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.
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Selection 2: My Girl Shirl (Pearson) Alto sax:: Jackie Mclean
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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.
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:
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.
Happy New Year, 2021 is coming, for better or worse.