Donald Byrd: Byrd In Flight (1960) Blue Note

Coming shortly, the  long-awaited Tone Poet, but this is not an original trophy-parade. LJC digs out his non-descript United Artists mid-70s blue label reissue, only to find it sounds fantastic!  Not even Van Gelder metal sourced, but, I guess, mastered from Rudy’s  original hot tapes – the sound quality is baked-in to the source.

Selection 1: Ghana (Byrd)  Tenor sax: Hank Mobley

.  .  .

Selection 2: My Girl Shirl (Pearson)  Alto sax:: Jackie Mclean

.  .  .


Artists SIDE 1 (Ghana): Donald Byrd, trumpet; Hank Mobley, tenor sax; Duke Pearson, piano; Doug Watkins, bass; Lex Humphries, drums.; Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, January 17 and  25, 1960

Artists SIDE 2 (My Girl Shirl) : Donald Byrd, trumpet; Jackie McLean, alto sax, Duke Pearson, piano; Reginald Workman, bass; Lex Humphries, drums; Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, July 10, 1960

 Only six months into his new Englewood Cliffs Studio, Van Gelder recorded the Mobley session, and six months later the McLean session. The album was released in January 1961. This is from the very heart of the Blue Note Golden Era (1959-61)


This is a fabulous Blue Note, you need it, go get it. The Mobley side is great, the McLean side is great, the common thread is Donald Byrd (obviously) and Duke Pearson, who has a knack of penning memorable compositions – these tunes will be going around in your head for a  a long time.  All-Music: “Several of these selections are penned by Byrd, but it is pianist Pearson who contributes four of the most potent compositions on Byrd in Flight, supplying the wings for these quintet recordings to take off.” “A first-class flight, captained by Byrd and manned by two crews of musicians who were all just then coming into the height of their powers”.

Vinyl: Original 4048 below  No, I  don’t have this mono original, but I want it!





I  settled for less, but it is not all bad news. The stereo is great. I gave up fighting for an original for reasons I don’t recall, probably financial. My early acquired Toshiba copy had me disinterested in the music, an emerging theme with EMI-Toshiba. They do not do justice to the recording. A United Artists blue label popped up on Ebay, and I bagged it for small change and, low expectations.

No Van Gelder metal, and the blue label/white b which appeared more on the second half of the 70s, after United Artists corporate refashioning as United Artists Music and Record Group. It was being sold by a Polish lady, from whom I collected it at a London train station rendezvous, like a John Le Carre script. Arrive at station at agreed time, you are looking for someone holding a record, they are looking for someone looking for someone holding a record. So more interesting than waiting for postie.

You have to buy to try, disappointment is a small price for education. If the product is right, the Van Gelder recording, and, in the immortal words of Michael Cuscuna, all you have to do is keep your hands in your pockets and not f##k it up. Which is precisely what happened here. The UA house engineer mastered it hot like the original.

Great thing about ripping is setting the gain (this one is loud)  and watching the left and right channel waveforms.. It is stereo, and engineered very dynamically. Van Gelder’s recording of these 1960 sessions  must be outstanding for a record from UA mid 70s house engineers to sound this hot.Some of the UA  guys put their own initials on the runout, but not this one, just a faint job-code “77” etched on one side. 


Collector’s Corner – Vinyl Geek Supplement

Vinyl Mastering Scully 601 lathe. You know you want one. Only question is, where would you put it? Conversation piece in the dining room? Object d’Art in the conservatory?  Or in the Man-Shed next to your classic Mercedes rebuild project?

2021 Vinyl Education Supplement: Non-Musical Grooves.

 Geek alert, a digression follows on runout grooves.  Pay attention, make notes if necessary. Spotify streamers may want to put the kettle on,  an all analog device for making tea.

In addition to cutting acetate music groves, a lathe offered a number of pre-set functions for cutting the non-music grooves. On the Scully, no doubt on other makes too, these consisted of the lead-in spiral groove – from point of needle drop to start of the music; a narrow spacing band between each track; a lead-out spiral groove of two to three rotations across the bare vinyl land, prior to  the cartridge/tonearm entering the final concentric lock groove (where it will still be spinning the following morning, if like me you sometimes fall asleep while listening).

The lead-out spiral groove cut by Van Gelder’s Scully is of particular interest, as it effectively represented a signature of the master’s handiwork, as Van Gelder used the same pattern over many years and hundreds of titles.

In the Blue Note 1500 series, between the years 1956 and early 1958, Van Gelder’s lathe cut a distinctive lead-out spiral with an off-centre eliptical path which caused the tonearm to sway from side to side during its final rotation. Though this is rarely mentioned in record dealing, this is a useful stone in your pocket for authenticating Blue Notes.

This same spiral is seen on all titles from 1501 up to about 1590, though there may be some exceptions – I can’t vouch first hand for those which I don’t own.

After a few brief changes in pattern during transition, the lathe in use by Van Gelder then  cut a distinctive fixed pattern three-band lock-groove, which is found on all Van Gelder masters from the years early 1958 through to 1966 and possibly beyond. Pictured below is BLP 1595, mastered in the Spring of 1958, one of the first titles illustrating the distinctive three-ring final lock groove.

My copy of BLP 1593 Blues Walk has the same three-ring lock-groove, though the Horace Silver title, 1589, has a transitional pattern of only two rings, but not the earlier off-centre elliptical groove. I am not entirely sure of the exact title of transition. Perhaps some Blue Note collectors can throw some light on this, squinting at the vinyl, though be prepared for family and friends to send for the men in white coats.

A selection of lead-out spirals and three-ring  lock grooves (pictured in LJC previous posts) confirms the consistent appearance of this final pattern:

Take these lessons on board and I guarantee you will never look at vinyl in the old way again. These are the secrets of the lathe-trolls. You can now speak Run-out.

The antidote to overnight turntable spinning is one of these: The Audio Technica “Safety Raiser” It works well but is not perfect, need readjusting from time to time, and you have to remember to prime it before every play.

I can live with it, just. Am I the only one who falls asleep listening? Eight hours wear and tear on your turntable transmission system, for no benefit. It is a useful device.

Happy New Year, 2021 is coming, for better or worse.


15 thoughts on “Donald Byrd: Byrd In Flight (1960) Blue Note

  1. Hi LJC have you had a chance to compare this against the tone poet reissue yet? I received mine yesterday and am very happy with it, I had only heard the Deezer streaming version prior to this though as a comparison.

    • Ordered, in the post.

      Courier services deliver in the blink of an eye, but Post seems to take forever. I believe they have high staff absence due to you know what. Management claim they are overwhelmed by online purchases, but all these purchases give Royal Mail corresponding aditional revenue. Which they pocket but don’t upscale service.

      I will update when I have had a listen.

  2. Have the Liberty stereo pressing of this…guess it the same mastering and it sound awesome…rather have the OG mono but this has really nothing to complain about.

  3. I have a Q-up which looks to be very similar to the Audio Technica item, and I have never figured out how to install it so I am still fully manual.

  4. Thanks for the review and tips on collecting Blue Note jazz records. I try to be flexible in my tastes for jazz, but keep coming back to the Blue Note collection. I’ve been lucky to get original presses of some solid jazz sessions, but now it looks like I’ll be going for reissued LPs. I’ve been impressed with the “Tone Poet” series & eagerly await the Donald Byrd “ In Flight” addition. Keep up with all the great postings.

  5. Always good to have some advance info on the Tone Poet Series. Unrelated… but is there a significant difference between the 75th and 80th anniversary Blue Notes, in terms of audio quality? One is preferred over the other? Danke Schon…

    • Blue Note have admitted the 75 series was troubled by plating and pressing problems, and was mastered from digital sources. 80 series addresses all these issues, though at a cost.. I had not listened to any 75’s personally, so I am judging from hearsay. 80’s are manufactured on the same model as Tone Poets, which I have several, and hold in high esteem. Mastered from original tapes by (update: Kevin not David) Gray, high quality vinyl pressing, however they are committed to the Stereo format, and mono remains the domain of originals.

      • Kevin Gray is the mastering engineer for the 80ths and the Tone Poets, not David Gray.

        LJC replies: Quite so, Kevin Gray, I used to have a colleague named David Gray, sometimes gets transposed when writing from memory, thanks for the correction.. Any thought on the music?

    • True Confessions: the problem is my “late listening hour”. Other people’s domestic routine may be different, but after an evening meal, including a bottle of wine, and then an hour of TV Masterchef The Professionals, fifth semi-quarter finals, slumping down on the sofa with an LP playing softly so as not to disturb the neighbours is generally not a good idea. The Safety Raiser is a boon to us with this geriatric delinquent lifestyle.

      • Did you know, the raiser is in fact a reissue? Originally called AT6006a in the 1970-80s and featured a second ‘wire’ to lock it so it wouldn’t trigger. Also great for when having a shower that ends up lasting more than 18 minutes!

  6. Hi LJC,
    Just out of interest,the lead-out spiral with an off-centre eliptical path which caused the tonearm to sway from side to side during its final rotation was used to trip the shut off and/or auto-change function on early 3 speed turntables. Many early 10” & 12” LP’s have this feature which seemed to disappear sometime around 1958.
    Never heard this Byrd title before but on the strength of your review of the above I think I’ll try to bag the new TP issue. All the best for 2021. Big X

  7. Love your recommendations & commentary. Especially appreciate when you dont speak “now talk”, what is that you wonder? Its when you speak or write, (more so the latter), & it couldve been written in 1959 or 1969, its neutral more of less.
    Look forward to your posts everytime.
    The solution to the finished, ever spinning platter is to use a well lubricated, vintage automatic record player. My KLH model Twenty, with the exclusive KLH specs Garrard, unique to the American KLH brand, mine is circa 1967, shuts off by itself flawlessly.

    Happiest of New Years to Everyone.

  8. Dear Andrew

    Hope you had a wonderful Christmas… Just a follow up regarding Blue Spirits…. many thanks for all your help with that…. I went for the Liberty stereo in the end and i absolutely adore it… it’s also close to mint… I bought Inner Urge from the same guy… blue label / black B and that sounds incredible also … even without VAN GELDER…

    Having just read your LJC post tonight i’ve also just bought the Donald Byrd – Byrd In Flight copy you reviewed… always wanted that too but never knew which one to grab at an affordable price… so many thanks for that too…

    also bought a couple of Don Randall/Ian Carr Landsdown reissues which sound amazing…

    very best wishes


    Mark Cummins


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