Sonny Rollins: 1558 – Volume 2 (Blue Note) 1957 (updated)

(Updated March 24: matrixes of 1st edition)

Records inexplicably not previously posted. I had occasion to want to check something regarding 1558, went to my pages, only to find it not there. No there there at all. No longer overlooked, but … dissected as an object lesson in how to identify later Blue Note pressings from first/earlier pressings. LJC proudly sponsored by Specsavers.

BN 1558, Sonny Rollins Volume 2, notable for the rare presence of Thelonious Monk and Horace Silver playing together, on the Monk composition “Misterioso”.

Selection: Misterioso

. . .

Artists

JJ Johnson, trombone; Sonny Rollins, tenor sax; Horace Silver, Thelonious Monk, piano; Paul Chambers, bass; Art Blakey, drums.  Recorded Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, NJ, April 14, 1957, released September 1957.

Music

While being seduced by the liquid spaciousness of post bop, the freedom-run of leaning further out, this second Rollins album for Blue Note is a good reminder of the pure craftsmanship of the masters at work.

This all-star fathers of bop convention at Hackensack sees Monk and Silver sharing the piano seat for just the one track, move over, Monk as devilish as always, perhaps more so in the presence of Horace Silver, the piano which smiles. Silver takes the second solo, something which requires some nerve, and four of the five remaining tracks.

Rollins is powerful over Monk’s eccentric “comping”, which is peppered with sudden empty spaces and unexpected turns in direction. J.J offers a “second horn” synced with Rollins in textures, harmonies and polished brass lines, all  held carefully together by  Blakey and Chambers.

Quite a different album from Rollins “Volume 1” which more showcases Sonny, while “Volume 2” rewards you with more ensemble playing.  Should be on everyone’s shelf.

Vinyl: BNLP 1558 

In the light of recent questions about unexpected combinations of Van Gelder stamps, I take this album as interesting case study in identifying Blue Note provenance. “Original Blue Note” but not the original first pressing. Sadly for me, four small details gives it away. It’s Sherlock Time, let’s go deep dive:

Cover: lovely laminated cover, blank spine, 63rd address, all good signs. Printing on the spine first appeared in Spring 1958 so blank spine may be earlier.  The back cover Blue Note address changed from 47W63rd to 43W61st in early 1960, so the cover has some signs of early provenance. But it is betrayed by the incorporated company address form on the bottom of the rear slick, Blue Note Records Inc.

First killer clue. The incorporated address appears on Blue Note covers from mid 1959 onwards, two years after the release of BN 1558. The cover having 63rd address is therefore likely from a batch manufactured in 1960, as a year later, the cover address would have been 43W61st.

Labels: 47W63rd New York 23 label both sides , no INC. no ®, “original labels” Apparently drawn from labels left over from the first pressing print run.

Vinyl: deep groove only Side 2, ridge Side 1. That is the second killer clue. Non-deep groove dies first came into service at Plastylite in early 1961, four years after the first release of BN 1558.  Though one-side deep groove pressings are common on Blue Note pressings , in this case it absolutely rules out any possibility of being an early pressing.

Run-out: Plastylite P,  9M (Side 1 only) , RVG stamped. Stamped RVG initials are the third killer clue.  In early 1957, Van Gelder masters bore hand-etched RVG initials. RVG stamped initials first appear around Summer 1957 and feature until early 1962, when they were replaced by the full “VAN GELDER” stamp. 1st edition 1558 requires hand-etched RVG both sides.  In this case the RVG stamp signals the original master has been replaced (upgraded?) by a Van Gelder re-cut.

Matrix: number suffix -2 both sides: Rudy’s 3rd cut!  There have been sightings of pressings which have a hand-etch RVG one side and stamped on the other, not as yet determined whether matrix indicates first cut, 1st re-cut or second re-cut (UPDATE: see foot of post for original 1st Edition matrixes)

The stamped RVG initials, the absence of deep groove one side, together with a 1960 manufactured cover, identifies it as an original Blue Note, but a re-pressing from around 1961, four years after 1st release.

Collector’s Corner

Re-cuts and their matrix suffix codes has been bothering me of late, and this A-2/B-2 combination added more fuel to the fire. There have been hundreds of auctions of 1558, selling for up to $800, and Van Gelder recuts generally pass beneath the seller’s  radar. Just two or three sellers noted them, and then with little insight other than repeat what they see.   BN 1558 had a tangled past!

A dip into Discogs fishes up an unusual case where the Discogs uploader has a grip on what they describe as a “second pressing”, even including pictures of the etchings, thank you, sir!  I’m not sure we know enough yet to start numbering pressings without a lot more homework, and some understanding of how one pressing differs from another. In this case a change in labels is probably the least important thing, as old stock labels can have a long life, spanning up to decade on some records. With BN 1558 there is at least one underlying change in mastering, possibly more.

Lets see if we can do better and nail the date this alleged “2nd pressing”.

The cover address is without INC, so manufactured before mid-59.

The labels as seen below are no INC or ®, still 47W63rd, but slightly more recent address: simply 63rd NYC, not New York 23. The New York 23 address appears only on records released between late Spring and Summer of 1957, at least six months after the first release of BN 1558. To some, that would make this correctly a “second  pressing” on account of the address change.

Deep groove both sides, nice, but the matrix codes are what throws a spanner in the works:

Side 1 has the same second recut suffix -A-2 and the same stamped RVG, but Side 2 has a first re-cut suffix -B-1 and RVG  hand etched. This is a re-pressing which sits somewhere between the 1957 original pressing and my 1961 repressing, manufactured likely somewhere between 1958 and 1959.

Fresh labels with the 63rd NYC address were printed, despite the existence of older labels in inventory –  which turn up later on my 1961 repress.  A takeaway point is that old stock labels were not necessarily always used up chronologically, oldest first, before new ones were printed.  An older label can turn up on a newer pressing and vice versa.

Any more for more?

A “fourth re-pressing” appears on New York USA Labels, with a  A-2 B-2 matrix observed by just one or two sellers, with “RVG” stamped, so re-cuts appear to have stopped at 2 and continued repressing with same legacy metal.

It remained for our friends Liberty to bring out a first stereo edition – a Bert-Co  West Coast pressing shown below.

BN 1558 was one of the first recordings Van Gelder made on two-track tape, stereo intended for mono, so good luck all who sail in her, not one for me. The Division of United Artists edition from around 1972 – unusually for that series – follows the stereo path too, as does the UA blue label black note, none of which are Rudy’s mastering as it looks like he never prepared a stereo master for 1558.

Questions

Blue Note Suffix codes are largely undocumented, rarely recorded, and poorly understood. Conventional wisdom says if Van Gelder wasn’t happy with the first cut, he would simply re-cut it and add an increment of one to the matrix code. However it looks like some make it to commercial release, and there were later recuts.

Is there another cutting of Side 1 before A-2? We know there is a -B-1. Is there an -A-1 or did Van Gelder need three goes at Side 1 to get it right? Is there an original master first cut with no suffixes, or did Rudy scrap his initial attempt at mastering and jump straight to A-2 / B-1? Why is there a -B-2 anyway?

If you have any variation on those identified here – particularly an actual 1957 1st Edition of 1558, it would be great if you would give us the lowdown on matrix codes and etchings. Pictures would be even better.

March 24, UPDATE! Jim R has an eye-watering collection of original Blue Notes, including two first edition copies of 1558. Here is what his camera reveals:

Well, I’ll be hornswoggled! The 1st edition of 1558 features Rudy’s first cut of Side 1: BNLP 1558-A no suffix (you can see the hand etched RVG in the corner).  Side 2  is first re-cut: BNLP 1558-B-1 (also RVG hand-etched)

Van Gelder made at least two viable cuts of Side 1: -A and later A-2. He also made two viable cuts of Side 2: -B-1 and later -B-2.

First cut  -B and recut A-1  were both discarded and superceded.

It has been suggested that re-mastering recordings might be for wholly innocent reasons: Rudy accidentally dropped the acetate, or spilled his coffee on it. But twice? No, what if there was a less innocent reason.  Van Gelder was a perfectionist in engineering quality. This is a man who crept about his studio wearing gloves. Something in the original recording needed fixing, there was something he wasn’t happy with his original efforts to fix it, nor his first effort to fix it.

Where is the YouTube: Van Gelder discusses BNLP 1558 ? What Rudy Did, and What Rudy Did Next?  No There there.

One further thought. When Liberty and later United Artists came to prepare a stereo master from the original (or copy) tapes, they would be probably unaware of what drove Rudy unusually to make three attempts at each side. Perhaps mono -A-2 and -B-2  matrixes offer us the best of What Rudy Did? Who’d be a First Pressing Fundamentalist now…

LJC

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15 thoughts on “Sonny Rollins: 1558 – Volume 2 (Blue Note) 1957 (updated)

  1. Thanks much for providing such detailed information! It truly satisfies my ‘geek’ tendencies… It was a wonderful thing to see the 1958/59 pressing illustrated above as I’ve been fortunate enough to have added a copy to my collection recently. I have a question, however – have you encountered this album (or any Blue Note) with the back cover being “upside-down” with relation to the cover image? Everything else is ‘right’ about the cover (and I’ve just double-checked for the fifth time that the cover has not been reconstructed!) except for the back cover being upside-down.

    Thanks again – keep up the good work! Jim

  2. Thank you for your forensic analysis of Rollins BLP 1558.That was most helpful, From your analysis, my copy is first edition first pressing. I bought the record when it came out in 1957 and probably paid $5.98 for it, the going price at the time. Same with “Stylings of Silver” and Art Blakey’s “Orgy in Rhythm,” Vol. 1.

  3. Funny, I have the New York USA version (with deep groove side 2 just like the one you picture – luckily the cover is laminated as I know non-laminated also exists) and actually noticed the stamped RVG a while ago and wondered at it as I thought it should’ve been hand-etched. Didn’t think to check the matrix numbers at the time though. I checked yesterday prompted by this post and they’re also A-2 / B-2.

  4. I think 1558 is mono recording only.
    however
    The 1574: Hank Mobley, Peckin’ Time (1958) m is STEREO and perhaps the listing could be corrected.

    • Shaft, I believe you’re referring to LJC’s mono/stereo/pseudo-stereo guide. Interestingly, it looks like he has the late-1550s right there, indicating that 1556 and 1558 are pseudo-stereo releases and that 1557 is mono only, though there appear to be numerous albums in that list that only have an “m” but have been released in true stereo at some point or another, often in Japan and including 1574. I wonder if the Cuscuna discography takes into consideration Japanese reissues and CD reissues?

      • Yes I am referring to that List 😉 I have a true Stereo of Peckin’ Time so I justtought it could be corrected. Somehow I remember that RVG ran double tape decks for a while one mono and one two track stereo. Then after a while (1960?) he ran only a two-track.

  5. Hi LJC, I enjoyed this post, and I think it’s a worthwhile endeavor to look into the story of the dead wax inscriptions on Blue Note LPs. In this case, I would have to imagine that 1. Something went wrong with the first cut of side 2 so he cut it again for the first pressing; 2. Maybe a second set of lacquers was ordered by Plastylite because of the LP’s popularity and the parts wore out? In which case, maybe he didn’t like his second cut of side A (-1)…or maybe he just skipped A-1 for the sake of keeping the numbers even? In any case, I have to doubt that he remastered the album for aesthetic reasons.

    Also, there appears to be some confusion about the stereo versions of this album, and I believe crispi is right (below) that this album was only recorded to full-track tape, as in the Cohen bible Van Gelder explains that two-track recording began at Hackensack after the recording of 1558. All the YouTube and Spotify versions seem to be mono, and according to Discogs the Analogue Productions reissue, the first Capitol CD reissues from the ’80s, and all the Japanese reissues are mono. Apparently the jacket for the Connoisseur LP from the ’90s says stereo but I’m guessing that’s actually mono. Anyone have that?

    • According to Cohen “The earliest two track mono session”…was 1554 recorded March 7, 1957 (p46). 1558 was recorded April 14, 1957, five weeks later.
      1558 is included in the list of later issued “stereo” (p47) , a list starting with and including 1554, 1555, 1556, 1557 and 1558 as later stereo editions. I concluded it was a two track mono. I have no special knowledge other than repeat what Cohen has written. Happy to stand corrected if there is better information.

      • On page 73 on Cohen (referenced in my article here on your site), Van Gelder explains that two-track recording at Hackensack began May 8, 1957. Before that, there were two two-track recordings done at Manhattan Towers (1554 Orgy in Rhythm and 1561 Palo Congo).

        I have notes in my Cohen guide that read “ER?” next to 81556 and 81558, presumedly because when I was doing my research I hadn’t found any evidence that those stereo records were true stereo (Cohen’s guide has 1557 as “xST” i.e. no stereo edition, which I believe is accurate). I’m guessing Cohen took the fact that 1554 is the earliest catalog number with a two-track master tape and assumed that all the stereo copies after 1554 are true stereo, though this doesn’t take into consideration the date nor location of the recording.

        (Interesting side note: My research indicates that on May 8, 1957, Van Gelder recorded both Stylings of Silver at Hackensack AND Jimmy Smith Plays Pretty for You at Manhattan Towers, both to full-track and two-track tape!)

        Another note about the Cohen guide: on page 49 he claims that after 4003 all mono LPs were made from two-track tape. Again he seems to be overlooking the recording dates and locations. For example, 4006 and 4092 (both recorded overseas) appear to only have mono releases so it is assumed that they were only recorded to full-track; also 4011 and 4200 were recorded prior to the infamous switchover date of Halloween ’58 so it is assumed that they were recorded to both full-track and two-track tape.

        • That will teach me to use the word “stereo” in a post. Minutes later the roof caves in. Cohen must be a lawyer by profession. The qualification “first two-track at Hackensack” contradicts the status of 1558 being listed “1554 and above” as two track. Either way I’m not fussed, 1500 series mostly finds Rudy thinking in mono, and I’m with him. Two track intended for mono makes pretty horrible stereo anyway, true or fake.

          If anyone has a copy of the Liberty or United Artists “stereo” edition of 1558, welcome any observations.

  6. Hi LJC. Let me first of all congratulate you with the truly excellent quality of your site. I have been reading it for several years now, and I’ve learned a lot from it. This is also the very first time I leave a comment on a website! But I have an interesting twist on this Sonny Rollins Vol 2 story.
    I found this classic a few years ago in a Brussels record shop. I live in Brussels, which has been a good hunting ground for me over the past decades. Condition of the vinyl : absolutely wonderful. Condition of the cover : VG+ at least. Price: very reasonable. And a true first pressing, now that I read your detailed explanation : exactly the same as what you describe the ‘Jim R’ copy looks like. But not quite. What is so strange is that the cover is pasted upside-down. The opening is at the left side of the great front photo. The back cover is the right way up (meaning : opening at the left side). Remarkable that this slipped through the quality control at Blue Note. Never seen anything like that before (and I have a 7000+ record collection).
    Keep up the good work!

  7. Dear London Jazz collector, Once again, as a Blue Note fan, I always look forward to your detailed and informative posts. Though I don’t have the collector’s deep pockets, I acquired over the years maybe about 150 albums or so, from the original Blue Note catalog and later reissues (unissued Mobley & Morgan sessions for example), comprising 1970s U.S. pressings, EMI Pathe pressings (1980s?), a couple of early mono Liberty pressings, and Mosaic LP and CD sets. The latter including the milestone sets of Curtis Fuller, Sam Rivers, Thad Jones, Herbie Nichols and Tina Brooks and Thelonius Monk.

    Though I had to sell my entire collection a few years back, to quote my cousin, I had the music and I enjoyed them while I had them. And of course, I’m slowly (very slowly) rebuilding my collection back up, with whatever pressing/edition of Blue Notes I am able to find. Best Regards fron New York, Ed Edward Fenning ed361@yahoo.com

  8. Many thanks for another lesson in forensic record collecting! May I say I would not mind owning this one in any of the mentioned variations but will have to make do with my 70ies dark blue label copy for now.
    Regarding “records inexplicably not previously posted”: I have noticed so far you have not dissected any of Sonny Clark’s Blue Notes. Just listening to “Leapin’ and Lopin'” and was wondering about your take on that only to find there was none, and even no mention of “Cool Struttin”. Can’t imagine you don’t have any of his. So in case you just wondered what to put on the forensic deck next …

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