Freddie Hubbard: Open Sesame (1960) Liberty!!

Time to give The Jazz Arrangers a break, get back to business with a red-blooded Blue Note vinyl collecting story, one for the vinyl-enthusiast who likes a bargain, and unlike Mr Golson and his pop-jazz disaster, has a happy ending. Just not for everyone.

Contains mildly offensive language, passing reference to The Great Mono-Stereo Debate, and a few LJC sage-worthy philosophical gems for you to collect on the way. Now read on…

Fresh Selection: But Beautiful (Burke/Van Heusen,1947)

. . .

My pick this time is the lovely ballad But Beautiful, in which Tina tears his heart out. A favorite of pop and jazz vocalists for generations, But Beautiful continues to be tapped by contemporary singers, including Lady Gaga who apparently sings, though another noteworthy jazz version was recorded by Bill Evans with Stan Getz (1964), which is sure is among the most  beautiful.

Artists

Freddie Hubbard (trumpet) Tina Brooks (tenor saxophone) McCoy Tyner (piano) Sam Jones (bass) Clifford Jarvis (drums) recorded Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, June 19, 1960

Previously posted, in 2014: Division of United Artists mono (no RVG)  vs Music Matters 2×45 stereo (no RVG):

And again here in 2015, I just can’t stop writing about this record, try stop me.

Music:

Hubbard’s debut  as leader for Blue Note features Tina Brooks in arguably his finest setting, those Tex-Mex infused tunes so beautifully voiced by Freddie with Tina harmonies.  I consider this album among the finest in the Blue Note pantheon, along side Kenny Drew’s Undercurrent, Pete La Roca’s Basra, Herbie Hancock’s Maiden Voyage, and… well, Wayne Shorter’s… and…oh there’s lots of them, let’s stop there for now.

Though Hubbard is in absolutely top form, as is McCoy Tyner,  it is T. Brooks that makes this album essential. To quote no bigger authority than… myself (in a previous post)….

“Brook’s solo on the self-titled track…is a delight. Like an erratically misfiring rocket, he races helter-skelter through the register, painting himself metaphorically into a corner, then escaping through an unexpected backflip into another figure; a second’s hesitation, then he’s off in a different direction, chasing up a scale and with a twist passing himself on the way back down, but backwards, reaching for a bluesy climax in a strangulated squeal. After a generous length of time to work out his ideas, Tina finds his way back to the convoluted principle melodic line which he wrote, handing over to Tyner. I’m left exhausted, having ridden pillion passenger clinging on to the notes all the way”.

What more can I say? Lots, probably. Tina was lost too fast, many lesser players got to their pensionable years. Life is unfair, unfair comes fitted as standard, that is no reason to accept it, though attempts to make life more fair often result in the opposite.

Vinyl: BLP 4040

RVG stamp, original old stock 47 West 63rd labels,  no “ear” present, 152gm vinyl weight, clean as a whistle. Vintage editions of this recording are all mono, Van Gelder know-how, thick punchy mono as intended.

Collector’s Corner: one strictly for vinyl collectors.

Among my top five most-loved Blue Notes, and that is LJC hallowed status, not least for the heart-rending Tina Brooks contribution. I spent many years searching for an affordable  “original” best copy of Open Sesame. Eventually I gave up, settling for the popular Division of United Artists reissue, and of course I had well-intentioned Music Matters editions. What I wanted I really wanted was the original Plastylite mono edition.  Most auction copies are original 63rd labels so initially I thought this recording didn’t have a NY label second release, but they can be found, though rare. Here is an example of  a hybrid – 63rd and NY mixed labels. In passing, note the top right corner of the liner notes – we’ll come back to that later.

It seems RVG didn’t cut a stereo master of Open Sesame, which perhaps accounts for the scarcity of the NY 2nd mono issue, as by then, many listeners had moved on to stereo, and the NY second release flopped. As a result, Open Sesame remained scarce and  stubbornly elusive. Most auctioned copies are the  original release on  63rd labels, and always mono.

Here’s the original collector’s problem:

Only half way through its Popsike auction history and we are still at nearly $500. Some of those described “NY USA” are actually 63rd in the detail. More important, good to see TINA BROOKS get equal billing in some of the headline descriptions. Some sellers get it.

I  forgot about the record and turned off my Ebay alert. Then recently a friend tipped me off  regarding a “query United Artists copy?” of Open Sesame  that had just appeared in a forthcoming UK auction, with RVG stamp but no ear.

Open Sesame auction2Capture

RVG, Holy F*+k!  a Liberty mono, RVG stamp,  pressed with original Van Gelder metal!Further detail confirmed it came with original 63rd legacy labels (though not deep groove as described), and  laminated cover in immaculate condition, sharp corners! Nurse, smelling salts, I feel a fit of the vapours coming on

Cut scene, deep space (♪woo-woo wo-woo♫): USS LondonJazzCollector, captain’s bridge, stardate June 2017. LJC: “Scotty, warp factor 9, deploy our  new contactless Paypal-linked dilithium crystals, unlimited power for only 29.99 credits a month, full speed ahead.  Mr Sulu, set Gixen to Stun, no, make that Kill. We must annihilate all competition, harsh but necessary, I must have this record…

Apologies to any LJC readers who may have been bidders on this auction.  While we are all brothers-in-jazz, bonded together in our love of this music, make no mistake, in an auction we are deadly adversaries. I am a collector and in an auction either I win and you lose, or  you win and  I lose. I’m not sentimental, I am not an auction voyeur, geewizz, look how much that sold for, I am not an investor or trader. To misquote Michael Corleone in The Godfather, “It’s not business, it’s strictly personal.”

RVG stamp, pressed from Rudy’s original master;  hand-over stock Blue Note original cover and labels; legacy hand-over “27 years” inner sleeve.  Text-book early Liberty, pressed by Plastylite-rival All Disc, almost certainly  in 1966 – six important years less wear and tear than the original release.

Initially I thought the cover was an original 1960, however, closer inspection of auction  results suggests this issue by Liberty  – of which I could find no other auction copies, has a cover originating from a batch for the NY label 2nd issue. It uses a different construction method: a short margin of the front cover art  is  folded over the spine edge and onto the back, an upper edge chamfered cut corner, then pasted down onto the liner notes. But, beautiful just the same.

As I anticipated,  apart from me, there were three serious bidders among the fifteen at auction close. I guess they too understood its’ value, not the work of United Artists as the seller intimated, but as close to the real thing as possible but without the trophy-collector premium.

This is where a modern urban phenomenon, “Blogger’s Remorse“, kicks in. How many others have I helped navigate the fine art of Blue Note collecting? Bugger, should have kept my damn mouth shut.

Like a racing tipster following horses form, I have been following and participating in jazz auctions over many years. You build up a feeling for the lie of the land, a sort of mental map of current market values of different titles, though there are sometimes surprises, mostly unpleasant. From time to time people ask my advice what to bid in a forthcoming auction.  I always give the same advice. I can judge what I think a record is worth, at best, based on provenance, scarcity, condition and auction history, what an auction price might be with a realistic chance of a successful bid, on a normal day. What I can’t tell anyone is what it is worth to them. It is a question every collector contemplating a bid should ask themselves, how far are they prepared to go above its market worth, to secure a successful bid.  Winning for less is an occasional bonus, missing out is the big risk of realistic bidding, but bidding XXL can be dangerous if two bidders have the same idea.

Auction close came on a Monday night. By then I had a glass of a nice white northern Rhone in hand, and watched the minutes clicking down on-screen.  In the final minutes, the screen suddenly flickered and the price jumped from £10 to £50 on a premature snipe. Any thought this one might pass cheaply vanished in an instant, and the big hitters  had  yet to show their hand. I looked away in the closing seconds, I couldn’t bear it.  Instead I watched my mailbox for signs of life.

Seconds later, there it was, you’ve got mail. Oh sweet joy, “Congratulations, now time to pay”.

To answer my own question, considerably more than the final price. And that wasn’t cheap. You have to remember, this is supposed to be fun, right? No, I didn’t think it was “fun” either:  painstaking research, ruthless calculation balancing  risk and reward, culminating in a short adrenaline rush like I imagine someone gets holding up a bank. Welcome to collecting records, through auction. Tough, But Beautiful.

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26 thoughts on “Freddie Hubbard: Open Sesame (1960) Liberty!!

  1. Having read more then one (or 2) reviews of Open Sesame on this site I now have no control. OPEN SESAME… I must enter where the magic is weaved. But of course it’s not free and I’m on a budget. Any advice regarding the Japanese edition released as # 129 under the banner of “Blue Note 4000 Series Ultra Collection.” A mouthful itself. I wonder about my own delicate ears… to the specific question.

    Does anyone know if digital elements were encoded with the transfer? It’s from 1992 I think.
    London after midnight, and LJC may be asleep. A good “sound” sleep I hope. Perhaps he or some kind soul can offer insight when time allows.

    Thanks.

    • It seems I’ve found my answer – from where else – here. “Blue Note in Japan” Update March, 2016. Must have read it before, but can’t remember everything. Digital crept in by the mid-Ninties. Ok I’d have thought earlier, but the Japanese must have held out longer then most. Modernity vs. honor? A yen for more yen?
      Put the most modern thing to the buyer and better or not, the money will come. Now to go spend some on Open Sesame.

      • Digital artefacts appear strongly in Toshiba vinyl after 1992. Up until then I have found their output a bit hit and miss, but mostly OK. By the mid ’90s cd was so well established that digital processing became part of the regular workflow. I expect similar things happened as with the Connoisseur albums – digital delay lines effectively turned analogue recordings into digital copies from which the master was cut. I don’t think anyone thought about it at the time, because everyone believed digital was “the future”.

    • I figure it’s always good to hear “both sides of a story”, and since I’ve historically been a stronger advocate of Japanese reissues than LJC I thought I’d chime in.

      I find King and Toshiba pressings to generally be of the highest quality Blue Note issues available including originals. King always seems to be quality (the vinyl, not the covers), and ’80s Toshiba has been highly consistent as well (some of the most gorgeous BN jackets in existence IMO). I did run into one dud in the ’90s Toshiba reissue series once but I’ve heard many more good ones and wouldn’t curse the entire series based on that. I’ve also come across a very early LNJ Toshiba (early ’70s) and for what it’s worth I wasn’t impressed.

      LJC, if you believe you can “hear” digital sourcing, I am jealous of what would seem to be your super-human abilities. But aside from the hypothetical of someone being able to hear that a record is digitally sourced, I don’t believe there is any hard evidence out there indicating when the Japanese may have switched over to digital mastering, if they ever did. As a rule of thumb I do go for the earlier ’80s Toshibas over the later ones but I do have some from the ’90s and they are outstanding in my humble opinion.

      The Japanese knew how to cut a record, there’s no mistaking that…some of the quietest vinyl I have ever heard.

      • Hello Rich,
        I believe I can often tell when vinyl records have come from a digital source.
        The digital degree, as well as the mastering, transfer, pressing and so on can obviously alter sound, minor or extreme. With my so so system and so so hearing (far from super-human), it might not be evident, but other times it’s overwhelmingly clear. With early CDs the sound was notoriously bad, but as stated by LJC and myself above, it was sold to us as better – yes, the future. Destruction of our culture may not come from terrorism or trumped up madness, but from taking too many things that work well enough and ruining them by trying improvements. Listening back in the digital dawn I may have heard some instrument or register more clearly, but it was as if the music was on the other side of a sheet of ice. It left me cold, and there was no UMPHH! That’s how I still detect a tell tale trace of that stuff in the grooves. It’s not so much the sound as the overall feel of it. Perhaps I’ve misunderstood this debate and am just stating the obvious. In any case I hope this take makes some sense.

        Always enjoy the Blue Note dialog. Thanks.

        • Hi Brent, yes, I believe I’m getting your message loud and clear. Certainly there is no unanimous consensus that vinyl unequivocally sounds “better” than a CD or digital file. I think both vinyl and digital have advantages and disadvantages. On paper digital does appear to provide improvements over analog mediums. That definitely doesn’t mean that everyone will prefer digital (clearly they don’t), but at the very least I think this explains why digital was originally sold as a superior product. I was too young to remember but I’ve heard stores about people’s minds being blown the first time they heard a CD because of the lack of surface noise or tape hiss. For them, digital was clearly a step forward.

          Don’t get me wrong, I often prefer vinyl to digital, I just find that it’s not for the same reasons as many or most vinyl enthusiasts. If someone made a digital recording of a recording with a hi-res digital audio workstation, then played back the actual record and the digital recording of the record through the same sound system and I didn’t know which was which beforehand, I think I’d be hard pressed to tell the difference. This type of scientific experimentation would of course be very different from someone having prior knowledge of which one they are listening to, and because most of the common real-world experiences that shape our tastes and preferences involve this type of prior knowledge, the validity of those conclusions immediately becomes suspect from a scientific standpoint. So for me I think it’s more about my knowledge of the fact that a big, 60 year-old disc is spinning and a stylus is extracting sound from the disc’s grooves than what I’m actually hearing. In other words, for me I think my preference ultimately boils down to a purely psychological one based on factors other than what I’m actually hearing.

          If you had the opportunity to listen to the original master tape or a vinyl copy of the master tape, perhaps you would prefer the way the vinyl making process has “colored” the sound of the master tape, you might also prefer the vinyl for the aesthetic choices made during the mastering. My experience is that quality digital technology will more “accurately” capture and reproduce the experience of hearing that tape first-hand, which is certainly something quite different than “the vinyl experience” as we know it.

          • All opinions are good here, not wishing to interrupt the discussion, but I’ll chime in anyway . First principles, as I have said many times, no-one knows what anyone else hears. Further, no-one knows someone else’s preferences, or has the same listening history experience. The best I have heard is not the same as the best you have heard. No-one’s opinion is “right”, certainly not mine.

            I am not convinced anyone can make a comparison between “digital” and “vinyl” in the abstract. We are all listening through playback systems of differing fidelity and sensitivity, at different amounts of expense. I know these differences can make huge difference to what you are able to hear, evidenced by continual upgrade of equipment, power and cabling infrastructure: they all make a huge difference, to my ear. My 1960s manufacture Telefunken valves… oh my…

            My experience of vinyl playback is that it is infinitely improvable. The transparency and presence delivered by my Dynavector TKR cart/ SME V tonearm/Avid Acutus Reference makes a laughing stock of the wooden presentation of the same recording ripped from CD and played back from my Linn Akurate digital streamer (common power amplifier and speakers). I have heard only one CD Player that challenges vinyl (I visit some high-end audio shows) the top end Audio Note (UK) player, sounded astonishing, astonishing price to match. The real contest is the best you can hear in vinyl replay versus the best you can hear in digital replay. How you do that?

            Though people point to the “original tapes” as source, (should say I’ve never heard any) I guess there are the same equipment playback issues, and I have heard they are simply “raw material” for mastering and not the optimum playback experience.

            Listening is a wholistic experience, and emotional response is King. I get it with the vinyl I listen to on my gear. I’ve probably said enough. Carry on.

          • Your insights are appreciated and well taken Rich. Recording and mastering is a type of science of course, often an experiment really. Still is now on CD or LP.
            It grew out of wanting to catch and keep magic that was in the air – then gone. Eric Dolphy said some thing like that in a more concise and beautiful way on his Last Date. I’ll go listen to it, and the music of course. A little sizzle, it’s on vinyl.

            • Well, several points to consider. A high resolution digital recording of the same source material, using identical EQ choices should be virtually indistinguishable from an analogue recording. But many report that it isn’t. At 24/192 or DSD it takes a system that is better than mine to determine the difference, but so many report a difference exists that I have concluded that these are not random opinions. At redbook resolution however, the difference is real, and audible even on a modest system. Humans can identify sonic content above 20khz. This was proven by the US Army in the early 50’s, CalTech researchers in the 90’s and Sweedish researchers about 10yrs ago. Subjects in the research tests all reported something was missing when hearing samples without ultrasonic content compared to the same samples with ultrasonic content. Researchers understood that even though we don’t hear ultrasonic content in the traditional sense, it is registered on a subconscious level. The content still excites our mechanical auditory mechanism, sending a response to our brain, which is interpreted as “something” but not immediately identified as “sound”. Another issue is distortion. Picture a still pool of water. Drop a rock into the middle of the pool. Concentric ripples will extend from the point of impact out in all directions, until coming into contact with the wall of the pool. Upon impact the ripples will be sent back to the point of origination, coming into contact with other ripples still extending outward. Some of the new ripples and some of the reflected ripples will be enhanced, some suppressed. On a simplistic level, the brick wall digital filter causes reflected distortion farther down in the audible spectrum. This is one cause of so called digital distortion. Some can hear it, some do not, and some do not care. A 3rd issue is differences in EQ. I compared spectrum samples of Donald Byrd Fuego taken from a white “b” VanGelder pressing, and a 1994 Toshiba pressing. 2 things were immediately obvious 1) The b copy was analogue, with frequency spectrum extending cleanly and smoothly to 30khz+, while the Toshiba spectrum dropped like a stone at 20khz. 2) EQ was noticeably different, with boosted upper midrange and low treble on the Toshiba compared to the b copy. The eq differences largely matched my listening impressions (noted before spectrum analysis). Also, both spectrums were of the same selection of music, using the same equipment chain. IMHO there are many reasons why digital may sound different, and analogue may sound better overall. Again, these are my opinions, based upon my experience. Yours may differ.

              Here is a link to the spectrum comparison, posted by my on Audio Asylum. The difference is very clear to see:

              https://www.audioasylum.com/cgi/t.mpl?f=vinyl&m=1149502

              Happy 4th to US readers !

              Happy Ungrateful Colonists Day to UK readers !

              • Thank you for making such good use of the language we ungrateful colonists gave you (English™). Makes perfect sense
                .
                The super-tweeters on my 5 way Linn 242 speakers handle up to 33kHz – and information above 20kHz is notably present in vintage vinyl and notably absent in digital presentation, and vinyl that has been monkeyed-about-with, though whether that is the whole story I don’t know.

                A friend added free-standing Townshend supertweeters to his lower-range speakers and they made a big difference in high-end and mid-band information. When we tried them on my kit, they made no difference, because that range was already there.

                Incidentally I see your free trial period of English™ expired in 1776. To continue to use English™ you need to subscribe to the Full English Pro-Edition. We accept Paypal.

                • Good Sir,

                  We are most happy to accommodate your request for additional payment. We will be deeply grateful to continue use of Full English Pro-Edition ™.

                  Please understand however, that our funds are encumbered by the legal system of my country, and by the attorneys administrating my brother’s estate.

                  I have arranged for my cousin, the crown Prince of Nigeria, to send payment on my behalf. Please send all of your banking information to him at:

                  your_lucky_day@nigerian-wealth.com

                  • Before you finalise your upgrade, please be aware we have a number of budget English™ products which may suit your country and budget, including the very limited vocabulary Like™ Edition – “It’s, like, English”, popular with your younger West Coast users. Then there’s Strine™ “Down-Under Edition”. Finally we have widely-spoken Ingrish™.

                    Bank of Nigeria transfer welcome, your chosen Language will be delivered within six months of cleared payment, honest.

                    This joke is now closed. Any offence taken, please call our English-speaking Helpline (£50 per minute plus call charges)
                    LJC

              • At the end of the day, the only thing that will convince someone like myself that there is “a difference” to be heard generally speaking and thus objectively is a proper study with double-blind testing practices. This would be a test where a record was digitally recorded, then the double-blind test was conducted between the record really playing and the digital recording of the record playing without the listener knowing which is which. There will always be outliers, meaning people who do get above the 50/50 threshold guessing, but if the results show that the listeners only guess right about half the time, there’s no evidence that humans can consistently detect the difference, generally speaking. My understanding is that all the claims out there in the world today that people can hear the difference are always accompanied by prior knowledge of which is playing, the actual record or the digital recording.

                Also, regarding the difference between hi-res digital and redbook, a proper study indicates that humans cannot consistently detect an difference in a controlled environment:

                http://drewdaniels.com/audible.pdf

                I want to be clear that I’m not calling anyone a liar. 🙂 Maybe some of the LJC readers would be outliers, who knows. But the older we are, the less likely we are to detect a lot of key differences in analogous versus digital playback.

                • I have noticed the subject gets some people hot and bothered. Have your say, it’s OK with me, I am in the fortunate position of not needing to persuade or convince anyone of anything.

                  Question. Does everyone “hear the same”? An interesting experiment would be to pit “inexperienced listeners” against those of us who have many decades of experience in comparative listening. Or record collectors vs studio engineers. Are there different categories of listeners?

                  A lot of academic experiments use simple “college students” because they are readily available. Do they have discriminatory power? I don’t know. I do a lot of comparative listening with friends, and we talk a lot about the difference we hear. It’s like wine-tasting (eyes roll, I know) , you have to develop your palate through experience, and develop a vocabulary to articulate your experience.

                  Double blind trials assume “listeners” are a homogenous category. I don’t know for sure, but I think the bigger your accumulated range of reference points, the more likely you are to “notice” differences in things. People who can’t discriminate differences, fail to discriminate differences. The test fail, but for the wrong reasons.

                  Anyway, carry on, and keep calm. Fresh post to escape the dreaded WordPress drainpipe.

  2. What was the ebay listing # ? I could not find the listing in the complete sales records for either Ebay US or Ebay UK. Thank you.

  3. First I should say what a fantastic and fun site this is, it really is the best. I’ve only been reading for about six months, but boy have I learned a lot.
    But I know enough to know that I love Freddie Hubbard, so looked up your winning bid with interest, and lo and behold was surprised to see that it was you who beat me into second place ! …and I wasn’t even sure I had a bid on this auction; but now that fateful Monday night comes back to me, and I too had a glass in wine in hand, but was otherwise engaged, so missed the crushing loss in real time.
    Well all I can say is congratulations, I couldn’t have lost to a better man. Rob

  4. Liberty RVG mono is where it’s at. The condition of those grooves will probably beat out 4 out of 5 VG+ or better originals head to head. The difference between ’60 and ’66 regarding the state of the playback equipment and the amount of wear records accrued as a result certainly seems significant. That record sounds stellar.

  5. Condrieu, I presume. A noble companion in good, and bad, fortune. Celebration or consolation, the end result always being the same: an empty bottle.

      • Lovely story and glad it came with a fun wine in hand! If you like Rhone, try the Condrieu and Cote Rotie from Benetiere. Really top notch and (somewhat) affordable. Hope all is well!

        • Guigal, of course, is a “valeur sûre”. I don’t know Bénétière. Just tried the Condrieu from Vernay (Gisèle, Daniel et Roland) in Le Plany. Not affordable at all, if one is succesful at EBay at the same time.

  6. Good score on the Open Sesame. I’m still living with my Toshiba.

    My Cool Struttin is the same vintage, mono, old stock original labels, no mention of Liberty anywhere, non laminated cover and a kind of serated lip edge. Van Gelder stamp no ear. Very hot press. Probably my last copy.

    Bought back when “no ear” meant it cost $30 in NYC.

  7. Delighted you got this great copy of a record that you really enjoy. Your comments on auctions and collecting are clearly heartfelt and entirely understandable but don’t doubt for one moment that what you are doing here in sharing information is of far more importance to an entire virtual community of people than would be the case if you were not open about your sources. Who would want to be a Smaug-like figure sitting on a huge collection of perfect pressings- much better to be appreciated (perhaps even revered) as someone who has sought to share their passion. Hope you get many more LPs on your wants list and keep on telling us about your journey.

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