Rather than just replace the NEW JAZZ Collector’s Guide First Edition with a Second Edition, which I will do in time, I would like to share just the fruits of a more depth analysis of the timeline of New Jazz original editions. The sections below are original material not included in the previous post.
Release Timeline of New Jazz Titles?
New Jazz was one of several labels Prestige founder Bob Weistock used, a flag of convenience, not an iconic brand. It was a vehicle for both new releases, and reissues of old releases. But there are some extraordinarily important new releases as first pressings on that label.
In the absence of changing company addresses on labels and covers, beloved of Blue Note collector, the pressing die marks created during vinyl manufacture process remain the most promising “forensic” indicator of New Jazz “original pressing” status.
There seems widespread uncertainty over classifying a pressing as “deep groove” or not deep groove. After looking at a large number of examples, this classification I found most useful for New Jazz, albeit my own invention.
If the relationship between title first release date and the die-marks in use at that time can be established, the original pressing of each title during the main five years can be distinguished from later repressings. The dies in use when that record was first pressed give a more confident basis for asserting “original” status. For example, according to its date of release, the first pressing of a New Jazz title may be wide deep groove, narrow deep groove, or no deep groove. However if wide deep groove copies exists, a narrow deep groove will likely be a second pressing.
When was this record manufactured?
The session date is sometimes used as proxy for “Year” entry in Discogs. It is not an accurate indicator of manufacture/release dates. Reissues of earlier recordings were often slipped into the New Jazz release schedule and there is a highly variable lag between session date and likely release date, 6 months to a year or longer is not untypical with New Jazz. (Blue Notes were released mostly in a more timely way, though not always)
To identify vinyl pressing dates requires a reasonably accurate timeline for the first release of each new New Jazz title, to identify which die-marks were current at that date. The date of first release of each title (month/year) becomes the critical diagnostic.
Schwann monthly catalogues were the main source of historical release dates for Blue Note records, as identified by Fred Cohen’s Guide to Blue Note First Pressings.
However these are considered valuable collector ephemera for sale, possibly a source for Goldmine Guides, but not accessible online to enable penurious label research. Goldmine limits itself to “year”, and confidence is not high. We need to turn to another resource, the most accessible and potentially the most accurate, the weekly Billboard Magazine archive.
Billboard weekly magazines from the 1920s through to 2015 have been scanned and uploaded as an invaluable historical record of the music industry, and a searchable resource.
As one of the record industry’s main magazines, Billboard alerted record dealers of the sales potential of new releases – Special Merit, Spotlights, Very Strong Sales Potential (4 stars) and Good Sales Potential (3 stars) judged by Billboard staffers, adding brief reviews,
However to get Billboard attention, new releases albums first had to be sent to the Billboard Record Reviews Department. At the birth of the New Jazz label, in late 1958/ early 1959, Billboard, May 4, 1959, carried a full listing of all the titles, from 8201 to 8214, in its New Releases section:
However in the years that followed, New Jazz releases were almost entirely absent from the Billboard weekly notice of new LP releases and their sales potential. Not many preview copies turn up in those years: perhaps Weinstock was one of those who thought Radio Stations and their Disk Jockeys should buy their own copies, and pay royalties for broadcasting. Understandable as proprietor, but on the wrong side of popular music history. Here is one that did make it to Billboard, in mid-1962, Mal Waldron’s magnificent The Quest:
Just 15 of the 100 New Jazz titles between 1958 and 1963 were listed by Billboard, giving just a handful of reliable dates, but fortunately, enough as anchor-points to infer the month and year of each catalogue number fairly approximately.
The 1958-63 New Jazz vinyl manufacture date “helicopter view”
By assembling an illustrated diagnostic chart of original pressing detail, for each of 100 titles, over five years, a plausible narrative emerges: you know which pressing dies were in use at which time during those five years. The originals stand out where they should, their later pressings also stand out, having the same characteristics of original pressings some years later. Crossover between one type and another may be a little flaky, not least because records were rarely manufactured and released in exact catalogue number order, but it is good enough, if not perfect. As always, Perfect is the enemy of the Good.
Abbey Test Pressings
The earliest authenticated issue of any title is the test pressing. There is no doubt that Weinstock used Abbey Mfg. during the early days. Perhaps a dozen copies would be pressed from the first stamper, to confirm the acceptable quality of mastering and obtain sign-off from the musicians and their label executives. More research including sweating Popsike has yielded more examples. Personally I would kill for some of these test pressings, audiophile heaven, but collectors seem to value more a perfect-condition cover, and these have none. To each his own, the market is never wrong, except on this occasion.
Abbey Test Pressings – Prestige and New Jazz, 1958-63
Test pressings shown above provide documentary evidence of the impression left by pressing dies in use at Abbey throughout the period 1958 to 1963. This commences with a wide outer deep groove ring, on both sides, and the small circular pressing ring around the spindle hole on one side only.
Towards the end of 1962, commercial pressings begin to show a new narrow deep groove, some with the small circular ring, some not. The examples found for test pressings in 1963 show no deep groove either side, and no small circle around the spindle hole.
Abbey plant operators identified the title of the test pressing in writing on only one side, though some were left blank and identifiable only from the matrix codes. Some titles include the date of test, others do not. It also helpfully confirms the Prestige convention for identifying each side was A / B, and not as SIDE 1/ SIDE 2 as found on some later re-pressings of New Jazz titles. Test pressings are found for recordings at the end of the 8200 series that were never issued. Amazing.
Deep Groove: Wide and Narrow, and None
The “groove” is an impression in the label area from the dies which held the stampers during record pressing. In the late 50’s and very early ’60s, most if not all 12″ LPs were “deep groove”, dies whose dimensions were modelled on those used in the manufacture of shellac 78rpm. Around 1960/1a new design of non-DG pressing dies arrived, and came into use industry-wide. DG dies were replaced incrementally, as the older dies wore out, and the following years saw original pressings and reissues increasingly without deep groove.
About two-thirds the way through the New Jazz series (8266), in late 1961 and through 1962, the wide outer deep groove was replaced on new titles and reissues by the narrow deep groove. The following year, 1963, saw narrow deep groove replaced by “no groove” pressings. Whether these changes were specific to Abbey Mfg, or industry-wide, other plants, we don’t know enough to explain.
Below is an example of a record issued in 1959, 8218 Yusef Lateef – Other Sounds. The original pressing release in Oct-59 has a wide outer deep groove, small circular ring one side. The second copy of 8218 is a second pressing manufactured most likely in 1962, at which time the narrow outer deep groove first appeared. The third copy is a still later pressing, from 1963 or beyond, when the “no deep groove” appear on new release pressings for the first time. This no-groove pressing has the SIDE 1/2 text variation, also found on some narrow deep groove pressings (1962). Others remain simply A/B, different label printers and different typesetters.
Caution is required in assessing groove status, which must be by viewing both side A and side B grooves. (Discogs sellers, kindly note!) Grooves can be slightly different between sides, though not to the extent of being mistaken for a different groove-type. This “no groove” example illustrates the difference:
The one step no groove (in this example, Side A) is the defining presence. Unhelpfully, Side B has a “bevelled step” which could be mistaken for the narrow deep groove (and probably will be!), unless Side A is taken into account as the principal indicator.
Low Resolution graphic (high resolution later in post)
It’s a bit fuzzy. but the advantage of low resolution graphic is that it enables a complete overview of five years record releases in one picture, small multiples reveal changes..For detail on each individual title, see high resolution graphic later in the post.
The wide outer deep groove both sides/ single second inner ring appears on the original pressing of titles issued between 1958 and late 1961, which spans catalogue numbers 8201 to 8266. Re-pressings of earlier titles within this window of time are likely to have the later characteristics.
The narrow deep groove first appeared on new issues in late1961, catalogue number 8267 and, during 1962, from catalogue numbers 8272 to 8276. Where the narrow outer deep groove appears on lower catalogue numbers, they are a second pressing from within this time window.
The narrow deep groove was replaced by “no deep groove” on new issues in 1963, commencing with 8277 up to 8296. The remaining titles 8297-99 were not issued. Any “no groove” pressing on lower catalogue numbers is a second or later pressing.
The Prestige/New Jazz quality demise
There is another story to be told about Weinstock’s reissue activities around 1962-3, which is when I believe recycled vinyl began to poison the water in the well. Financial strain was begining to show: repackaging earlier releases, repressing earlier titles (telltale change in die-impressions through 1962 and 1963) changes in label text (the Side 1/2 issue), search for reducing pressing costs ( slipping some recycled vinyl into some pressings), novelty compilations, and an absence of new artist signings. No to be judgemental, but Weinstock was without the fortitude and artistic commitment shown by Alfred Lion and Francis Wolff, Blue Note right through to 1966.
Aside: farewell, McCoy Tyner, you gave us so much.
I am including a high definition copy of the Label Diagnostic Graphic. It is a ridiculous 7,000 pixel wide file, huge file, which may challenge phone users, but allows each label in the ten by ten columns to be viewed at around 600 pixels wide, sufficient to confirm precise detail of the pressing die marks and label text.
WARNING! LARGE FILE!
I’ve had many hours of fun getting to this point, probably too many hours, but it has helped keep my mind off the nascent spread of Coronavirus COVID-19 across the globe, including my beloved Italy on lockdown. My next crate-dig uptown will require latex gloves for flipping through new arrivals, and pocket hand-sanitiser (though I refuse to join the vanity-mask-wearers, beloved of tabloid picture editors).
I am glad I stuck at it, things are a lot clearer now with New Jazz. Hopefully you will find it useful. Thank you to all who sent in helpful comments, advice and experience. And a special thank you to the (small number of) record dealers who provide large clear photos of both labels of the record they are selling on Discogs. Bravo, we are really getting somewhere.
I’m just about done with New Jazz, and I have become allergic to the colour purple. I need to go listen to more music. Return to album reviews will follow.
If you have some New Jazz label anomalies, or further thoughts, I am interested in getting it right, not being right, send to me.