Donald Byrd: Chant (1961) Blue Note Tone Poet Series (2019)

Selection 1: You’re Next (D. Byrd) Blue Note Tone Poet Series 2019

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Go Compare:

Selection 2: You’re Next,   United Artists 1979 UK Jazz File edition

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For comparison, a UK edition of the United Artists LT series dating from 1979. The UK “Jazz File” series is equivalent to the US “Jazz Classics” series, however remastered locally from copy tape, and generally sound inferior, but it is “louder”, not to be confused with better.


Donald Byrd, trumpet; Pepper Adams, baritone saxophone; Herbie Hancock, piano; Doug Watkins, bass; Teddy Robinson, drums; recorded Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, April 17, 1961

All names familiar except the drummer, Teddy Robinson, who appears out of the blue on “Chant”. His only other recordings I found The Byron Allen Trio (free jazz,1964, ESP-Disc) and an Andrew Hill Trio session with Ron Carter at Englewood Cliffs (1967), seemingly nothing else. Teddy, come in, where are you?

Doug Watkins, a much favoured bass player found on Sonny Rollins’ Saxophone Colossus (1956), and Charles Mingus’ choice of bassist when Mingus moved to the piano stool. How’s that for a reference on your CV?  Watkins’  close association with Donald Byrd  (Donaldson Toussaint L’Ouverture Byrd II ) was cemented at  Byrd’s  residency in 1958 at Au Chat Qui Pêche, a jazz club on Paris’ Left Bank, in the company of the excellent  Bobby Jaspar and much underrated  Walter Davis Jr.. Doug Watkins was sadly taken from us early, at the age of only 27, in an automobile accident, one of the many hazzards jazz musicians always on the move had to endure.

In the opening years of the Sixties,  Donald Byrd  and Pepper Adams recorded a series of albums for Blue Note which paired trumpet with baritone as the only saxophone voice –  4060 At The Half Note Cafe  (Nov 1960), The album “Chant” ( recorded April 1961), 4075 The Cat Walk  (May 1961), 4101 Royal Flush  (Sept 1961)

There were many other Blue Note recording dates featuring Byrd and Adams with a broader palette of musicians – At The Five Spot, Off To The Races, Byrd In Hand, however. All of these albums are difficult to source as original Blue Notes, and the TP issue of Chant offers an accessible route into music of this period, at a superior level of reproduction.


I have been a big fan of Adams baritone, his signature buzz-saw  tone, his full use of the bottom to upper register of the brass beast, solo passages with fast and elegant construction, lines graced with melancholy tone, whistful trail-offs and rests. Donald Byrd’s golden bright and burnished tone harmonises with the gritty growling baritone, octaves apart yet dancing together through the melody lines.

The trumpet/baritone brass pairing  provides an interesting contrast which the Tone Poet plays to its best advantage. The level of detail and texture extracted from Van Gelder’s tapes is a joy, and the wide soundstage and separation of instruments yeilds an insight into the musical collaboration within the quintet –  insight which I found  lacking in the compressed and slightly woolly 70’s Jazz Classics edition, enjoyable though that was.

Byrd and Adams’ presence is augmented by the young Herbie Hancock, adding another ingredient to the mix. Hancock  earned his first title as Blue Note leader only a year later, in May 1962 (4109 Takin’ Off) , so his appearance here at age 21 would be among his first a studio recordings, as a Blue Note session man. The contrast here is between the fledgling  Hancock, shy but winsome comping in the background, and in just a short few years, the confident jousting Hancock weaving and dancing around the front line, about to enter the Miles Davis second great quintet. The purple shell suit was to come later, Rockit-man..

All the compositions are mainstream 60’s Blue Note, emphasis on artist’s compositions rather than just show-tunes and standards, melodic heads and opportunities to shine in solos.The tunes on Chant include an interesting reading of the Duke Pearson composition of the same title, but for me the unpromissing-sounding title  “You’re Next” is a hidden well-crafted gem, and my selection.  I have listened it through a half dozen times, and it grows and grows on you, classic Blue Note.

Back in 1961 Chant was left on the shelf – in a crowded release schedule for Byrd that year. It is tempting to dismiss it as “lesser material”, but this re-edition by Joe Harley and Kevin Gray has, in my re-assessment, breathed new life into this excellent Van Gelder recording, and brought me unexpected pleasure. The striking cover artwork is a bonus worthy of Reid Miles (I assume a Francis Wolff photo given the colour treatment), and the accompanying gatefold of Francis Wolff portraits serves as a reminder of these young men in the studio as you listen to the music they made in 1961. For a brief period of time, you are transported with them to 1961, enjoy.

Vinyl: Reissue (2019) of LT 991 (1979)

Odd, no visible matrix code or process control markings in the run-out.

Apparently the Tone Poet series is pressed with Music Matters standard formulation vinyl, not the new premium SRX vinyl which is used in their new and more costly MM33 releases. I have no dog in this fight, I find the vinyl very inky black silent, new improved or old  unimproved, still sounds good to me i.e. it doesn’t sound.

This is a great sounding record. There is so much hyperbole in audio sales and marketing nowadays, probably since  forever,  that it is tempting to dismiss all claims as hype. A good precaution, but not to throw the baby out with the bathwater, I recommend you form your own opinion based on your own experience.

Collector’s Corner

Alternative covers for Chant, including the United Artists Jazz Classic and a Japanese issue I’d not seen before

HiFi Voodoo Corner – send for the men in white coats series

The magnetising properties of material in black vinyl formulation.

A roomful of hifi buffs including me were astonished at a HiFi show demo recently of a Furutech LP demagnetiser. Just around 30 seconds in what looked like a waffle machine for LP’s hugely improved the sound of each LP treated by it. Totally bonkers but it works. But why? Over to Furutech.

Demagnetizing LPs
“How can an LP be magnetized? It’s plastic!
The fact is that pigment added to the plastic during the manufacturing process is the culprit. The minute amount of ferrous material in the pigment causes LPs to become magnetized. Testing at the Tokyo Nanotechnology center with a IHI Gauss meter showed that after an LP was treated with the deMag the magnetic field of the LP was lowered from 620~630 nT to 572~582 nT (nanotesla: a unit of magnetic field strength,1 Tesla = 10,000 gauss)”

Search me, I was lost on the numbers but I could easily hear the difference after demagnetising an LP. The catch was the cost of the machine, I recall something like $3,000, and the workflow issue – an LP has to be demagnetised (de-gaussed?) every time before it is played, as the effect is temporary. I demagnetise my cartridge every two months and the effect is astonishing, so unwanted magnetism is generally  “bad thing” in hifi reproduction.

I eagerly await sound engineers somewhere to declare the biggest problem in HiFi reproduction is the unwanted force of Gravity. Forget 180gm., in search of the best sound, we need to go into orbit, weightless. The next biggest problem is Sanity, the absence of it.

After you. . . 

14 thoughts on “Donald Byrd: Chant (1961) Blue Note Tone Poet Series (2019)

  1. There is only one effective A/B test, its a switch in the phono stage between split inputs with the two lps on identical turntables and a pair of new carts. It then does not matter about who is in the best seat, etc, as the switching mid programme between the two sources does not require memory. I have never heard of anyone doing this in any of these tests, yet it works perfectly, I did it years ago with friends, they heard difference between pressings without me prefixing which was better. I similarly switched between cd and 78 of some Charlie Parker on Columbia, and that raised their eyebrows much more. 78 was far superior sounding, with a very modest shure 78 cart. The problem with the situation you were in was the loaded interest in the demonstrator wanting to sell an expensive product. Lastly, just to say, there is no good reason for vinyl to be black. I can only assume it was to match 78s when they transitioned?


  2. I have a japanese press of this album.

    As far as I am concerned it is a very good version. Better than United artists from 1978.

    I had opportunity to compare Dexter Gordon “Clubhouse”, japanese King press and Blue Note “tone poet”. I did not feel any obvious differences. But it depends on my equipment.


  3. Classic records had a article years ago back in the 90’s in which they found that black vinyl had traces of metal in it. Thus they came out with their CLARITY Vinyl. I compared their Kind of Blues 200g to their Clarity vinyl KOB and it was no Contest! The Clarity vinyl is superior and now fetching a hefty price. Acoustic sounds owns the Clarity vinyl formulation today.


      • Thank you LJC for that semi-serious response.
        To be serious for a moment, I was questioning whether you actually think one can judge quality of sound (at other than the grossest level) from listening to sound files on a computer (pod, pad or phone); or are you suggesting that we go find and purchase the various versions of an album, a costly endeavor to be sure, well beyond my means. (“Go compare”)


        • “Go Compare” is a UK TV advertising slogan from one of the many Money Supermarket type companies, featuring Meerkats. It is ironic, not a litteral instruction.

          The vast majority of “opinion” posted on the internet nowadays is of the Like/Dislike axis, which is pretty useless (though that never stops posters believing in it’s worth)

          I strongly recommend comparative listening, to generate a vocabulary of comparative listening content. Many of us collectors, through the upgrading process, have multiple copies of issues of the same recording. If you have friends with similar collections, it is a great learning excercise to sit and listen to different pressings of the same recording, and discuss the differences you hear.

          I certainly do not suggest going out to buy multiple issues.

          As to whether you can hear difference on the audio-sausage PC/streamng machine, I think yes, if the differences are significant. The WordPress streamer allows you to hear 320kbps MP3 on your receiving device. That is what I upload. I can hear differences, but I suggest you check these things for yourself with actual real vinyl. I can spot CD transfers immediately.

          The only true test is on a revealing vinyl system wiith those open to hear it. I can assure you the differences are real. It is up to you to replicate these findings for yourself.


  4. those differences in magnetic field are essentially two different versions of zero. those numbers are so tiny that they are negligible. i’m not saying your experience wasn’t legitimate, but i would have loved to have been at the demonstration. i would have wanted to examine things more closely. i’m not convinced this device does what it says it does just based on this small amount of info.


  5. Are the instruments demagnetised? Or the musicians? The lights in the recording studios? I’m going to look into this more…


    • We can’t rule out the possibility of mass hypnosis…

      In another room, an engineeer was trying to demonstrate the superior quality of direct cut LP compared to one cut from a tape of the same recording session. First, he played the tape sourced, a long whole track. Before playing the direct cut for comparison, he thought to refresh everyone’s memory of the tape sourced, by repeating the first few minutes of the track. A voice quickly chimed up at the back of the room “That’s much better, much brighter and fresher . . . “


  6. That’s really bizarre about the blank deadwax on your copy. Discogs has the runout listed as:
    B0030234-01-A KPG & JH@CA 33157.1(3)…
    B0030234-01-B KPG & JH@CA 33157.2(3)…


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