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.
Selection: One For Daddy-O (mastered Kevin Gray/ Cohearent, 2021)
. . .
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.
Vinyl: BST 1595 Blue Note’s relatively new Classic Vinyl Series
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.
I’m not a lot wiser but at least I can see what I can hear.
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.
Shoot out! Mastering engineers, pistols at 33 1/3 paces.
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).
. . .
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
- Lee Morgan – The Sidewinder
- McCoy Tyner – The Real McCoy
January 15, 2021
- Horace Silver – Song for My Father
- Wayne Shorter – Speak No Evil
February 12, 2021
- Cannonball Adderley – Somethin’ Else
- Joe Henderson – Page One
April 9, 2021
- Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers – Moanin’
- Hank Mobley – Soul Station
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)
Beautiful, beautiful, bravo Harry
Wonderful post! And yes, it’s truly a work of art!
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Can a reissue affect the market for other pressings ? In the case of this title yes. I note 15 Japanese copies were sold on Ebay between Mid Dec and today…3 mos. People vote with their wallets. A new high quality, great sounding, affordable alternative entered the market, and it appears (absent conflicting data) that collectors are selling their Japanese alternatives. Interesting.
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Hi Andy, happy to read your review of these new reissues. Indeed, everything went right on this date from an equipment/technological/engineering standpoint, and it’s an important factor in why this album is so beloved and why it has been reissued so many times (thanks, Mr. V.G.). I got a little confused at the end of the post, where did “1963” come from, you were comparing this album to a hypothetical recording from 1963?
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Small mistake in your final summary of the different series: “Blue Note Classic Vinyl Series (December 2020+)” – these are not tip-on covers, they’re the same thin direct board print jackets as the 80th series. There are no manufacturing differences between the 80th and Classic series, same price, same pressing plant, same mastering engineer, just the war horse titles.
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Correction welcomed, thank you
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I have original mono(63rd, no R, 1st issue), original stereo(63rd, R, 1st issue), mono(63rd, R, 2nd issue), stereo(liberty), Classics issue. I don’t have recent reissues. I also have other musician’s recent reissues such as tone poet, music matters, and classics. based on my experience, recent reissues are good sound quality. but their limitation is condensed sound(low gain) and lack of richness and liveliness. especially, symbal and hi hat sound is not natural. recent reissues are good value for money. If possible, I recommend buying 60-70s album to get more natural sound experience of this vinyl.
LJC – Is The Real McCoy one you’ll be picking up? If so, I’ll be curious to learn what you think. I don’t have an original for comparison, but after some back and forth with my 1975 UA, I found the sound more than a little veiled. Joe Henderson sounds muffled throughout, but especially on “Four By Five,” and there is quite a stark difference between Elvin Jones’ lively cymbal work on the UA and the muted tapping on the BNC. The record itself is clean, flat, and utterly devoid of surface noise, but not at all what I was expecting after your glowing report on Somethin’ Else.
I already have a Van Gelder original 84264, in top condition, so it’s probably not on my list. It was recorded in April 1967. – we are in uncharted waters here. Discogs user comment on the McCoy 80 Series issue: ” well sounding reissue, but brass sounds a bit dull, it could be brighter ”
I’m sure KG has got the best he can out of the tapes. Perhaps it is not in his brief to tweak the recording. Perhaps it was not Rudy’s best that day. We are going to find some 80 Series titles disappoint for the same reason. It would be nice to think every recording was as good as Somethin’ Else but that is probably unrealistic.
Unless you intend to replace everything you already have, there are a lot of titles coming out, you need a strategy. I am going for previously unreleased titles, or titles where I want a better condition copy, to replace a Japanese reissue that lacks vitality, or where I have a mono already but an itch for a stereo.
I reckon maybe only one in three new issues are of interest for me. My bank manager is nodding approval.
I can say that the BNClassic of Real McCoy is one of the first stereo issues I’ve heard that addressed the crazy phasing of Elvin’s cymbals present on most of the stereo issues & reissues.
Whether it was an azimuth issue or not, KG definitely managed to keep most (not all) of that crazy accidentally swirling cymbal sound out of the Classic reissue, which really helps open up the rest of the soundstage.
Your observations mirror mine precisely. I actually bought the BN Classic (it’s not an 80) as I find my MMJ45, comparatively so against others in that series but the 45 is actually vastly superior to the BNC in this regard as is the 1998 RVG CD. LJC is correct that RVG recordings vary a lot and this one is not his very best especially Joe’s horn.
I would expect the MMJ45 to sound better, but since I was comparing with a ’70s copy without the Van Gelder stamp in the dead wax, I wasn’t so much disappointed with the Blue Note Classic as surprised. Taming the phasing of the cymbals is one thing, but overall, the cymbal work is nowhere near as natural or as clear on the BNC – and whether it’s the recording or not, Joe Henderson sounds like he has a rolled up hand towel in his saxophone on this new version. I’ve owned and replaced more than a few lackluster ’70s pressings in the past, so I wasn’t expecting to prefer the UA over the new Kevin Gray-cut BNC.
“Sadly I don’t have a BST 1595 RVG stereo master comparator […]”
I have a CD stereo version “remastered in 1998 by Rudy Van Gelder”, reissue produced by Michael Cuscuna. The stereo separation is barely audible, I don’t like it.
I have a Japanese SJ Stereo (LP pictured in YouTube link). Has anyone compared this pressing to others, including the reissue ? Thanks.
Blue note are really doing a great jobb on these classic and tone poets. Great bang for the bucks and best of all that they are not limited. But compared a couple again OG blue notes and the difference is obvious. But I guess that the genius of RVG and Lion beats the most.
David Gray … a man of many talents 🙂
Damn, I’m struggling to reprogramme my bad wiring, seven Kevin Grays, but still one David crept in. I’m working on it.
Interesting history of this seminal recording. I’m a little confused though. I have a Blue Note Capitol reissue, mastered from the analogue master tapes by Ron McMaster and it’s dated 2008 on the sleeve. Is this the digital transfer that you mention? Also on the Blue Note vinyl label there’s a tiny vertical line of type that ends with ‘made in the UK’. The runout tracks are not the same size. Bought new in 🇦🇺 In 2019.
I may be ‘tone’ deaf – who knows, but this album sounds pretty nice on my system to me…
Another solid post, thank you.
For the record, if you’ll forgive the pun?, there was a previous release by Music Matters of this title back in 2014. From this release the metalwork was reused to press the SRX.
As you rightly point out, both are from the same mastering suite @ Coherent Audio but your observation of the slight dryness of the BN80/BNC is, in my opinion systemic, they all have that trait to my ear whereas the Tone Poet and Music Matters, regardless of which studio they emanated from, do not. I can’t figure out if this is to do with mastering strokes by KG/JH or pressing plant differences (Optimal vs RTI) or both. Of course Joe Harley has no influence on BN80/BNC only TP & MM.
I have the Classic Records pressing so I’m not sure how this compares to the new Blue Note Classic Series.
Who would buy both to find out? I have a couple of Classic Records. Better than some, but not the holy grail, .