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Duke Pearson Octet: Jerry Dodgion (flute, alto flute) Bobby Hutcherson (vibes ) Duke Pearson (piano, arranger) Sam Brown (acoustic guitar ) Al Gafa (electric guitar) Bob Cranshaw (bass) Mickey Roker (drums) Carlos “Patato” Valdes (congas, guiro) recorded Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, June 24 and September 11, 1968
Artist of Note: Jerry Dodgion. Currently aged 85 and still with us, saxophonist and flautist Jerry Dodgion appeared on all six Duke Pearson Blue Note albums between 1966-70. Having briefly led or co-led a couple of sessions in 1955, he went on to an almost fifty year career simply as a sideman, until his first own album in 2004. A busy player, his longest steady stint was as a member of Thad Jones Mel Lewis Orchestra from 1965-79, but played with just about every major jazz figure in that time.
As a self-confessed fluteophobic in the past, I note Jerry plays both the C flute and alto flute. Alto flute? I though flute was just flute, but no.The tube of the alto flute is considerably thicker and longer than a regular C flute which gives it a greater dynamic presence in the bottom octave and a half of its range. I like the sound of that. Perhaps like the difference between clarinet and bass clarinet, a bad mofo.
Everyone familiar with the Film Shaft (1971) has heard Dodgion’s alto on the film theme music. Written by Isaac Hayes,The Man From Shaft topped the Hot Hundred Chart and was the first 100 entry to contain a curse word (“Damn!”). How times change, now it’s mofo in every other line. The Shaft film score was a godsend for jazz musicians needing work – alongside Dodgion in the line up, Pepper Adams, Richard Davis, Sonny Fortune, Ray Brown, Hubert Laws, Garnett Brown and Thad Jones.
Instrument of Note: the guiro. An open-ended, hollow gourd with parallel notches cut in one side, played by rubbing a stick along the notches to produce a ratchet sound. Claimed to originate in Puerto Rica, moving to Cuba, finding its place in most Latin percussion sets. Played here by “Patato” Valdes, who in a previous post I wrongly spelled as “Potato ” only to be corrected within minutes. The internet is like that, it abhor’s mistakes, the wold’s biggest fact-checker.
Cuba-born Carlos “Patato” Valdes had more than one string to his bow. According to his 2007 Guardian obituary (age 81), in 1956, Valdés was hired to teach Brigitte Bardot to dance mambo for Roger Vadim’s film And God Created Woman, the film that put St Tropez on the map. “I rehearsed her in Paris,” he told salsa writer Mary Kent. “In the movie, she wore a leotard, but I rehearsed her in the nude in Vadim’s studio.” Like, you in the nude, or her in the nude?
He continued: “In the scene, she takes a bath and I am playing in the background.”
So I fact-checked it, two can play at that. Damn! Brigitte is indeed wearing a leotard (and skirt), doing her dance, and Valdez is there, kneeling in the background, playing with his conga. Gotta respect a true professional.
Springing fresh from the deck, the self-titled The Phantom is a dark, heady stew of tropical rare groove that fills the room with magic and voodoo. A tenor sax would pull in too earthly a direction, but Dodgion’s flute fits perfectly in musical context, mysterious and primitive, and the addition of not one but two guitars add a whole new texture, supported by congas. Steamy humidity, chirping guiro, liberal application of insect repellent recommended before listening.
At the low-energy end of the spectrum, flute is an instrument that it is difficult to feel passionate about, but here it gels well with Hutcherson’s xylophonic rhythmic tension and tinkling adds an authentic feel to Pearson’s Latin vision.
All-music puts a finger on the pulse . (I always check, see if my ears missed something, luckily only rarely): “an ambitious set of post-bop that expands the boundaries of the music with Latin percussion and complex harmonies derived from the avant-garde”
Rudy, nephew of the late Duke Pearson, (who posted a comment here recently), had this to say about The Phantom album on another blog: “there are two songs from this album that don’t get much airplay, but they should: Los Ojos Alegres (Happy Eyes) and Bunda Amerela (Little Yellow Street Car) (LJC: see comment below)). The songs and the album were inspired by Duke’s travel to Brazil in 1961. He penned one of his most famous songs, Christo Redentor, while descending into Rio and had it written before the plane had landed. How do I know this ? Because Duke Pearson was my uncle, my mother’s only brother, and he told me this story and many more…”
If you’ve got more stories, we’re here.
UPDATE: Translator’s Corner – Calling Portugese Speakers
The track Bunda Amerela is translated on the label as “Little Yellow Street Car” but translates literally as “Yellow Ass” – “Amerela” = yellow, “Bunda”. = Portugese informal feminine noun, meaning “bottom, backside” or less prosaic, “ass”. I’ve heard of A Streetcar Named Desire , but never one named Ass, though I can see a potential connection. Possibly there is an innocent explanation, Brazilian jive talk, or this is a practical joke at someone else’s expense, possibly ours.
UPDATE: Brazilian jazz fan confirms “bunda” has no Street Car connection, the song title is a practical joke, Yellow Ass (human, not the big sticky-out ears variety).
UPDATE: Calling the Vinyl Detective.: BST 84293
After looking at a lot of Liberty Blue Note pressings, you begin to develop an eye for the variations in label colour, ink and print that point to Liberty using different pressing resources. Liberty owned two plants – All Disc,Roselle,N.J. and Research Craft, L.A. My working assumption has been that label differences were due to pressing and local print supply on both east and west coast.
BST 84239 The Phantom is found in two label variations, both “Liberty” issues. Examine these two labels of BST 84293. What differences can you see, and is there a pattern in those differences? Think Vinyl Detective.
Two different Liberty labels
- each song title is BMI copyright registered by “Gailantcy Music – BMI” (Gailantcy Music Company. – Columbus C. Pearson, Jr., owner).
- Track titles are followed by song timings.
- Francis Wolff is credited as Producer.
- The composer’s first name is shortened to one initial, so Duke Pearson becomes space-saving D.Pearson.
- The extra text forces the first track to be listed above the spindle hole instead of below.
- The album title font is the same size as artist name and not smaller, and in quotes.
- “SIDE 1” is capitalised, while on Type1 “Side 1” is “proper” font.
- The paper stock is darker cream and almost navy darker blue
- the print is heavily inked.
- Below the E of NOTE is a mal-formed ® without a clean outer circle, likely, over-inking with more absorbent paper, causing the fine circle to spread and leave the R bare.
Type 1 label (above, left) is found on “Audition” copies – “pre-release” for radio station DJs, and likely the “earliest” pressing, if that term means anything. Here I’m not sure it does, if manufacture was merely by two Liberty plants at the same time. However I failed to find any Type 2 label copies cover-stamped AUDITION on the back cover, suggesting all radio station copies were all from the same source pressing, Type 1 label.
There is a suggestion that in geographically-distributed record manufacture, label-printing was often commissioned from a print supplier local to the pressing plant, which if true in this case, label differences suggests different pressing plants in different locations.
Type 1 label, including audition copies, has the paper, ink and typesetting characteristics of original Blue Note labels printed by Keystone Printed Specialties, Scranton P.A.. Similar Keystone-printed labels are commonly found on early Liberty 1966-7 pressings – those soon after the sale of Blue Note to Liberty – records which were pressed by All-Disc Records, Roselle N.J. (UPDATE April 15, 2018: subsequent research has identified the West Coast printed label source as Bert-Co of Hollywood, who used Linotype typesetting machines, with the proprietary font Linotype Spartan Medium, all capitals, for artist name, album title and SIDE 1. Bert-Co labels were supplied to Research Craft for pressing.)
Though its last tracks were recorded in September 1968, it was not until six months later 12th April 1969 that Billboard list The Phantom in its “Top LP’s”, at rank 193 after two weeks in the chart, so its release was in March 1969, and manufactured in the preceding months.
Presence of Van Gelder stamp
Some Liberty titles are found with and without VAN GELDER stamp, by implication, the pressing without original metal source being re-mastered from copy tape. One plant has Van Gelder original metal, the other makes its own, not uncommon industry practice in distributed record manufacture. However In the case of The Phantom, all copies bear the VAN GELDER stamp , both Type 1 and 2 labels. This opens up a can of worms!
It could be that two pressing plants (east and west coast?) were both supplied with VAN GELDER metal. Or it is possible that all copies of The Phantom were pressed at one and the same plant but at different times with a different batch of labels. However the second batch of labels, Type 2, bear all the signs of a different printer to that of Type 1, not Keystone, and therefore possible not an All-Disc East Coast pressing.
The material differences between label type 1 & 2 suggests a second print run of labels was commissioned to add the necessary copyright legalese missing from the record on its initial release. One can only peculate why it was missing, perhaps delay in copyright filing over the Christmas Holidays at the end of 1968?
The evidence points to Type 1 being the original pressing, and Type 2 a slightly later pressing, possibly at a different plant, but still officially a Liberty pressing.
Alfred Lion retired from Blue Note in 1967, leaving Francis Wolff in charge of business matters under Liberty. By 1969, Liberty had been acquired by Transamerica Corp., and the lawyers and accountants moved into bigger offices. Was all this a sign of the corporate noose tightening on Blue Note, changing suppliers from older trusted relationships to lower cost competitors, the old way and the new way of the music business?
Are there any other kinds of copy of this record with a different label, without VAN GELDER, or with anything else in the runout? Do you know anything more? Join our Christmas Appeal for Information, if you’ve seen anything, say it , I’ll sort it. (God I hate that slogan!)
Perhaps someone knows more than I do. Every time I turn my search engine on the subject, it keeps pointing me back to this site!
Why does any of this matter?
Because if it is established there are two (or more) different editions, it may be only one is “The Original first pressing” and hence more valuable.
There are still a lot of unknowns in the operation of Liberty and the sacred Blue Note label. We still don’t know for certain why some Liberty titles are found with and without Van Gelder stamp. We don’t know how label print supply worked and whether it predicts absent Van Gelder metal or a lower standard of manufacture. We can’t rule out the use of other pressing plants beyond All-Disc and Research Craft.
And if we had the answers to all these questions, The Vinyl Detective would be out of a job, so of course it matters.
Back to the music…
Look at those skinny run-outs, grooves almost up to the label, this album is packed with music.The vinyl sounds direct and visceral, as a VAN GELDER should. Not so much musicians in the room, as you out there, in the jungle, with them.
This Pearson title has sat on my shelf and not played for some time, some years to tell the truth. Why write about it now?
Lot of reasons.
The “mature record collector” (ahem, me?) is in a bit of a fix. New record acquisitions are few and far between. You either already have it, or you don’t want it, or it’s silly money out of reach, or it’s so rare you never see it. Months can go by without a single significant purchase to write about. In the search for another record to add to your collection, it is easy to overlook what you already have.
A benefit I have found of adding an ultrasonic cleaner to my hi-fi workflow is that it give you a good reason to revisit some of your existing collection. There are probably better reasons, like that much cheaper reason “common sense”, but that is not very common. I’m pulling stuff off the shelf to re-clean and listen, and this was one pulled from the shelf..
What I’m finding is that expanding listening experience over the years recalibrates your preferences. I first thought this album had “too much flute”, but it is a mistake to think your preferences are fixed, imprisoned by past thinking, you may well think differently today. An artist you didn’t much like, or an instrument, like say flute, now works for you, you get it.The Phantom is a great album which I overlooked first time around.
Someone once said to me you should play every record you own at least once a year. Now that’s uncommon sense. Chasing more records is always fun, but make time to get re-acquainted with what you already have. You may find some pleasant surprises waiting for you there. I’m finding lots.