Art Blakey: Buttercorn Lady (1966) US Limelight

I had this post in preparation, but somehow never got around to posting it, So here it is warts and all.



Selection: Between Races

  1. US Limelight original

. . .

     2. UK Mercury – 1st UK release

.  .  .


Chuck Mangione (trumpet) Frank Mitchell (tenor saxophone) Keith Jarrett (piano) Reggie Johnson (bass) Art Blakey (drums) recorded at “The Lighthouse”, Hermosa Beach, CA, January 1 & 9, 1966

Yes, that Keith Jarrett, among his first engagements, with Blakey’s Messengers, a stepping stone to a place with Charles Lloyd (Forest Flower, 1966), brief flowering of  hippie-jazz before the flower-power took over, when importantly, haircuts ruled the roost. Jarrett followed a life long complex career, which I have not followed, my loss,  but I am with him on his crusade against people filming performances on phones. As the great George Carlin said, “You just saw the f###g thing. What’s wrong with  your memory?”


1966 signals the last wind of the Blakey’s Messengers as a permanent line-up, finishing school and career launch-pad. From 1966 on, Blakey’s insatiable desire to play ushered in a changing cast of new arrivals and old hands, and the music becomes perhaps less compelling than when we found Mobley, Shorter, Morgan, Byrd, Silver and so many other greats on the stage.  That said, this live session at Hermosa Beach bristles with drive and enthusiasm, and I wouldn’t sell it short for all that.

Voices that later eased into the smooth jazz funk idiom like Chuck Mangione, lay down some strong lines, as does Frank Mitchell. Meaty arrangements and hard-driving solos whip the crowd up, and a good time is had by all, which you can be a part of thanks to a well recorded piece of engineering worthy of Rudy himself (no-one credited?) There are many “live” recordings which amount to little more than “someone brought a tape-recorder along” bootleg quality.  Hermosa Beach has a long history of top class recordings like the Howard Rumsey sessions for Contemporary and Cannonball for Riverside, so probably a well-established location recording process.


UK reissue first written about in 2013. Photo-quality not great at that time.

US Limelight is chunky deep groove and knocks the UK issue out of the park, like a different record, invites you in to Hermosa Beach Lighthouse front row, laugh-aloud, so much more exciting experience. Cover art superior, gatefold superior, audio transfer superior, what did you guys think you were doing?


Gatefold Insert

Original US Limelight gatefold inserts are incredibly cute – and entirely missing from the UK releases.



That’s nice, deep groove.



Collector’s Corner

Does it make sense to buy a copy of a record you already have? I mean deliberately, not by accident  (I have done that once or twice!). I accrued a number of UK Limelight reissues, great music, but I found them always a little disappointing, not gripping as I felt they should be. When this one turned up  in front of me in a store, the gatefold grabbed me. US original, but I already have it. A little voice then whispered “Why not?”  I never have a good answer to that question. In this case it unlocked the door to another room.

This is where I take issue with the “I just enjoy the music”  people. I’m sure they do, I have had the UK release for years and it is perfectly acceptable listening – until you hear the US original release. Whoooo-ey!! . Its the same music isn’t it? No. Playing it on a revealing system – you are  in the front row, it’s visceral, it is exciting.

Some thing happens with some tape transfers. An indefinable something gets lost. Maybe the tape characteristics don’t match between recording and playback heads, maybe someone is reading the dials differently, may be may be, I have no idea, but I hear a significant difference. I suspect it is the use of a second generation copy tape together with unknown other complicating factors. It doesn’t always happen, but too often does, and it is always for the worse .Of course, unless you A:B two copies of the same record, you will never know. I recommend it as a learning experience.

I did a different kind of  A:B with a friend recently, comparing two white wines from the Saint-Peray district of the Northern Rhone, France. So enlightening, the terroir was the same, but the wine-makers differed so much between Bernard Gripa (Parker: 88) and Jean-Luc Columbo Belle de Mai (Parker: 91). The Gripa was very impressive, but the Columbo was outstanding. I can assure you this happens with different pressings of records. If you can do this with taste, you can do this with listening.

You may be happy with what you have got, can’t argue with that, but why not aspire to something better? Unless you try, how do you know what might be around the corner?



10 thoughts on “Art Blakey: Buttercorn Lady (1966) US Limelight

  1. I think some of the back story to these is that Limelight is a Mercury subsidiary, and the UK issues are EMI subsidiary, then Philips as Fontana?. The classical people say this, that the US Mercuries (often recorded by Wilma Cozart Fine, with a studio in a bus) are livelier than the Uk EMI’s because the interpretation of the RIAA curve slightly differs. Someone in a brown coat at EMI found the liveliness objectionable. At some point, Philips buy Mercury and the Americans hate the Philips records. The tendency of the Philips classical engineers is towards naturalism in the sound as well, so they would master in the same style as EMI. Jazz would have been seen as a lesser music, a relative of pop to this old guard, who thought they were doing the right thing to the sound. I have a good few limelights, but unfortunately all English, but the mono ones on a mono cart sound pretty good to me, the stereo less so. I’ll try to pick up some stereo US ones for comparison.

  2. A discretely taken picture is a nice memento from a concert. I don’t use a flash, and I try not to be intrusive or obnoxious to those around me.

    I have picked up a few Limelight releases….Blakey “S Make It, Chet Baker Baby Breeze, Dizzy Gillespie Jambo Caribe. All pretty good, not excellent, not bad, just ok. Jambo Caribe is probably the best of the trio. Pressing and recording quality seem good. Realistic placement of instruments and quiet surfaces. Their discography indicates a varied repertoire of artists, and first pressings are generally cheap in the US. Maybe worth seeking out.

  3. i must respectfully but strongly disagree with arguments about people recording at concerts. fair warning, it’s a raw nerve. and for the record, i never record at concerts, or really take pictures at all of anything.

    lots of people take picture or video of vacation or other significant events. concerts are big deals to the people attending. they might be routine to jarrett, but fans often make substantial sacrifices of time, energy, and money to see their favorite artists play, and want to remember it. sure, as carlin says, you’ll be able to remember it for awhile. but memories fade. everyone treasures old family photos. why not old photos of concert events?

    like i said, i don’t record at concerts, and i don’t want to, but i just don’t see why we should police how people enjoy things. worry about your own enjoyment, i’d say.

    plus i think keith jarrett is a huge asshole anyway.

    on the positive side, i have been after an original of this for some time. shockingly hard to find given the provenance. nice score. and much love as always.

    • Differences of opinion always welcome, Fishy.

      Difficult to know who to side with in this, the performing musician ( Jarrett finds it intrusive) or the (minority) of audience phone-filmers.

      I have never “filmed” performances either, so my attitude is based on my belief live performance being the finest listening experience possible. Why waste your time trying to film it with such a dreadfully low quality capture media, and miss out on concentrated listening to it?

      Any other views?

      • if people aren’t using their flash, it is objectively not intrusive. that’s my other opinion, i suppose. i’ve been taped or photographed while performing in many different contexts and not even known about it until after the fact. and i can’t help but notice that jarrett never seems to find professional film crews intrusive. he’s a self-righteous jerk.

      • As an audience member, I find it extremely annoying when someone starts recording video on a cellphone in a dark theatre or concert hall; that glowing screen is very distracting. In daylight, or in a bar where there are lots of other distractions anyway, it doesn’t bother me nearly as much – though I’d never do it myself, as I’d much rather focus on the performance than on documenting it. A quick still photo or two doesn’t bother me at all, as long as there’s no flash and the device is silent.

        • Gonna side with Todd here mostly. Wouldn’t know if people filming with their cellphones matters much to performers but it can be pretty damn annoying for other people in the audience. I generally don’t mind if someone takes a quick snapshot or two, have been known to do that myself occasionally. However it’s pretty distracting when you’re trying to enjoy a song and someone next to you – or even worse, in front of you – is holding up their camera trying to film the whole damn thing.

  4. I’ve always assumed this record was a weaker moment in Blakey’s catalog, though to be honest I’ve never spent any time with it. While not up to Blue Note snuff (or even Impulse!, VIK, or Columbia snuff), it’s not bad either. Those Limelight gatefolds are indeed nice; usually I’ve encountered this one as a later single-sleeve pressing in the field.

  5. As someone who also loves both Art Blakey and St-Peray whites – try Domaine du Tunnel – can I say, great post. Although I’ve never heard this music. Must look out for it.

  6. Quite a contrast between the two indeed! I’m always impressed by how lively the US Limelight pressings are, especially as all the ones I’ve heard (Dolphy, Kirk, Oscar Peterson) are live recordings of some form or another. And it’s hard to beat the fun of their gatefolds too.

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