Selection: Night Dreamer (Shorter)
(Update: See foot of post for original 1964 mono comparator rip. Warning: price alert!) to choose one track for the
Lee Morgan (trumpet) Wayne Shorter (tenor sax) McCoy Tyner (piano) Reggie Workman (bass) Elvin Jones (drums) recorded Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, April 29, 1964
Francis Wolff’s chiaroscuro photography artfully sets the tone.
Not the Davis 2nd Quintet: the choice of McCoy Tyner is apposite: lyrical and melodic. Elvin Jones may seem more risky choice, given his power-drumming leaning, but he handles everything very sympathetically. Fellow alumni of the Jazz Messengers, Lee Morgan shows there is more in his armoury than just bebop and boogaloo: his own vocabulary and intonation, but not obviously seeking to occupy the same musical space as Miles, that place being already taken. Reggie Workman knows what to do.
Shorter shook off his five year apprenticeship with The Jazz Messengers, having set out his stall with some tentative VeeJay albums, now embarked on his own Maiden Voyage as a Blue Note leader, a trajectory that would earn him a place in Davis second quintet, and a bigger place in the canon of Modern Jazz
You might think a first title for Blue Note Shorter would look to showcase his Coltrane-like instrumental virtuosity and improvising skills. Instead, Shorter sets out a different stall, an original composer/ensemble. The bold musical vision presented In Night Dreamer is almost a genre in its own right – not bop not yet post-bop, but bop in transition.
Shorter’s compositions are harmonic explorations outside the bebop idiom, with extended melodic lines, avoiding predictable standard forms. Spare tunes of restrained simplicity, slowly unfold, drifting towards abstraction. You don’t listen, dance and tap your feet to a Shorter composition, so much as absorb it through the skin.
This languorous soundscape of varying moods and tempos is populated with bravura solo flights. Lee Morgan, represents Messengers continuity, throws in hot pepper driving brass figures, while Shorter sour lower register and angle-grinder burr moves like slow fire, crowned with eagle squawks. Coltrane is never far away, but the voice is his own. The most lyrical is McCoy Tyner, who holds everything together on a misty spiders web of rippling arpeggios and accents.
This is perfect night music. City lights twinkling in the distance, pour yourself a glass of your choice, settle down on the sofa, wash away the tribulations of the day, and lose yourself in this gorgeous music.
Vinyl: Music Matters MM33 (Review Copy)
A familiar characteristic MM/RTI wide soundstage stereo presentation. The pleasure is in the detail; information-rich instrument delivery -brass intonation, timbre, attack and decay, cymbal strike hi-hat and snare bite, pedal-pump, musical bass, all thanks to Rudy’s mastery of recording sound embedded in the analogue tapes, extracted by people who understand what they are looking for.
Collector’s Corner: what’s the alternative?
Blue Note original mono (1964)
Original mono Blue Note edition reviewed at LJC in 2013. The jokes have at least worn fairly well, even if the critique had some way to go, cut me some slack!
Original Stereo (1964)
And the Record Collector’s Choice is…?
With a couple of noteworthy exceptions, collectors overwhelmingly value the mono edition over the stereo, just so you know. The Top 25 Auctions benchmark range is $250-$900, though the very top of that range is a moment of madness that cost someone dearly. Let that be a lesson. If you bid high to ensure a win, there is always a possibility that someone else has the same idea, resulting in a mid-air collision in which the second-placed price setting is in the stratosphere.
Somebody put value on that writing on the cover, $461 USD to be precise.
I happen to own the original mono, and I can assure you this is not just “original-fetish”, for me anyway. Room-filling vintage mono is so satisfying to hear it never occurs to you that it is mono, you are in communion with the music. Even at this late stage, I am convinced Van Gelder thought in mono.
Liberty/ United Artists: late 60’s/70’s reissues
Liberty Records, later end of the ’60s by the looks of it, followed by a chronology of the changing face of United Artists reissues. United Artists went to town with at least four reissues, all stereo, and most seem to bear VAN GELDER hallmarking. Interestingly, we see the blue label black note as the earlier around 1973, and the white note variant from UAMARG after 1975.
Overseas, Tokyo leaps in! 70’s King,’80s Toshiba-EMI, and the recent 200gm “From The Original Master Tapes ” reissue series.
Music Matters 45rpm x2 issue
That about rounds it out for the alternatives.
No doubt there are a few others, like this South Park rino (record in name only) Mint! Shrink! $6! Well, its not a bad place to start, but you can do better.
Postscript: Shorter post-Blue Note years
’70s, a new decade, a change of direction, Wayne Shorter checked into Weather Report. Heavy electric bass, drums and percussion, and Joe Zawinul’s synthesisers duelling with the horn, music of a different sensibility. I bought a lot of WR at the time, and occasionally I bring one down from the shelf, and see if I find it still listenable. The answer, sadly, remains no. Am I missing something?
(Apologies: there seems to be a glitch at WordPress, this article was published on January 29, not January 5 (according to WordPress) so I am republishing)
UPDATE February 1st, 2017
DGmono asks for a like-for-like LJC rip of the original 1964 Blue Note mono as comparator. OK, you must judge for yourself which you prefer (accepting the limitations of 320k MP3 via a pc – at least its coming from the same hifi system)
Original Blue Note 1964 mono (mono vinyl, stereo cart with L/R channels summed at phono-amp stage)
🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂
Music Matters MM33 2016 stereo
In the interest of fairness, I should add the mono original took me several years to source and cost over five times as much. Opinions welcome.
Does the intro of Armageddon on your copy of Night Dreamer (MM33) sound fine?
My copy plays there with a different sound panorama (then changed), as if Morgan is using a mute (he isn’t).
First post here, casual reader of this fine blog.
I have MM33 of Night Dreamer and note the same issue with Armageddon… tape deterioration ? pressing issue ?
I have to say it’s a little odd to compare the stereo cut to the mono, why not compare an original stereo? In my experience monos always sound punchier. Also the clip of the mono is considerably louder than the MM, when I use the sliders provided to equalise the output the differences are lessened and the MM reveals wider dynamics especially in the top end. This is just from a Mac Mini to a Naim mu-so.
What I’d really like to hear is this type of comparison with Blue Train as the MM 33 is mono, any chance please?
Anyway, fab site (I’m new here and to jazz) lots of insightful info and detail, thank you.
Hi and welcome, Simon. Why not compare the original stereo? No profound reason, other than because I don’t have one, only the mono. Differences in volume are always a problem in comparisons. The MMs are generally quieter than originals. I increase the gain at the ripping stage, so both recordings use the full dynamic range equally, up to the point just below overloading. Whether that equalises the volume I’ll leave the listener to judge. All opinions welcome.
I wondered if that were the case, I guess you can’t have them all!
I have no originals to date so your posts are a treat. Again thanks for a great site,I shall be popping in regularly.
I get where you’re coming from, as I’m pretty sure I’ve made a similar comment somewhere on this site in the distant past…I think it was something like “you should sum the channels of the Music Matters so the comparison is mono-a-mono” or something like that. The reason I find the mono-stereo original-MM comparison interesting though is because Music Matters chose to release these in stereo because they believed the stereo presentation of the music to be superior to the mono. Van Gelder and Lion seemed to always preferred the mono presentation, so I find it interesting to judge the two as is. Indeed, they are very different experiences but certainly not beyond comparison.
On a technical note, it makes sense that the MM is a little quieter than the mono, and though I’m aware that a lot of novice listeners mistaken “louder” for “better”, I personally wouldn’t dare let my assessment be related to that, and I did my comparing while turning the volume up and down on my stereo to gain a relatively equal sense of volume. It’s a good point to bring up though.
But yes, to say that the mono is “punchier” than the stereo, well, true, just about any mono record will be punchier than a stereo version of the same title. So the comparison here is in some capacity really about stereo versus mono in general. But it seems clear that MM uses less compression in mastering than Van Gelder did, so my guess is that even a stereo original would have more “punch” than the MM…just a personal preference of the MM production team.
It would be cool to compare an original mono Blue Train with the Music Matters 33! My guess though is that you would find that the original in punchier but that the MM has more high-end clarity (generally speaking, I have found that Van Gelder cut more off the top end in the late ’50s than in the ’60s).
AFAIK Blue Train is the only mono MM 33 and I’m so glad they felt it was better than the stereo, assuming that that was the reason and not tape condition; being such an important BN release (any release come to it) us mere mortals hopefully get somewhat closer to the BN mono sound of their most popular title without investing >£4K!!
Now LJC how about that comparison, eh? My money would be on the original as in most cases but how close? ;-))
I picked up a Toshiba stereo Blue Train on a whim, a while back, My recollection is that it went on and came straight off the turntable immediately, horrid. It has never been back on it. Toshiba did tend to reissue titles in stereo only, while King had the good sense to leave well enough alone and some of their titles are mono.
As I have a mono 2nd generation (NY label) I’ve never felt the need to add another copy. There is one on the wall in a record shop in London priced at £450, been there for months.
MM does not believe that Stereo is superior to Mono and they have proved this with their release patterns. In fact, joe Harley & Ron Rambach are big fans of mono…The decision to use stereo or mono tape is not about superiority but more about authenticity. In my opinion BN and Jazz fans, in general, confuse “authenticity” and “superiority” for one another.
If your favorite black & white movie were colorized. Which version would you prefer? 9 out of 10 will prefer the B&W cause that is the authentic version. The same principle is at play when MM elects to release stereo over a fold down mono. The point is not which format is better but rather which was employed at the recording booth on the that day, hence “authenticity”
MM knew they were waging an uphill battle when hey elected to use original stereo tapes rather than fold-down mono tapes. They knew that most BN collectors prefer mono, but there was this little bird in the back of their minds that kept saying would you rather hear a summed up version of this and that recording or would you prefer to hear the original recording. in the end the “authenticity” bird won out
Like I said Ron & Joe love mono…
If you explore the release patterns of MM titles you will find that on those occasions when they have selected one of the few titles that RVG recorded during the brief transition period when he ran simultaneous mono and stereo tapes you will see that MM always elected the mono tapes over stereo.
On titles like Horace Silver’s Six Pieces of Silver and Lee Morgan’s Candy where simultaneously recorded mono and stereo exist MM always put out mono. The fact that they subsequently put out Candy in stereo 33 is only due to the extra ordinary circumstance surrounding the stereo tape itself.
This article on MM’s website sure does make it sound like they made a decision on principle based on what they heard, not which format they thought was more “authentic”:
*”Quite frankly, our expectation going into this project was that both mono and stereo masters existed and that the mono masters would probably be preferred. After all, in the LP collector market it is the mono Blue Notes that are most prized. Kevin, Ron and I put up the first tape (Horace Parlan’s great “Speakin’ My Piece” session) with an open mind. To our collective surprise, when listening to the master tape, the stereo was greatly preferred to the (summed) mono. There was no doubt that the stereo presentation much more clearly presented the quintet performing these six great tunes that July day in 1960 at Rudy Van Gelder’s Englewood Cliffs studio. The stereo presentation revealed more air, more detail and more sheer life than the mono. The mono playback was a wonderful remembrance of the old LP we all knew and loved. The stereo playback from the original masters was eerie. It was like going back in time to that day in Rudy’s studio. Quite simply, the stereo masters revealed more of what it was like to be there that day.
Listening to tape after tape during that first two-day mastering session revealed the same thing. And every one of those master tape boxes had the same hand written notation “mono master made from 50/50 stereo.” For me, and for everyone involved, the great RVG mono/stereo controversy had been solved once and for all.
But then Ron Rambach said, “what about all of those Blue Note collectors (like me and Joe) who have always cherished the mono LPs and WANT the mono LPs?” As good as the mono originals are, after the October 30, 1958 session at Van Gelder Studios the mono masters were made by folding down the original stereo master. Once we heard the actual stereo masters, the decision was made: when a stereo Blue Note master exists, we will use that stereo master to cut our lacquers for this series.”*
It appears to me that generally they were so awed by the realism of the stereo presentation of the tapes that they had to put the records out in stereo. That’s totally cool, I don’t have any issue with that. It’s probably not what Van Gelder and Lion were hearing when they balanced the recordings but if it’s what they preferred it makes sense that they released them that way.
Your analogy with film is the exact opposite of what I believe…not gonna debate about this, as there is no right or wrong. 🙂
Your quote: “MM knew they were waging an uphill battle when hey elected to use original stereo tapes rather than fold-down mono tapes. They knew that most BN collectors prefer mono.”
Yes, “collectors” typically prefer mono, but “audiophiles” typically prefer stereo, and who’s buying these things? Audiophiles, and collectors by and large continue lusting after vintage (mono) pressings. You may not agree with this dichotomy but someone close to the outset of this MM project did, and I know if I name their name it will get you all fired up so I won’t.
Perhaps the mono tapes don’t exist anymore for these but Cool Struttin, Moanin, Somethin Else, Sonny’s Crib, Lou Takes Off, The Congregation, and Cliff Craft were released in stereo. (For what it’s worth for everyone out there, they went with mono with Blue Train, the Candy 45, The Opener, Dial S for Sonny, A Blowing Session, The Stylings of Silver, Jenkins/Burrell, Mobley 1568, Paul Chambers Quintet, Lee Morgan Vol. 3, and Smithville. PS: Six Pieces of Silver was only recorded in mono.) My understanding is that sometimes they went with one format because one tape was damaged. Other times, maybe they preferred the way one sounded over the other, but the quote I referenced above sure does make it sound like they universally preferred the stereo presentation of Van Gelder’s tapes.
Indeed, some of the times when a mono isn’t it in great shape MM will fall back on the stereo and vice versa.
I’ll add this to the collector vs. audiophile issue. While it is possible to be a collector and not be an audiophile, it is impossible to be an audiophile and not be a collector as well. A lot of collectors will shy away rom the MM series because it will mean a crisis of faith if they find themselves falling in love with what they hear on the MM records. It’s an ego defense mechanism I don’t envy but I can understand where they are coming from.
Perhaps my analogy should have been, would you prefer to see Lawrence of Arabia in Cinemascope color or in 4:3 B&W aspect ratio?
In either case, I agree with some of most of your summation.
A final note: I suppose the word “authentic” can more or less translate to “real” or “like you were there”, in which case sure, they went for which version was more “authentic”. That word to me entails honoring the creative vision of the production staff, which I think they went against in some instances. So that’s why I personally don’t use the word “authentic” to describe their choices.
I think the feeling was more or less what if we do little or no tinkering with what is on tape. Don’t try to copy what RVG did with the originals, just let the tapes speak for themselves and fans can decide.
part of the reason why one of the mastering engineers was let go being he was rolling off some off some bits here and there and that did not sit well with the vision for the series.
For all you MM33 fetishists, I just came across this on The Guardian website and had never seen it before:
This might be my favourite Shorter album, up there with Speak No Evil.
As much as i love the stereo presentation for multi reed sessions i must say that the mono sounds punchier & much more “in your face” which i prefer to the mellower stereo mix in this case.
Lucky man LJC !
Re-record the original mono clip in true mono and post in this article for comparison!!!
More problems at WordPress I’m afraid – lag in servers showing updated content, all looks fine now, after a bit of angst.
You’re the best!
It’s the same ol’ same ol’ for me, the MM sounds weak and at times hollow in comparison to your original. ‘Audiophiles’ (whatever that means) seem to have a tendency to be obsessed with dynamics, and I think that even without Hoffman mastering these, Gray continued the tradition of using very little compression during mastering in order to continue the appeal of the MM program to that market (I think Hoffman didn’t use any at all). Combine that with the stereo presentation and the MM just lacks a lot of punch in comparison. And I’m convinced that Van Gelder started leaving more top end on his masters going into the mid-’60s. For earlier albums, the MM often sounds like it has more clarity for this reason but I can’t say that’s the case here. There are many other instances where someone’s original is just worn down and I would prefer just about any reissue in those instances. You have a gorgeous original of this album, LJC, I reckon it’s up there with your best. I’m not one to hold extreme opinions but in this case I do strongly prefer the original. I’m sure a lot of people will prefer the increased dynamics and spread of the MM though…very different listening experiences.
“Van Gelder (and Lion) thought in mono” — so well said…right up to the very last recording with Lion, I’m sure.
I’m curious which session was the last one supervised by Alfred Lion. The book Uncompromising Expression says it was a Stanley Turrentine recording on July 28, 1967, and several online forums have agreed with this. But my copy of Horace Silver’s Serenade To Soul Sister credits Lion as producer on a session dated March 29, 1968. Can anyone clarify or confirm?
The 2003 RVG remaster credits Alfred Lion, as do a number of other re-issues. But there are quite a number of cases where Francis Wolff is credited.
Apposite? It has been said that Sir Thomas Browne contaminated English with Latin. An example of pure English at its best would be the work of Addison and Steele. I jest, of course. I’m actually an admirer of Sir Thomas Browne.
This is, indeed, a great album. Your hard work is deeply appreciated.
Right off the bat comparing both Mono and this reissue of the Night Dreamer track. All it takes is the first 10 second. Its not even close. Total K.O by the Mono.
Not in the same league as ‘Night Dreamer’, & more to the Rara Avis end of the spectrum, but this is interesting [rec. wks. before launching ‘Weather Forecast’]:
Three Point Five Forks.
Reposted comments which respond to the “phantom post” supposedly January 5 (LJC)
Crocodile Chuck on January 29, 2017 at 19:48 said:
You’re missing something [WR] if you don’t listen to the 1st 2-3 records. At least the eponymously titled 1st release & ‘I Sing the Body Electric’.
In both the principals are extending the searching they did with Miles in his ‘fin de decade’ classic recordings.
The synth, el b & backbeats came later.
Gordon on January 29, 2017 at 19:40 said:
Re: Weather Report. The answer, in short, is yes. While one may prefer Night Dreamer, et.al., as I do, WR at its best was a force of nature that swung hard. It’s members were schooled in the tradition and developed legitimate jazz expression. Zawinul and Shorter were monster players and composers. What they created shouldn’t be dismissed out of a traditional, acoustic bias. There is much joy to be had in listening to WR. Just keep your ears open to discovery. Then again, you dig what you dig.
A nuanced album, always been one of my favourites by Shorter. Your comments about Elvin Jones’ drumming here are spot-on, and I think you have identified a hitherto unlabelled genre: transdermal jazz.