it last night and is sounded great, typical Rudy Blue Note sound here!

          • PS – This is one of the Liberty’s pressed at whatever plant had serrated edges on the vinyl. On your Liberty variations picture, the label is most similar to the one on the far right (Cecil Taylor – Conquistador).

    • I have an original mono copy, it’s in exc. condition. I can make a sound clip of Witch Hunt, so it’s possible to compare it with the MM version.
      To me, most versions I have heard, are a bit of an ear bleeder when the horn section goes full force. Including the King and Liberty.
      I don’t have the MM version but in general they have a more warm relaxing sound, not so bright at least. Which can be a good thing for this recording. The mono has a nice tube sound which also levels the piercing sound of the horn section out a bit.
      I can make a comparison between Idle moments on MM33 and the original mono. The MM33 lacks some of the punch and clarity. But in general I’m a big fan of the MM’s. Although a bit overpriced here in Holland. But that’s another story…

      • Kind offer Niels, thank you. Mono vs stereo format, ripped on two different audio systems via two different devices, I’m on shaky comparison ground, perhaps too many variables? They will sound different, I guess. However if you would like to make a rip of Witch Hunt, at 320kbps, you can Transferwise it to me as the filesize might be a bit challenging, we will hear what we hear.

          • It is published, see foot of post update. We are open-minded at LJC, some say empty, even.

            From the number of different reissue cuts and question-marks over RVG’s handling, it does seem this was not a good day at Englewood Cliffs (Take #27 eh?) Perhaps it is a “troubled recording” on which various fixes were attempted by different people at different times, often unsuccessfully.

            I noted on ripping that the MM33 gain is low, which gives a less favourable signal to noise ratio (trying to sound like someone who knows what he’s talking about) which you would do only if there was a reason. No idea what that reason might be.

            I feel a need to move on.

            • I haven’t heard this MM pressing of Speak No Evil, but lower perceived volume might have something to do with the fact that Van Gelder compressed less while recording to tape that day. Less compression means more intense dynamic peaks that cannot be heard as much as they are ‘chizzled’ by the lathe’s cutter head. So when cutting vinyl this means turning down the volume a little so all the program info can fit on each side.

              This makes me curious though: Is the runout region very wide on these sides? If it isn’t, my theory makes sense. If it is, I have no idea why they turned it down if they did, relatively speaking. These reissues are known for the lack of compression applied in the mastering process (I’ve heard through the grapevine that no compression was applied in the mastering process whatsoever when Hoffman was around, and I’ve also heard murmurs that Gray has been applying some compression). I’m aware of how nerdy this all is…and I bet a fellow nerd out there has an answer to this question!

      • I don’t have any digital gear to assist me in doing a needle drop. Purely analog guy. I don’t even own a CD player anymore. Secondly the original belongs to someone with deeper pockets than I, hence the side by side listening is at his place and I’m not sure he would approve of the comparison.

        But I do agree with most listener that it is a case of different presentation but I always find the MMs to have better dynamics and a lower noise floor.

  7. Thanks for this great blog entry, LJC! I’m a big fan of the MM 33s because I like their sound and of course their price. Are they better than the originals? I have no idea but with the only one I’ve been able to compare (Sidewinder original mono compared to MM 33 stereo) they surely sound very different. What people prefer is up to them.

    I don’t know if the readers here remember but someone here on this blog said earlier this year that Music Matters would stop production at the end of the current year (see the comment at the end of this entry https://londonjazzcollector.wordpress.com/2015/05/28/uk-auction-blue-note-mobley-1568-sets-new-price-benchmark/).

    Well, this person was wrong. Ron Rambach is even annoucing “six more titles coming your way this year” (http://www.musicmattersjazz.com/category_s/108.htm) and some changes to their distribution and production system and also to their shipping prices (but for US only sadly).

    Good news for the audiophile on a budget!

    • With their recent moves MM actually killed any chance for a jazz fan outside of USA to get their releases for less than $70 a piece. Way to go MM

  8. you guys really gave me a crave for MM reissues when i sadly found out the only source was U.S and doubled the price in shipping and customs+VAT.
    then on saturday morning, a guy on my hifi forum listed his whole MM/45rpm collection at a very fair price. i grabbed a good slice of the pie then got tempted to take the whole bunch – to discover an english gentleman got ravenous over it. wonder who that lucky/wealthy chap is… 😉

  9. as always, I’won’t get into the sound debate, it’s out of my interest.
    some months ago, a distinguished gentleman got in contact with me asking if we could meet and have a listen together.
    he came to listen to how an original Blue Note sounded. I had a lot but could not make any comparison with reissues I do not have.
    we talked and listened for a couple of hours and when he left I was convinced that he had not been impressed so much.
    he was looking for the “sound” while I was looking for the “music”.
    maybe he didn’t appreciate the sound of my system which I have not been listening to for decades.
    what was surprising is that he didn’t even have a look to my collection.
    1) Spencer: “ever think of saving yourself money and buying them?” (reissues): no, I wouldn’t. my pleasure is listening to a piece of music the way it was conceived 50 or 60 years ago.
    2) Andrew: “Theoretically we would all have a mint Mobley 1568 on 47W63rd NY 23 (side 2) . The reason we don’t is… value for money.. or absence of money.”: I would add absence of interest.

    • “I would add absence of interest.” Dott — always on-point, always succinct. And I find I almost always agree!

    • I disagree with your premise…it is not incompatible to be all about the music and have an interest in the sound. As a matter fact having a nice sounding LP can enhance the enjoyment of the music. If you have a well done LP like these MMs the impact will almost be like hearing the music new. Case in point was my visceral reaction to hearing both Idle Moments and Midnight Blue on MM33. Compared to my other editions of these LPs I was immediately down in by MM33s because of the amount of details that were fleshed by the both LPs.

      Music Matters! Sound Matters! After all what is Music but sound aimed at creating emotions.

  10. I had a stereo Liberty copy of this title with Van Gelder in the dead wax…looked good but played with distortion from groove wear. :\ Would a near mint Liberty copy sound pretty darn good? I have to imagine so.

  11. Apologies in advance, I’m about to go off on a slight tangent but a posting about a Wayne Shorter record seems to be a happy coincidence to use. Last week I bought my ticket for Shorter’s concert at The Barbican next February and I was wondering if any of LJC’s other regular readers were planning to go? It might be a nice opportunity to meet in person…

  12. Let’s not be under some kind of misunderstanding here.

    Anytime one listens to MM reissue side by side along an original there’s going to be huge sonic disparity. It’s called hindsight and it is a 20/20 vision factor. The originals were made on vintage equipment that is hard to come by these days and there are so few of them around. The MMs are made with 50 years of technological advancement and know-how.

    Objectively speaking, (if such a thing were possible) the MMs are sonically superior to 99% of the originals but that does not mean the originals are poor sounding. The difference maker is 50 years of know-how. No amount of debate is going to erase those 50 years of advancement. The MMs will have the sonic edge all the time and the originals will have the sentimental edge.

    Here is another way to look at it:

    Many American Baseball fans consider Babe Ruth the greatest Baseball player to ever play. But, can Babe Ruth match the athleticism and skills of today’s Baseball stars? Nope! Not even in the least. Babe Ruth was a drunk, a glutton and a smoker who probably never heard the word physical conditioning. However, Babe Ruth played in an era when most of his bad habits were part of the landscape of pro Baseball. Today’s Baseball pros are obsessed physical conditioning, they eat right and they don’t chain smoke. They drink protein shakes and some other unthinkable stuff that elevate their level of play. Babe Ruth would not even cut it in the Minors in these day and age.

    Imagine, a technician picks up 180g BN TP and plays it on a 10K table and it sounds like it was made 50 years ago? It sounds vintage and dated. The technician will probably order another round of TPs thinking something went wrong with the pressing. Now apply the same scenario to RVG and Lion picking up a 160g BN TP back in the 60s and playing it on the equipment of those days. They will probably discard the TP thinking something is wrong.

    Conclusions: the MMs are sonically superior, but the originals are still great and the fact that there few of them around increases their value exponentially. Not too long ago I spoke with a Gentleman who bought originals and asked him if he’s heard of MM reissues. He said that he had and that they are nice. “ever think of saving yourself money and buying them?” “No”. He said. ” I don’t buy originals cause of sound”. I dared not ask him why he buys the originals after that.

    • Totally disagree. And your baseball comparison? LOL. yeah, Players like Babe Ruth didn’t need Steroids to boost their performances and it ridiculous to compare eras. Anyone beaten Cy Youngs Win record yet? …………crickets…The audio world is one of the few things where “New” doesn’t mean better. Any serious two channel system dedicated to listening to Records has what exactly?….Audio tubes! which is a technology that came out when? The only reason to own originals is because of the sounds. No if, ands, or buts about it. MM are superior? I chuckle buts that your opinion and your opinion only. Oh and If I ever had the chance to pick between 2016 Ford Mustang or a 1969 Ford Mustang. well…..you can guess which one most people will grab.

      • I do enjoy a vigorous debate…

        You missed the point of my piece.

        There is no right or wrong on this issue. The MM reissues have done away with the compresssions that are part and parcel of the originals. Some people (like you) prefer the traits inherent in those originals. Nothing wrong with that. But that is your preference but if you are looking at the readings from an electronic measurements when listening to either the originals or the MM reissues. The data will tilt more favorably towards the MM reissues–thats not my opinion that’s 50 years of advancement. You can’t escape the March of Time.

        Consider this, I have an Uncle who still prefers his BBC reception from a small short wave radio. He swears they are better sounding than any other means of reception. That’s his opinion and it is just as valid as any.

        Did you mention steroids?

        In my piece I refer to them as “unmentionable”. Precisely my implied point. The MM reissues are performing at peak level like steroid enhanced Barry Bonds!

        The MM reissues are not any other reissues. The are the only reissue label that have no trace of digital in their production chain.

        Do you mean to tell me that Babe Ruth has any chance against a steroid enhanced Barry Bonds or Sammy Sosa?

        Forget about it!

        • As a sound engineer i’m really curious about the electronic measurements you wrote about, Spencer. Thats news for me that sound quality can be electronically measured…

          • Gentlemen, I think you guys should fight it out, last man standing and all that. However I do have a dog in the fight, which is that I am on record dissing MM45’s, but praising MM33s. I find them quite different, so it is not just an + or – MM thing .

            Moreover, I think BN originals in mono have a character that is quite different from MM stereo, I enjoy them both. Which depends on the title, and how my system is performing at that time.

            Chocolate or vanilla, which is best? We all have personal preferences. However if Chocolate is $500 and vanilla is $50, we can have a different discussion. Theoretically we would all have a mint Mobley 1568 on 47W63rd NY 23 (side 2) . The reason we don’t is… value for money.. or absence of money.

            My selection criteria is what represents good value for money and a good listening experience. What’s “best” I’ll let you all slug it out.

          • there’s this gadget called a sonic analyser that analyses sound waves from different sources and can give you a read out and you can see how compressed the sound is or isn’t. It does more than that actually, but you get the point.

            Now it does not tell you this is good sound or this is bad sound it just provides you with raw data that you can use to draw conclusions. There’s a saying that numbers never lie. Generally if you get a reading that tells you that you have overly compressed sound from a source, I think most audiophiles will tell you the sound is compromised. Ultimately what comes out of a recording is gonna be based on the hearing tastes of the musicians and studio pros.

            Which studio do you work at?

        • You say there is no right or wrong on the issue but in your conclusion you state “the MMs are sonically superior.” Again, That’s your opinion and your opinion only! 50 years of advancement in Vinyl pressing? So tell us, is this just for MM reissues or is every record being pressed today superior? I wonder how they extracted audio from those 50+ years of degraded audio tape? They must have had some powerful Glass Cleaner to make them sound better than the originals. I’ll have to do my homework and see if Classic records use any Digital in their releases. And finally, If ever Barry Bonds or Sammy Sosa ever make it into the hall of fame LOLOLOL. There will be an ASTERISK by their name and that says This…..HACKS who Needed Steroids to beat the home record of a FAT, DRUNK, Smoking, Partying, NON athletics slugger. Pathetic!

              • Several years ago a used MM copy of Donald Byrd’s Fuego and we A/B’d it with a mono first pressing. The original had a deeper fuller bottom end, it had a different sonic presence. Although it was immediately obvious to everyone listening, the MM pressing was better than any of the UA mono pressings that Blue Note mastered and produced without Rudy Van Gelder in the 70’s.

                • It is precisely the point I’m trying to get across. The Fuego mono you speak of was done on a vintage equipment that added different nuance to the presentation. It is unreasonable to imagine that modern equipment would yield the same exact result. The conception of what is state of the art then and what is state of the art now is totally different.

                  By the way it is amazing what RVG was able to achieve with his equipment. Even by modern standards it is still staggering. I’m a big admirer of what MM has done with Blue Note and what Analogue Productions have done with their Prestige series. There are two common denominators in both situations and that is RVG and KG

    • Spencer, I’m assuming the ‘objective’ measures of original monos and stereo MM reissues that you are referring you are regarding the ‘accuracy of each version in comparison to the same measurements coming directly from the master tape, correct?

      Aside from the fact that I can only imagine (key word: imagine) that the MM reissues do sound more like the original master tape than the original mono records, i.e. more ‘accurate’, what’s all this talk of electronic measurements? I’m not denying that we would probably find that measurements of things like the dynamics and frequency response of the MM reissues would more closely resemble those of the original master tapes than the original mono LPs, but have tests like this really been done??

      Second, ‘sonic superiority’ doesn’t have to mean ‘sounds (hypothetically) more like the original master tapes’. A person who claims the original monos are sonically superior has every right to do so, insofar as it is accepted that the definition of ‘sonically superior’ simply means someone prefers the sound of one thing over another. It’s all semantics of course, but I would just be careful to equate ‘accuracy’ (which is still open to interpretation) with ‘sonic superiority’.

      • My piece in no way disparages originals. By “superior” I simply wish to relay the fact that the MM 45s and 33s have benefited from advances in the audio frontier that were not around when the originals were made.

        There are people who collect vintage race cars and though those vintage cars are made really good, it would be myopic to assume that those vintage cars could outperform their modern day counterpart in a one on one race.

        • The problem with your race car analogy is that that winner of a car race is much more clear than the ‘winner’ of two records being played. It’s a quantitative vs. qualitative analogy.

          The furthest I think you can go quantitatively with comparing issues of a recording is with scientific readings of the performance of each issue in comparison to the original master tape–but even then you are making a subjective choice about preferring the sound of the master tape to any sort of manipulation that can be done in the mastering process. There’s no right or wrong here: some people prefer Van Gelder’s mastering moves with the originals, some don’t. And even though you may be able to quantitatively measure improvements in vinyl manufacturing technology over the years, there’s nothing wrong with someone preferring the sound that comes from the old school mastering and manufacturing.

    • Also, one last thing: the question of what 50-60 years can do for a recording is not a black-and-white issue, as if time must produce an improvement in fidelity. Case in point: though these Blue Note tapes do seem to often sound near-‘perfect’ today, the ability for magnetic tape to maintain its sonic signature over a period of 50-60 years is certainly not closed to debate, as I have personally heard many examples where a decline in fidelity can be heard between an original pressing and a reissue that is a direct result of deterioration of the master tape.

      • Those Blue Note tapes are well preserved because they have compounds in them that for environmental and health reasons are no longer allowed in the manufacturing process in the USA.

          • One of them is sperm whale oil. And as you you know one can’t go about these days killing sperm whales for the purpose of extracting their oil to be used in industrial manufacturing.

            Deplorable act back then and these days given what’s happened to the species.

            Another compound is lead. Bad Juju that stuff. It has been banned from most consumer products for darn good reason.

            Not only do the old scotch tapes have lead, but the vinyl formula used by Plastilyte also had lead in it as a noise dampner. Which might explain the superb sound of original BN LPs.

        • No I don’t think so, The Blue Note Tapes are not Well preserved and Bernie Grundman who had access to the Tapes before MM even existed, tells the story, And “JUST” one example is Newk’s time by SR. Bernie Grundman did all the Blue Note Classic Records reissues and in this video Drops the Kind of Blue Bomb! His Transfer is the last all Analog transfer?? Man, I have every release of Kind of Blue by Classic Records including the rare Clarity Vinyl reissue. That’s going to worth a pretty penny! Some people just talk the talk……….

          • I am inclined to agree, mig. It doesn’t appear that over the years Blue Note’s masters were treated with the same regal care as, say, The Beatles’ masters (this may have to do with the ownership of Blue Note changing so many times over the years); I would imagine a major label like Columbia would have taken better care of their masters as well, despite the current state of the Kind of Blue masters. That being said, it would appear that ‘most’ classic Blue Note masters are still in fantastic condition fidelity-wise, thought every now and then a title pops up with audible tape degradation. I’d say there’s at least a dozen titles I know of that have suffered this tragic fate.

          • I’m sorry I am not sure what you are talking about. This was a video Michael Fremer posted awhile back discussing the impending Blue Note 75th anniversary releases.

            How in the world you can draw a conclusion from this tape that Grundman is the last person to do all analog xfer from Blue Note tapes is beyond me. If Grundman is the last person then what are Kevin Gray and Ron Rambach using for these 45s and 33?

            I feel I understand you better now from this last post you made. You have a a lot vested in the classic records reissues and you don’t want anyone to get the impression that something else better has come along.

            see Comments Policy

            • I think BG/mig were only talking about the Classic Records Kind of Blue releases being the last all-analog transfers of that album…though I don’t think that’s true at this point either…wasn’t a mono version of KOB issued on vinyl since the Classics?

              I do however recall something about Columbia stopping licensing at some point in time for all-analog KOB vinyl reissues…

          • Here is a what BN master tapes look like in the studio.

            Observe Ron Rambach’s hands and let me know if that looks like a tape box in his. And if you think Blue Note went to the vault and took out a tape box so he can be photographed with it for this article then you’ve essentially made it clear that you don’t know what you are talking about

              • The absolute sound. Nice marketing, I can post links up stating that heavenly sweetness pressing a mean record. LOL. and vested interest in Classic Record has nothing to do with anything. I have money and I can buy all the MM titles but, lack the interest to do so and Remember Spencer you are the one with the absolute better than the original standpoint. And Rich, You are right. I was hoping to God this forum wouldn’t turn into that other forum people despise and hate (sh, cough,cough) but overflow into this forum is inevitable. All we need is that MF’er bullshit storyteller to join and watch people run to the hills like an Iron maiden Song.

              • Yes We Can!
                First step toward that goal is speak honestly about the topic. Each of us have an obligation to speak truthfully here. I feel that anyone who spreads misinformation and can’t even post a retraction does a disservice to us all.

  13. Whatever you do, Don’t pass up on Shorter’s Vee Jay sessions. His ballads on those and his Blue Note sessions are some of the most heart felt songs of any tenor player.

  14. I have a Liberty Van Gelder so no need for me to get the MM. The worst Liberty non Van gelder that I used to own was McCoy Tyner’s The Real McCoy. Holy smokes ear piercing record. awful.

    • Actually I just disposed of a Marconi reissue of that. I thought it sounded pretty shocking too — but then I’m not a great Tyner fan and I thought it was him I couldn’t come to terms with (all of my Tyner records have met the same fate). Perhaps I’m wrong — perhaps it was the sound quality that was the problem…

  15. A terrific record — and I wish my copy was better than the Marconi it undoubtedly is. I have always felt that if you wanted a textbook example of what exactly it was that Shorter brought to Miles, this is the record. Churningly oblique, knotty, complex, hard swinging — at times it is almost like a lost Miles record.

    Where did you buy your MM33 from, LJC?

      • Review copy! Oh yes, as you said in the original post, I now see. Well, I hope you’re proud of yourself. 🙂

        Alun,
        For the record, my opinion is not for sale. 😦
        LJC

        • I think we all acknowledge that, LJC, and of course it isn’t what I meant. I simply meant that I hope you’re proud to have the only forthcoming/new issue MM33 that I want but won’t have because I’m too cheap to spend nearly thirty bucks on international shipping… Sour grapes — moi?

  16. Poetic and romantic write up LJC. You captured Wayne Shorter’s playing style in words I could not have imagined. I have always enjoyed Shorter’s ad lib, but found it difficult to put into words. I have a Liberty copy.

  17. I just ordered this MM reissue a few days ago and look forward to it since I’m not ready to spend $500 (give or take) for an original mono in clean condition.

    Do the originals “kill” the music matters? I don’t think so..just different presentations. I have clean originals and their respective MM 33rpm reissues and have done comparisons with various friends. The resounding conclusion? The originals have more punch but can cause listener fatigue after awhile. The music matters seem to have a broader tonal spectrum and don’t cause that fatigue on the ears over a long listening session.

    Both are good to sum it up!

  18. Great review of an awesome record. Listening to ESP now, virtually same line up except tony williams and miles. Great period. Shorter started to play his very suggestive music here.Love it. But LJC, the original mono kills the MM reissuer

  19. Excellent review of an iconic recording by one of the finest jazz composers ever. In an 18 month period in the mid-’60’s, Shorter recorded six magnificent records on BN, as well as contributing to ‘Miles Smiles’ & ‘ESP’, while performing with Miles Davis.

    To see how great his composition chops were, check out the 1960 VeeJay “The Young Lions” [4 of the 5 tunes are Wayne’s]: http://www.allmusic.com/album/mw0000096268

  20. This is a coincidence–was listening to Speak No Evil as I received your e-mail (listening at work, though–the evil mp3). And I think I want your job so I can get review copies like this! Speak no Evil is in my top 5 blue note releases of all time–though I like All Seeing Eye even more (and managed to get an original New York, USA pressing a couple of years ago in mint condition for $50).

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