Duke Pearson: “Wahoo!” (1964) Blue Note MM33

duke-pearson-wahoo-blue-note-mm33-cover-1920-ljcSelection: Bedouin (Pearson) MM33


Donald Byrd (trumpet) James Spaulding (alto sax, flute) Joe Henderson (tenor sax) Duke Pearson (piano) Bob Cranshaw (bass) Mickey Roker (drums) recorded Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, November 21, 1964.

Forget we are in 2017, MM’s gorgeous gatefold captures fragments in time, you are about to travel to a different time and place, reset your calendar, let Francis Wolff’s camera transport you to 1964:



Duke Pearson( b.1932 – 1980): a foundation of Bud Powell, the rhythmic precision of Wynton Kelly and Sonny Clark, infused with the  romantic expression of his own lyrical ideas. Composer,  producer, performer,  arranger, and as  Blue Note’s A&R man following Ike Quebec, Pearson played a big part in shaping the label’s hard bop direction in the 1960s. He will be remembered for his sympathetic comping on many Blue Note sessions, his attractive catchy compositions (Cristo Redentor), his cinematic landscape of rippling arpeggios (Idle Moments) , Sidewinder-like jumpy boogaloo outings (Sweet Honey Bee, and The Phantom), and deft, artful modal arrangements (Wahoo!).

His “Blue Note Collection” as leader runs from 1960 through to 1974, spanning the Liberty and early United Artists years, dabbling in bop, boogaloo and big band. I have six of them.


Aside from his Blue Note sessions, Pearson  also recorded with his co-led big band with Donald Byrd for Atlantic Records, and other titles which are less well known, for Fred Norsworthy’s short-lived Jazzline/Jazztime label (1961-2) , Prestige and Polydor. (For the record, my copy of Prairie Dog is pressed with recycled vinyl, <unprintable>)


Life is temporary and capricious gift, some get more of it than others, not what anyone deserves.  Pearson  spent a good deal of the latter half of the ’70s fighting the ravages of multiple sclerosis, and left us in 1980, age 48.

The music he left us with, however, lives forever.


Those unused to mixing with royalty, there are three Dukes you need to know: Ellington, Jordan and Pearson. All Music awarded “Wohoo!” album a coveted five stars: ” a truly wonderful advanced hard bop date, Wahoo! captures pianist Duke Pearson at his most adventurous and creative“.


Henderson is on fire, doubtless egged on by the magnificently strong line-up. It’s moody and modal., and every track counts.

Vinyl: BST 84191 Music Matters MM33 review copy

A familiar presentation, wide-screen stereo, information rich detal.


Collector’s Corner: What’s the alternative?

Original Blue Note (good luck with that!)


Fiendishly hard to find and expensive in its original release form, mono or stereo, this is one record that does actually justify the seller’s bait “Rare!” Popsike picks up the story, top 25 auctions still finds it above $200, up to $555.


I have an original copy but it is bordering on VG, from the wrong side. However, if you can ignore the crackle clicks and pops, which is challenging!…listen, you get a sense of what an original Blue Note issue sounds like. It was included with my April Fool post, but I’ll repeat it here.

Selection: Bedouin (original Van Gelder stereo master/Plastylite):

The British seller graded it as “VG/VG+”. whatever that means. You might as well grade a record as Fair/Ex, with Ex for the bits that don’t click and Fair for the bits that do. Nonsense.  However, in the Van Gelder edition,  Henderson’s harmonics will tear your heart out, I never got that experience before.  It’s sweet and beautifully engineered, bless you Rudy. Just a shame this copy was owned by a prize @ss who treated vinyl with disrespect. Perhaps life treated him with reciprocal disrespect.

Division of Liberty Records (late 1960’s)

Blogged back in 2012, a later Liberty reissue exists, the only copy I could find, not Van Gelder, possibly west coast pressing (label printing is later quality) there may be a Van Gelder edition too, possibly even a UA blue label, though not found. Why was the Division of Liberty release remastered?


Japan: Blue Not

At this point people will often look to the East, but the reason for Wahoo!’s scarcity becomes more apparent. “Wahoo!” was one of the few Blue Note titles not reissued in Japan by either King Records or EMI Toshiba.  There is no “artistic justification” for its omission from their re-issue schedule, Wahoo!  is one of the strongest titles in the 4000 series catalogue. There must be a more mundane mechanical reason: had something happened to the tape? Was there a licensing problem?

EMI  Pathe Marconi, France, DMM 1986

DMM’s can be very hit and miss, it varies from title to title, some are OK, very occasionally excellent, most are best avoided. The lineage to original Van Gelder tapes is broken, copy tape sent to France and re-mastered locally by French EMI engineers. No doubt there is a similar Capitol Manhattan DMM somewhere.


No problem, I’ll just buy the CD. Whoops?  I said I wanted to buy “Wahoo“, the record, not “Yahoo“, the company. (And no, it’s not doctored in Photoshop, that’s the actual asking price)


Over £200? For a CD? “It’s the blue cover, sir, it’s “insanely rare” you see”. Plus it is an early CD, may be there is something significant in the1995 issue date. Other sellers  are to be found selling CD copies for a bit less, though still large amounts for The Evil Silver Disk™.

The Heavenly Sweetness people in Paris have “re-issued” it on vinyl, however I believe these are merely CD stripped onto vinyl,  not something that gets any kudos around here. VINO – Vinyl In Name Only. Plus they didn’t respond to my e-mail regarding the source of the  Hutcherson Oblique title, which I consider poor manners for a country which prizes civility,  La Politesse.


Professor Jazz

The MM33 offers a genuine alternative modern pressing with genuine original tape/ mastering heritage, and without the cursed vinyl condition issues, at a considerably lower cost of ownership.

Generally I prefer the RVG original, a hairshirt choice,  and this is no exception. However as always the choice is yours, “availability” has a lot going for it, price can be a barrier to entry.  I think “Wahoo!” is an essential album in the Blue Note legacy. Whatever your budget and preferred medium,  every option is better than none.

Any thoughts on anything here, as always,  welcome.

28 thoughts on “Duke Pearson: “Wahoo!” (1964) Blue Note MM33

  1. Too Many Dukes !!!! No Duke Pearson never played with Miles.And had no affiliation with him whatsoever.Crocodile Chuck is right BKPhoto.I should know.Duke Pearson was my uncle.

  2. I only know the digital editions, and they have a drop out in the right Channel on the Track Wahoo at app. 4:49, just when the Sax Solo starts. Is this on your Vinyl as well or is it a mastering Problem? To me, it sounds like tape damage. Thanks!

    • I just listened to the CD and definitely hear the flaw you mentioned. I don’t seem to hear it on my van gelder stamped vinyl copy. Hope this helps 🙂

  3. I have the MM33 Wahoo! and it is a great album and a great quality pressing as always.

    I disagree with you that Heavenly Sweetness records are CDs pressed on vinyl though. I own 3 of their titles : Donald Byrd – Kofi, Hank Mobley – No Room for Squares and Horace Parlan – Happy Frame of Mind. They are very good sounding records and very silent pressings. Of course, the covers and sleeves are not on par with Music Matters but the records surely don’t sound like an average Scorpio crapy pressing. Heavenly Sweetness’ records are a lot less expensive than the Music Matters and the company explores a little bit of the Blue Note catalog that is not covered by the other reissue labels.

  4. I’m a big Pearson fan – his sessions as a sideman & arranger are also great (Donald Byrd, Johnny Coles, Grant Green, Blue Mitchell…)

    My copy of Wahoo is Div Of Liberty, Van Gelder Stereo stamp on run out groove. Sounds perfect.

  5. Great record. I’ve had a few Division of Liberty Records copies, visually NM, all with side one pressed off-centre. Assume the NY USA is ok… although a bit out of my price range. I’d like confirmation (other than spotty Discogs) that no Japanese pressing exists… because that’s surprising, if so.

    • The most authoritative site for King Records – microgroove.jp – has no entry for BN 4191 or BST 84191


      Likewise the Toshiba EMI history.

      I made a King/Toshiba database scraped off the on-screen html, and it pulls up nothing by catalogue number artist or title on either King or Toshiba. If someone has a copy shout, we could all be wrong, but I suspect not.

      Given the fanatical devotion to Blue Note of our friends from Tokyo, I find the omission of this title perplexing.

  6. I think my copy is almost certainly a DMM Toshiba — but hell’s bell’s, it’s the music that counts and this is a sneakily marvellous record, I think. Henderson is magisterial. I’m not familiar with Pearson’s wider output but this has to be amongst the most accomplished recordings he ever made surely?

    Needless to say, with MM33’s current prices and shipping costs being what they are I’ll stick with the modest eight or nine quid Toshiba — and prompted by this will play it soon and play it more.

  7. One of my favourite ever BN releases I have it on vinyl and CD. Duke is also one of my favourite pianists and i too have most of his LPs although I have avoided the Christmas record.

  8. Wow! Those prices have left me a little surprised. I always thought this was a fairly cheap title – possibly by buying it in the early 90s, for a price I can’t remember, so it can’t have been that high. Beautiful record, but why can’t anyone get the colour balance right for their reissue.

      • are you kidding…? he says it a bunch of times how Duke would try to follow Parker and screw everyone up…Miles and Roach yelling at him to stay with them…I guess I’ll find you the exact pages but he said it multiple times…

        • The pianist whose playing he complained about in his [ghost written] auto bio was McCoy Tyner.

          Who he also never played with.

          • The Miles autobiography had some great one-liners in it. The line where he described Paul Chambers as “fatter than a motherfucker” and his wife as “skinnier than a motherfucker” is probably my fave

  9. Another vital BN date, LJC-but I got a nosebleed just reading that price! [True Confession: my copy is 1 of those ‘on demand’ Amazon specials, with 16 bit 1980’s mastering]. For another great Pearson title, try ‘Introducing Duke Pearson’s Big Band’-probably my favourite of the oeuvre. Oh, and the Mosaic Select ‘three-fee’ has its charms as well-though some may be put off by the Flora Purim vocals on the Brazilian disc. ‘Fly, Little Bird Fly!’

    ps for another Pearson rara Avis, try ‘Dedication’ on Prestige [actually the recording debut of trombonist Willie Wilson, who died shortly after this, sadly]; re issued under Duke’s name.

  10. i like “duke pearson’s big band” okay, and it isn’t really that big of a band, but i need smaller group sessions in my collection, like this. doubt i’ll ever get the original, though. 😦

  11. i have the MM33, just wondering why D. Byrd’s Pic isn’t inside the gate…?

    anyway, another great record…

  12. The genius who could put together a band with such insight, perfect matching of players and arrangements. The entire Wahoo album is a joy to the ear, nobody else at the time could get a groove on so well! Thanks so much for all you do and most of alll…keep swinging!

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