More photos from 1970, courtesy of Harry M, The Jazz Paparazzi (see end of post, and test your artist recognition skills)
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A Tocatta – “a virtuoso piece of music featuring fast-moving, lightly fingered or otherwise virtuosic passages or sections” (Wiki)
Kenny Dorham, trumpet; Joe Henderson, tenor sax; Tommy Flanagan, piano; Richard Davis, bass; Albert Heath, drums, recorded Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, September 14, 1964, released July 1965.
Trompeta Tocatta, despite some flaws in its execution, is one mother of an album. Dorham shows his bop roots, brings in the well-seasoned Tommy Flanagan, but gives lots of space to his young contempory, the increasingly confident Joe Henderson.
The title track Trompeta Tocatta is an ambitious modal canvas, a slow rising intro, a gateway to a complex weave of sections, some wonderful horn-work from Henderson – explosive fast runs, honking snarls and harmonics – but I think a mis-judged Richard Davis bass solo that peters out, leaving everyone scrambling to pick up the pieces. Bass and drum solos are, in my view, best reserved for live performance, allowing some of the audience to nod and absorb the solo, others to escape to the bar and order a drink. With a few exceptions, they rarely work on vinyl, where ensemble performance and group improvisation time is at a premium.
Albert Heath drums keep driving hard, symbols ringing. Tommy Flanagan feels a little out of place in what would have been a natural space for Hancock’s spiders-web of notes. An uneven piece given its high ambition, which might have benefitted from another take, but still has a lot to offer
Night Watch is the hidden gem. Waistband tight, everybody performs on point, feisty solos, economical in delivery, densely packed with fine playing, repays repeated listening, though the tune itself lacks a hook that might have got it greater airplay.
The Fox is a fast-paced virtuoso trumpet performance from Dorham, with Henderson in pursuit. Tally Ho! An exhausting chase.
Mamacita (the selection) is a signature Henderson piece, that delivers on eveything. Billed as a “gospel bossa”, it is a standard 12-bar blues format with a latin bossa overlay. Henderson stretches out and really swings. Dorham tip-toes through his solo lines, syncopating with the rhythm section, Flanagan goes all Barry Harris, while Richard Davis goes Leroy Walkin’, double time. It is a joyous piece that more than makes up for some patchy aspects of the session.
I’ve been thinking about the content of the “Music” section of this blog. Many blogs just copy/paste the All-Music review, list the tracks, or stray into the music career of the artist, rather than poke into the music itself. Whilst those things have a place, I want original content to highlight what I think is distinctive about this music, why it is good, and why you should listen to it.
More personal, I make myself choose the track that I think is the pick of the album. Not always easy. More difficult still is critical balance. I have found over the years, almost everyone is comfortable with praise. Criticism is a harder path to tread, people draw swords, need to defend their opinions. I think, OK, let’s have a conversation about that. I know what I think, but you can always try to change my mind, I’ve been wrong before, perhaps you have too. We can all learn.
Vinyl: BST 84181
This copy is a Liberty reissue, likely an All-Disc pressing: legacy NY labels, Van Gelder stereo master stamps, no ear or no deep groove, 135 gram vinyl, not untypical of Liberty, may be on the lighter side. Original stereo cover, but lost/mislaid inner sleeve.
At least this time the cover is a genuine original, even if the vinyl is “only” Liberty. For the original, Top Twenty auctions stretch between $200 to over $600, with the familiar emphasis on original mono 1st edition. I count only one stereo made it to the Top Twenty auctions.
Do we really need another Blue Note Guide? You decide.
We have two very worthy books on the identification of Blue Note records and pressings – Fred Cohen, and Cuscuna & Ruppli. Both leaning heavily on tabular presentation, though Fred has some great photographic examples as well to accompany the tables.
What I would really like doesn’t exist, a fully visual graphic Illustrated Reference Guide to Blue Note, so I thought I would “imagine” what a page of such a book might look like. I made one up using Trompeta Tocatta as a test, identifying every mark viewable in full screen using actual photograhic source material, combined with useful historical and commercial references, in one infographic.
It is also an excuse to demonstrate my system for improving your odds in smoking out the likely provenance of sealed records – original, or later issue? My mailbox sees queries like this regularly. Either end of the ’60s, vinyl weight fell from 180 grams to around 130 grams. If you have a record from around a similar period to the sealed one, you have a proxy for these readings, but better to have a benchmark of an original copy. Not perfect, vinyl weights vary some from one copy to another, but this should improve your confidence in bidding.
I have seen so many “sealed” teases. Just ask the seller the weight of the sealed record, in grams. Suspicious look “Why do you want to know that??
Everything in the graphic below is genuine, including the weights and values, not a spoof or a mock-up. I laughed at the best price achieved for a sealed copy of Trompeta Tocatta: 30% less than an unsealed VG++ copy. Who says mystery sells?
My Goldmine is way out of date, there needs to be a better way to benchmark auction prices. Popsike’s stats graphic of Ebay auction results give too much weight to low-value reissues and CDs under $4.99, not the collectable VG+ or better original and vintage reisues. I opt usually for the Top Twenty range, to get away from the maximum pre-occupation. Technically, the 75th percentile, intersection between the top quartile and upper quartile would probably be the best benchmark, but no-one seems able to do it. So for the moment I flag the top-most moment of madness “outlier” bid.
The time it took to assemble one page, the whole catalogue would be impossible, if you had the original editions in the first place, especially the trophy records. But I might just try some more examples when it might be relevant to a post. I’ve had some fun with it. Looks like spare time may be still quite plentiful in the days and weeks ahead, and oh dear, a week of rain forecast
If you can think of anything to improve this imaginary Collectors Guide, fire away, whatever floats your boat. You might want to give it a try yourself, with a different record, crowd-sourcing.
Update April 27, 2020. More photos from Harry M, the Jazz Paparazzi.
Tommy Flanagan, and friends, at the Montreux Pablo reception
Here’s a little fun, name as many of the seven friends as you can. No facial recognition software allowed, no cheating.
Photo Credits – Harry M