Blue Note Records: the EMI era, 1979 to present day (updated)

UPDATED July 20 – adding Classic Records.

  I should have  anticipated this. In the ’80s and ’90s, reissues  were a whole generation’s first introduction to Blue Note. The purist perspective of “original pressings” from the ’50s and ’60s is a long way from what people encountered in their day to day lives. I can dig that. And none the worse for it, a stepping stone is worthy of its place.

Great thing about the internet, you set out writing what you think is the big picture. Days later, you have a whole different more humble perspective – i.e. you were completely wrong. Great! Wrong is a stepping stone to right.

Noticing “My first Blue Note” recalled by some of our readers, I am put in mind of an old joke. Man lost driving around the back-country roads stops a farmer at a junction. “Hi, how do I get to so-and-so?” The farmer stops and thinks for a minute. “Hmm..  complicated. If you want to get to so-and-so,  you’d best not start from here…”  That’s how it works. There isn’t a right place to start, any point of entry is good.

More sections have been added on the various CD reissue and compilation series, with pictures as well as words. I’ll carry on updating, as the mood takes me.

This work needs to be done and I’m beginning to enjoy it more. Keep those comments coming. If you would like to tell, we promise not to snigger, what was your first Blue Note, how you came by it, and how it changed your life? You are not alone.


LJC-Michael-Caine- Professor Jazz fastshow30In a nLJC-HipHop-DJ-sioble attempt to become the definitive free on-line  internet source of information about Blue Note Records, – see my Discogs debut above, in the (market capitalisation) company of Facebook (+$190bn), Instagram (+$30bn), Twitter (+$10bn), and so on down to LJC (-$200) I felt I had not done justice to the last few decades. This was mainly because I didn’t know much about it.  Fools rush in, an’ get the party started.

If you want a Reference Book complete Blue Note discography, Cuscuna and Ruppli have already done it, buy it. I write stories, narrative, add pictures, human interest and, well frankly, collector-bollox. I thought I would dust off the old page on the EMI years and bring it up to date with stuff for the cats who wear their baseball hat tilted sideways.  Here goes.

Blue Note Records enters the EMI Era, and meets really big Business

speculator_cartoonThe ’70s decade of Blue Note Records under United Artists management came to an end after a management buyout. In 1978, United Artists, including the Liberty and Blue Note catalogue, was sold to two executives, Artie Mogull and Jerry Rubinstein who financed the deal with funds from EMI, the parent company of the Capitol label. in return for a distribution agreement. Mogull and Rubinstein were not successful, and in February 1979, EMI foreclosed, and Blue Note passed into the hands of EMI, where it has remained ever since (though EMI itself has since fallen into the hands of hedge funds, and now the Universal Music Group)

EMI ’80s Global Reissue Programme

It was two to three years into  ownership, around 1983,  that EMI began to  reissue titles from the Blue Note catalogue. The reissue strategy was deep, drawing on a large number of titles from the catalogue, in a three-pronged global programme . In the US market, EMI deployed its Manhattan imprint, in Europe,  its French partner EMI Pathé-Marconi, and in Japan, its subsidiary Toshiba-EMI, who took over where the United Artists partner King Records left off.


The new corporate strapline became “The Finest In Jazz Since 1939“, except for our friends in Tokyo who favoured a facsimile of the original label. Blue Note reissues in Japan have been extensively covered by LJC here.

d-m-m-direct-metal-mastering-73416752Part-way through their reissue programes, US and European vinyl manufacture adopted the German Teldec  DMM (Direct Metal Master) technology. DMM promised lower cost and quicker production time with the appearance of technical advance, but with highly variable results. Pathe-Marconi adopted a Japanese-style obi for its Cadre Rouge DMM series.


Japan alone remained pure traditional mastering technology, though with an increasing amount of digital processing over time.

Blue Note in niche markets


In the specialist jazz collector niche, starting in 1984, Michael Cuscuna’s Mosaic label was licensed to distribute a strictly limited-numbered artist-based box sets. Most are re-mastered by Capitol’s improbably named engineer Ron McMaster, but a handful by Rudy Van Gelder.



Typically between three and  10 LPs in a box, runs of 3,000 to 7,500, these are mostly now out of print, highly collectable, and expensive in the second hand market, especially the various Miles Davis sets – which of course are mostly Columbia recordings and not Blue Note, but deserve a mention anyway, as every Blue Note collector should own them. These are the Complete Blue Note box sets, some are CD only, those on vinyl can be very hard to find, but worth the effort.


The editions above are grouped by instrument rather than chronology, makes more interesting viewing. There are a lot of pianists/ organists, who differ mainly between whether they are facing left or facing right on the cover. Only one guitarist, one trombone, two drummers, a good brass line up, and just one type of artist not present, can you guess which? Clue: singers. The popular concept of “jazz” is a sultry singer in an hour-glass cocktail dress. Historically it is an instrumental club, and rather lacking in….  identity politics has made certain words toxic so choose your own, the opposite of “men”.

Mosaic continue to produce a small number of 180gm “audiophile” LP sets today but most output is now only CD, including the CD-only Mosaic Select artist series which include a number of Blue Note artist recordings.


A number of  budget reissue labels like Applause, Pausa, Sunset and Upfront reissued a handful of more popular Blue Note titles, or assembled compilations._MG_6113

Other national editions: elsewhere in the world,  a small number of Blue Note titles were licensed to local EMI subsidiaries or other local companies including in UK, Holland, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Greece, India, Brazil, probably others too. These are often identifiable by royalty collection organisation logos on the label (GEMA, BIEM, JASRAC, SACEM and similar) and “eccentric” catalogue number variations and suffixes.

dummies_tip manOPINION: Caution is required with overseas editions, which were mastered locally  from copy tape and not the original tapes, which remained in the US vaults. Local pressing facilities of variable quality were engaged, though German pressings are among the better ones.

“Audiophile” vinyl reissues

The mid-’90s  saw the last in-house EMI Blue Note vinyl initiatives. The Blue Note Connoisseur series offered a selection of classic titles, and Rare Grooves series catered for the funk-hungry listener.  Some Connoisseur records are allegedly  digitally re-mastered, others pure analog.  Most are stamped “Mastered by Capitol” and signature engineer “Wally” (Trautgott) etched. Connoisseur editions depend for identification largely on the blue/yellow sticker on the shrink, which of course disappeared when the shrink went. All these have an modern catalogue number B1 ##############, not that of the original title.

Connoisseur LP Series (1995-6)


Rare Grooves LP series (1995-7)


There is also a Top Ten Series of titles, unclear how to identify these.

After these, EMI withdrew from Blue Note vinyl production altogether and instead licensed specialist labels such as Classic Records and Mobile Fidelity to meet enthusiasts demand for heavy-weight audiophile vinyl editions. They were joined subsequently by Analogue Productions, and Music Matters, who produce some of the best audiophile editions available today, re-mastered directly from the original Blue Note tapes.


dummies_tip manOPINION: My only Analogue Productions 2×45 rpm had some unforgivable surface noise fresh out of the factory, and sounded sonically botoxed, not an experience I cared to repeat.

I have never heard a Mobile Fidelity press, so I reserve judgement. Their output seems mainly classic rock and pop, jangly electric guitars and vocals, which I don’t take as a good starting point regarding wordless acoustic modern  jazz.

Classic Records

Claim ultra-silent vinyl, chunky 200gm weight, and some replicate the  deep groove – a nice touch. The two copies I have bear etched initial “BG” (Bernie Grundman, I presume). , They seem out of the same stable as the Connoisseur series – intending to to deliver a “modern” presentation which sought to “improve” on the original.



Music Matters

Characterised by “widescreen” stereo sound stage, silky presentation,  are also notable for their art-quality black and white gatefolds, with Francis Wolff recording studio photography. Initially pressed at 2×45 rpm discs, the latest edition are 1×33 rpm, and to my ears sound superior, which may not be unrelated to technical improvements at Kevin Gray’s engineering base, RTI.


dummies_tip manOPINION:  Each of these manufacturers have a faithful following among jazz enthusiasts, and people should make up their own minds after comparative  listening for themselves. If you haven’t compared, you don’t really know anything, though most people seem content with what they have got and stop at that. Fair enough.

A lot depends on what your turntable and system is able to extract from these audiophile editions – if that made no difference why would anyone bother to spend money on “good” hi-fi?

Also tastes differ regarding musical presentation. I prefer original Blue Note era pressings, and for early Van Gelder recordings I prefer his mono mix. I realise that is a counsel of perfection for many collectors, and unrealistic for many titles. However that doesn’t make it wrong, just because it’s difficult.

If that wasn’t sufficiently controversial, let’s move on to The Evil Silver Disc™


Blue Note Records migration to CD – The Evil Silver Disc


By the mid 80’s, vinyl was struggling as a mainstream music distribution medium, as the scratch-free and more portable CD gained popularity, enabling “music on the move”.

Commencing in the mid-’80s, as early as 1984 in Japan according to one expert, the Manhattan imprint launched Blue Note on compact disc,  segueing the late ’80s into Capitol Records.

The Cuscuna/Ruppli encyclopaedic Blue Note Discography, Compact Disc  Numerical Listing, devotes over 50 pages to CD releases in US and Europe, (some only for Europe) before embarking on Japan, which covers a further forty pages of CD releases with the likes of Super 50 series, CD Treasury series, and 24-bit by RVG series. My rough maths suggests as many as 5,000  entries for CD releases. Too much, for this vinyl-lover to get a handle on.

But I’ll try. On behalf of the CD “enthusiast”, I see three significant phases in the evolution of Blue Note on the Evil Silver Disk – the original Manhattan CDs (blue/silver), the Connoisseur CD series (blue/white) which ran briefly in parallel with the Connoisseur LPs, and the arrival of the Rudy Van Gelder Editions (Blue/white with RVG logo) at the end of the ’90s and the following decade. From my own shelf, they appear like this (dates are approximate)three-cd-series-Manhattan-to-RVG

Those knowledgeable in such matters may suggest the early CD digital transfers are to be avoided. There are 50 Shades of Evil? Interestingly,  the debate over what I call “primitive stereo” (hard panning) and balanced soundstage rears its head again.

Somewhere here Blue Note issued a 50th Anniversary Series (1989), though I didn’t find any distinctive visible history.

Connoisseur CD series. Unbeknown to me until writing this post, my Blue Note CD collection included a dozen of the Connoisseur CD editions, which were noted for the inclusion of bonus tracks and rare photographs. I don’t think I was aware of it at the time of purchase. One even included its original  obi-like blue and yellow jewel-case flash, seen below. It’s sort of cute (though deceptively still evil)


From my own collection, Connoisseur CD series started around 1995 until around 2002, with mastering initially in 20 bit, then 24 bit resolution, mostly by Ron McMaster.

Blue Note Collector’s Choice series (1995+) offered a wide range of early and later Blue Note titles proudly claiming to be digitally re-mastered from original analog two-track tape in one step, by Ron McMaster. As well as familiar titles, the series squeezes in some interesting later oddball recordings like “Chamber’s Music” These may be a step on from the Manhattan years, but pre-date the Rudy Van Gelder Re-mastered editions.


Blue Notables series (1996 UK only) A thematic compilation CD series  raised the play-on-words stakes with titles like Bands On The Run, Six Vital Organs, Shades of Blue Funk, Blue Bloods, New Bloods, the enigmatic Blue Divas (singers who must have escaped my attention at the time) and Chet Baker finally earns a place among the Blue Notables. Blue Note issues no longer had to be just of Blue Note artists, some Pacific Jazz recordings begin to appear under the Blue Note imprint. The scene was set for thematic compilations.


The Jazz References series (1998-2000  country of origin unknown) brought back all the familiar albums, possibly with the lure of bonus tracks.


The Blue Note YearsBest of Artist series (1998-99-00)

They say an artist knows his career is finally run its course when his latest record release is “The Best of <insert name here>”. My instinct is to stay away from relentless reductionism, Best of being the other end of the completist spectrum, All of. Neither is a good way to experience music which is session-based, rooted in one point in time, one team of players, one recording date. Does The Best of Hancock include the Best of Wayne Shorter? These deserved to be not collectable, examples below.

The-Blue-Note-Years---best-of-Artists 1998-9

Rudy Van Gelder was brought back,  to re-master the Blue Note catalogue for CD in 24 bit resolution, for the so-called RVG Edition CDs (1998 onwards)

“24-bit by RVG”, Japan


The Japan 24-bit by RVG was paralleled in the US and Europe with the Rudy Van Gelder Editions, which were reissued steadily over the decade between 1999 and 2009. All my RVG  CDs are European editions, insert printed in the rapidly disintegrating European Union.


The Evil Silver Disc had finally triumphed. Darkness covered the earth, vinyl was cast out, to the garage or to the loft, or worse – the car boot sale and thrift shop – replaced by the mirage of technological progress and the energy-saving false friend, convenience. But musically, worse was yet to come.


Paradigm shift: from reissuing albums, to repackaging recordings by theme and mood, for a changing demographic.

51SEtF+y72L._SY300_[1]Not content with reissuing original Blue Note albums, in the decade that followed, every imaginable opportunity was taken to repackage Blue Note recordings, mixing artists, themes, styles,  moods, even DJs remixing original recordings for the contemporary club and dance-floor audience. Mostly, though not entirely, on CD.

What emerged  was thematic compilations such as the latin-grooved Blue Brazil volumes  (1994-2001),   Soul-funk multi-artist compilations of Blue Break Beats, dancefloor and club remixes with Blue Note Revisited (2004) funky Blue Note Trip ( 2005), the romantic mood music in the Music For Lovers series (2004-6)  including releases for Russia, and the cross-linking of modern popular artists and composers  with their Blue Note cover versions in Blue Note Plays…(2004-6)

Latin Groove series (comes highly recommended by LJC readers)


Blue Break Beats (UK 1992-9)

Our own LJC commenter, Dean R (Ace Records/ Acid Jazz), has his sticky fingerprints all over the Blue Break Beats series, which compiled music from the time when “some of Blue Note’s soul-jazz artists began experimenting with funk and rock, creating dense electric fusions that concentrated on rhythm, not improvisation“. Following the cover illustration, as you do with an IKEA assembly insert, I put the cd on my turntable and gently lowered the tonearm onto the first track…


LJC-HipHop-DJ-siWoah! (twists baseball cap sideways) Gilles Peterson, my office now. We need to reach out to the new generation of music consumers.   We need to go further, not to re-issue, or to re-master… we need to re-mix this great music, and, and, put more emphasis on the rhythm.  Let’s revisit Blue Note, with an eye on the dancefloor and  D.J. demographic. Umm, Gilles,  does one twist one’s baseball cap to the left or to the right?

Blue Note Revisited.


Blue Note Trip

Getting you in the party mood. Great! – if you like parties.

A Discog’s reviewer described The Trip as: “A great mix for those looking to experience electro-jazz/nu-jazz! A cool, stylish, and modern mix incorporating funky drums, soulful horns, hip vocals, total grooviness…” ( Ed: do we have a translation service in the house? This review appears to be written in Cliché )

Blue-Note-Trip-series 2005

Music for Lovers (just not necessarily music-lovers).

At this point, my heart sinks as I see my favourite artists reduced to digital Viagra. Think about it. Is 72 minutes of CD too long? Only asking. It doesn’t take that long to eat an apple.


Blue Note Plays…second fiddle to other popular artists. I draw the line at Blue Note Plays Stink Sting. Somebody call the (taste) Police?


1996-2006, no nook or cranny left unexplored in repackaging the Blue Note legacy, even cannibalising selections from a repackaging series, as in “Blue Note presents selections from the ‘Music For Lovers’ series” a compilation of compilations. It is a sobering sight to see EMI struggling to monetise the Blue Note asset against an evolving demographic and social lifestyle marketplace.

The Ultimate 2xCD artist series (2012)

Returned to artist compilations, fully utilising the double cd capacity, which allow you two to three hours of continuous Art Blakey thunder drums (Honey, get me some asprin, will ya?) and new Blue Note artists (cough) Count Basie and Django. CD for the completist, yes, but where is The Ultimate Hank Mobley?


Blue Note goes Urban Hip -Hop

A small roster of new young artist signings gave Blue Note a flow of new material, less the traditional Blue Note bebop/avant-leaning legacy than the new hybrid and crossover urban multi-cultural hip-hop fusion genre. Among them, Robert Glasper, and singer Gregory Porter stand out (or at least his hat does)


Blue Note 75th Anniversary Initiatives

Japan maintained its technical prowess with its Blue Note Masterworks ultra hi-resolution squillion gigabit CDs , 75th anniversary Blue Note Masterworks series 2014


Around 2014, the 75th anniversary of the Blue Note label, around a hundred of the bigger-selling titles were re-released on vinyl again by Blue Note, “Back To Blue”, targeting a budget-conscious younger generation of new vinyl adopters, introducing  them to the modern jazz genre, MP3 download coded included, for listening on the move.

Back to Vinyl:


It must be said the series has  been dogged by questions over manufacturing quality, given the necessary low price-point.

“But when I got this LP I was seriously disappointed with the vinyl quality. It is a reasonably heavy LP but when you look at it, you see all kinds of clouds in the vinyl pressing, and the first one had a bunch of pits & flaws, and both had a skip…. surface noise is a big annoyance on what I thought might be a good new reissue vinyl LP… the vinyl (in a generic Blue Note 75th Anniversary sleeve) is nothing but another corporate disappointment….What is up with EMI/Capitol vinyl these days? Don’t they get it that people care about quality vinyl?”

Verified Amazon customer review


Unfortunately you see comments on new vinyl like that above all too often.  However, tactile artwork and vinyl ownership through budget turntables has given the old dog a new lease of life.

Chasing “the future”

The Marketing industry seems forever chasing the youth demographic, because, we are told, They are The Future. Wait until the following generation ousts them. That’ll learn ya, Future ones. You don’t stay The Future forever.

Blue Note captured a brief but timeless genre of music, as fresh today as it was fifty years ago.  Great music, sounding thrilling, an experience that appeal to a discriminating often slightly older generation (with spending power). If it doesn’t grab many millennials or centennials, they will come around in time, even if it is only after they inherit their grandfather’s record collection.

And there are a lot of young collector’s out there, judging from those standing next to me digging another crate. I always like to look discretely to check which titles they pause to look at. And the mark of a real collector, when they raise one of from the rack and flip it over to peer at the small print at the bottom of the back cover. Hmmm, 1963 original US pressing…..  You got it.

LJC-Michael-Caine- Professor Jazz fastshow30

I’m sure I may have left out and misunderstood some of the stuff I am not so familiar with, especially on the last two decades and Blue Note CD, if anyone want to put me straight, I’m not proud. Pool some knowledge.

If I missed offending any one, I’m awfully sorry. I’ll get ’round to you next time.

74 thoughts on “Blue Note Records: the EMI era, 1979 to present day (updated)

  1. Can anyone explain this release?

    It’s a 1989 Vinyl reissue,
    Remastered by Van Gelder, Digital Mastering by Ron McMaster

    Was there a Van Gelder Remastering Series -on Vinyl- in the late 80’s?
    I know about the cd series, but this is the first LP I’ve seen with
    Van Gelder / McMaster credits.

    Since it says, Digital Mastering by McMaster, that indicates to me
    it’s not from original tapes and they used digital files. Right?

    If anyone has information on Van Gelder BN “remastered” Vinyl pressings
    from this 1980s era, I’d love to hear it.


    • The “Remastered by Van Gelder” text is left over from the original liner notes.
      The lacquer was cut by a Capitol in-house engineer from McMaster’s digital master, would need to see the full runouts to know who. The “Mastered By Capitol” stamp is partially visible in the deadwax.

  2. By all means please guide people away from the “Digital Transfer by Ron McMaster” BN CDs…I have yet to pay more than 10 dollars for one, and once I get a title in that series, then I can usually sell my over-compressed and sonically enhanced RVGs and pocket the difference. Also doing the same for 80s flat- transfer CDs from Atlantic as well, replacing the latest “remastering” with the older flat transfers…to each their own regards sound quality. I have a very revealing system, am lucky to have some early BN (and Prestige, Atlantic, et al) pressings on vinyl, and find these early flat transfer CDs as close to the original LPs in terms of sound-staging and overall “feel” than the more recent versions. Personal observation (and buyers remorse): the recent US BN 75th vinyl reissues deserve their dire reviews of SQ and pressing quality.
    This fairly recent quest for the older CD versions was started by getting a new RVG remaster and not even RECOGNIZING the music when spinning it…again, to each their own, horses for courses. I liked the reference in the above article “Those knowledgeable in such matters may suggest the early CD digital transfers are to be avoided.” Those “knowledgeable sources” tend to be of the “if its obviously expensive and hard to find, then its the BEST” audiophile crowd, and who may be more concerned with spectacular commodity fetishism and oneupmanship than a considered sonic evaluation. I think thats a key difference between High Fidelity (to the original sources) and Audiophile (the latest and greatest! Look how much money I have spent!). Keep in mind those Audiophiles were the ones telling everyone to trash their record collection when the CD first came out. Now its “streaming”, trash your CDs…very good advice, making now a golden age for HiFi fans the same way the late 80s and early 90s were gold for finding all those nice BN vinyl pressings piled up in dusty corners…
    My two cents, and I will not be surprised that as time goes by, the 80s flat transfer Evil Silver Discs will be a sought-after grail for another generation. In fact, try to assemble the Steely Dan CD catalogue today (2020) by finding the original 80s DIDX “Made in Japan for the USA” copies…this has already begun!

  3. Hi LJC and others,

    I can’t believe I did not discover this place any sooner. What a fabulous work you have done LJC! As my first entry what better way than to describe how I got my first blue note! It was around 1990 and jazz was not really on my menu. But there was a Dutch tv show at the time that opened with a fascinating piece of music. It sounded a bit like Zappa. This was before the internet, so you actually had to go up to a person who might be knowledgable, like a record store owner, and ask. The guy told me this was from a record called Out To Lunch by Eric Dolphy. The opening bars of “Straight Up and Down” to be more precise. Aha I thought, wasn’t there this piece called “Eric Dolphy’s Memorial Barbecue” on the Mothers’ Weasels Ripped My Flesh album? I should have known, because Zappa had already been a great musical educator for me. I had discovered Varèse and Stravinsky through his music, which became my entry points into modern classical. And now the Dolphy link finally opened my ears to jazz. And to the blue note vault. I started seeking out recordings by his associates on OTL (Bobby Hutcherson, Freddie Hubbard and Tony Williams), followed by Jackie McLean, Grachan Moncur, Herbie Hancock, Andrew Hill, Sam Rivers, Wayne Shorter, etcetera. At least the titles that were available on the ESD, which at the time were only the blue/silver discs (the Manhattan project I believe these were called).

    Thinking about this period of discovery brings back many treasured moments. I will never forget that first hearing of OTL. It was one of those defining moments, like the first time I heard The Rite of Spring, Uncle Meat or Trout Mask Replica.

    The blue note flood gates were opened in 1993, when Toshiba embarked on the BN Works CD series (with TOCJ prefix, followed by the original catalogue number). Over the course of 4 years they issued almost the entire catalogue (in chronological order: all the 4000’s, 4100’s,1500’s and finally a selection of the 4200/4300’s). I don’t think this series has been mentioned here, but obviously I haven’t read everything yet. I went out of my way to get as many as I could and luckily I did (thanks to a local jazz record store who imported them directly from Japan). As a bonus, they sounded much superior to those US ‘Manhattan’ issues. Not much later the RVG series came along and of course the Japanese were there first. With those gorgeous mini LP sleeves, I just couldn’t resist them.

    Although I will probably never sell them, they rarely leave the shelves these days. You can probably guess where this is going. I returned to vinyl about 20 years ago and became an obsessive collector of vintage pressings. Obviously blue notes are at the top of the jazz foodchain, like the columbia SAX series for classical. I have accumulated some 200 BN titles, most of them originals (or at least pre 1966/67 pressings). While I discovered much through my own detective work, I still made quite a few regrettable (eBay) mistakes along the way. We’ve all been there I guess. I finally got Fred Cohen’s book as a kind of insurance policy. But trying to connect the dots yourself is infinitely more fun. That’s what this blog is all about. Thank you for all the great stuff and hopefully at some point I will be able to make a small contribution.

  4. “My instinct is to stay away from relentless reductionism, Best of being the other end of the completist spectrum, All of. Neither is a good way to experience music which is session-based, rooted in one point in time, one team of players, one recording date.” Very well said! This has been my approach too and its nice to see it so succinctly stated! Another aspect of this approach is that the recording date may include an aesthetically or politically binding theme or motif, etc. The original recording including its packaging (graphics & liner notes, etc.) should be experienced in a wholistic sense as a cultural artifact. I have a collection of vinyl but I also enjoy the “evil silver discs.” I cannot thank you enough for all of the useful information on your site about Blue Note vinyl and and the evil silver discs! I have been collecting the Ron McMasters, RVGs, Connoisseur & Groove series CDs. I simply do not have the space to expand vinyl. One very minor reason for favoring the early Ron McMasters is that as I get older I can read the bold print spines on the CD jewel cases and actually locate what I am looking for on the CD shelf.

  5. My first Blue Note was Kenny Burrell Midnight Blue. At this time i did not know who the man was, artwork was decisive… Regarding Blue Note 75th anniversary vinyls I can say that in first two years there was difference in quality. Blue note issued what I call 1st & 2nd pressings which had some differences and 2nd pressings had actually quality issues. This is based on 19 different titles bought in first two years. The differences are these : 1st pressing is 180gr vinyl with sticker in the front and download code for mp3 file around 5 euros more than 2nd issues, with these i had non quality issues, all were exellent.

    2nd press is not 180gr vinyl, it is 140gr, front sticker is different with bold letters & no download code : these had quality issues. For Example Horace Silver Song…on both sides at the end of 1st track & beginning of 2nd, Herbie Hancock one side with very loud cracking. Also of import is following : I have made comparision between two different presses of the same record : Cannonball Adderley Somethin Else. First press is ordinary ( Capitol press ? ) from 2008 year and second in 75th Anniversary press. I Have to say that 75th ann is light years better from 2008 issue.

    So what I do is the following : buy 75th ann 1st 180 gr if possible, at first these flew from the shops. Later 2nd press quality control was better probably because many people had negative expirience with them. When I ordered Sonny Rollins a night at the Village Vanguard I prayed to God because it was 2nd press : everything went fine 🙂 So how 75th anniversary compare with Music Matters ? I don’t know but I can tell they are much better than ordinary presses from previous years and also better from competition in their price range ( 12 to 20 Euros ). I do have a few Mofi & Speakers Corner Miles Davis records, they are not Blue Notes but at purely quality level I think they compare very good taking into account twice the price for these Audiophile issues.

  6. I’ve only just caught up with this revised/expanded post and I must say it is an exceptional effort, LJC. You may be under-capitalised by comparison with Facebook and Google and Twitter and What’s APP andGod knows what or who else, but you can nonetheless hold your head high. Well done.

  7. Rumour has it that Music Matters threw in the towel and will release their final 13 Albums. Definitely getting the Hank Mobley 1568 to compare with my 200gram Classic record. I was hoping they would release more obscure title. I was drooling for Eric Dolphy’s The Illinois Concert with Herbie Hancock, Eddie Khan and J.C Moses. Recorded March 10, 1963 . oh well…..

  8. As far as I know, early Manhattan CDs and Connoisseur releases never crossed over and both were mastered by Ron McMaster, so the Connoisseur Series in my opinion is more of a continuation of the original Manhattan CD reissue program. It seems that the Connoisseurs are simply titles that were a little more ‘niche’ than those preceding them.

    • My small number of vinyl Connoisseurs all have “MASTERED BY CAPITOL stamp and “Wally” hand-etched – Wally Trautgott. I claim no special knowledge here. Ron McMaster has his own etching on Mosiac vinyl, and it’s not “Wally”.
      I’m confused.

      • Ahhh I see. Did McMaster master for vinyl?

        Anyway, I spoke too soon. Further investigation on Discogs makes it appear that Larry Walsh mastered the earliest batch of Connoisseur CDs, where McMaster appears to have come back to do some of the Connoisseur CDs later.

  9. Here’s a funny thing: after decades of reissues, repackagings, remasterings, and what Evan Parker once described as “the whole world drowning in Blue Note nostalgia”, there has never (to my knowledge) been a simple reissue on a single CD f Tony Williams’ “Spring” and “Lifetime” LPs. Why not? These are classic albums

  10. My first BN was Blue Note 5022. Miles Davis Vol 2 10inch Lexington Ave pressing, purchased around 1980 for 50 cents !!! at a flea market. My mind was blown upon hearing Tempus Fugit for the first time. I left the record at home when I went off to College and did not return quickly enough to retrieve it (and many others) when my mother moved. She tossed my record collection. Since then I have acquired many BN, Prestige, Verve, Riverside, Impulse first pressings to build my collection. I have never spent more than $50 for an LP.

  11. Thanks heaps for all your time and effort putting this together much appreciated a true labour of love, keep up the good work, love you website
    Cheers Evan
    New Zealand

  12. Oh, and somewhere down thread the ‘Baptist Beat’ compilation is mentioned. It did appear on CD but I believe it was retitled ‘The Blue Testament'(?) and a very good comp it is. Great to see Dean Rudland here. Along with Roy Carr, Tony Harlow, Giles Peterson et al he had a huge influence on a whole generation of music buyers who dipped their toes into the jazz waters via the ‘Blue Series’. Saravah, Dean, SARAVAH!

    • Thanks Chris- just got briefly excited and checked. Sadly, there is only a commonality of 2 tracks between The Baptist Beat and The Blue Testament- but may be there is another churchy sounding compilation on CD that replicates ages or expands on the vinyl.

      • Aah, I’m looking at the two comps now and you’re right, they are different. I’m sort of thinking ‘Blue Testament’ is actually a better comp to be honest, but its annoying the original ‘Baptist Beat’ didn’t make it to cd. There was a ‘Blue Bossa’ LP which actually was a compilation of Blue Note cuts (rather than the later ‘Blue Brazil’ series using the Odeon EMI Brazil labels) that did make it to CD with all tracks still present. That’s a pretty nice LP.

  13. The very first wave of Blue Note reissues (utilising original artwork and tapes) available in the UK came through the French Pathe Marconi series. There was an official launch at the 1982 North Sea Jazz Festival in the Hague, July 21st. I was in Amsterdam and splurged on a ticket to the festival. I remember vividly poring over the stock at the Pathe Blue Note stall. They actually only had a few titles pressed up, The two Monk LPs, Blue Train and a couple of others, but it was thrill to see the great Blue Note label back in business. They started to dribble into the UK in the autumn of that year and in ’83 the US editions started to come through. I remember buying a few at ‘Probe Records’ in Liverpool and also discussing them with the owner of ‘Circle Records’, Liverpool’s specialist jazz store.

  14. Though I occasionally prefer an RVG Edition to a Manhattan/Connoisseur (I feel the extra dose of compression helps on the RVG Editions of The Sidewinder and Song for My Father, for example), I find the remastering philosophy and presentation on the Manhattan/Connoisseur CDs (hard panning, very little tampering with compression and EQ) to be very similar to that of the Music Matters program–so much that I can’t help but think that the Manhattan/Coinnoisseur program was an influence on Music Matters. Needless to say, I therefore feel that the Manhattan and Connoisseur CDs are very high quality.

    I’m also in what I understand is a very small minority of hardcore fans who actually don’t hate the RVG CDs–in fact, I find that Van Gelder’s mastering choices mimick the original pressings much more than the earlier CDs (for obvious reasons).

    So regarding which CDs to seek out if you’ve been into vinyl, I think the bottom line is this: if you’re into original pressings, the RVG CDs sound similar, but if you’re into the Music Matters sound, the early Manhattan/Connoisseur CDs sound very similar to me. (PS: I can only guess that the Japanese CDs are from duplicate masters so I usually only go to those if the title was never released on CD in the US.)

    • Re: “… if you’re into original pressings, the RVG CDs sound similar… ” – except if you’re into early stereo pressings, that is. But it seems that RVG himself eventually decided that the hard panning was no longer state of the art when he went about the business of RVG editions. (On the other hand, that hard panning has its charms, too.)

  15. Nice update on Blue Note ESD’s, LJC. I admit it, when BN CDs came out, I bought them for 3 reasons: 1) I considered myself a cluts at that point and thought I was scratching records by looking at them, 2) a lot of BN’s had extra tracks/ alternate takes, some not so essential but with big exceptions: the alternate takes on Empyrean Isles and a whole album worth of other material from Chick Corea’s Now He Sings, Now He Sobs, one of my favorite trio recordings of all time. 3) for some reason the first run of BN CDs became cut outs @ $5.99 in the mid 80’s. To my ears the sound was exceptible to please take it off the high frequencies are like a nail hammered into my brain, not to mention the silly long boxes they came in that got destroyed the second you tried to open them.

  16. Just a quick twopenneth on a Connoisseur v Liberty comparison I made. I picked up a promo Connoisseur copy of Shorter’s All Seeing Eye and was quite pleased with it.
    However I subsequently scored a Liberty Stereo pressing with Van Gelder in the deadwax.
    There’s a massive difference sonically from the richer bass sound to the snap and pop of the drums. With all the surface noise and other defects, vintage record collecting can be dispiriting but I’m continuously amazed by ability of my favourite vinyl records, particularly early Blue Note pressings, to bring the music to life.

  17. My first Blue Notes that I can remember where 2fers, Sonny Rollins and Herbie Hancock. It was a great way to get indroduced to their Blue Note output and eventually got me to search out the records that the tracks came from. I started playing jazz and buying records in the white/black b era so many of my BN’s are from that time. The next one I’m sure was Freddie Hubbard Here to Stay from the Cuscuna brown paper bag series. Black b Catwalk and Hubbard’s Blue Spirits opened the door to Mobley, Hutcherson, Hill, Rivers and at that time the ultimate holy grail of all recorded music, Larry Young’s Unity.

  18. WordPress drainpipe view alert! – reposted to top (by LJC)

    on July 12, 2016 at 23:13 said:

    Now you get to play with the Ace/BGP catalogue, another tough job. We have met, myself and John Stapleton put you on in Bristol at what is almost certainly the least successful promotion any of us have ever been involved in, my memory is that only Adrian Corker turned up, I still enjoyed your set and meeting you though. I occasionally reissue 1990s recordings mastered on DAT and despite it’s issues it’s can sound fantastic, especially with modern electronics/DACs, I’d love to have those Blue Note DAT tapes they used and compare those 1990s flat transfers to vinyl.

  19. Dubmart (starting again to avoid the word-press narrowing curse)- I was just thinking about that night recently. I remember driving home to London afterwards, something that I thought was great idea back then.
    I may even have one or two of those DATs somewhere (I know I have some soul ones). What is your reissue label?

    • Hi Dean, hope they were good thoughts even if nobody turned up, Bristol Archive Records and Reggae Archive Records is me, well me and some other people. I’m mainly involved in putting out Reggae, but I have been looking for lost British Jazz recordings to issue, so far unsuccessfully, I live in hope and keep talking to people.

    • I’m also working on a Bristol Soul/Funk comp, although I’ve been working on it for at least five years, I have got one or two half decent tracks lined up if it ever happens.

      • Ah so we have a mutual friend in David Hill, I believe. Your comps are absolutely amazing. Proper archive level work.
        Congratulations on those.

        • Thanks, we try hard with the records, I really need to put some days into future projects, I’m very behind. I didn’t realise you were friends with David, but then again he seems to know everyone and he has excellent musical taste.

  20. 1975 – My brother-in-law gifted me –
    Lee Morgan… Sidewinder Herbie Hancock… Maiden Voyage Big John Patton… Let ‘Em Roll Art Blakey… Moanin’

    All in great shape, Blue & White. Can’t remember if they were Liberty or original, Mono or Stereo because of the humiliating part; before the Seventies ended I’d traded them all away. For that I should be scolded or even banned from commentary on this site for a time that would not be considered one of cruel and unusual punishment. In my defense, also before decades end, I’d picked up –
    Andrew Hill… Point Of Departure/ beautiful Mono Wayne Shorter… Speak No Evil/original Stereo
    Art Blakey… Night In Tunisa/original Stereo. All RVG or Van Gelder with Ears. All nearly Mint.
    Also Bobby Hutcherson,,, Happenings, which though a B & W may not have been a Van Gelder. Don’t know because again that last one was cut loose. Still have the others. But, HUMILIATING
    is still not too strong a word.

    • Trading away precious original Blue Notes for a pittance is a felony under the Vinyl Jazz Collector’s Code (1966) regulations amended 2016. Your Defence has pleaded your “youthful innocence” as mitigating circumstances. The Court also recognises you have shown remorse.

      I hereby sentence you to Capitol punishment: 39 Years (or the Best of) listening to lesser quality reissues. With time already served taken into account, you are free to go.

  21. Not sure if this is the best or worst place to ask this…especially since, although I own many on vinyl from late 70’s/early 80’s, I’m a committed adopter of the ESD™…but doesn’t anyone else find that the recording/sound quality of Blue Note is over-rated compared to its peers (e.g, Prestige, Contemporary and Impulse et al.) and Rudy Van Gelder over-rated compared to Roy DuNann? I ask because, after a several-decade absence from listening using any system that approaches ‘hi-fi’, I am returning to using a system which is at least capable of resolving differences in sound/recording quality and I’m struck by how bad the BNs sound compared to many contemporary recordings (pun intended – the Contemporary late 50’s recordings are particularly good as seems to be anything Roy DuNann was involved with). It’s early days yet in my re-entry and my set up is in an acoustically-challenged listening room, but so far it’s no contest – the BNs are dismal compared to the others from the dawn and early stage of the stereo era. Am I alone in hearing this?

    • What you hear from your audio system, between vinyl and cd, depends a lot on what equipment you are playing with. I have spent much more on improving my vinyl playback over my CD playback. It may be possible to reverse these results with intensive expenditure.

      I have heard extraordinary things from Peter Qvortrup’s Audio Note CD playback system I can’t replicate without spending a lot more on CD. Is that the way to go?

      When it comes to vinyl playback, Roy Du Nann late ’50s stereo vinyl I rate as far superior to much of What Rudy did for Blue Note at the same time, but he got better in the early ’60s.

      There are individual recordings when one session is outstanding, irrespective of which label and engineer. Unfortunately, it comes down to engineer/artist/session.

      • I appreciate your comments and suggestions. Sorry for what is arguably a hijacking of a useful thread. Appreciate the info.

      • I will have to pull some sixties sessions but I know I listened to a few which in part prompted my post. But will pay closer attention to to recording date going forward to see if I can hear improvement as the decade progresses. Alas, investing significantly in my playback system is probably not in the cards at the moment. But really appreciate you taking the time to comment – have read your audiophile pages with great interest.

    • Perhaps the MUSIC recorded by Van Gelder was more frequently superior to that recorded by DuNann. (PERHAPS). This may have led to the RVG/ Van Gelder name writ in wax,
      being likewise chiseled into a kind of Jazz memorial mindset. There, worshipers listen and look…. RVG/ Ear/ Deep Groove
      and so on.

      • I think this is a good point and whatever you attribute it to, it is clear that Blue Notes have a cachet – during the decades of using a much lowere playback system, Blue Notes were like crack to me; but to my point gave been surprised, frankly, to hear how good some of the other labels’ recordings are in comparison.

        • Per your point, BB, the Fred Plaut engineered recordings of Columbia in the 1950’s are another striking example. Eg, ‘Masterpieces by Ellington’; there are another dozen or so Ducal records from the decade [also, ‘Kind of Blue’, ‘Sketches of Spain’, etc]

        • I think it must have been the first time I contacted LJC that it was in regard to a Sixties pressing of Art Pepper’s Smack Up. It was among the thinnest vinyl I’d ever seen. At least for a Sixties pressing. Gold/Green label, Stereo, and seemed to sound quite good. Like you I have a not so hot playback system, but our audiophile Andrew sung the praises of this particular Smack Up, having it himself.
          Better to give up on a few of those overpriced Blue Notes or even vintage Contemporary Peppers and get myself a better sound system.

      • The acid test to me is when you hear the difference between those Liberty reissues that have used original Van Gelder metal, and the same titles without. Its the same recording, but not the same sound quality.

        On a different tack – there are some imprints which I find routinely disappointing and now avoid, despite great musicians. Savoy is one that I regret, both in its original pressings and worse, its ’80s Savoy Jazz reissues: flat, thin and lifeless. The odd few are Van Gelder stamp but mostly not. Something was not right in the Savoy engineering department.

        The other big disappointment arriving at LJC Towers have been Japanese pressings of Riverside. Some great titles, I think they are all by Victor Japan who are generally a quality outfit, and I can only conclude that whoever held the original Riverside recordings in the late ’70s/’80s sent indifferent quality tape transfers over to Japan. A pity, but Japanese Riverside very lacklustre, a world apart from Toshiba-EMI and our Blue friends

        There, that feels better.

        • And to expand on my original post, while the recordings of Roy DuNann certainly got my attention, there are others from the late 50’s/early 60’s dawn-of-the-stereo recording age that, to my ears (and playback system) sound superior to Blue Notes such as, for example, “Coleman Hawkins Encounters Ben Webster” (Verve, 1957, Norman Granz, or, say, Cannonball Adderley’s “Know What I Mean” on Riverside (1961, recorded by another DuNann/Van Gelder contemporary, Orrin Keepnews). While some of the separation/lack-of-panning issues that are to varying degrees common across all of these early stereo recordings are, arguably, problematic, it is still quite possible to hear that some otherwise extreme-panned recordings are superior to others and nevertheless retain a sense of air and space despite the hard left/right.

          Haven’t yet found the time to listen to more/later Van Gelder BNs but will do so and report back when I have the chance.

    • Just a little add on before I hit the sack Blackberet. That Sixties Pepper/Contemporary I spoke of is from1960. In other words it’s nearly a Fifties pressing. And it’s wafer thin. Looking back just now at the LJC post about his copy arriving in a pizza box, I have to wonder if it was a PEPPERoni. Yes it’s past my bedtime.

    • I think many jazz lovers who also take a strong interest in sound quality are aware that Van Gelder was less than perfect, and that some of his contemporaries (DuNann, Plaut, Laico) bested him in several ways. But that doesn’t change the fact that Van Gelder was highly influential on the entire field of audio engineering in the mid-50s, a fact that is even more impressive when considering Van Gelder’s humble beginnings. Van Gelder was a unique combination of technical prowess and raw wit, the latter being what I think resulted in other engineers of the time being seen less as innovators than him. Van Gelder took more risks. At the time, they all paid off and wowed both industry types (save Charles Mingus and Bill Evans, to name a couple) and fans. Today though, we can see how some of his more extreme choices compromised the fidelity of his recordings when we listen on our modern systems, the most noticeable of these being his extreme close-miking and compression of the piano and his overloading the circuit on occasion when recording drums.

      So to address the phrase ‘overrated’, I think casual fans and journalists tend to inflate the fidelity of his recordings to that of ‘perfection’ in romanticized summaries of Blue Note’s history. Beyond that, I think most people who really care are well aware of Van Gelder’s shortcomings. I personally would never use the words ‘bad’ or ‘dismal’ to describe Van Gelder’s stuff. He was one of the first in line to achieve full-frequency response (20-20kHz) on magnetic tape in the mid 50s, and as a result these recordings sound astonishingly realistic when compares to those before him.

      Van Gelder was also very pro-mono, and many (including myself) would argue that his recordings are best appreciated this way. If stereo versions of his 50s and 60s stuff even approach Roy DuNann’s stereo, it’s remarkable because Van Gelder doesn’t seem to have cared much at all about stereo at this time.

  22. My first two Blue Notes were DMM pressings of Art Blakey & Jazz Messengers ‘The Big Beat’ and Lee Morgan’s ‘The Sidewinder’ during the Jazz Dance revival in the 80’s. As an early adopter of CDs, I began to buy Blue Notes as they trickled out. I also borrowed and taped whatever records I could borrow from my local library- probably all good early pressings. I can also remember sourcing a Japanese CD copy of ‘The Cat Walk’ after hearing Gilles Peterson play the title track on the radio. In terms of compilations, the club facing ‘Baptist Beat’ merits an honourable mention for the interesting selections therein and helpful sleeve notes, (I don’t think this was issued on CD). As crocodilechuck reminds us, the CD notes from Bob Blumenthal on the RVG series reissues are excellent and really add some great insights.

  23. First Blue Note:
    CD Lee Morgan Cornbread (Lee got me started in the BN game)
    Original Vinyl: Donald Byrd The Cat Walk in mono. Very punchy sound and a great album too!

  24. An epic post LJC, &, per usual, I learned a number of things.

    – The Manhattan EMI imprint in the early ’80’s by Bruce Lundvall was mainly a vehicle for that most dreadful of USA instrumental styles, ‘Smooth Jazz’. They also put out some Philly International stuff by Gamble & Huff, as well as other singers, e.g. Natalie Cole & [Anomaly Alert!] Kenny Rogers.

    Don’t confuse those ‘Blue Brazil’ compilations with any of that other dreck listed above. All three of those discs are ‘All Killer, No Filler’ from the EMI Odeon imprint, featuring the best of Brazilian pop, folk, samba, bossa nova & jazz styles from the late ’50’s – ’60’s.
    The best thing for music lovers was the launch of the RVG series in the late ’90’s [your dreaded ‘silver discs’]. Almost the whole label was reissued, with spectacular 24b remasters by the greatest ever audio engineer, and excellent new liner notes by Bob Blumenthal [‘A New Look at…’]. Until this most of the BN catalog was out of print, even for the cd format.
    ‘Blue Note Plays Sting’: the less said about this, the better, though the instrumental players were top shelf. We have a soft spot in our hearts for the producer, Bob Belden, who, among other things was the the real producer for the most spectacular series of reissues in history, the Miles Davis box sets on Columbia [from ’96 -> 2006]

    Last, for a youngster like myself coming up in the early 1970’s buying jazz, the timing couldn’t have been worse. First, most of the BN catalog by then was out of print, and there wasn’t a humming secondary market in vinyl at the time. On top of this, with the first oil crisis, labels both reduced the amount of vinyl in LP’s, then used progressively lower quality resin in pressing them. The absolute nadir was represented by sh _ tty labels like Polydor, who would incorporate/re melt used records in new releases! [Polydor also did things like re-record over master tapes, e.g. Chick Corea’s ‘Light as a Feather’!]

    Can’t sign off without mentioning my 1st BN LP’s: Jackie McLean’s ‘Jacknife’, in the mid ’70’s ‘Blue Note Reissue Series’ with the naff beige album covers: The Booker Ervin ‘Back from the Gig’ was similarly explosive. What a ‘one-two’ punch as an introduction to the best record label ever!

    ps a big Shout Out for Michael Cuscuna, a genuine mensch who has done more for the music over his lifetime [including BN reissues & the wonderful Mosaic] than any other human being. As Miles Davis said about Duke Ellington, ‘Everyone should get down on their knees one day a year and thank Duke’, so too should music lovers the world over face Stamford CT and genuflect before him. Thanks, Michael! [& please release a 24b remastered ‘New York is Now’, by Ornette!] 😉

  25. I’m hard wired on original/early pressings, but for some reason I quite like the Connoisseur issues, especially of titles that didn’t see release in an “original” form–Hank Mobley “Slice Of The Top” I own on Connoisseur for instance. There are also some first stereo editions in that series, like “The Congregation” and “True Blue”(maybe?), I own the former and sound quality is pretty good–i think I got it for about $10 used and couldn’t complain.

    Also, I remembered reading(maybe on Steve Hoffman forums) that while the first 10 or so Connoisseur titles put out were digital masters, but all the titles in the last run were analog.

  26. Small quibble re: the mid-1990’s releases. Blue Note had a third reissue series in addition to the Connoisseur and Rare Grooves series. The Top Ten series was just that, 10 of the most popular Blue Note titles. They were pressed in the US and Europe (UK if I recall correctly). Titles included:

    Blue Train
    Somethin’ Else
    Speak No Evil
    Soul Station
    Sonny Rollins Volume 2
    Maiden Voyage
    The Sidewinder
    Song for My Father

    The EMI era also included “original” US releases (some cases music, some cases music and artwork) of sessions which were previously released only in Japan or in the uninspiring LT series. I believe a few sessions were released for the first time ever.

    Also, we can’t forget about the History of Blue note sleeves and the giant two sided circular poster!

    • Catching up here – is there any way to identify a record this “Top Ten Series”, physically? Doesn’t seem to get a mention in the Discogs Blue Note listings. Was there a sticker, or a particular serial number? How would you know you were looking at one?

  27. What about the horrible Scorpio issues that flooded the vinyl market. How did they get the license to make those sad copies?

  28. My you’ve opened a large can of worms here Andy. It’s a difficult period to summarise in a small space and I think you’ve made a valiant attempt. It’s too easy to dismiss the various reissue programmes of the EMI era as a morass of low quality remasterings/pressings wrapped in desperately commercial compilations as a way to extract revenue from the revered Blue Note back catalogue. But such a view would be doing a disservice to the many people involved at this time – not least the likes of Michael Cuscuna, Charlie Lourie and Ron McMaster.

    As somebody who’s interest in collecting original jazz pressings was ignited in the mid 1980s, I am a first hand eye witness to the impact the various reissue programmes (both on CD and vinyl) had on the barren wasteland of interest in jazz among the younger generation in the UK at that time. Without them and analogous initiatives for other labels like Prestige and Riverside, I and many other 20-somethings back then would have had no way to acquire the music we were hearing played by DJs at clubs up and down the country as part of the so-called “acid jazz” movement and reading about in magazines like The Wire and Straight No Chaser.

    I bought quite a few of those (with the benefit of hindsight) fearful DMM pressings and the wafer thin Rare Groove series as part of my learning curve. Yes, they were awful but, crucially, they made the music available. For instance, I recall one night at a Tommy Chase gig when I heard the DJ play a lengthy funky organ groove and I was able to ask him what it was and go out the next day and buy the record (Son of Icebag from Lonnie Smith’s Think! LP in case you were wondering). Without those reissues such near-instant gratification would have been impossible and, who knows, the flickering flames of my nascent enthusiasm for this wonderful music might have been extinguished early.

    As it was, I soon realised the sonic limitation of many of these pressings and, more importantly, how the reissue programmes only scratched the surface under the yoke of commercial imperatives. It was at this point that three things happened: first I became aware that it was possible to acquire originals (especially from London shops like Rays and Mole Jazz); second, the Japanese Toshiba releases that you mention started showing up in the UK on a regular basis (I still have quite a few of these purchased new at the time); thirdly, and probably most significantly for me, I discovered Mosaic. That was a real eye opener. The first set I bought was the Tina Brooks one. At the time it seemed like a very expensive outlay and I could only afford a few sets back then. Looking back now, I can see how important those sets are and what a great investment they make.

    So, yes, there’s a lot that’s easy to decide about the EMI era but even those cheesy compilations helped raise awareness and interest and provided the funds to keep things going. And we’ve all benefitted from that.

    • Thank you for that Martin – exactly the sort of thoughtful contribution I was hoping for. Yup, canned worms are definitely on the menu, dish of the day, Worm Tartare.

      I guess have understated the important contribution of Mosaic in providing a second bite at many Blue Note original titles, for a fraction of the cost of originals. That needs putting right.

      They say no one ever forgets their first kiss, the same, I say, for their first Blue Note, or is that going too far? I certainly remember mine. The first Blue Note too – the full story in Collector’s Corner here:

      May be other readers can recall their first Blue Note? Did the earth move?

      Sounds like a lot of the EMI reissue movement opened doors to the music to a new audience, that otherwise may not have happened. Unless you were around at the time in the early ’60s, how else? Good call, thanks.

      Now about Blue Note Plays Sting… someone convince me, please.

      • Ahh yes, my first Blue Note. I’m getting all nostalgic reading Martin’s post.
        For me that would be Art Blakey’s Mosaic
        As I remember, in the 80s, Blue Notes were a bit more expensive than most other records. The French ones were about £5 to £7 (I think) but I seem to remember the Japanese ones were double the price. I don’t recall anyone talking about the originals than really only to say they were expensive.
        I used to think they were the ultimate in sound quality – even the DMMs. I still think of the introduction to the first and titular tune on Mosaic as my introduction to the Blue Note sound.
        The heavy syncopated percussion with Blakey’s explosive rolls, the funky minor vamp, an amazing Hubbard trumpet shake, and the elastic but punchy horn part.
        I was in heaven.

        • Andy, I seem to remember those prices. There was a promotional offer at one point: “a Blue Note for blue note” where you could buy the records for a fiver each. If I remember rightly, the Toshiba pressings from Japan were about £15 or £16 each. I loved poring over the inserts in them to look at the covers of other exotic Blue Notes released in the same batch. Back then, so many of them were new discoveries for me.

      • My first Blue Note, well that’s a topic with potential. For me, my first reissue was Lee Morgan’s The Sidewinder. My first original was a Liberty pressing of John Patton’s Got A Good Thing Goin’ (BST 84229) purchased over the counter at Mole Jazz, Pentonville Road’s finest. So, technically a second pressing but I didn’t know all the nuances of label address variations, Plastylite Ps and Van Gelder stamps back then! Wow, that was over 25 years ago!

      • First Blue Note? It has to be either Juju by Wayne Shorter or Blue Train – both on CD as a high school kid in the 80’s.

    • As another Martin my experience is similar, although without regular access to London Jazz shops, I got into Jazz in the eighties and once I discovered Blue Note the French EMIs and the later Connoisseur and Rare Groove series were a godsend and eagerly bought up, a friend had signed up to the EMI Blue Note club and we all bought everything they deleted for £2 or £3 each, I think the normal price was £5-£6. Originals or earlier pressings full stop were rare finds, the Mosaics were prohibitively priced although the Grant Green and Tina Brooks were essential, I remember my shock at visiting Virgin on Oxford Street and actually seeing Mosaic boxes in the racks, if only I had more money. The Toshibas were a revelation, the greater quality, the attention to detail, the illustrated inserts, the more obscure titles that the French hadn’t touched. I think the Toshibas were around £15-£18, the wholesale cost was over £10, I think Tower imported themselves and were cheaper, but my best score was visiting HMV Oxford Street and finding Toshibas in the sale for under £10, I still have all my Toshibas even when I’ve got a better pressing of the title. By the 1990s I’d put together my own 1500 and 4000 series discographies and discovered specialist Soul/Funk/Jazz dealers as a source of sixties US pressings, no thoughts about ears and deep grooves back them, but I did okay. Then we got Classic, 4 Men With Beards, AP, MM, Disc Union, Heavenly Sweetness, the dreadful Scorpios and the 75ths, who would have thought we’d have so much choice in the 2010s. I bought very few CDs in the eighties, but did buy some Blue Notes, I went crazy on the Van Gelders when they were £2 or £3 each, bought everything I saw, there are a few really great CDs EMI put out, unreleased sessions and complete sessions, sometimes they gave us treats. I’ll second those Blue Brazils being great comps and that the Riversides, Prestiges, Jasmines and OJCs were also a boon to those of us starting out in the eighties, great music, sometimes very good pressings and cheap. Finally original US Blue Notes are even scarcer than ever in these parts, but just last Sunday I saw a person in front of me pull an early press Art Blakey out of a box at a bootsale for the princely sum of £1 so I still live in hope.

      • Great trip down Nostalgia Street there, thank you. All I ever see in boot sales is large quantities of “second hand” car radios, but that is South London for you. There is a lot to be said for spending time rediscovering what is already in your collection. I bet every one of us has records on our shelves that have not seen a turntable in may be years. Some real bargains are to be found among those records you already own.

        • Oddly did once pick up an original Along Came John at a car boot sale in Epsom in the 90s.
          My first original Blue Note was a Kenny Burrell Wavy Gravy 45 bought at Oxfam in Wimbledon.
          My first original album was ‘Got A Good Thing Going On’ John Patton which I think was part of the same batch as mentioned above.
          My first Blue Note LPs in total were Takin Off and Out To Lunch from the mid-80s DMM range. Sounded good to me then, and can’t say that I think they sound too bad today!

          • Although I can remember most of my early Jazz LP purchases, things like “Blues For Mister Jimmy”, “Out Of The Afternoon” and more obvious titles from Miles Davis and John Coltrane I have a complete block when it comes to my first Blue Note. I suspect that whatever that first Blue Note was I immediately went on a Blue Note binge overdosing on cheap and easily available French pressings, I mean they were everywhere, even in Radio Rentals where I scored “Blues Walk”. I’d agree with Dean that some sound fine, far from all mine have been replaced with better sounding copies, but for example when you compare an eighties “Out To Lunch” with a first press there really is no contest, the French copies are enjoyable enough and give me the music, but ultimately are just place holders until nicer copies come along. Incidentally Dean, aren’t you responsible for a fair number of those Blue Note comps I eagerly bought back in the day, although I’m not sure any of yours have been pictured above.

            • Hello Dubmart.
              Literally scores of them I would imagine. In the CD era something like Blue Break Beats would sell over 100,000 copies in the UK, and something a little ‘heavier’ like Blue & Groovy over 20,000. All those European issues of the 90s were made from DAT masters transferred in New York, not original tapes. OK for CD…
              Just to clarify what I said earlier, those 1980s releases sound good, but I would be surprised if any of them hold a candle to an original.

                  • Now you get to play with the Ace/BGP catalogue, another tough job. We have met, myself and John Stapleton put you on in Bristol at what is almost certainly the least successful promotion any of us have ever been involved in, my memory is that only Adrian Corker turned up, I still enjoyed your set and meeting you though. I occasionally reissue 1990s recordings mastered on DAT and despite it’s issues it’s can sound fantastic, especially with modern electronics/DACs, I’d love to have those Blue Note DAT tapes they used and compare those 1990s flat transfers to vinyl.

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