Chick Corea: Bliss (1967) Muse (+ photo update)

Selection: Marjoun (LaRoca)  – Muse, 1973

.   .  .

Original:  Majoun  – Douglas, 1967

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The remastered Muse sounds quite different to the Douglas original. The stereo stage is quite different. The  Muse sounds to me  more “congested”, and the Douglas more transparent. Neither sounds “bad”, merely different. It shows what happens when the same recording is mastered by different engineers.

After a decade of reading Ebay sellers yelling “Shrink!” I left the shrink in place, in case someday it might add value.

Artists

Pete La Roca, drums; John Gilmore, tenor sax; Chick Corea, piano; Walter Booker, bass;  recorded at Impact Sound Studios, NYC, May 25, 1967.

Born Peter Sims, the name La Roca was adopted during his early career in Latin bands. Breaking into the jazz scene in 1957 after catching the ear of Sonny Rollins, La Roca enjoyed a decade of prestigious sideman gigs with many of the top players of the day, culminating in his own Blue Note title as leader in 1965, Basra (BN 4205). The Turkish Women title for Douglas was his second and last album on vinyl as leader.

John Gilmore stepping out of his Sun Ra persona thanks to the persuasive skills of charismatic producer Alan Douglas. The line up is also graced with former Bill Evan’s bassist Chuck Israels.

Alan Douglas, full name  Alan Douglas Rubenstein, assembled a unique series of musician permutations for United Artists Jazz series 1962-3. A gifted impressario, unfortunately he lacked a worthy champion in the recording/engineering department.  Many of the “bendy tenor” series do not do justice to the artist  talent, with messy recording and noisy vinyl pressings.

Speculation on my part, but Douglas seemed totally focused on A&R big-name musician chemistry, marketability, and contractual issues, oblivious to the less glamourous business of recording, mastering and pressing. Studio engineers and pressing plants? Not important in his mind.

After parting with United Artists, Douglas founded his own record label, Douglas Records, whose first release in 1967 was a  Pete La Roca recording session, titled Turkish Women At The Bath, featuring the up and coming young pianist, Chick Corea. The series continued with an eclectic collection of artists including guitarists Ritchie Havens and John McLaughlin, and Malcolm X, who I confess I didn’t know played an instrument.

Five years later, the Turkish Women recording was sold to Joe Field’s Muse Records, who subsequently released it in 1973 under a different title, Bliss! (MR-5011), listing Chick Corea as the leader, though every composition was fastidiously credited to La Roca. The original  classical painting of Turkish women bathing, by Jean Ingres, was abandoned in favour of a crop of Chick at the piano. Chick rises to the top of the credit last, displacing Gilmore on the Douglas.

At the end of the ’60’s, perhaps disheartened at the lack of opportunities for jazz  drummers as leaders,  La Roca forsook music, and, after a spell as an NY cab driver,  retrained as a lawyer.  Seeing his Turkish Women album re-invented as a Chick Corea album was apparently too much,  Pete took umbrage, sued Muse, and won”. Muse were forced to withdraw the Chick Corea issue ( though copies remain in circulation, as mine) It was never re-released by Muse as a Pete LaRoca record. Having been taken to court by LaRoca over the leader issue, why would Muse do him the favour of earning him more royalties?

La Roca had just two albums as leader to his name, neither of which were significant sellers, judged by their scarcity today. On the other hand, Chick Corea’s standing had grown, earning growing recognition among  record buyers.

Recall all those “Red Garland Quintet” recordings later issued as “John Coltrane” albums by Bob Weinstock ? Coltrane’s stock was higher than Garland’s at that time, it made business sense. La Roca would have fared better with composer royalties from more  sales under the Chick Corea name than his own. Taking the recording’s new owner Muse to court over his  hurt feeling was a vanity exercise, where ultimately, winning is losing (unless of course you are a lawyer)

Music

The Bliss/ Turkish Women session is a rich pungent stew of later ’60s jazz. Modal, with a more free attitude to harmony and melody, it is typically an encounter between equals rather than the traditional heirachy of leader, front line, and rhythm section. Gilmore is forceful, Corea is inventive and beguiling, La Roca provides an expansive rythymic underpinning, every one else adjusts as required. At the end of the day, it is more Gilmore’s or Corea’s album, than La Roca’s. May be Joe Fields was right.

Vinyl: Muse 5011

Stamped “MASTERED BY (illegible)” If you can figure it out, say.

Pedant Alert!

Muse sleight of hand in title change – : “Turkish Woman At The Baths”: (single woman, plural baths.)

Pete La Roca’s original title for Douglas:  “Turkish Women At The Bath” :  (plural women, single bath.)

One trick  people use nowadays to throw internet searches off track is to introduce “accidental” spelling errors.  As an alternative, I recommend the old Jedi mind-trick: “These are not the Turkish Women you are looking for”

Muse were not the only company to put their money on the Chick Corea re-positioning. Here, Rifi Records of Milan

Spain jumps in with Chick Corea, but a further change of title, again, from “Bliss” , now “Love Planet“, stealing the title of another track.

Spain has another go, below, sexy translation: Extasis.  Lord knows what that “swollen object” is pictured on the front cover. Looks to me like a gall bladder.  Nurse, screens…

Back to Muse, on the back…

Collector’s Corner

Alan Douglas/Pete La Roca may have felt wronged by the elevation of Chick Corea to star status on their recording, but Douglas does not exactly  have clean hands. Consider the Alan Douglas Collection, created for United Artists.

The United Artists Jazz Alan Douglas Collection:

Artistically, I found Douglas’s  first title, Coltrane Time, the most unsatisfactory, a marriage forged in hell, pairing John Coltrane with Cecil Taylor. To make things worse, Douglas recruited New Thing trumpeter Ted Curson to further poison the quintet. Mercifully, Curson became  unavailable for the date, and Kenny Dorham stepped into the breach.

Dorham was less than  sympathetic to Taylor’s dissonant comping, constantly voicing disapproval. “The tension can be felt in all the performancesThe recording was a limited success” AllMusic understatement of the century, however Cecil Taylor has a following, for whom he is a genius, some of whom have taken me to task over my inability to recognise it. Mea Culpa. 

Coltrane Time was actually recorded some five year’s previously, in October 1958. At the time, Cecil Taylor was an emerging artist, having just made his debut album  Jazz Advance (1956) for the short-lived Transition label, and a title Looking Ahead for Contemporary (1957). However in 1962, when  Alan Douglas was setting out his stall for his United Artists Jazz Series, Coltrane had become Creed Taylor’s  star signing to the Impulse! label. Coltrane’s stock was riding high, and to launch his UA Jazz Series, Douglas artfully repackaged this five year old Cecil Taylor date as “Coltrane Time“.

It’s a beautiful Coltrane cover photo, enough to persuade you to take up smoking, but nary a sign of Cecil Taylor, credits vanquished to the liner notes on the back.. However Coltrane Time was not the first time this recording had appeared. In 1959, United Artists had a go at packaging it as “Hard Driving Jazz” under the leadership of, yes, Cecil Taylor.

In 1958, John Coltrane had just issued his iconic title for Blue Note, Blue Train, and sessions as co-leader on some titles for Savoy, with Wilbur Hardin. By 1959 Coltrane’s signing  to Atlantic must have been in prospect, so to cover their tracks, United Artist credits Cecil Taylor’s saxophonist as the mystery tenor player, Blue Train (scratches head, puzzled, Blue Train?  Who could it be? )

What Joe Fileld’s Muse did to Pete La Roca, is exactly what Alan Douglas did to Cecil Taylor. The only difference was that Cecil Taylor wasn’t a lawyer.

UPDATE: Once again Harry M. turns up with the goods – Cecil (pronounced Ceecil) and Chick (pronounced,um, Cheek?) captured in 1969.

Cecil Taylor at Jazz Expo, 1969,   & Chick Corea at Antibes, 1969  –  Photo credits: Harry M

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .

Personal Update: blogging will be light, temporarily, no music at LJC. All mains power cables of the music system have gone off for upgrading, to Rhodium plugs and fuses. Cold turkey.

Any thoughts on the Alan Douglas Jazz series, the floor is yours – .Blakey – Three Blind Mice? Evans/Hall – Undercurrent? Ellington/Mingus – Money Jungle? Dorham/Mclean – Matador (recent RSD reissue sounded horrid)

United Artists Label LJC Links

Bill Potts – Jazz Soul of Porgy and Bess – United Artists  – Plastylite Pressing

Duke Ellington Money Jungle UK UA release – Factory Sample

Benny Golson And The Philladelphians – US UA – Plastylite pressing

Bill Evans Jim Hall – Undercurrent – US UA Stereo, not Plastylite

As you will see from the above, Plastylite were involved in pressing some United Artists titles in the late ’50s. Sometimes it is the mono but not the stereo. I have not found any RVG or Plastylite fingerprints on any Alan Douglas 1962-3 Jazz Series.  Douglas was blind to the whole engineering/manufacturing thing. Also I don’t think RVG had a hand in any recordings, so Plastylite merely pressed whatever they were given. They sound poor because Douglas thought the artists was all that mattered, and failed to supervise recording and manage mastering process. One of music history’s unforgivable failures.

 

 

 

19 thoughts on “Chick Corea: Bliss (1967) Muse (+ photo update)

  1. As to the shrink thing. I just bought a beautiful copy of Andrew Hill’s Judgement on a first pressing, which was still in shrink. I though about keeping it on, and then though ‘screw it’ that incredible cover needs to be seen without the intrusive barrier of some old plastic

  2. The two recordings the Douglas and the muse were recorded from two different tape machines running at slightly different speeds they are slightly off-pitch which makes a big difference in sound quality.

  3. I have been told that LaRoca after he quit playing have been active in the legal department to try to help a few of the old-timers in R&B and jazz to secure some kind of payment for their efforts. If that is so, he should receive more credit for it!

  4. Is Rhodium the material or a brand name, LJC? Either way, something tells me that this is not a negligible, er, investment… Once you have that done you’ll want your electricity upgraded as well — to pure organic, low-cholesterol, artisanal electricity or something…

    • Vegan bio-electricity? Mock ye not.

      A few years back when my system was in it’s infancy, a “friend” persuaded me to try replacing the main amp 13A power fuse with a Furutech rhodium one. For two weeks I endured the absolutely horrid deterioration in sound, bloated bass, crippled top-end, unlistenable, and in desperation, eventually restored all to normal by returning it.

      The idea that fuses make no difference, “it’s all just electricity” is false, proven by a massive deterioration in sound, not improvement.

      Fast forward five years and a host of system improvements in every aspect. This time, swapping a fuse to rhodium resulted in massive improvement in transparency, timing, vitality.

      Takeaway: rhodium interfaces in power cables reveal the quality or poor quality of your main components. They don’t improve your sound, they allow you hear better the quality of what you already have. To mix metaphors, you can’t make a silk purse of sow’s ear. If your system is a sow’s ear, you will discover how poor it’s performance really is.

      Expensive, yes, but nowhere as expensive as upgrading main components. The proof is in auditioning: if a new plug or fuse sounds better, why wouldn’t you want it?

  5. The fact that RVG is not credited in the run out wax on Mingus Wonderland reinforces the Douglas approach of being say “careless” with the facts . Plus, I suspect he was on a tight budget ,demonstrated by black and white covers and Plastylite pressings .I have sent you photos of the original Jazz Portrait release showing RVG as engineer .Also weird about Wonderland is Hentoff was commissioned to write the liner notes for it. Did Douglas have a conscience after all?

    • Yeah, I’ve read a lot about the egos on display during that session, and that it was a near-“trainwreck.” Thing is, listening to it on record, it sounds very together and everyone plays beautifully. Go figure.

  6. Hate to mention the evil silver disc but the 32 Jazz CD issue in 1997 has great sound and restores the original title plus the Paul Wunderlich painting on he cover.. As for the Alan Douglas Collection 1962-3 I think some slick marketing and rebadging was at hand to quickly establish a jazz range.
    The Cecil Taylor ( Hard Driving Jazz in mono and Stereo Drive in stereo ) rebadged as Coltrane Time was recorded in 1958 and produced by Tom Wilson ( ex owner of Transition and went on to record some of the early Bob Dylan albums for Columbia )
    Charles Mingus Wonderland was originally released in 1959 as Jazz Portrait and was produced by Nat Hentoff., recorded by RVG. The Mingus Town Hall original had no production claims ( any wonder , it should never have been issued ) Thank heavens for the Cuscuna re-issue years later.
    The Howard McGhee was produced by George Wein as was the Bud Freeman.
    Vi Redd was supervised by Leonard Feather
    The rest were marked ,produced by Alan Douglas
    The jewel in the crown obviously the Ellington and I often wondered why nothing else was released from the session even Ellington discographies showed more tracks. Once more to the rescue came Cuscuna with the 1987 LP and CD release on Blue Note . He had Malcolm Addey remix the original recordings by Bill Schwartau and found 6 extra tracks.( All 6 on the CD , only 4 on the LP).Great sound by the way. Douglas did do some other good things like the Dolphy on FM
    but he also butchered the Jimi Hendrix legacy for years.
    We all have bad hair days ( or years ) I guess.

  7. I have both a Douglas 1st press and the Muse later press (WLP) and the sound quality of the Muse is much better. It isn’t even close. For what it is worth, the Douglas has a better looking cover…. I also agree with the other comments that the UAJ titles, many of which have amazing music, generally have very poor sonics and/or press quality. The latter has always confused me since many UAJ titles were pressed at Plastylite.

  8. I’ve learned the hard way that UA jazz titles – at least the ones I have – generally have great music but inevitably have absolutely lousy sound quality. Like another poster states, I’ve gone through multiple pressings of Dorham’s Matador and have always been disappointed in how they sound. Same for Money Jungle, another great date that is let down by sounding as if it were recorded with cotton towels placed over the microphones. I’m very much looking forward to hearing if Blue Note can make Money Jungle sound better in its upcoming Tone Poet pressing.

  9. I have Kenny Dorham ‘Matador’ on a dreadful looking 1972 United Artists/Douglas Collection pressing. Great music (Jackie Mclean on board !) but always felt that the sound quality should be better so i got a 70s Japanese pressing as an upgrade, which turned out sounding even worse than the 1972 reissue. Curious if an original pressing would sound better but my pockets aren’t deep enough to check…can anyone comment on the original pressing ?

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