Ted Curson: The New Thing & The Blue Thing (1965) Atlantic


New Thing selection: Elephant’s Walk


Blue Thing selection: Straight Ice



Ted Curson (trumpet) Bill Barron (tenor saxophone) Georges Arvanitas (piano) Herb Bushler (bass) Dick Berk (drums) recorded NYC, March 25 &29, 1965, engineer Tom Dowd.

Recording both as sideman and leader, Curson moved fluidly between the inside and outside, one foot in the soulful postbop, the other in the avant-leaning new-thing.  Notable early outings included with Cecil Taylor (Love For Sale)  and Archie Shepp (Fire Music), but Curson’s most visible appearance was with Mingus, in the ranks of  Eric Dolphy and Booker Ervin (Mingus at Antibes, Dolphy/Candid sessions, Charles Mingus Presents, Reincarnation Of A Love Bird).

Curson’s  NYT Obituary notes “Mr. Curson does some of his most celebrated work on Mingus at Antibes, executing tight, melodic pirouettes against the urgent delirium of “Better Git Hit in Your Soul.” (Now that’s what I call writing!) It brought Curson a “New Star” award at Monterey.

Five years in quartet or quintet with Coltrane-stylist Bill Barron, Curson penned and recorded many titles, including the landmark tribute “Tears for Dolphy” in 1964. Likened to Woody Shaw, his musical compositions often resemble a continuation of the Mingus oeuvre without Mingus. Memorable Curson compositions include  Reava’s Waltz, Snake Johnson, Quicksand, Song Of The Lonely One [aka Ode To Booker Ervin] and the impenetrably-titled  Dwackdi Mum Fudalik.

Curson spent the late ’60s and early ’70s in Europe, recording in Paris, Helsinki, Prague, Amsterdam, Stockholm, evolving briefly into a  scat singer. Moving between the US and Europe, he continued to perform over several further decades, before departing for another place aged 77, November 4, 2012.


Curson’s tone has been described by excellent jazz writer Gary Giddins as simultaneously “bright and plaintive, with short charging phrases, rhythmic fillips and circuitous variations that soar over turnbacks and land with a kick”.

New Thing Blue Thing fully lives up to its title, one side New, the other Blue. Jazz Times summed it up as follows:

Curson’s soaring lines and brilliant trumpet sound are well-matched by Barron, who was at the top of his form on this date. Neither was really an avant-gardist by 1965 standards, but both were interesting modern voices whose best work came when they were pushing the limits”

The Blue selection Straight Ice is more than “interesting”, it is a driving forceful piece of soul-jazz, with Barron’s cauterwaling squawks and throaty honks adding quirky spice to an otherwise mainstream blues march. All the tracks are winners, and it is a rare album that holds your attention, sounds first class, and has you seeking out more of both Curson and Barron’s recorded works.

Vinyl: Atlantic 1441 US plum orange black fan mono label, hand-etched “M” on both sides, and “AT”,

Among the last issues of mono at Atlantic, before the eponymous blue-green stereo label swept all before it. These late Atlantic mono issues include some great sounding records, in my view preferable to their stereo equivalents, though with later Atlantic titles you have little choice.

The New and Blue Thing is an exemplar of Atlantic Tom Dowd’s solid engineering, plump room-filling mono, well suited to  Curson’s rich tonal palette, Bill Barron’s gritty edgy tenor and George Arvanites  “Pearson-esque” supporting flow

On the whole, the  plum/orange label  titles are good news,  very punchy and bright, the exception being some Elvin Jones Atlantic titles. SD1485LP_CU[1]By the mid-’60s Jones had mutated into a centre-stage power drummer, a continuous raucous din with smashing cymbals, overloaded with reverb, lacking any sense of musical proportionality, and as leader, lacking an off switch. Which is a shame given his title’s sidemen included the still mighty Hank Mobley -hear Hank on “H.M. on F.M.”, Atlantic 1485 Midnight Walk 




 Collector’s Corner

This record turned up out of the blue in the closing minutes of an ebay auction. The name Ted Curson wasn’t on my search list, I hadn’t name-checked his discography, nor linked his name to Mingus and others, and Bill Barron wasn’t in my list either. Ebay somehow check your search and purchase history and highlight any records whose auction is just coming to a close that might interest you . The Curson auction was ticking down its closing minutes, and impulse kicked in, egged on by another bidder with a sensible bid profile, who seemed determined to lay claim to it. I figured, if he wants it, then I want it more.

It sometimes happens that you follow the herd, on the basis they know something you don’t. I recall being a visitor to Cannes at the time of the Film Festival, generally taking in the scene, when a stampede of papparrazi burst passed me, shouting wildly “Johnny! Johnny!!”  Eh, Johnny who? I scooped up my  camera and joined the stampede, not knowing where the hell I was going, but with an acute fear of missing out.  As it happens, at the edge of the port of Cannes, Johnny Depp was  passing briefly from a boat tender to a waterside private dinner party. I fired off a burst of pictures from above my head, and came away the proud owner of one blurred picture of the side of Johnny Depp’s fedora.


Save you asking, judge for yourself, no, it wasn’t really worth it.

But the Ted Curson LP –  definitely.

Icing on the cake, I rediscovered I had a Japanese press of Curson’s Tears For Dolphy, not played in some time. Fishing it out, I discovered a small bonus. Can you spot it? Check the label.


I’ll give you a clue:

Tears for Dolphy TP

Trio Japan –  Test Pressing. How about that? But isn’t the last pictogram a little different from the usual stack of boxes? Any native Japanese speakers throw any light on this?




20 thoughts on “Ted Curson: The New Thing & The Blue Thing (1965) Atlantic

  1. i am waiting for a stereo first pressing. many thanks. In this days i ‘ am walking around the Mingus titles and i have just ordered two books of his life. In the same time of RSD (Record store day) me and my friend will make a two days long event. In italian : Voglia di vinile (something like we want vinyl) on saturday i will present a long series of jazz album and called it “Mingusiana” . This Ted Curson will be in the “Crew”….

  2. Thought Ted Curson was a talent show host – or was it Ted Hanson ? Or Ned Curson ? Anyway, as usual i can’t play any sound clips via the WordPress app (grrr) but will check it tomorrow, sounds well interesting !

  3. Very good album as well as “Tears for Dolphy”.
    Barron did one album together with Booker Ervin: “the Hot Line”. That one is recommended too!

  4. Great stuff. I once had rather nasty new reissue of this on vinyl but was saved from having to keep it because it arrived in such disgusting condition that I was able to throw it straight in the bin. I must look out for a way of replacing it and put it alongside the only record have with Ted C as leader — the marvellous TEARS FOR DOLPHY.

    I had forgotten how nice Arvanitas’s piano is on this. NO, to be strictly accurate I never knew because my crapped out copy never got a play!

    LJC leads the pack yet again — and he has a picture of an actor in a hat and he has in-house Japanese translation facilities. Extraordinary.

  5. Funny thing they were using the front cover for both mono and stereo versions by just pasting it differently (see the half hidden “SD 1441” badge on the rear). Youtube samples suggest the stereo LP wouldn’t sound too bad either.

    • most companies did stuff like that. impulse, riverside, and blue note (sometimes). i have examples of all, and i SUSPECT i have one from ESP though i can’t quite tell and i of course will not be tearing off part of the cover backing to find out.

  6. i have passed up twice now on a nice stereo copy of this record. i may have to reconsider, especially given how the LJC stamp of approval seems to make prices jump a bit!

  7. Love Curson & Bill Barron. I have some of Barron’s later stuff as a leader on Muse and those are reliably good sessions. Very Monk-influenced. I have Tears For Dolphy on the Arista Freedom label, Plenty of Horn and Blue Piccolo on CD [gasp] – both found in Rome of all places. Plus “Jubilant Power” on InnerCity, which has it’s moments.

    I’ve found most Atlantic LPs I have sound somewhat crappy. I think I read they used cheap vinyl – maybe I read that here. I have that Elvin on a reissue and it sounds just awful. I’m not a audiophile like our esteemed host by any stretch, and I’m not usually a harsh judge, I just like having a copy to play, but that Elvin reissue is sounds extra-shitty. Too bad too; because that song you noted (with Mobley) is really great.

    Another great post LJC! Great find. Cheers for Curson.

  8. sort of like yourself, I came across this out in the wild some years ago and picked it up as a blind buy having never heard of Mr Curson before. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it when I got home. By the by, it appears that that Iphone in front of you got a pretty good clear picture and you got a great picture of that persons Iphone capturing it. you should be proud

  9. Early in my jazz vinyl hunts, I came across Curson’s ‘Plenty of Horn’ LP on Old Town in a thrift store, a lonely odd ball among the Perry Como and Mitch Miller LPs. Fantastic LP with Dolphy and Pete LaRoca.

  10. Very nice cuts, particularly the more edgy Elephant’s Walk. Curson and Barron are both new to me. Hard to believe that the youthful photo on “the new thing & the blue thing” is of the same person appearing on the Freedom cover. Plum/orange Atlantic mono recordings are a treat – this label is still showing up in the used bins at realtively reasonable prices and listenable condition.

  11. The third ideograph (盤) means record, LJC. Well, strictly speaking it means bowl, or platter, and is often prefixed with レコード, which is just the English word ‘record’ rendered in Japanese syllabary.

    The “stack of boxes” (品) just means goods, or stock.

    見本盤 – sample record
    見本品 – sample goods

  12. I got this same album as part of a trade deal, it was a throw in piece (Os Afro Sambas being the headliner) and because of that I didnt give it the proper time. I have since come around, it is quite good and I also reccomend it.

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