UPDATED June 7, 2020 – Harry M hits the spot-focus, photos Kenny Barron 1970 & Jack de Johnette 1969 added to foot of post.
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Two Henderson sessions, eight months apart, recorded at Plaza Sound Studios, once home base of the Riverside Records label, located on the eighth floor of Radio City Music Hall.
September 27, 1967: Joe Henderson, tenor sax; Kenny Barron, piano; Ron Carter, bass; Louis Hayes, drums, recorded Plaza Sound Studios, NYC, recording engineer, Elvin Campbell. (Tetragon, First Trip, I’ve Got You Under My Skin) Other tracks –
May 16, 1968: Joe Henderson, tenor sax; Don Friedman, piano; Ron Carter, bass; Jack DeJohnette, drums, recorded at Plaza Sound Studios, NYC,
Orphaned from Blue Note, and not in favour with Liberty, Joe Henderson’s Milestone albums kicked off with two highly listenable and collectable albums, The Kicker, and Tetragon (released January 1969). Joe could then have joined the “spiritual” and mystic, Sun Ra , Strata East, The Pharoah Master Plan oeuvre, but instead chose one political, with a series of black-themed titles, an early couple lifted by the presence of Woody Shaw on trumpet: Power to the People, “If You’re Not Part Of The Solution, Your’e Part Of The Problem”, In Pursuit of Blackness, Black Is the Color, Black Miracle, Black Narcissus, (plus an exceptional title, The Elements, with Alice Coltrane).
These Black Vinyl Matters titles experimented with various musical devices riding current trends, adding the fusion-leaning Stanley Clarke and Lenny White, multiple percussion layers (Airto), E-mu polyphonic synthesisers (Dr. Patrick Gleeson); multi-track confections and increasingly ephemeral music in search of fertile new ground, and not finding it. Most of these later Milestones can be found priced in single figures, harsh, but such is the verdict of the market,
Henderson’s mythical sessions of the late 50s to mid 60s would not return. The audience was moving on, fusion was just around the corner, a last gasp of modern jazz before it had to don gold lame pants, switch piano for synthesiser, or moved to Europe to bag a Danish (blonde). Only decades later, in the ’80s, would Henderson emerge re-energised, with his live trio double album The State Of The Tenor.
Tetragon features chirpy melodies pitched midway between hi-energy mainstream and languid post-bop. Henderson’s tone is hard burr, skinny compared with some fuller-tone players, closer to parakeet-strangling, leaping into solos with imaginative twists and turns, probing multiphonic extremes. Add choppy-comping piano and Ron Carter motoring on bass, and you have solid listening session. Not an essential compared with the Blue Note sessions, but still an enjoyable Henderson outing, and perhaps one of the last for some time.
Vinyl: Milestone MSP 9017
The Milestone label was Orin Keepnews sucessor label to Riverside, formed with Dick Katz, a busy piano sideman since the mid ’50s.The label offered a refuge for numerous jazz artists at the close of the ’60s, including McCoy Tyner, Gary Bartz, Nat Adderley, Ron Carter and Bobby Timmons.
Pressing quality is in line with Milestone’s predecessor Riverside, which means variable, generally OK, some better than other, some dirty/ noisy. Keepnews was more concerned about artist signing and merchandising, not alone in not really understanding the importance of manufacturing quality.
Calling all Pixel Peepers! Curious pressing plant symbol on both sides. Anyone recognise it? It is very small, about half the size of Plastylite’s P, looks like a ghostly inverted letter V emerging from an illuminated tunnel, or a big-horn flying mountain goat ? I tried to describe it, just not very well, you may be able to do better. Who’s symbol is it? I must know.
Milestone has a number of label variations – yellow/ tan, blue, green, and brick-red, and many are casually referred to as “original”, when no-one really knows how the variations are dated. See Collector’s Corner below for a definitive answer.
Tetragon is found on three different Milestone labels, the blue, the yellow tan,and an obviously not original brick-red from the Fantasy/ OJC school. So these are the candidates for the “original” and both are describes variously as first and original.
Discogs unhelpfully has no labels pictured in its main 1968 entry, just front and back cover, leaving everyone no wiser. I have been told by other collectors that the yellow/ tan is the earliest label – for some records perhaps, but this one? . I thought I would put an end to it, as always, seek out the promo, generally, if not always, the first of the first.Yes, there is one.
Tetragon is a good example of Jazz For Listening, rather than Jazz For Trading and Investment, and its twin, Records To Impress Your Friends. However one record that fits in all three categories was drawn to my attention by a reader, who took issue with one of my record label guides, in particular, my transition point of the -A suffix in the evolution of the ’60s Impulse label, A-77, A Love Supreme.
For anyone interested in discerning The Original of an Impulse album, the -A suffix on the label is like the ® on Blue Note, or the Bergenfield address on Prestige. There is 1st Ed. and not 1st. Ed. Nothing arcane or obscure, it is a large red flag. Any Impulse orange/black label with a catalogue number earlier than A-77 which has a suffix -A/-B label is a later pressing. For example A-60 on the orange/ black label is or could be original, A-60-A on the label is a later pressing, indisputably. Small Things Matter.
Coltrane’s masterpiece A Love Supreme, stereo edition, was believed to be the transition point of commencement of the -A suffix . All stereo copies of ALS I had seen were AS-77-A. on the label, and invariably described in auctions as “Original!”.
However; there was one nagging doubt. Impulse mono and stereo label copy was always the same – merely a different catalogue number, A or AS. In early 1965 when ALS was being prepared for release, the mono promo was unequivocally A-77, no suffix, dozens of white label promos support this. Why would the stereo label AS-77 have the -A suffix, and not the mono? .
All stereo copies I could find were AS-77-A, none AS-77, so AS-77-A was declared 1st Ed. However that was not the end of the matter. An LJC reader turned up a stereo copy without the -A suffix, simply AS-77. No matter how rare, it exists, the moment all Gurus dread, it takes just one copy.
Could a promo of the stereo edition be found? Promos are generally considered definitive of the features of the1st edition – the first of the first – that might throw light on the point of transtion to the -A suffix. Impulse had a well-ordered mono/white label process for radio station promos, however stereo promos also exist. Just one stereo promo of A Love Supreme could be found!
Below left, a “Sample not for resale”. A different title bearing the same “SAMPLE NOT FOR RESALE “stamp was also found, stamped in the same manner – inside the gatefold, diagonally, in an area of white space, suggesting the same hand, albeit a different colour inkpad.Was there a label picture with the ALS stereo promo?
The stereo promo includes an Impulse picture inner sleeve – the fourth and last of the blue boxed ABC Paramount Records design, 1501 Broadway, New York 36 N.Y. address.Some copies of A Love Supreme are found with the 1966 later red and black New Wave design, Avenue of Americas address inner sleeve, suggesting continuous pressing over several years.
Stereo was well established at the beginning of 1965, Coltrane was ascendant, and extra copies of the stereo will have been pressed after the initial release. From the sheer number of suffix -A/-B editions, the initial print label run was small. Copies without the suffix, are, as one seller would say, insanely rare.
The starting point of the Impulse -A suffix label is moved up one, to A-78-A, in a continuous run thereafter with the exception of A-80, which was prepared for release out of sequence – both the mono and stereo of A-80 are without the suffix. A consistency that is reassuring. The only chore remaining was to go back to the original Impulse label series to correct it. Took ages.
I have both mono and stereo British releases, and I still think this recording sounds better in mono, it’s the next big thing. Any thoughts?
UPDATE June 7, 2020: Harry M, the vintage jazz paparazzi, strikes again
Kenny Barron taken in Montreux in 1970 when he was playing with Yusef Lateef
Music in mono, pictures in monochrome, black and white is right.