UPDATE Feb.29, 2016: List of Blue Note Connoisseur LP Series releases (1994-5)
at end of post
Selection: The Big Push (Shorter)
Freddie Hubbard (trumpet) James Spaulding (alto saxophone) Wayne Shorter (tenor saxophone) McCoy Tyner (piano) Ron Carter (bass) Tony Williams (drums) recorded Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, March 4, 1965
Just two months after recording E.S.P. with Miles, Shorter recorded in a rare sextet setting (forget The Jazz Messengers) , a larger canvas than the more spare The Collector, and this time in the company of long term future associates Ron Carter and Anthony Williams. McCoy Tyner keeping the seat warm for the missing Hancock (helping you appreciate Hancock’s contribution more by his absence).
Having given Shorter a lot of exposure recently, and why not, he deserves it, perhaps a good time to take a look at James Spaulding, the eternal sideman. Later Spaulding lead some sessions for Muse, and started his own label, but the heydey ’60s had long gone.
His early credits include some great titles: Sun Ra – Jazz in Silhouette (1958), Freddie Hubbard – Hub-Tones (1962), Grant Green – Solid (1964) Duke Pearson – Wahoo! (1964) Bobby Hutcherson – Components (1965). All the signs right to take off his own career, but it was not to be. More of Spaulding in a good interview here, read the whole thing, including a nice little anecdote about the life of a Blue Note sideman:
“The money wasn’t that great anyway for a sideman. For me, it was $250; at 12:00 they’d pick us up at the Empire Hotel and take us out to Rudy van Gelder’s studio in a taxi, and we’d be out there from noon to sunset. We’d be doing all these takes and he (Lion) would give each of us a check and we’d have to rush back to Manhattan before the check-cashing place closed…try to cash our little check and have enough money to get home and buy some groceries”.
No rock and roll lifestyle, making great music, but a feeling of playing to order left Spaulding with some regrets, destined to wear the under-appreciated label. However it was Lion who was shouldering all the business risk, something perhaps under-appreciated by the sidemen. I’ll leave Spaulding the last word:
“I get the same feeling and inspiration when I hear Bird and Diz … It’s almost like they stopped time. That’s the magic of this music, when you can make time stand still like that. I think there are two things of importance — remembering and creating. All this negative stuff, all the wars and the greed, we just have to pray. I’m so glad for this music; aren’t you?”
In a word, yes. The world would be a lesser place without it.
Selection The Big Push is a swinger with a polished, large brass palette. Shorter shrieks, rasping urgency, Spaulding’s wailing alto complements Shorter’s brusque intonation in a higher register. Carter is in high-stepping mode, Tyner jaunty, keeping time with accented comps while Williams fizzles with colour-washes, restless, shifting planes. Hubbard’s gold glittering trumpet cements in the bop tradition, everything in sync, a bridge between old and new.
Another fine selection of Shorter tunes, save one attributed to Sibelius, a hat-tip to more “serious” musical credentials. Overall the album fairly bristles with harmonised horn sections and inspired flowing solos. Spaulding emerges with great credit, a capable and distinctive alto player with his own ideas, managing not to sound like the many other voices of the alto, a hard act to pull off.
Vinyl: GXF 3054 King Records (1979) vintage
King acquit themselves well again, and offering up a tonally full and well-delineated sound stage, bringing Van Gelder’s recording to life.
It looks like there are a number of ways to own The Soothsayer on vinyl – the United Artists Jazz Classics LT series, our friends at MM have a 2×45 edition, and there is a Connoisseur Series mid ’90s edition which is long out of print and I was unable to find a picture of, so I made one up using the sticker from another Connoisseur title. (If it’s the wrong cover no doubt someone will correct me, instantly. People love pointing out a mistake). And while we are at it, it is worth noting “conno1sseur” is actually spelt with a 1 not an i – Conno1sseur – no dot over it.
I haven’t heard any of these three alternatives, so I can’t give a comparative opinion, but I tend to avoid the UA “white framed picture” Jazz Classics, on past experience of other titles.
I don’t mind admitting I had it mixed up with all the many so-called audiophile 180gm reissues, like French Capitol Manhattan 1987 “Audiophile Pressings”, the Cadre Rouge DMM European Audiophile reissues, before we even get to the “Classic Records” Quiex 200gm audiophile releases (lacklustre in my opinion). Then all the others, Blue Note 75th, Back to Black, Scorpios…
Here’s the source of my confusion, Blue Note “audiophile” reissues from the late ’80s and ’90s They all have some kind of Obi or sticker , with claims to audiophile status.
Which of these actually lives up to the claim? Left, Capitol Manhattan Blue Note “Audiophile Pressing” late ’80s, centre: Cadre Rouge, European Audiophile pressing, ’90s?, right: Connoisseur, mid -90s.
OBI one, can no’ be.
Who is to say? Everything is “from the original tapes” (at some point in a long chain of events). We’ve all seen it a thousand times before. So some are 180 grams. So what? Heavier vinyl doesn’t of itself sound better.
Blue Note Conno1sseur Series (1995)
Label address: Capitol Records Inc. Hollywood and Vine Streets, Hollywood, California. Note: B1-# # # # # no reference to original Blue Note catalogue number
I had passed over these blue/yellow cover flashes before. The words around the record label strike terror into the heart of every collector: “The Finest In Jazz Since 1939“. And the back has a bar code (shudder!) But I recall some of the posters here waxing lyrical over their “Conno1sseur” issues of Etcetera, so, I thought … why not give this one a try? I’m like that – open-minded . Some would say, empty.
Hot damn, what a great edition the Conno1sseur is. From the second the needle dropped, something that sounds right, in a world of so many that sound wrong.
Long out of print over twenty years, so availability is an inescapable issue, it is not like you can just go get a copy, but I am pleased to set the record straight. I’m not able to do a head to head with a vintage original, no claim in that direction, (when I have been able to do it, originals invariably come out top) but a very satisfying outcome against low expectations.
The music is the thing, and it is not as though there is an infinite supply of ’60s post-bop recordings of this quality, and your turntable is pleading for a chance to give it a spin. “Yes, I’ll try it” are good words, should be used more often.
UPDATE February 29, 2016
Over on the SH!-you know who-Forum, some knowleagable folk offer this list of the Blue Note Conno1sseur LP series – 1994-1995 only, at which point the LP series was abandoned. There is some suggestion the first six were from digital masters, the rest from analog, but the obi just says “from the original analog”, believe what you like. (That SH forum thread has a lot of folk arguing the merits of Blue Note Conno1sseur series CDs. To me that’s like horse race fans arguing which was better, the horses finally placed third and fourth)
Blue Note Conn1osseur LP Series (1994-5)
Ornette Coleman – The Empty Foxhole
Andrew Hill – Judgment
Bobby Hutcherson – Components
Freddie Redd – The Connection
Wayne Shorter – The All Seeing Eye
Baby Face Willette – Stop And Listen
Tina Brooks – True Blue
Don Cherry – Symphony For Improvisers
Kenny Dorham – Whistle Stop
Johnny Griffin – The Congregation
Clifford Jordan & John Gilmore – Blowing In From Chicago
J. R. Monterose
Grant Green – Green Street
Pete LaRoca – Basra
Jackie McLean – Destination Out
Grachan Moncur III – Some Other Stuff
Lee Morgan – Lee-Way
Ike Quebec – Heavy Soul
Dizzy Reece – Blues In Trinity
Freddie Hubbard – Ready For Freddie
Lou Donaldson – Sunny Side Up
Shorter, Wayne – Schizophrenia
Andrew Hill – Smokestack
Walter Davis, Jr. – Davis Cup
Lee Morgan – The Procrastinator
Grant Green – Solid
Wayne Shorter – Etcetera
Hank Mobley – A Slice Of The Top
Bobby Hutcherson – Patterns
There are a lot of late ’80s Capitol Manhattan LPs knocking around that look like they might be Conno1sseurs but are definitely not. The Conno1sseurs adopt their own unique numbering sequence which does not include the original Blue Note catalogue number. Since the shrink and Obi will mostly have fallen by the wayside, the eccentric catalogue number and © date 1995 is the only way to be certain.