UPDATED: Harry M. photos
I have a mono early issue of Somethin’ Else but the Liberty stereo I added a few years back is not good enough, so I could not resist a quality stereo reissue in Blue Note’s new Classic Vinyl Series. Shrink? I couldn’t bring myself to rip it of, the sticker would go with it.
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Cannonball Adderley’s Five Stars: Miles Davis, trumpet; Cannonball Adderley, alto sax; Hank Jones, piano; Sam Jones, bass; Art Blakey, drums; Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, NJ, March 9, 1958
From Blue Note’s thoughtful commentary:
“The theme of the title track is an extended call-and-response volley between Davis and Adderley, but as it evolves, the rhythm section participates in the interaction.
To hear a master jazz conversationalist at peak, check out the crisp and perfectly placed chords pianist Hank Jones provides for Adderley. And then listen as bassist Sam Jones and drummer Art Blakey seize some of those stone-simple pianistic rejoinders and transform them into fuel for further agitation. …
What emerges is not just the sound of five players doing their jobs well, but a group reveling in their common ability to galvanize and shape each other’s ideas”
My usual choice of track on this album is the reworking of standards Autumn Leaves and Love For Sale. Rediscovery! Side 2 reaquainted me with the wonderful One for Daddy-O, a testament to Cannonball’s swinging, lyrical alto: acrobatic twists and turns, dancing on clouds, seamless progressions, fills, and grace notes, endless invention without ever outstaying his welcome. Note to self, play more Cannonball!
For more Cannonball recommendations Ten Essential Cannonball Adderley tracks, from London Jazz News: “10 tracks by Cannonball Adderley I can’t do without…” by Brtish saxophonist Tom Smith. He plays, he should know.
Mastered by Kevin Gray from the original two-track tapes, pressed by Optimal, Germany. 180gm “regular” vinyl, pretty well near silent. The sonics are magnificent. Huge spacious soundstage beyond the speakers, full tonal and dynamic range, no roll-off or noticeable boosting either end. Natural, intimate, polished finish but without the bottox found in “audiophile” reissues five to ten years ago.
Looking for some clue how the channel separation delivers extreme wide stereo image, I have pictured the waveforms of the left and right channels, first, during a Hank Jones comping/ piece visibly centered, and second with Miles soloing, visibly on one channel only.
The best mastering is transparent, permits the recording by Van Gelder to shine to its full potential. When Rudy’s recording was below par, as sometimes rarely happened, running the dials too hot, dodgy piano, that will shine through too. Fortunately everything on the Somethin’ Else date was perfect.
Other issues in passing: Side 1 is 18 minutes, Side 2 is just over 20 minutes, yet very different size groove footprint. Strange, the Liberty remaster has Side 1 runout the same width as Side 2.
Sadly I don’t have a BST 1595 RVG stereo master comparator! But I run with what I have: Liberty Engineer stereo remastering (1966). vs Kevin Gray stereo remastering (2021) vs the RVG mono (1958). Then a couple of Youtube points of reference, one a rival vinyl rip, the other a Super-Evil Silver Disc. It is all about comparison. Sounds great? Could sound greater. Until you compare you do not know what is possible.
- New York mono RVG 1962-66
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2.Liberty stereo remaster, (1966) UA reissue 1972
Liberty remaster metal, pressed for Division of United Artists 1972 Blue Note US Replica Series ( unofficial title).
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3. Japanese Reissue (Kenwood turntablerip vinyl to Youtube)
4., SACD Official Youtube licensed upload, The Extremely Evil Silver Disc.
Blue Note’s Classic Vinyl Series commenced December last year, a continuation of the 80th (anniversary) Series – bare-bones vinyl and packaging. Comparing this edition with a recent Tone Poet reissue, different title, of course, I noticed superior dimensionality of the Tone Poet title, compared with the slightly drier and “more grainy” presentation of this Vinyl Classic Series title. The difference is quite subtle, but it is there. Whoops, nearly disappeared down the wrong rabbit hole.
Both reissues are recently remastered from the original Van Gelder tapes, by Kevin Gray, with his most recent studio quality improvements. It is not that the Tone Poets Series are necessarily “better” than the Classic Vinyl Series. If the mastering in each case is faithful to the original tape, the difference between a 80/Classic and a Tone Poet has to be in the original tape – one is sonically better than the other, Statement of the obvious! Somethin’ Else Classic Vinyl Series is a recording session at Hackensack. The Tone Poet happened to be a recording session at Englewood Cliffs, five years later.
Van Gelder was a pefectionist, constantly seeking improvements, the latest condenser microphones rewired, mixing desk components, tape machines, and enlarged room-acoustics. If the mastering is faithful to the tape, then the comparison of two recordings reveals the sonic improvements Van Gelder made in the five years between 1958 and 1963. Why would it not? Is it likely Van Gelder’s Englewood Cliffs studio made no improvement on Hackensack? Gray’s revealing mastering give a hitherto rare insight into the difference, often previously lost in the miasma of micro-sonic colourings.
The Classic Vinyl Series issue of Somethin’ Else sounds great, a stereo delight of a magnificent recording session of some of the most talented musicians, and sounds much better than my previous Liberty/UA stereo. Put aside the merits of the music, if that is possible, my 1963 recording sounds better than the 1958 one: richer, fuller, more detailed, more presence. I sense an imminent train-crash, 500 pages on Hoffman.
Blue Note’s recent and current product/ branding congestion, understandable if some are confused, including me. There is some double-coverage of some titles between 80 and Classic Vinyl. Is the difference just packaging and merchandising? It is a stretch to think Kevin Gray makes different masters, again and again from the same original tape. Is it just the packaging that changes? Let’s make a quick summary:
Music Matters Jazz: MM33, stereo, SRX carbonless vinyl / gatefolds – premium price and quality, independent agreement with Blue Note
Blue Note 75 Series (2014+) – stereo, acknowledged disaster, digital source, unreliable manufacturing quality, budget price but quality fail.
Blue Note 80 Series (2019+), five years on from 75, corrects many issues with 75, still manages budget price and but now top audio sonics. Eurpean pressing.
Blue Note Classic Vinyl Series (December 2020+) – stereo,, continues the 80 series sonic benchmark – Kevin Gray mastering / original tapes sources, but pressed at Optimal Germany, 180gm regular vinyl, direct board print jackets same as the 80 Series
Blue Note Tone Poet (2019+) stereo, gatefold covers, Kevin Gray mastering/ original tape sources, US pressing at RTI, mid-price but import cost penalty for some
Reasons to be cheerful! More goodies to come in this excellent Blue Note Classic Vinyl Reissue series. I have no financial inducement, all comments based on my own purchases.
Classic Vinyl Reissue Series – Release Schedule:
December 4, 2020
January 15, 2021
February 12, 2021
April 9, 2021
To Be Announced:
- Sonny Clark – Cool Struttin’
- Jimmy Smith – Back At The Chicken Shack
- Dexter Gordon – GO!
- Eric Dolphy – Out To Lunch
- Grant Green – Idle Moments
- Kenny Burrell – Midnight Blue
- Freddie Hubbard – Ready for Freddie
- Herbie Hancock – Maiden Voyage
Maybe be done Somethin’ Else to death, but hopefully this is closure on this wonderful recording.
There will be more modern Blue Note Classic Vinyl and 80 Series reviews in future. Unlike the vintage collectible antiques, these are readily available, maybe not forever. After twenty years, the modern audiophile reissue has finally come of age. Unless of course you prefer the authentic sound of Van Gelder mono. You need to compare it, before you dismiss it. RVG mono has such a different presentation.
UPDATE March 13, 2021: Harry M took the photos, Miles (Jazz Expo 1969) and Blakey (New Victoria Theatre, London, 1971)