Art Blakey: And The Jazz Messengers (1958) Blue Note

New Series:  Blue Note Masterpieces, overlooked.

Checking to see what my copy of Blakey Jazz Messengers BN 4003 had in the run-out, I  plunged into LondonJazzCollector under “Blakey”, only to come up short: I had never  posted on this title. Time to make good, overlooked masterpieces from the LC shelf. And I’ve thrown in a Collector’s Corner mystery, to add a little spice.

Selection: Moanin’ (Timmons)

Artists:

Lee Morgan (trumpet) Benny Golson (tenor sax) Bobby Timmons (piano) Jymie Merritt (bass) Art Blakey (drums) recorded Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, NJ, October 30, 1958

Cultural Context 1958:

Just two months before the recording of Moanin’, on September 2nd,1958, Great Britain performed a nuclear test at its far-flung  territory in the Pacific Ocean, Christmas Island. One month later, on October  1st, Britain ceded the Christmas Island territory  to Australia.

The UK graded the condition of the  island as “VG plus”. The Aussies graded it below “Poor”, claiming the island had been incinerated to a cinder in the test, threatening to open a “not as described” claim. Britain agreed to take the island back, but postage at Australia’s expense, it’s a big island. Australia retaliated with very negative feedback. Thus started a longstanding enmity between our two nations which later spilled over onto the cricket pitch, named for now obvious reasons, The Test Match. (Warning: some of these event have been made up, though not all.)

Music:

At the end of October 1958, Rudy Van Gelder was still recording in mom ‘n’ pop’s home studio, Hackensack, New Jersey, delivering astonishing acoustics, musicians in the living room, literally. The Jazz Messengers class of ’58: Benny Golson on tenor, Lee Morgan trumpet, the changing piano seat on this occasion accommodates Bobby Timmons.

 

The modern jazz songbook used to consist mainly of ’30s and ’40s standards and show-tunes, but here, strong new compositions begin to dominate, with Timmons catchy “Moanin’ “,  and Golson’s four memorable new tunes, including the classic Along Came Betty. Not limited to played swinging high energy tenor, Golson wrote many tunes which went on to be regarded as jazz standards, including “Killer Joe,” “Stablemates,” “Whisper Not,” “Blues March,” “Five Spot After Dark,” “Are You Real?” and “I Remember Clifford.”. His writing is powerful stuff, tunes that linger in your head long after the record is put to bed.

Everyone here is hot. Timmons offers soulful, churchy-bluesy vamps, Jymie helping out in the bass-ment, Morgan straight ahead and swinging,  “blows with unflagging zest tempered with superb control” (Dr Herb Wong) and especially Benny Golson, whose tenor solos masterfully build tension: initially walking pace in measured but carefully placed steps, rising relentlessly towards the next level, where he unleashes the raucous climax – dazzling fast figures, squawks and cries, shaking with nervous energy, a player possessed. Blakey the ringmaster just beams, pushing the ensemble along.

In 1958 Van Gelder was  still thinking in mono, since most home record players were equipped only for mono, which was also the format of radio airplay. Big room-filling mono, sound perfectly balanced in all elements.  I mistakenly once wrote that Rudy began recording in stereo in July 1957. On reflection, he began recording to  two-track tape: the stereophonic soundstage was a long way from his mind.  I never felt the need to seek out this record in stereo. Anyone want to put in a kind word for the stereo, here’s your chance.

Vinyl: mixed NY/47W63 labels, ear, RVG stamp, no deep groove.

When I first started collecting I used to think peering at matrix codes was the stuff of trainspotters, but, in time, the penny dropped.  So many secrets are to be found in the deadwax, it’s an excitement of discovery wholly absent from digital media.

I also started out thinking I coveted the original first pressing. Until I found through experience that it didn’t make much difference, as the use of Van Gelder original metalwork was found in many second and third pressings, which sounded just as good but without the price premium. I also discovered a lot of what was described as “original” wasn’t. So I taught myself to be a master of unoriginal pressings.

This is most likely a third pressing, mixed labels 1962-6 New York label Side 2 with legacy 47W63 with ®+INC . A label from inventory old stock suggesting early in the period,  perhaps 1962. No deep groove either side. No inner sleeve present to narrow it down further.

Initially I had this listed as without the 9M, but on closer examination, 9M is just visible at 2 o’clock position on Side 1, a very shallow pin etch, very easy to miss. No sign of 9M on Side 2, which is of itself interesting: mastering involved one acetate of 9M supplier origin, the other side of which must have come from a different batch without the mysterious Blue Note client code.

Side 1 matrix is A-1, indicating Rudy didn’t like his first acetate cut, and chose to recut it. Could the recut of Side 1 be linked to the presence of 9M only on that one side, pulling a spare acetate from an older batch, somewhere in the back of a cupboard in Hackensack (next to the cookie jar)?

 

Etchings close up:

Collector’s Corner: calling Inspector Vinyl.

What prompted me to fish 4003 off my shelf was an enquiry from an Italian reader, Dino, about some strange things he had noticed on his copy of BLP 4003.

His copy had all the hallmarks of an early pressing – RVG stamp, 47W63rd labels (with ©+INC), deep groove both sides, even a 9M,  and a hefty 190 gram vinyl weight.

There is no question it is pressed from Van Gelder metal, but crucially, the expected Plastylite  “P” is missing. Instead, on one side,  a stamp resembling the letter “K”, (right) almost certainly a pressing plant identifier. Do you know this stamp? You must tell.

All the usual indications of later Liberty reissue are absent: deep groove dies had disappeared by the time Liberty came on the scene,  and vinyl weight had slimmed down to around 140 – 150 grams. No indications of overseas manufacture. – no royalty collection agency or import duty stamps. This is not a Liberty pressing, or an overseas pressing. It is something else. But what?

Dino 4003 labels

No Plastylite “ear”

Let’s rule out one obvious possibility – that Plastylite “forgot” to apply the ear in the factory. The only time I have seen the ear missing was on one side where the run-out was so small there was a risk of applying the ear to the grooves. And that leaves no explanation for the stylised “K” stamp.

A more likely explanation is that some time in 1961, when I think this record was pressed (labels ©+INC), there was a capacity issue. Either Blue Note urgently needed more copies, sales were good,  or possibly some Plastylite plant presses were out of action. Exceptionally, Blue Note provided metal, labels and jackets to another pressing plant to press an extra batch.

We know something similar happened with BLP 1595, Something Else, where a copy surfaced (in Russia, of all places) which had all the right hallmarks but also lacked the ear. In that case, circumstantial evidence pointed to manufacture by Plastylite rival plant, Abbey Manufacturing (identical pressing die ring Side 2 to those found on Prestige pressings around that time) .

It may not be a coincidence that BN 1599 and BN 4003 are adjacent catalogue numbers, though the date of each pressing is unknown, so it is not possible to link more closely, but certainly tempting.

I was also tempted to hand this investigation over to the FBI, as there is a potential Russian connection, though admittedly somewhat remote.  However we need answers  that are trustworthy and provided quickly, so probably not the right people to ask.

Four Learning Points

1. You never stop learning.

2. You can’t be certain of anything.

3. Some of what you think you know is wrong.

4. I’ve forgotten the fourth point.

If you have a better theory, lets hear it, preferably with some evidence to back it up. On the other hand, wild speculation and conspiracy theories seem to be all the rage right now , so don’t feel you have to limit yourself to the facts. Most important, does the “K” stamp ring any bells for anyone? That is the biggest loose end, but there may be other things you can shed light on (bearing in mind lessons 2 and 3 above)

My thanks to Dino for sharing his “earless” mystery LP.
LJC

Postscript October 17, 2017 : 4003 cover colour variations

Tireless record collecting sleuth Shaft has spotted variation in the colours of this cover. A quick look through a few hundred or so covers in auctions confirms that in the course of many additional pressing runs, and printing of additional jackets,  a spectrum of colour drift is found, from pale orange type and yellow cast (left two columns below) through to bright red type (right two columns below) .

Auction photos were as is usual, taken under a variety of light sources of different colour temperature, and with varying degrees of over and under exposure, all of which affect colour fidelity.

4003-cover-colour-variations

The odd inner sleeve captured with the auction photo confirms this record went through multiple pressings from 1960 right through to 1966 (“27 Years of” Inner). Numerically, I’d guess 75% found are broadly of the orange tint, and maybe 25% of the red tint. In between there some with very strongly saturated orange type.

The bottom left picture is from a Bob Djukic auction ( cover positioning clips top left and below) and his photography is generally spot on.  But so is mine, so the variation are from colour printing differences, not photography differences.

Like I said. You never stop learning.

LJC

 

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28 thoughts on “Art Blakey: And The Jazz Messengers (1958) Blue Note

  1. The one Blue Note that I have a remarkable condition mono original of. I received the stereo SACD in a time add several years ago and have never opened it LOL.

    The jacket for my vinyl looks like the seventh photo above for color (3rd from left on second row). Deep groove label. What appears to be a handwritten P before the catalog numbers – no stamped “ear”. There is a RVG stamp 180 degrees opposite the catalog number.

    Although my copy looks spotless it plays no more cleanly than yours, and I am at least the second owner having found it in an estate sale 3 years ago. A year after its purchase I showed it to Michael Fremer of Stereophile. He had never seen a nicer copy in person.

    I’m not sure there is a title in the Blue Note catalog I enjoy as much as this album.

  2. Just got a copy in the mail today which adds another puzzle. The record is a later pressing but has all the hallmarks of an earlier “later” pressing: deep groove on both sides, RVG, faint 9M on side 1, Side 1 matrix is A-1 and hefty 180/190 gram vinyl. 47W63 INC address & ®. But this copy has neither the Plastylite “P” nor a “K”. Seems like Blue Note used another, third pressing plant when demand was high.
    As always, thanks for the great website and making our heads spin with details!
    Best
    Herwig

    • My 4003 mono copy has the side 1 label on both sides. Both sides have ears and INC and R and 47 West. The 9M is on side 1 only. Matrix is A-1 / B
      Only Side 2 (with the side 1 label) has a deep grove.

  3. I have to say that whenever I take out my Jazz LP’s, I come to this site to see any updates, and between the music playing in the background and the brilliant (and humerous) write up’s/reviews from LJC, it brings some light and joy into the soul.

    Cheers LJC. Long may you reign.

  4. have y’all ever seen a copy that has a “p” on one side and not the other. Seems crazy since Plastylite didn’t print one side of the side and no the other but i have a copy of “Heavy Soul” where I can only find the ear on one side?

  5. Lots to think about (as always). I share the opinion that a great condition later copy often sounds better than a poor condition original pressing. Notice I said often. This becomes less likely as you get farther from original issue. IE a NY pressing of a Lex title would be a difficult comparison. OTOH a NY ear pressing of a 47/63 pressing should be nearly identical. Given equal condition, my experience is the earlier pressing tends to sound better. In the case of your pressing, consider that it was likely sold sometime in the early 60’s but was pressed using original stampers- or at least using one original stamper. Evidence is the presence of a faint “9M” on one side. Is it likely that the same stamper survived from ’58/’59 to be used into the early 60’s ? Highly possible. How likely would it be for a pressing made near the end of the useful life of that stamper to sound identical to a pressing made when the stamper was new ? I think we know the answer to that question. How much deterioration ? Unknown until a comparison can be done.

    LJC you initially mention the existence of non “P” early pressings while also noting these atypical pressings were found outside of the US (Italy and Russia). Is it possible BN or Plastylite subcontracted pressing duties to other pressing plants for copies destined for overseas sale ? Could the mystery plant be located overseas ? It would certainly be cheaper to ship stampers overseas instead of boxes of pressed LPs…..

    As it happens I have 2 copies of this title….both are 47/63 DG inc/r “p” pressings. Matrix info is identical for both. “A-1” for side 1 with “9M” and just “B” without “9M” on side 2. “9M” is easily seen with the naked eye. Both copies appear to be early 2nd pressings assuming a 1st would be without “inc” or “r” ?

    • Apologies, slow to comeback, post went under the radar. It is interesting to contrast the different attitude between Prestige and Blue Note as regards export and licensing income potential. Weinstock was a businessman, shipping metal to Britain (Esquire) Holland (Artone) France (Barclay) Italy (Music Depositato) and Sweden (Metronome) for licensed European production.

      Blue Note? Nothing we know of. Lion, Wolf and Van Gelder appeared entirely New York-centric and pre-occupied with creating their next titles, knocking out copies through Plastylite (with just these two anomalies found todate) We in UK saw only physical imports of Blue Note pressings, with little Mecolico import stamps, sold in specialist shops like the famous Dobells, who would import the records, I guess from dealers in the US. Swimming against the Atlantic tide.

      1595 was released March 1958, 1st pressing is 47W63 no INC or ®

  6. Since we are now discussing the different shades of the front cover, I add another variable: the letter type on the rear, bottom, for Blue Note and the company adress. The original should be in serafin letter type, whereas most issues are in round letter type, as per the one you show in this presentation.

  7. I happen to own the exact same pressing of Somethin’ Else, no ear, 47 West side 1 / NY USA side 2 and the deep groove-like indent on side 2. I’d say a capacity issue at Plastylite is indeed the likeliest explanation though of course we have no way of knowing for sure. Remember that both Somethin’ Else and 4003 / “Moanin'” were some of Blue Note’s best sellers at the time (there’s much more copies and different pressings of these floating around than most other titles). It makes sense that they wouldn’t want to wait for Plastylite to free up to press more copies to meet demand.

  8. Also the color for the text “and the Messengers” on the cover is off. Should be more orange than the presented red here. Different print also?

    • Colour balance is fickle in photography, it depends on management of “white-balance” (no supremacy intended). The colours here were adjusted on my screen to look like the copy I physically held in my hand, which they do. That assumes my monitor is calibrated same as your monitor, which is not very likely. Reds go adrift very easily, as do yellow, with influence of tungsten home lighting. This is a constant problem. I reckon they are all the same.

      • I understand and thought the same at first – but I googled a bunch of 4003 and I’m pretty sure there is a significant difference ;-.) Try it yourself.

          • Cool – thanks! Happy to be right – at least sometimes 😉 I’m not sure what it means the different variations but you are right that it must be different printings. I was just thinking if one printing would correspond with the “mystery pressing” and perhaps also be printed elsewhere?

            • With a contract pressing, I assume the plant would be supplied by Blue Note with a stock of labels and covers, and probably the inner sleeves, printed by their usual supplier. All the contractor had to do is run the presses and bag the finished product. Just guessing, of course.

      • Hold up 16 iPhones side by side and they will all have the same screen color.

        I have started using the iPhone as a color reference for our websites content at work owing to this hardware and software consistency.

        Samsung android phones look bluer by comparison and have some variation in color. Laptop (Windows) computers simply can’t be trusted.

  9. I agree, Benny Golson’s playing and songwriting contributions make this a kind of one-off Messengers album. His arrangements also elevate any record that’s he’s on.
    I have to disagree however, with the statement about Blue Note second, third etc. pressings. While it’s true that the most noticeable loss of sound quality happens ( in most cases) with ear/ no ear, but (especially with 1500s), the earlier the pressing, the tighter and punchier the instruments sound. This is not a knee-jerk response and I (and my bank account) really wish it didn’t matter, but it does. As always, one may have to choose between a mint later vs a compromised first pressing, and it is also fair to consider the disproportionate incremental cost vs benefit, but the statement “there’s no difference” isn’t true to my ears.

    • It is not often I found myself owning a copy of each of first second and third pressing, let alone of every title, so I can’t dispute what you say based on comparative listening, life is too short, it requires physical comparison.

      The few occasions I have earlier and later pressings using the same metal, then I stand by my general observation, not restricted to Blue Note, also Prestige. Every title has a different history, it is my limited experience, your mileage may vary.

      The confusing factor is that I happen by chance to have two copies of the same first issue – 4045 Freddie Redd Shades of Redd original 1960 mono. One copy sounds significantly better than the other. Why would that be so?

      That led me to conclude that each issue must have a variation in quality within it. One may be the start of the pressing run one the other end, I have no way of knowing exactly why, but that cuts across generation comparison. Last First compared with First Second?

      Also I there are playback equipment variation which hi-fi upgraders will be well familiar with. Things don’t have quality independent of what they are played on, and that can change over time.

      Appreciate your contribution. All opinions welcome.

      • I was talking with a mastering engineer of some years and he confirmed your suspicion. Each run of records has a point where it switches on and a point where it then goes off, creating variations in quality from within an individual pressing.
        There are some reasons why an early pressing would be better than a much later pressing from the same metalwork, but I am talking much later. A first and second pressing – say an original Something Else or Moanin and a slightly later – not so much. Far more likely to be a difference caused by the variation within a pressing run.

  10. Thanks Andrew! Excellent post! I hope Agatha Christie can find some conceivable explanation of this mystery!
    Keep in touch,
    Dino

  11. If we had not done the nuclear test and sold it to China instead, they would have said it arrived with tiny playing faults and a warp, possibly happening in the post, and could they have a third of their money back, because the return postage, as you said, would be prohibitive.
    That Morgan solo though, so much better command of his instrument than Miles in that era I claim.
    On your mystery point, people always extrapolate facts from other evidence. A good example of this is Bob Marley playing Bingley Hall in 1980. If you google Bingley Hall, it comes up as Stafford, and so it is recorded in tourographies, and I have attended concerts there. A glorified cattle market (literally, cattle was sold there during the daytimes on other days). Thing is though, Birmingham had a bingley hall that was knocked down to build Symphony Hall. And that was the venue for that very late in life Marley gig, because I stood there amongst the rastas. It just doesn’t fact check via the internet that way, so the proposed change is not made.

  12. I have three cousins with names that begin with K, so clearly you are a lizard person. Am I doing it right?

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