Selection: Shades of Blue (Neil Ardley)
. . .
Dave Green, bass; Trevor Tomkins, drums; Colin Purbrook, piano; Don Rendell, tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone; Ian Carr, trumpet, flugelhorn; recorded London, October 1 – 2, 1964
All-Music sets the scene: “There are no user reviews for this album”. Carr and Rendell were Britain’s answer to Miles & Coltrane, with beautiful, introspective modal numbers of bursting originality. Sadly, no-one knew.
Shades of Blue was the first Lansdowne outing of the Rendell Carr Quintet, and is an interesting contrast to the increasingly idiosyncratic and complex later works. If those later ’60s albums were landmarks in truly British modern jazz, this first 1964 recording reflects more American influence: one track with an easy latin groove (Blue Mosque), another a late-night bluesy swinger (Latin Blue), then a classic triple-speed chase (Blue Doom), usually a winning formula, and this one has a secret up its sleeve. Lurking in the shadows of side two track three is the title track, Shades of Blue, written by Neil Ardley. An atmospheric bitter-sweet ballad, you sense something special, magical unfolding, lovely, lyrical, enveloping. This track alone is worth the price of the whole collection.
Rendell delivers solid solos with an authoritative tenor voice, shades of Rollins and Zoot Sims , but it is when he switches to soprano that the music takes on a life of its own, laced with contrapuntal snake-charmer lines, rapid-fire ascending and descending arpeggios . His straight horn contrasts with Carr’s sour rasping brass, lurking in the bottom register. Colin Purbrook has a delicate, almost ethereal touch on piano, Trevor Tomkins is always on point with perfectly-judged textures and accents, Dave Green’s firm bass holds the ground.
A rare and beautiful record, lovingly reproduced, and harbinger of more exciting work to come.
With records, scarcity generally shouts louder than quality. The Shades of Blue album would struggle to justify its scarcity premium (see Collector’s Corner below) but scarcity is . . . scarcity. There just are not many copies around, because the original pressing run was so small, I have read the figure of 500, and that is what happens when today, demand exceeds supply.
The cover says mono but the vinyl plays stereo, perfect reproduction Columbia “Magic Notes” labels, but most importantly, mastered from original tapes, at Abbey Road Studios, and decently pressed 180 gram virgin vinyl. In the absence of a time machine and unlimited funds, this is as good a reissue as it is possible to get of this legendary British jazz classic.
Audacity histograms shown during ripping reveal a near silent vinyl floor, with very wide dynamic range and crystal-clear separation between signals on left and right channels. I have A:B compared my original copy of Live with the Jazzman reissue, and sonically there is very little to choose between them. The original is slightly drier, and stereo a little more centrally focussed, but I really struggled to find any sonic criticism of the Jazzman edition, it is an absolute joy to listen to.
Just a few quibbles. A faint tape pre-echo can be heard at the start of a couple of quiet tracks, possibly a characteristic of the original mix, one would have to hear the original to know. I remember this being a common feature of some records at that time.
The cover is a facsimile of the original, but its plastic-coated paper and photographic processes signal modern manufacture. It seems no -one can reproduce1960s semi-matt paper and print finish (let alone ’50’s Blue Note laminated covers) . Anyone with any experience of digging crates can tell the decade of a record cover simply from its look and feel.
Com’on guys…it must be possible. I read somewhere the Sawano Brothers in Tokyo had restored a 1950s printing machine in search of that elusive authentic look. That’s the attitude! No limits!
Until now, all you had was the Lansdowne original…
You want a definition of “rare”? Popsike. This is, I believe, the most rare and expensive British Jazz record ever. May be two to three copies a year come to market, doesn’t look like more than twenty have ever been sold on Ebay (depending on how you write your search criteria). Factory Sample FFS £1500! This is Holy Grail territory.
Interestingly, a lot of the auction descriptions below mention mono, none stereo, so this was only a mono release. The original first pressing remains unique, much to the relief of its owners. It also explains why the Jazzman repro cover is declared to be “mono”, as per “the original cover”.
Discogs comments: “I have checked with publisher of Rendell Carr, MCPS, estate of Ian Carr and Don Rendell, and Universal. No sign of a license deal so far. BOOTLEG copy, do not buy, copied from a CD, not licensed”
Market forces! Want something badly enough and someone else will come along and make it, even fake it, a CD copied to vinyl.
This however is the licensed edition mastered from original tape, on proper vinyl. Limited Edition, only 1,000 copies of the 5-LP box set housing the Rendell Carr Lansdowne series, jazz DJ person Gerald Short has done the seeming impossible. Kudos!
My set copy is number 0045, which is a fairly low number (UPDATE: though possibly not among first few off the stampers, according to sources familiar with such matters. No matter, however I reserve the right to sulk).
Never thought I’d be writing about ordinary modern vinyl reissues, but this reissue is anything but ordinary. It has taken over fifty years to get this beauty out into the light. And still another four albums in the set, which sadly for some, happily for Jazzman, sold out within 24 hours.
Perhaps Gerald will commission another pressing, but his philosophy of quantities is contrary: “One of the reasons for making them numbered and limited (referring to previous Jazzman titles) is to make sure people bought them. If people thought there was an unlimited pressing and they would be around for a while, they may procrastinate with the purchase. But if they’re numbered and limited – you have to buy now because when they’re gone they’re gone! He seems to favour round numbers, like 1,000. Rendell Carr Quintet Lansdowne titles may be destined to remain rare for some time to come.
In conversation with a London Jazz-DJ, éminence grise Jean-Claude, I foolishly ventured the Jazzman set would pull the rug out from under those massively expensive originals. Quite the opposite, he retorted. It will give some collectors an even greater appetite to own the originals. And he should know. At the time of writing, there are three Jazzman boxsets up for sale at Discogs, two from German sellers, at €450 – 500, The new word to learn today is Arbitrage: the practice of taking advantage of a price difference between two or more markets.
More Rendell Carr Quintet Lansdowne titles – review with selection – the Lansdowne originals!:
Phase III (posted27/4/17)
Live (posted 27/3/17)
At some future date, Dusk Fire and the enigmatically-titled Change Is.
Any thoughts welcome, as always, the last word is yours.