Savoy Records: The Vinyl Collector’s Field Guide – Second Edition

Savoy-Guide-to-First-Pressings-2nd-Edition-LJC

 

Now in 2nd Edition! Many updates, corrections, additions.

Contents: Second Edition

PART I  – Beginner’s Slopes
Overview of the Savoy Records label

Moving Forces:
Lubinsky, Reig, Mendelsohn and Cadena.
The Savoy Artist Roster
Van Gelder Engineering and Mastering

 Collector Label Essentials

Blood red, maroon and oxblood
“For home use on phonograph”
“A Hi Fi Recording”
NR stamp and promo stamp

Savoy Cover Art
First Original and Second  Covers
The Alternative Covers

Venture into Stereo

Record selling case study

Collectability of the Savoy Label

Reissues of Savoy Recordings: 1950s – 1960s – 1970s -1980s

Overseas Reissues:  Decca London (late 50s) CBS Realm, Musidisc (’60s)

US: Clive Davis (Arista/ mid ’70’s)

US: Joe Fields (Muse/ mid ’80s)

FIELD GUIDE PART II  – for Record Collectors, Deep Dive
Savoy Label Colour Guide – the blood red, maroon and oxblood
Pressing Dies – the deep groove, and not.
Back Cover  –  Savoy Company Addresses
Matrix Code and X20
Cover Lamination

FIELD GUIDE PART III – First Pressing Visual Reference sets

First Issue All Labels MG-12000 to MG-12200

My thanks to Chris B, Peter deJ, Aaron W and all who sent in helpful pictures to supplement those scraped from Discogs uploaders and Ebay auctions. Thanks also to commenter Boursin, whose encyclopaedic knowledge of music recording history has set me right on many points . All remaining errors, omissions and mis-spellings are my own.

 © LondonJazzCollector 2017

 

PART I – An Overview of the Savoy Records label.

(For the full Savoy Discography see Ruppli and Porter ( CT Greenwood Press, 1980)  442 pages,  a complete listings of every LP and EP issued by Savoy and its subsidiaries, and also all records leased or purchased by Savoy)

Savoy Label Overview

Moving Forces: Lubinsky, Reig, Mendelsohn and Cadena.

The Savoy record label was founded  in Newark, New Jersey by Herman Lubinsky, a US-born son of Russian émigrés. Lubinsky was an early pioneer of community radio in Newark, who in 1942,  founded  Savoy Records to publish Jazz, Blues and Gospel music and he remained its sole proprietor.

The immediate post-war jazz direction of Savoy is credited to Teddy Reig, who  recorded Parker and Gillespie for the new label, and capturing the new small-combo jazz called “Bop” as it emerged from the New York club scene. (Full story of Savoy Bop Years 1945-9 from the excellent Marc Myers here)

Another character who loomed large in the life of the Savoy label was Fred Mendelsohn, an entrepreneur, manager, A&R person, and salesman in the recording business. Mendelsohn had been operating a small New Jersey-based label, Regent, which in 1948 Lubinsky acquired a part interest.  In 1953 he went to work for Lubinsky, initially for the label he had once owned, Regent, and in the end he became the President of Savoy. Mendelsohn was largely responsible for increasing Savoy’s portfolio of Gospel recordings, and  produced sessions  for Savoy in the late ’50s and ’60s. After Lubinsky’s death in 1974, Mendelsohn continued with Savoy, when Arista purchased the company from Lubinsky’s estate. More on label entrepreneur Mendelsohn here.

Ozzie Cadena initially worked at the Radio Record Shop owned by Herman Lubinsky in downtown Newark.  He joined  Savoy in 1954 as an in-house producer and A&R man, working closely with drummer  Kenny Clarke to round up various groups of musicians for recording dates in the golden years up to 1959, eventually heading off to Prestige to replace Esmond Edwards.

Savoy starting out in the 10″ shellac 78rpm era – “Unbreakable Under Normal Use” –  depending on what anyone considers “nomal” to mean.

Lubinsky fattened up his catalogue buying up defunct record labels and leasing recordings, as well as recording his own.

 

In the golden decade between 1955 and 1966 around 200 new  jazz titles were issued on 12″ LP , less than half the output of Blue Note – three quarters issued in just the five years up to1960, hence the prevalence of deep groove amongst  early original pressings, when deep groove was the norm.

As new Savoy jazz recordings slowed to a trickle,  Savoy concentrated instead on its Gospel catalogue, and  turned to reissuing its earlier jazz catalogue. More reissues appeared in the mid-’70s through Arista Records , and again in the mid ’80s when Joe Fields of Muse bought the catalogue from Arista.  As a result, Savoy recordings are to be found in many later pressings spread over many decades, the more recent of which are often very poor: a collector minefield.

The Savoy Artist Roster

In 1955 Savoy kicked off its 12″ 12000 series with all the legends of bebop –   Parker, Gillespie, Hawkins, Lester Young,  Fats Navarro.

In addition to the most famous jazz artists of the late ’50s, Savoy published some of the most obscure. Who can forget Herbie Brock, Vinson Hill, not to mention the great “Slam” Stewart?

They made room for the new young blades, Coltrane, Art Pepper, Tubby Hayes, Yusef Lateef, Sahib Shihab  and even the futuristic sound of Sun Ra, beamed direct from Saturn.

Taking the battle to the enemy, Savoy bagged some recordings from the up and coming Blue Note and Prestige roster: Coltrane, Mobley, Dexter, Don Byrd and Lee Morgan. Art direction had some way to go, no Reid Miles, just a rag-bag of good and not so good. The Mobley covers look like they were sponsored by a brand of pain-killers, Dexter is posed sitting motionless on a horse, not exactly  the verb “riding”, but the Morgan is certainly exciting (and a very expensive record today!).

In the early ’60s Savoy still managed to produce a few strong albums of hard-driving instrumentalists like Booker Ervin, Bill Baron, Curtis Fuller, and a string of Yusef Lateef titles.

And in a surprising last wind in the late ’60s, at a time when the jazz audience was fast turning to jazz rock and soul jazz, Savoy bravely chanced their arm instead on the avant garde and free jazz genre. Marzette Watts Ensemble, Robert F. Pozar Ensemble…New Advanced Jazz….courageous!

 

Eclectic choice, something for everyone. It looks like Lubinsky’s business philosophy was to  wager a small sum on every horse in the race and thus ensure picking a winner. Not recommended, I once tried this and was broke within a half-hour.

Savoy: Van Gelder Mastering

When he wasn’t recording sessions for Blue Note and Prestige, Rudy Van Gelder recorded artists for Savoy and other labels, a good number at Hackensack.  Many Savoy LPs have Van Gelder as recording engineer and mastering engineer, and the RVG etched or stamped appears in the run-out. Some earlier ’40s recordings were re-mastered by Van Gelder, some recordings were first issued on 10″ and then reissued on 12″.

As regards the role of Rudy van Gelder, Pepper Adams in an interview in 1984 recalled a day recording at Hackensack, a snippet that I could not resist adding here:

The “jazz audiophile” should be wary of recordings made prior to the early ’50s, before the arrival of the new generation of tube condenser microphones such as the AKG C12 and Neumann U47. Whatever the merits of the music, very early jazz recordings sound boxed-in and compressed in comparison to the spine-tingling musicians-in-the-room presence achieved by Van Gelder’s close-miking at Hackensack.

LABEL ESSENTIALS

Label Colour

The “blood red” label runs from 1956 until around 1961 and is the “original” first label on all titles up to around MG-12155. Beyond this, between 1961 and 1974, the maroon label was used for what few new titles were issued and reissues of earlier titles.  The oxblood label came into use in the mid ’70s.

There are a few anomalies where records were released out of catalogue number sequence, and notably some Curtis Fuller titles that were not released for over a decade after recording (MG-12144 , MG-12164)

Colour fidelity varied between printers,, and the blood red can be a mid tone red or a darker red, but in both cases the vinyl should be deep groove. Some maroon labels are of a distinctly purplish hue.

Savoy Test Pressing

The only thing better sounding than a promo is a test pressing, of which maybe a dozen will have been made of each record in order to gain approval and sign-off by the artists. Very often, though not always, these test pressings are one side only, with a blank other side.

No indication of who pressed for Savoy – someone, anyone, everyone? A “Bestway” stamp has been seen on a later pressing. but information is in short supply. Abbey Mfg have been suggested, though I have not seen any AB etch or stamp on any thus far.

Savoy Promo copies

The best pressings are often (though not always) promos, first off the stampers, and usually carry the provenance of first original pressing. Many original pressings on Savoy have found their way to collectors in Japan, who revere the label as much as Blue Note. Savvy collectors there have amassed a huge proportion of Savoy promos, even distinguishing the different words and stamps used for promos.

“For home use on phonograph”

Somewhere along the line, a statement appeared at the bottom of the label rim  of some Savoy labels (right below) – “NOT LICENSED FOR RADIO BROADCAST – FOR HOME USE ON PHONOGRAPH” – rubric found on Savoy’s 10″ 78’s.

Example: MG-12006 label without “Home Use” warning and with.

The “Home use” warning originated from the litigious climate in which copyright laws were being tested in various US courtrooms during the ’30s.  The label statement asserted that the owner of the record was entitled to use the record only for home listening, and not radio broadcast or other public performance, text that was commonplace on 78s. Despite this warning, radio stations played what they pleased. The heart of the dispute was the demand by record labels and recording artists that radio stations should pay royalties each time their recording was broadcast. The countersuit argued that when someone bought a record, they “owned it” and were free to do whatever they wished with it, including play it over the radio.

All the majors were entangled in copyright related lawsuits and appeals in order to overturn unfavourable previous court decisions. Band-leaders busied themselves suing radio station owners, the fear being that “mechanical reproduction” would take away musician’s livelihood. Great time to be a lawyer. Smaller labels sent “promo” copies to radio station disc jockeys specifically for airplay to promote sales, and by the end of the ’40s the disc jockey “went from sued to wooed“. The book keepers were left with a different problem: keeping track of promotional copies, on which no sales tax was due, or royalties to be paid,  as they were not “sold”. Great time to be an accountant.

The legal argument that won the day, in late 1940, was that playing a recording does not itself constitute “copying” that work, merely playing a copy of the original performance that had already been manufactured by the record company. Great time to be a radio station disc jockey. With the growth in sales  of the phonograms for  home-listening, the tantilizing prospect for artists became not a few cents from radio play but the potential rewards of a new phenomenon – a hit record.

None of which explains why Savoy revived “home use only” warning, a legal argument which had long since been lost. Another “unknown”, which in any event does not help in dating a pressing. I guess knowing it’s no help is at least something we know.

“A Hi Fi Recording”

The earliest labels printed include the text “A Hi Fi Recording” below the spindle hole and above the artist name. The reference to being “A Hi Fi Recording” eventually fell out of use but appears on the first issue of at least 100 titles.  However there is always some uncertainty with Savoy.

NR stamp

The NR stamp, which is found on perhaps 10% of copies, probably  means “Non Returnable” –  a remaindered copy of an LP  deeply discounted to clear stocks – so called “cut outs”.  A surprisingly high proportion of Savoy records coming to auction are NR stamped label, not something seen with premium jazz labels like Blue Note or Prestige.

Savoy Cover Art

The great Burt Goldblatt designed many of the earliest Savoy 10″ line-drawing covers, and there are some later covers by the inimitable Harvey, but apart from that, pot luck, no house style, a hotch-potch of designs either uncredited, or credited to relatively unknown names including   D. Picini Jr.,  Richard Corson,  Castronovo, Harvey Ragsdale  (Surf Ride,) Stephen Haas, Levy A. Agency,   Lee J. Morton, and Irwin Goldstein. No, me neither.

The earliest Savoy 12″ titles have monochrome artist-performing photographic  covers. They are out-numbered many times over by later coloured-added and alternative covers, usually but not always associated with maroon (’60s) and oxblood (’70s)  labels and later back cover zip-code (after 1962) or  P.O. Box address. However, never discount the possibility of a newer record packed in an older cover.

First Original and Second  Covers

Original first covers were manufactured by a different method of construction compared to those manufactured subsequently, though the cover art itself, more often than not, remained the same. (We saw something similar in the way Blue Note covers evolved from the first 1956 “frame cover” construction.) Illustrated, two editions of MG-12133 Fats Navarro, left original, right, later reissue:

12133-OG-borderless-cover-vs-border-later-cover-Chris-B-vs-later-cover-with-border

When viewed from the front, first Savoy covers appear “borderless”.  The cover art paper was folded over the three closed edges of the jacket, overlapping the back, and the rear liner notes were pasted down on top of the overlap,   Later, somewhere around 1962-3 / MG 12175/ (maroon label new issues and earlier title reissues), the reverse construction method was introduced. The liner notes were overlapped around the front closed edges of the jacket , and the cover art was pasted down on to the overlap on the front , leaving a white  border showing on the top, bottom and left edges of the front cover.

Left, back of first cover with liner notes pasted on to overlapping front cover art. Right, later cover with  front cover art pasted on to overlapping liner notes. And LP below MG-12175 with a cover with a white border around three sides of the front is of later manufacture. (Thanks to Chris B. for pictures)

The manufacture of covers for Savoy is of little account in establishing provenance, however there is the occasional clue, with a helpful copyright date:

(Hat-tip Aaron)

Cover art touches all the bases, from the bland, crass, stylish and dramatic . Isn’t that Norvo cover great? Indeed I’ll take these three on the strength of their covers,  each have a sense of “movement”.

Whilst rivals  Blue Note and Prestige took their cover art seriously, Lubinsky was not above catching the eye of the bachelor demographic with a large serving of cheesecake. For the sound-engineer demographic, even slipped in a bonus Telefunken tube-mic .

Wholesome girls you could take home to meet mother, except perhaps the fireside flirt in the nightie (Mother! Is that you?!) You could probably take her home to meet Dad. Surrealist artist HARVEY also has these covers in the Savoy  catalogue, also beautiful.


The Alternative Covers

Colour was added later to many earlier monochrome covers, or an entirely different design or picture:

Illustrated below, mid-1950s through to 1970s Charlie Parker Memorial album and their respective colour labels:

12009-Parker-Memorial-reissues-3.jpg

Some covers  went through a stretch of more creative repositioning, like MG 12017  Kenny Clarke’s Bohemia After Dark. Perhaps Café Bohemia wouldn’t pay for the Café Promotional cover, which reverted to the boys-in-the-band photo, and was eventually hijacked by a bizarre semi-nude cover with strategically placed “B” in Bohemia (where else?).

Bohemia-after-dark-3-covers.jpg

Savoy ventures into Stereo

Most early Savoy recordings were mono, but moved with the times to stereo as the rest of the industry. Examples are found of “ENHANCED STEREO” (fake stereo) like the reissue of The Immortal Charlie Parker.

Though Van Gelder recorded everything to two-track tape from 1958 on Savoy perhaps jumped the shark, put out a few stereo titles before the market was really ready for the new format, yielded disappointing sales, and lost heart. By the time stereo had become mainstream, in the early to mid ’60s, Savoy had changed musical direction. The whole Savoy stereo jazz catalogue amounted to just a dozen albums, five of which are missing below as no original stereo copy has ever appeared at auction.

SAVOY-STEREO-COVERS-2x4

SST-13000 Series – stereo versions of MG-12000 series material

13001 Salim, A. K.    Blues Suite
13002 Harden, Wilbur   Plays The King And I
13003 Donaldson, Bobby   Dixieland Jazz Party
13004 Harden, Wilbur   Jazz Way Out
13005 Harden, Wilbur   Tanganyika Strut
13006 Fuller, Curtis   Blues-ette
13007 Lateef, Yusef   Dreamer
13008 Lateef, Yusef   Fabric Of Jazz, The
13009 Wess, Frank   Opus De Blues
13010 Fuller, Curtis   Jazztet Feat. Benny Golson
13011 Fuller, Curtis   Imagination
13012 Pizzarelli, Bucky   Midnite Mood

A new label crafted from the blood red design graced the first stereo releases – pictured SST-13002 Wilbur Harden, deep groove (mono release MG-12134)


Always Read The Label

The stereo label was introduced with a first release in March 1959, but it was not to last long. Just a handful of copies of labels like 1 and 3 below are found, blood red and deep groove.  Most stereo Savoy copies are much later reissues, with maroon or more often oxblood labels without deep groove. Label 2 below is maroon DG, post-dates label 1 for the same title, yet carries a promo stamp. Savoy was still plugging away to make a success of stereo through promotion, looks mid-’60s. As stereo became commonplace and the defacto release format, the stereo label  itself became defunct, and later stereo reissues revert to the simple classic label without the word stereo on the label.

Just one readable copy of the Stereo sales pitch could be found from a seller who scanned his material:

Stereo original editions are extraordinarily rare, some titles may never have reached production, and are found only as reissues on the French BYG label and Sony Japan.

Summary
To establish early provenance (’50s), check cover art (monochrome?), check cover manufacture (no white border), check label colour (red not maroon or oxblood), check back cover address (58 Market Street, no zip-code or P.O.Box), check everything. Savoy was chaotic, but keep a cool head and you can master it. Apply your new skills to the seller below offering an “Original 1st US pressing, maroon deep groove label” Apparently.

Like most things in life, It’s easy – when you know how.

Collectability of the Savoy Label

Only a small handful of Savoy titles have ever crossed the $1,000 line, which includes  this exceptional item: Savoy US 928 (10″) Buzzy & Donna Lee by Charlie Parker, signed during the series of concerts in France in May 1949.

Of the rest, Curtis Fuller “Blues-ette” (MG 12141)  reaches the dizzy heights of $800, keeping company with some Parker 10″ titles and the outrageously desirable  Lee Morgan/Hank Mobley title “Introducing Lee Morgan”  (MG-12091). Pretty quickly auction prices fall below the $500 line with Art Pepper’s Surf Ride (MG12089), and Hank Mobley’s Two Message titles (MG-12064 & 12092). Sun Ra Futuristic Sounds(MG 12169) rounds out the short list of most collectable titles. Thereafter, it is all the fun of the fair, some titles are very rare without being of musical interest, others offer some great music at a bargain price. I have my eye out for that Sahib Shihab Jazz Party MG-12169.

So in summary, a mostly inexpensive treasure chest of American jazz recordings jazz but a nightmare for the jazz collector, poorly documented, leaving the rest of us mostly groping around in the dark. They say, fools rush in so LJC takes his cue and limbers up. Now we go deep dive into the murky world of “original vinyl” and what collectors need to know. But first, a look at the possibilities in overseas issuesand later reissues.

Reissues of Savoy Recordings: 1950s – 1960’s – 1970s  – 1980s.

Overseas Issues of Savoy Recordings

Europe and UK saw official licensed issues, in the ‘late ’50s on the Decca London American Crimson/ Silver label, LTZ-C (C = Savoy licenced code)

Between 1963 and 1970 around fifty of the two hundred Savoy Records jazz series were reissued in the UK on the CBS Realm label, with alternative covers, re-mastered from copy tape,  mostly pressed at the CBS acquired Oriole plants.

In France, the equivalent programme was issued on Savoy Musidisc SA 6000 series, not a label I know much about, though quite commonly found. Difficult to determine year of manufacture – I have a Musidisc which is 1950’s deep groove, unlike the one pictured below. Alternative covers front and back.

Canada I will include with “overseas” territories  as Canada today is more a state of mind,  especially as it appropriated the name of my home city, London Savoy. Below, London Savoy label, Canada, has the “for Home Use” footer, possibly deep groove, if a contemporaneous release to the US, then 1957

The Japanese reissue history looks quite complex, a King Records Series in the 1980s, and Sony Japan, out of scope, perhaps for another day.

 

Later US Reissues of the Savoy Catalogue

By the mid-’70s Savoy Records had run its course, with Lubinsky’s death in March 1974. Former CBS executive Clive Davis had created Arista Records with funding from Columbia,  and the following year in 1975 bought the Savoy Catalogue from Lubinsky’s estate. Arista reissued many Savoy recordings on a new Savoy Jazz Classics label, much like the Prestige OJC Original Jazz Classics brand. Music producer Bob Porter was brought in to produce many of these reissues.

The occasional Savoy Jazz Classics reissue series turns up re-mastered by the master,  VAN GELDER. The original metal perhaps lost in the mists of time, Rudy was brought in to re-master from his own tapes (or copies of his original tapes, who knows).

This Sahib Shihab reissue bears the text “SJ Records, 160 West 71 Street, New York NY 10023 ©1984” and “Mastered by Van Gelder” in the run-out.

Arista reissues have  proved a mixed bag on my turntable, Savoy re-issues should sound much better than they do, given access to original tapes, even the occasional one with a VAN GELDER stamp, perhaps things had moved on. Too many men in suits, not enough strange engineers  creeping about in all- black outfits and black gloves. Bless you Rudy.

In the mid-’80s, Muse Records proprietor Joe Fields bought the Savoy catalogue, maintaining the Savoy Jazz “bunch of instruments” logo, and reverting to the earlier classic Savoy label design. Fields brought considerable scholarship to the catalogue, with fresh academic liner notes and carefully curated selections, and worthy but dull covers like the reissue of MG-12183 Bill Barron The Hot Line, left original, right  SJL 1160.

I bought it and instantly regretted it. Audio quality of 80’s SJL issues is  a long way from what is desired, not in line with that achieved for Muse itself. I suspect there were issues with the transfer of 25-30 year old Savoy tapes, or engineering  not always what it should be despite a host of people credited:

 

1986 – more or less end of the line for vinyl. These mid-80s SJL reissues are among the worst sounding audio in my entire collection. Lifeless, tonally compressed, horrible, an ignoble end to a great label.

Waiting to be discovered is the untold story: what happened to Savoy’s Van Gelder masters after Lubinsky’s death?  Arista and Muse may have bought the Catalogue of recordings, the rights, but what they produced in the way of vinyl shows no sign of original metal used for reissues. Everything was re-mastered. Badly. Even when, for the odd title, Van Gelder was brought back, he had to re-master himself.  Someone didn’t know the importance of what they had,  perhaps they were discarded, as scrap metal?

The British are coming!

I have only a couple of Savoy originals. The two albums of the Savoy catalogue that would take pride of place on my wall – if I could find the –  Home Sweet Homeland, distant past. Eros, Piccadilly Circus, now daily occupied by a thousand youth on their school trip to London, staring intently at the screen of their mobile phones.

Amazing, Savoy released a Tubby Hayes and Dizzy Reece album I knew nothing of.  Every write up repeats the same story, that you underpaid musicians. What is more telling is that you gave a whole lot of musicians a break who might not otherwise have got one, a shot at joining the big league. Lubinsky, I salute you.

DEEP DIVE: Savoy Records Record Collectors Field Guide.

Savoy Records

The auction description “original” is probably miss-applied more often with Savoy than better-defined ones. As with all other jazz labels of the golden era, the identification of provenance requires insight into label colour,  run-out pressing die types, liner notes corporate address, cover lamination, matrix stamp, printed spines, any amount of detail. Provenance is sometimes obscured by the record company perhaps not wishing to identify reissues as such, and sellers taking advantage of the lack of information on date of manufacture, compounded by some very poor quality product photography that leaves buyers guessing.

Savoy Label Colour

Label colour description is essential, and language can be an unreliable friend. For many years the UK had pillar boxes for posting letters, and pillar-box red would be commonly understood, except in countries where post boxes are yellow. Using official naming conventions, defined by web screen colours or Pantone reference, there are these three basic colour Savoy labels: red (often referred to by collectors and sellers as “blood red”), maroon (sometimes wrongly described as red or blood red), and a brown which matches the Pantone reference descriptor oxblood red. Three issues of MG-12130 Dexter Rides Again, with their respective official colour swatch:

The red original ’50s is deep groove, the maroon is mainly ’60s, some deep groove early on but transitioned to the central disc impression. The oxblood which dates from the mid ’70s onward, is not deep groove.

For example MG-12127 “Mainstream 58”  – Harden/Coltrane –  is found on all three labels: the original 1958 and two subsequent reissues.

According to the year of first release, the prized “original” may not be on blood red label, or deep groove. The presence or absence of deep groove is probably the main arbiter between original and subsequent pressings.

Pressing dies and the deep groove (DG)

The impression left by the dies which held the stamper in the record press are the strongest clue to identifying the earliest Savoy pressings and distinguishing them from later reissues.  The outer deep groove ring is the signature of 12″ LPs manufactured in the later half of the ’50s and early ’60s (though as always some exceptions). The die was modelled on that of 10″ shellac discs, widely used in most pressing plants, and were gradually phased out in the first half of the ’60s, replaced by dies which left much less significant trace.

Pictured below:

1. Original  deep groove, may be wide or narrow cut – mid/late ’50s up to 1961

2. Small circular central ring 1962-74 ( sometimes may be like 3 below)

3.  Single-step outer pressing ring roughly aligned with the silver ring, possibly ’70s onwards?

Closer inspection of many auction photographs raised a suspicion that there was more than one type of deep groove die, not just the deep wide u-shaped “trench” (Type 1 below) , but a slim v-shaped cut , that according to the lighting appears more ambiguous (Type 2 below). Moreover the shade of blood red on Type 2 is visibly darker than the Type 1 label, which is more in keeping with the earliest pressings from 1956/7

My own copy of MG-12079 is definitely Type 2. On my original post of the Savoy Parker Story I had it down as non-DG. Time to get out the trusty macro and get in close (view at full screen to really get into the groove)

It is not the wide flat-bottom trench of Type 1, but neither is it the familiar single step-down of later die impressions. Catching the light and shadow reveals a different type of deep groove, which I name Type 2. Viewed in flat lighting (below), it is less obviously deep groove,  cutting in and out of different sections of the silver outer circle.

For comparison, here is a maroon non-DG in 45 degree side profile. The more modern pressing die has left a mere single step ring

 

The etchings contain a give-away date – 4/73 and no RVG in the deadwax, so the maroon label may have stretched from the mid ’60s to the early ’70s, before the oxblood red label was introduced.

According to Discogs this title is a 1955 recording on the Signal label (S-101) reissued by Savoy in 1959.  May be, but this maroon label looks a lot later than 1959 and the dead-wax etching “4-73”  suggests otherwise. Discogs is a useful collector/seller guide but not necessarily always accurate. Most Discogs entries for Savoy on maroon and oxblood labels are dated “Unknown”.

Back Cover Savoy Company Address

Unlike Blue Note and Prestige, for whom company address changes were clearly delineated, there seems little consistency in the display of Savoy’s company address, to which record collectors could write for the catalogue. Most helpful to have evidence from promos to link the cover to early release.

At the outset Savoy had a definitive early address, 58 Market Street, accompanying titles released in the halcyon years 1956-7, a hundred or so titles accompanied by blood-red labels with deep groove. Note very early on, the absence of incorporation in the company name – “Savoy Record Company” – no Inc., but added soon after.

58 Market Street, Newark, N.J. 

Dyslexic printer or renting extra space up the street, an 85 Market Street address appears (hat-tip Aaron):


Seemingly at randomly across the decade, some with blood red DG, some maroon, other times with oxblood labels, a generic Savoy company address with a variety of address forms:

SAVOY RECORD CO. INC., NEWARK, N.J.

also seen as earlier NEWARK 1, N.J.

and NEWARK, NEW JERSEY

Into the ’70s with oxblood label and no deep groove, we find a different address, 56 Ferry Street, with an a request to enclose a 25c coin for postage.  The address has an a five digit zip-code. Five-digit ZIP Codes were introduced by the US Postal Service on July 1, 1963.The 56 Ferry Street address is known to be in use by Savoy in the early ’70s

56 Ferry Street, Newark, N.J. 07106

Towards the end of 12000 series, around 12200, a P.O.Box address with five-digit zip-code appears for catalogue requests, also associated with ’70s oxblood labels and no DG:

P.O.Box 1000, Newark, N.J. 07101

 

The 58 Market Street address seems definitively associated with early issues of titles. The address changed over time, notably following the introduction of postal codes by USPS. A 5-digit postcode dates the cover as after 1963. New titles in the 12000 series continued to be released by Savoy up until at least 1969. The generic company address may be original or reissue, and the label itself is more helpful.

Case Study: MG 12046, MJQ The Quartet

Update: Did half the MJQ forget to pick up their suits from the dry cleaners?

Well spotted, chaps. Further research corrects the previous sequence below.

Monochrome 1st cover: two suits, blood red label and Type 1 deep groove, 58 Market Street address.

Coloured 2nd cover: four suits, darker red label still deep groove type 2, Newark 1, N.J. address.

Third cover: poor colour fidelity, oxblood label, no deep groove, P.O.Box 1000 address

MJQ-The-Quartet-3-issues-redone1

One cannot but help feel Savoy were half-hearted about collectors requests for catalogues, and aside from Market Street and Ferry Street, changes were driven by the evolution of US postal service zip-codes and a lax approach to naming conventions and consistency. Some times it’s New Jersey, others it’s N.J.,  sometimes it’s  in upper case, other times in proper case. Perhaps it didn’t matter much.

Matrix Code: X20

Matrix code: hand-etched or machine stamped X20 code, adjacent to the stamped matrix code  point of changeover undetermined, significance, unknown:

According to Japanese collectors with many Savoy titles, both the X20 and RVG transition at some stage from hand-etch to machine stamp. What X20 means is anyone’s guess, it is also found on the matrix of Savoy 10″ 78s, but it is a point of detail which matters little since they all have it.

Cover Lamination

There are both laminated and unlaminated covers which possibly have a chronology, but with too few samples, merely to speculate:

 

UNFINISHED BUSINESS: GUIDE TO SAVOY FIRST PRESSINGS

Example of how our friends in Japan catalogue the features of individual titles, in the manner of Cohen for Blue Note. As I own just one original Savoy, I am not about to go into this depth, but I salute those who do:

RVGe: handwritten RVG stamp
RVGs: Machine RVG Marking
X20e: Handwritten X20 mark
X20s: machine X20 stamp
lam: Coating available
non-lam: no coating

12017 Red-NLF, RVGe, DG, X20s, flat / 58Mar, lam, paste
12019 Red,RVGe,DG,X20s,GG/58Mar,lam 12019 Red, RVGe, DG, X 20 s, GG / 58 Mar, lam
12029 Red,RVGe,DG,X20s,flat/58Mar,lam 12029 Red, RVGe, DG, X 20 s, flat / 58 Mar, lam
12036 Red,RVGe,DG,X20s,GG/58Mar,lam(title-white) 12036 Red, RVGe, DG, X 20 s, GG / 58 Mar, lam (title-white)
12073 Red,RVGe,DG,X20s,GG/NJ,lam 12073 Red, RVGe, DG, X 20 s, GG / NJ, lam
12083 Red,RVGe,DG,X20s,GG/NJ,lam 12083 Red, RVGe, DG, X 20 s, GG / NJ, lam
12091 Red,RVGe,DG,X20s,GG/NewJer,lam 12091 Red, RVGe, DG, X 20 s, GG / NewJer, lam
12092 Red,RVGe,DG,X20s,GG/NJ,lam 12092 Red, RVGe, DG, X 20 s, GG / NJ, lam
12141 Red,RVGs,DG,GG/NewJer,non-lam,paste 12141 Red, RVGs, DG, GG / NewJer, non-lam, paste
12143 Red,RVGs,DG,X20e,GG/NJ,non-lam,paste 12143 Red, RVGs, DG, X 20 e, GG / NJ, non-lam, paste
12170 Maroon,PCe,non-DG,X20e,GG/NewJer,non-lam,paste 

More from Japanese jazz collector and Savoy Guru, BassClef

LJC FIELD GUIDE II – VISUAL REFERENCE TO THE  LABEL BY TITLE

SECOND EDITION (November 8, 2017) 

All new tables with many corrections and substitutions thanks to readers posting in photos. Also extended up to from 12175 (1963) to 12200 (1969), but ends there, as beyond 12200 are mostly a handful of reissues from the Regent Label impossible to find as Savoy copies, and little of musical interest.

Not all labels could be found, and some element of guesswork from those found as to which is the earliest, which is the main aim, however there is now continuity in the blood-red deep groove, and a transition to the maroon label.

Savoy-Template-12000-12025-2000pxSavoy-Template-12026-12050-2000pxSavoy-Template-12051-12075-2000pxSavoy Template 12076-12100 2000pxSavoy-Template-12101-12125-2000pxSavoy-Template-12126-12150-2000pxSavoy-Template-12151-12175-2000pxSavoy-Template-12176-12200-2000px

The Savoy Jazz series continues intermittently beyond here (1962-1973, catalogue numbers MG-12200 – 12230 or thereabouts ) but now a chaotic label, few new recordings, planned releases not issued, compilations unable to get all the rights sorted out, some titles with negligible sales. The maroon label and its successor the oxblood is all that can be found, and grooveless  reissues on blood red labels muddy the waters. Often sellers offer only a tiny cover picture with the vinyl poking out, little return on further  research effort, so this guide ends here. On the plus side, some of the cover art is great!.

 

There is very little original research on Savoy, mostly cut and paste text from Wiki and text-based Discography,  couple of Vinylbeat label pictures, nothing for collectors to get their teeth into. Probably a lot of corrections are needed, I’ve learned a lot in the process,  let’s get the Savoy Party started. Kick-ass, great music here, get your vinyl out.

If you have found something that doesn’t look right, say it, I’ll sort it.

 

Any thought on Savoy? The floor is yours.

LJC

 

 

Advertisements

38 thoughts on “Savoy Records: The Vinyl Collector’s Field Guide – Second Edition

  1. If you have found something that doesn’t look right, say it, I’ll sort it.

    My pleasure.

    in 1942, together with record producer Ozzie Cadenza, the enterprising Lubinsky founded Savoy Records

    Lubinsky was the sole founder and sole proprietor from 1942 until his death in 1974. In 1942, Ozzie Cadena (not “Cadenza”) was still a teenager and just about to enlist in the US Marine Corps, with which he was to serve in the South Pacific for several years. Of Savoy’s 30+ year history, Cadena was only employed as the jazz A&R man for less than six years, from the summer of 1954 to the spring of 1960, although he worked with Savoy as a private consultant for a year or two before that.

    Lubinsky fattened up his catalogue buying up defunct record labels, some illustrated below:

    Only some of these labels are ones that fit that description comfortably. Some are labels that recorded one or two isolated sessions that ended up with Savoy (e.g. Parrot or Regal), and one, Elektra, is of course still active even today and just happened to license five jazz LPs to Savoy once upon a time. Furthermore, the Regal and Century labels illustrated do not have any connection to Savoy. This Regal label is from 1930 (as opposed to the 1949-51 Regal label with which future Savoy producer Fred Mendelsohn was associated). And this Century was not a record company at all, but a custom pressing service that was active from 1958 to 1976.

    Somewhere along the line a not promo statement appeared at the bottom of the label rim (below) – “NOT LICENSED FOR RADIO BROADCAST – FOR HOME USE ON PHONOGRAPH”.

    The presence or absence of this statement doesn’t have anything to do with promo or non-promo status. It was a remnant of an attempt made in the late 1930s to get radio stations to pay royalties to record companies (and not just songwriters). This had come to a sticky end when the United States Supreme Court ruled in 1940, in a case brought by “King of Jazz” Paul Whiteman, that radio had the right to broadcast any records they wished, free of charge. Some record companies nevertheless obstinately continued to use this legally powerless statement on their labels, including Savoy, which wasn’t even founded until 1942. But I don’t know what we can conclude in terms of dating from its presence or absence.

    I include the NR stamp, which I think means “Not Returnable” or “Non Refundable”, most likely a copy sold at a record club discounted price.

    Indeed it means “Not Returnable”, but it doesn’t have anything to do with record clubs. It means the record is a cut-out, and is merely a more aesthetic way of indicating this than the drill holes and saw cuts used by other labels. At least you won’t see any of those on Savoy covers.

    The stereo label was introduced probably around 1959 /60, but it was not to last long.

    The first LP in the SST series, SST 13001, was reviewed as a new release in March 1959, so the stereo label probably debuted at that point: https://books.google.com/books?id=ux4EAAAAMBAJ&lpg=PA1&hl=fi&pg=PA27#v=onepage&q&f=false

    with Lubinsky’s death in March 1974, former CBS executive Clive Davis created Arista Records with funding from Columbia, and took on the Savoy Catalogue.

    This makes it sound as if Arista was created to take over the Savoy catalogue. It was only in November 1975, nearly two years after Lubinsky’s death, that his estate sold Savoy to Arista, which itself had only been founded in November 1974. Also, Clive Davis did not start Arista in partnership with Columbia Records, but with the film studio Columbia Pictures (which had been associated with several other record labels earlier: Colpix, Colgems and latterly Bell).

    LTZ-C (Savoy licence code)

    It’s not really that. The suffix indicates the countries to which UK Decca had the right to export copies of each release; some labels had more than one (e.g. both “-E” and “-K” for Atlantic, because UK Decca represented only part of the Atlantic catalogue in some countries and a local company the rest). In the late ’50s “-C” meant Savoy, but later in the 1960s it meant the Sue group of labels (Sue, Symbol and Eastern).

    Below, London Savoy label, Canada, oxblood label, possibly mid-70s,

    For “mid-70s” read “late ’50s”. Like the UK London LTZ-C series LPs, this London-Savoy label too was part of the package by which UK Decca and its local affiliates had the rights to the Savoy catalogue for much of the world in the five-year period between 1955 and 1959. Like London used London-Atlantic as a label identity in the UK, the Canadian arm of London had this London-Savoy (and London-Liberty, although with few jazz issues).

    Between 1963 and 1970 around fifty of the two hundred Savoy Records jazz series were reissued in the UK on the CBS Realm label

    Or more accurately, Oriole’s Realm label, which was taken over by CBS along with the rest of Oriole at the turn of the year 1964/1965. Most of the Savoy issues on Realm predate this.

    In the interval between the end of the Decca/London deal in 1959 and the start of the Realm issues in 1963, Savoy material was issued in the UK by both Pye and by the budget label Eros.

    The 58 Market Street address seems definitively associated with early issues of titles.

    Any Market Street covers must probably be earlier than the spring of 1961, because the Ferry Street address was already being used in magazine advertising by that point: https://books.google.com/books?id=_yAEAAAAMBAJ&lpg=PA1&hl=fi&pg=PA24#v=onepage&q&f=false

    • Thank you Boursin, a lot to digest, delighted to have my guesswork corrected. I am at the tail-end of correcting the label collection, thanks to all the guys that sent me in pictures of their copies, any more for any more please send. Second Edition of Guide is looking strong.

      Any more, keep it coming. I am not an expert, merely an aggregator of the knowledge of others. The combination however is powerful stuff.

  2. I re-read the Savoy entry in its entirety and noticed that work is in good progress. Bravo les gars!
    Inevitably, l’emmerdeur comes with some remarks:
    – Savoy overseas. France: a selected group of Savoy albums was issued in France by Ducrétet Thomson, with the same covers and catalogue numbers as the US counterparts, in the “Série Standard”. The labels are blood red, with marks indicating that the pressing is French. The sleeves are of the soft flip-over type. As in the case of Danish Metronome pressings, which kept the U.S. Prestige catalogue numbers, we will never know which ones made it to Ducrétet Thomson. The discographies of Jepsen, Ruppli and Bruyninckx just mention the US catalogue numbers with the result that, officially, these Ducrétet Thomson and Metronome issues have never existed!
    If I remember well, Ducrétet Thomson did not go beyond MG 12070. I have only copy left: Nat Adderley “That’s Nat”, MG – 12021. The lease operation must have come to an end around 1958.
    Savoy went into a new French adventure by leasing their masters to Musidisc. We are in the mid-sixties by then.
    Leased masters by Savoy from Europe:
    André Hodeir’s “Le Jazz Groupe de Paris”, Véga 30M752, was issued in the US under Savoy MG-12113. The cover (courtesy French Tourist Office?) shows the Seine river with three bridges in a row. The sleeve mentions “Mastered by Rudy van Gelder”.
    Britain’s Tempo recordings made it partly to the US on “Changing the Jazz…..at Buckingham Palace. Savoy MG-12111. Cover is Courtesy of British Travel Association. Supervision: Tony Hall, like a real Tempo album.
    Now that I am talking about the merits of the Britons, the best hommage Savoy paid to Britain is the phenomenal Ronnie Ball album “All about Ronnie”, Savoy MG-12075. An album every serious collector, not only from the British Isles, should possess.

  3. There are some really wonderful post-12176 jazz releases worth mentioning: Bill Barron, Bill Dixon/Archie Shepp, Paul Bley, Marzette Watts, Robert Pozar, Marc Levin, Doug Carn…

  4. One other criterium:
    Whether the laminated front is wrapped around, for first issues, or is a pasted on sheet, leaving a white rim in front. The labels going with these second issues (1960-1961) are blood coloured, but not DG, instead they have a circular imprint around the spindle hole of about 2 cms.
    The first Mobley album was initially with an all black front, the second issue has the white rim because the sleeve was produced in another way, ditto for the labels, no deep grooves.

    • Argh! More work! Thank you. Record collectors never sleep: there is always one more thing waiting to be discovered.

      I’ll see what I can track down myself, but I don’t suppose you have originals still, for purpose of photo? Anyone?


  5. If anyone knows who pressed Atlantic records in ’59/’60 it would appear to be the same company that pressed the white-label Savoy test pressing.

  6. Take a close look at the cover of Dexter Rides Again, sure looks like a white dude to me and not Dexter. Doesn’t have his height either. Thoughts? I’ll take a look at my Savoy shelf and see if I have anything to contribute to the discussion.

    • I figure it’s not Dexter on the horse. A little too pale, if you get my drift. Looks like they may have used a stock photo, and…added a saxophone apparently slung over his shoulder. If they could paint suits onto half MJQ, this is a piece of cake, and perhaps Savoy’s budget didn’t run to flying Dexter on location to sit on a horse. Creative license: what seemed a good idea over a very boozy lunch?

  7. Thank you for tackling the Savoy Label! I’ve had numerous “is it or isn’t it” moments trying to figure out year, edition, and all that jazz. This was informative. And kinda funny.

  8. What a wonderful overview of the legendary Savoy label. Herman Lubinsky, Teddy Reig, Ozzie Cadena, Burt Goldblatt, et.al. had their work cut out for them. I always believed the NR stood for New Release. What year did Savoy take over the DeeGee catalogue?

  9. It looks like the earliest copies of the first ten or so Long Play Savoys refer to Extended Play records as “XP” on the back of the jacket vs. the standard “EP” designation.

  10. I think that Abbey Record Mfg Co. might have pressed some of the Savoy titles. Years ago at a WBGO record fair a record dealer was selling a large collection of lps with no covers. He had bought them from the son of an Abbey Record employee who had taken home all these records in generic paper sleeves. There were Blue Note, Prestige, Savoy, New Jazz, Verve, and other New York area labels. He had a lot of lps with blank Abbey test labels that could only be identified by the catalog number in the dead wax. One of the blank test labels was red wax but it had a NJ in the trail-off so I knew it was a New Jazz title (was really hoping it was Eric Dolphy). It ended up being Benny Golson NJ8235 “Gone with Golson” which never had an official colored wax release. I suspect the employee took some liberties with pressing up copies for himself which makes me wonder what other anomalies could be out there.

  11. Nice job well done on Savoy which made me look into my own collection and then remembered that on the Savoy Reisssues Serie they put wonderfull watercolors of the artists on the cover; being a jazzpainter myself, I did enjoy it

  12. Just checked my original pressing of MG-12000 (Charlie Parker Memorial Vol. 1) and it has an “85 Market Street” address on the back and is a non-laminated cover. The accompanying original of MG-12009 (Charlie Parker Memorial Vol. 2) has the regular “58 Market Street” address and a laminated cover. I’ll shoot you over pictures of the first address later today.

  13. I’ll return to this when the time is right and I need to know more about a label I know absolutely nothing about… Meanwhile, congratulations on yet another labour of love. If there is a prize for Hard Working Jazz Blogger of the Blogosphere (or whatever), you deserve it.

  14. You’re a brave man. Bushwhacking through the Savoy jungle. As I come across this label in the used bins, they tend to be in very poor condition. Maybe that attests to the quality of the music – the records have been played to death. The single Savoy in my collection (The Hawk Returns, MG-12013) is a mix of the old and new, with an early cover (lamination, black and white photo of Hawkins, no writing on edge, 58 Market Street address), but a blood red reissue label (no DG, no RVG, no X20). So obviously, Savoy would toss together whatever covers and labels they had on hand.

  15. No other label than Savoy issued so many leased or purchased sessions. The list is impressive:

    Bop Label
    Century Label
    Dee Gee Label
    Discovery Label
    Elektra Label
    Guild Label
    Hi-Lo Label
    Jewell Label
    Majestic Label
    Musicraft Label
    National Label
    Parrot Label
    Progressive Label
    Regal Label
    Signal Label
    Varsity Label

  16. I have a Stereo copy of “The Fabulous Songs of Jimmy Scott” Matrix 12301. Did Savoy number stereo copies “123xx” or use another format ? Label is same color and style as what is pictured for 12150. It does not have a deep groove.

    • My understanding (same as LJC’s) is that it stands for “Not Returnable”, meaning the record was sold at a discount and cannot be returned to the distributor for credit.

      • I agree, must be something like that, no return, no retail.
        The NR copies I have were typically bought from sellers like “Jazz by Mail” in St Louis, who offered each month selected items at discount prices. I mention the Regent, Savoy and Dawn labels. Dawn did not have the NR stamp, all of the Savoys and Regents did.

  17. Also notable are the dozen or so free jazz albums Savoy issued in the mid to late ’60s, all look like lots of fun, and not widely available. Coming from a numismatic background, they are ‘sleepers,’ quite rare but not astronomically priced yet. The one that comes to mind as stellar is the quartet with Bill Dixon and Archie Shepp. Dixon also produced several for Savoy in the late ’60s.

    • Yeah, some of the later period Savoy’s are quite interesting. I particularly like the four Bill Baron LP’s (not really free but slightly more ‘modern’), The Futuristic Sounds of Sun Ra, Shepp-Dixon Quartet and Valdo Williams Trio.
      Some of the later ones are quite rare, such as the Paul Jeffrey Quintet or The Marzette Watts Ensemble, Never seen that one!

  18. A very interesting subject. I admire the courage of LJC to attack the Savoy Records catalogue.
    One initial remark: all first originals with sleeves showing pictures of the artists, are black/white laminated. Like the Mehegan you show. Consequently, the black/white version of “the Quartet” is the first. The coloured versions came later.

    • I bought the color version of “The Quartet” even though I owned a B&W copy because I loved the way the suits were added onto Kenny Clarke and Percy Heath. They actually hand drawn, trust me, this was a lot harder before photoshop.

        • Savoy also used the B&W photo of Hank Mobley from Jazz Message 2 on a later gospel release, wish I could remember what gospel group it was. Now whenever I look at my lp I see Mobley in prayer.

  19. Worth mentioning are the Savoy reissues of titles from the Signal label. Savoy 12148 titled “Fiery” by Red Rodney on non D.G. maroon labels is a straight mono re-issue of Red Rodney 1957 with Tommy Flanagan. A very rewarding copy and better than the later terrible stereo re-issues.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s