I had this post in preparation, but somehow never got around to posting it, So here it is warts and all.
Selection: Between Races
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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?
Original US Limelight gatefold inserts are incredibly cute – and entirely missing from the UK releases.
That’s nice, deep groove.
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?