Donald Byrd: Byrd In Flight (1960) Tone Poet 2021

I have been trying to pace posts to one a week, but this is one of those cases where I didn’t want to delay. No original comparator to hand, but hot on the heels of the Tone Poet release, better to be timely.  LJC doesn’t just collect records, he collects something more valuable: knowledge. Knowledge helps make all choices better in future, so it is a valuable companion.

A wise saying attributed to Mark Twain: “Good judgement is the result of experience, and experience… often… the result of bad judgement“. This not a paradox, but a win:win situation. You get either what you want, or the knowledge to help get what you want next time.

Selection: Ghana (Tone Poet)

.  .  .

Music

Previously written, I’ll merely repeat for completeness.:

This is a fabulous Blue Note, if you don’t have it, 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.

Vinyl: BST 84048

The Byrd TP has landed. Inky-black near silent noise floor, ultra-wide perfectly balanced sound stage, solid dimensional  instrument placement, this was Rudy at his best, beautiful recording, beautifully mastered. This is truly a masterpiece, certainly the best Blue Note modern stereo reissue I have heard. I can’t compare it with the original, not on my shelf, but it is a very satisfying listen, pairs beautifully with a good single malt, with the lights turned low.

Gatefold

Cover Art Director on duty.

Many writers address the music, the abilities of the artists, and the qualities of the vinyl. You have also paid for that cover. Let’s show some appreciation of the art direction?

I thought I recognised the TP Mobley picture. Well, I was half-right. Looks like from the same Francis Wolff photo session used for the cover of 4080 Workout. Same pose, just shot from a different angle.

Every picture tells a story, some pictures tell it  better than others. The shot selected for the Workout cover tells a story. The TP shot, apparently similar, is all loose ends. But it offers a useful comparator, an A:B, as to how the Workout picture works.

Props! A pair of shades, likely just out of frame in the TP photo. Shades in a darkened studio? Hipness, of course. A bottle of soft drink (Coca Cola), and a pack of cigarettes (Winston).  Connection: the first track on Side 2 of Workout  is entitled “Smokin’ “. Mobley is drawing on a recently lit cigarette, an atmospheric puff of smoke.  The  Workout shot is dynamic: Hank is smokin’. On the TP shot  the cigarette is unlit , drooping in his left hand. His right hand is raised to his lips, but Hank is visibly not smokin’.

In the TP, Hank’s tenor recedes into the background.On Workout, Hank’s saxophone is in the  foreground, casting a dramatic shadow on the studio floor. The shiny surface reflections make it a focus of attention. A visual relationship is established between the musician and the instrument. Hank has put down his sax and takes a well deserved break for a smoke, and a soft drink, because he has been working, playing hard.

The visual elements are all present in the TP shot, but  not connected. The Workout cover shot brings them all  together, to tell that story in just one picture. Art direction!

Finishing touch, red text on black and white tells you Hank’s session a hot hot hot. (Which it is!)  Reid Miles genius (not forgetting Francis Wolff).

Collector’s Corner

Declaration of Interest: none, full retail personal purchase.

Three-way reissue shoot out: Tone Poet 2020; Toshiba EMI 1990; UA blue label 1975

A:B;  A:C;  B:C   – all rips on latest system “level playing field”. Sadly. no original Blue Note for comparison

Byrd In Flight was overlooked in the early Toshiba era (1968-77). King made the first Japanese reissue,  in its Blue Note Masterpiece 150 series (1977-80). Toshiba’s first release  from Japan was this edition in 1990,  4 to 5 years into the digital  and CD era.

B: Toshiba EMI, 1990Blue Note LP Again series

.  .  .

A:Repeat of the Tone Poet, 2020 for final comparisons:

.  .  .

And where this post started from, the United Artists blue labelC:United Artists blue label  1975

.  .  .

A: Repeat of the Tone Poet 2020 for final comparisons:

.  .  .

Caveat: The full Hi Fi system playback has a quite different character: room filling 12 feet between speakers,  wider dynamic and tonal range, better timing, with added room acoustics.  Playback in this post  is limited to 320kb stream via internet and PC soundcard and speakers/headphones.

Observations: The TP is absolutely gorgeous on the big system. The 1970’s  United Artists certainly packs a punch, very bright and forward presentation. The Toshiba is noticeably the weakest, sounds “slower”,  which is always a bad sign. That is my take but you may have a different experience, through different equipment, delivering different results.

What do you think?  It’s OK to differ. Another wise quote, this one attributed to Oscar Wilde: Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.

 

LJC

19 thoughts on “Donald Byrd: Byrd In Flight (1960) Tone Poet 2021

  1. I finally got the Tone Poet issue and compared it to my original issue. The TP pressing magically finds bass that did not seem to exist in the original; on the other hand, some of the midrange and high-frequency clarity seems to have been lost. Except for Lex Humphries’ drum solos, it is not a bad trade-off. The original pressing provides a slightly more accurate representation of Byrd’s trumpet, but Mobley’s saxophone sounds much better on the TP version. Pearson’s piano is muddled in both copies but slightly more evident in the TP edition. In summary, this is a very, very good re-edition—possibly on of the best I have heard in the Tone Poet series, though Bobby Hutcherson’s Oblique also is excellent.

  2. I have my share of the DBLP series, definitely my favorite reissues….they are expensive and rare these days…

    (Fixed for you – LJC)

  3. As a little aside from a sometime streamer, I was puzzled to see that “BIF” was also listed as being an album by Duke Pearson on Amazon Music. Confusing. Sounds fine if streamed in HD through a good sound system.

  4. Great write-up of “Byrd in Flight.” The TP pressing has rarely been off my turntable since it arrived last week. The sound is spectacular. I also enjoyed your analysis of the Hank Mobley photo. Not that it matters, but I think the bottle in the photo is a soft drink bottle. In the early 60s, beer bottles in the US were either “stubbies,” that is short with almost no neck, or longnecks, with a cylindrical body and long slender neck. The bottle near Mobley appears to be a Coca-Cola bottle, but could also be one of the many regional soda pop brands from the time. Pop bottles didn’t have labels, as the names were printed directly on the glass. Regards, Tom

  5. I’ve been listening to “Byrd in Flight” on the Tone Poet series. Fine performances by all and a fantastic product. I don’t know this particular LP, but am giving it frequent spins on my TT. This series has captured the “it’s like being in the room” atmosphere on these recordings. I have several, and will be collecting more. I know the instinct is to do comparisons, I now believe this an error. Listening to interviews with Joe Harley and Kevin Gray, these records were remastered without listening to the original album. They went simply by what was on the tapes, and combined that with what they knew about RVGs’ idiosyncrasies. It’s the same record, just engineered for the modern jazz audiophile, to put it simply. Interviews are available on Blue Note website. The Tone Poet series helps to fill out my collection with quality pressings that are a joy to collect. I look forward to many listening sessions with the Tone Poet series.

  6. I too, just purchased the TP about a week ago after previously purchasing Morgan’s “Cornbread” TP and having my hat knocked in the creek by that release, I knew Byrd in Flight had to be my next purchase. My only baseline was the BN Connoisseur CD from the middle 90’s. Loved the music, but felt something was lacking-partly the big black platter, and some bottom end-now both are taken care of with the platter spinning and the bass where it should be. Fab sounding and exciting record. Thanks for the re-visit.

  7. They really have been hitting it out of the park with many of the Tone Poets. It’s also a nice move of reviving some titles that never received the full-on classic BN treatment upon first release. Interesting to see which artists’ oeuvre have benefited the most from the series – would have to say Donald Byrd is up there, between this and Chant in 2019.

    • I also just bought this TP release….and compared it to my Japanese DBLP Mono copy of this release….hands down better sonics on the DBLP….yes, better because of Mono but also better sonics….would love to hear others weigh in on this comparison. Greg

      • Interesting. Didn’t realize Byrd In Flight was part of the Japanese reissue series you’re referring to. Were there Blue Note titles produced beyond the 60 or so reissued between 2011-2014?

        • I have updated my Blue Note Label Guide to include the Disc Union/ BDLP Premium Vinyl Reissue series (2011-4), including a listing of the 63 titles issued. Byrd In Flight was not among them. I have never seen or heard a copy of the BDLP series, so I refrain from comment, though I note many who have are very positive.

          • I do have every one of them and they are incredible…pressed at Quality Pressing in Kansas….IN.MONO!! That alone is the most significant issue regarding these BN reissues. That’s what I for one would like to see TP do. Greg

            • Unfortunately Joe Harley doesn’t appear to like mono so if there’s a stereo tape he goes with it, I only have a few Disc Unions, but agree that they are special, as for “Byrd In Flight” that’s in my long delayed Blue Note UK shop order, perhaps it will arrive next month.

              • Respectfully but aggressively, that horrible late 50s early 60s hard pan left right stereo was just awful….on the Van Gelder pressings from all labels as well as other music…eg Beatles, etc. Looking on Discogs or Ebay or anywhere else, Monos of these fantastic recordings are by far the most expensive and the most sought after….look at the ERCs out of London….monos of those jazz reissues are out of sight on the secondary market and they are superb! The Classic 200 gram monos of many Blue Note LPs were wonderful and I think are better than any of the Japanese reissues or later Liberty issues of their stereo counterparts, etc. The Disc Union/DBLPs are simply the best! I do think Joe Harely and the Music Matters releases as well as the TP issues are superb and they should certainly be applauded for the business chance they take by such an undertaking….I for one, wish they would consider producing them in Mono, especially any of the late 50s or very early 60s BN LPs….they’d probably pre sell out. My two cents….Greg

                • I got a few of the DBLP releases when they came out. I had Mobley and Morgan as well as the Tina brooks. They were good, but in every single case, the BG Classic Mono’s beat them. No exception. The covers were nice though.

                  BTW – They can’t touch the original mono pressings, but the BG Classic Mono’s are still very good.

      • I have the classic mono aswell, and that compared to the original mono was a bit dissapointing. So maybe i dont need the tp…

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