April 21, All Reference Sets of labels updated and “complete”
April 20, “Remastered for Stereo”, the inside story, plus many newly found labels added. April 17, labels added, thanks to David J and Ian S
Playing around with the Prestige label for this year’s April 1 “Hoax”, thank you for all the sporting “likes”, I noticed that LJC had not covered the subject of Prestige original stereo pressings. Nor indeed had anyone else that I could find. Even the mighty Jazz Discography Project reference resource makes no mention of the stereo editions. So original research, and a start on a new Label Reference Set: Guide to Prestige Original Stereo Pressings (another LJC virtual book). If you can add or correct anything, post in.
To set the scene, the pop-culture context in which stereo jazz was launched.
Jazz Goes Stereo, Welcome To 1959
1959 television programmes entertained us with Westerns, “Rawhide” and “Bonanza” and of course “The Twilight Zone”, with Rod Serling’s marvelous precise narration: “a place that exists at any moment of time, of space or of mind….but always when you least expect it.” Movies included “Some Like it Hot” (Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon harmlessly disguised as women) and “Ben Hur” (the challenge of filming of The chariot race – the most thrilling motion-picture action sequence of all time).
The Barbie Doll was launched in the US, while in the UK Cliff Richard sent a “Living Doll” into the charts. Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club opened in Soho, visiting American jazz men had a venue; surprise, fog brings transport chaos, and the woolly jumper says it’s “British Summer”.
1959 found the record business in the grip of Stereo-mania. Special effects LPs,”This Is Stereo” – Various Artists on the STERE-O-CRAFT label, Hi Fi Spectacular, The Thousand String Orchestra, Your Invitation To Stereo.
If the roar of automobile engines is music to your ears, stereo could bring the race track into your home. No danger of Fangio on a tricky hairpin ploughing into your sofa. Sounds even better on your car casette player, windows down, full throttle.
Meanwhile the batchelor demographic for jazz was fed on a diet of cheesecake. A young Elizabeth Montgomery, of 60’s sitcom Bewitched, ponders the size of saxophones on Invitation to Modern Jazz, Japan Victor compilation, 1965. Let’s face it, sax sells, invitation accepted!
Music was migrating from live performance, jazz in late-night smoky clubs, to juke-box play in public bars and cafes, to private listening space in the home, made possible by the unbreakable microgroove LP, and to recreate the experience of live performance, the marvel of stereo.
The jazz record buyer began to be faced with new releases in stereo from every leading jazz label. The Billboard Summer 1959 listing of new releases picks out Blue Note’s ST1595 Cannonball Aderley’s Somethin’ Else and ST 4003 Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers (Moanin’). Prestige, Riverside, Contemporary, World Pacific, Mercury and United Artists titles list stereo formats (S) alongside mono (M). Stereo issues of earlier mono releases begin to join the release schedules. Two Blue Notes – Jackie McLean’s New Soil 4012 and The Three Sounds Bottoms Up 4013 – listed only mono.
Any of these titles are on your shelf? I count about ten, including three Monk Riversides and four Blue Notes.
In the Summer of 1959, Prestige joined the crowd and announced their first tranche of stereo titles: 7139, 7147, 7151, 7153, 7154 and 7156, a new PRST catalogue number, and a new label design, the black/silver fireworks, carrying the Bergenfield NJ. address.
UPDATE April 16: Rudolf has corrected me, the first Prestige stereo title is PRST 7139 Red Garland Trio, Manteca, recorded at Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, NJ, April 11, 1958 so I guess Van Gelder was already experimenting with two-track tape. a grey area..
7139 comes in both the mono red/brown cover with Prestige Stereo banner on top, and a blue cover exclusive to the stereo. As it is the same blue tint as the second stereo, Basie Reunion, I’ll give credit to the blue.
The jackets have the Prestige house style: black and white artist portrait with a single colour tint, but with a “peek-a-boo” overlapped PRESTIGE STEREO banner. The titles mostly set in a simple typeface – Bodoni? – not integrated into the graphic design like Reid Miles.
The second of these stereo titles, PRST 7147, Paul Quinichette, Basie Reunion, was recorded at Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, New Jersey, on September 5 or October 18, 1957 (date depending on source) an older recording than Garland’s Manteca recorded in April 1958.. Rudy managed to fit a nonette into his Hackensack living room, cosy, but good luck to anyone sitting opposite the trombone. A few more titles joined the list in the course of the year, but stereo was still a fracton of sales, until sales of the stereo record player caught up. Same problem as the inventor of the first telphone, no-one to call.
Most (all?) of these titles are Van Gelder recordings, whose recording method at this time adopted two-track tape, enabling a stereo master lacquer to be cut:
Prior to March 7, 1957: mono single track tape only, grey area immediately follows
May 8 1957 – Oct 31, 1958, both single and two track simultaneously
After October 31, 1958 , all recordings on two track tape only
1959-1960 Prestige stereo release list looks like a toe-in-the-water, where Weinstock had Van Gelder selectively cut an additional stereo lacquer for a small number of titles. Sales of stereo must have been very small initially, judging from the few found among auction results among these titles, I reckon no more than 5%. While sellers boast “mono!”, it is actually stereo that is “rare!”. Weinstock was a businessman, selling mainly blowing sessions of gutsy tenors and soul-jazz organ combos, whose audience possibly did not have stereo as their priority.
It was not until 1961 that Prestige began issuing all new titles in stereo, starting with PRST 7227 Sizzlin’ , Arnett Cobb,a grittybluesy saxophonist. Market pressure ensured all new releases would now have a stereo choice, as the stereo bandwagon gained momentum. As with Blue Note, it is likely that initially the stereo issue was some time later than the mono, and later they were both issued simultaneously. About 125 titles in total were issued in stereo on the black/silver fireworks label, before the transtion to the trident labels in late 1964. By around 1967, mono was discontinued (apart for some radio station promos) and records issued in only stereo.
Re-mastered for Stereo
“Through the marvel’s of electronics, this historic jazz recording has been remastered from the mono original into stereo.”
Most Prestige stereo issues are bona fide two-track recordings. Some of the oldest classic recordings are scrupulously reissued only in their original format. However in 1963-4, PRST 7245 – 7256 consists of a run of twelve reissues of Prestige’s “cream of the crop” historical recording sessions – Rollins, Monk,Davis, Coltrane, Getz, Mulligan, Konitz, JJ – made between 1949 and 1956, long before the watershed date of March 7, 1957, when Van Gelder began recording to two track tape. Eleven of the twelve had been issued previously in mono on the NY label, and a second mono issue on the yellow black Bergenfield label.
This was no “sleight of hand” operation, but an upfront Prestige/ Van Gelder project. The continuous run of the catalogue numbers indicates a planned and carefully executed single programme, and the covers of each proudly proclaim “REMASTERED FOR STEREO” (apart from three)
Three of the twelve seem to have lost the “Remastered For Stereo” memo. The only covers I found simply said “STEREO”. Three in a row is not a random error, but a common thread, reason unknown. The full schedule:
|PRESTIGE REISSUES RE-MASTERED FOR STEREO (1963-4)||Original Prestige Issue||Original Recording Dates|
|7245||Thelonious Monk||Wee See||7053||11/13/53, 5/11/54|
|7246||Sonny Rollins||Work Time||7020||02/12/1955|
|7247||John Coltrane, Tadd Dameron||Mating Call||7070||30/11/1956|
|7248||Sonny Stitt||All God’s Children Got Rhythm||7024||[10/17/49, 12/11/49, 1/26/50]|
|7249||John Coltrane||Tenor Conclave||7074||07/09/1956|
|7250||Lee Konitz, Lennie Tristano||Subconscious-Lee||7004||1/11/49, 6/28/49, 9/27/49, 3/7/50|
|7251||Gerry Mulligan||Historically Speaking||7006||27/08/1951|
|7252||Stan Getz||The Brothers||7022||4/8/49, 9/8/52|
|7253||J.J. Johnson||Looking Back||7023 and 7030||5/26/49, 8/23/49, 10/5/51|
|7254||Miles Davis||The Original Quintet||7014||16/11/1955|
|7255||Stan Getz||Early Stan||3/14/49, 4/23/53|
|7256||Stan Getz||Stan Getz Greatest Hits||7002||6/21/49, 1/6/50, 4/14/50|
I have never heard or seen mention of this programme, and no announcement through the record trade press Billboard at the time. One could be forgiven cynicism about shonky “fake stereo”, but by all accounts, Van Gelder did a top quality transfer from original tapes held by Prestige. How, heaven only knows. The relative scarcity of stereo copies among auction results point to a commercially not very successful project. Perhaps jazz fans who already had a mono copy were not persuaded of the needs to buy another copy in stereo.
My concern is not Van Gelder remastering but the quality of original recordings from 1949-53, primitive ribbon microphones, radio-station recording studios, before the arrival of valve-microphones around 1956.
Label change always causes problems co-ordinating recording, printing and pressing.
PRST 7253 JJ Johnson’s Looking Back was given a stereo catalogue number and the label says stereo, but a mono fireworks label was borrowed, and bodged, without the yellow, resulting in the only silver and/black fireworks stereo hybrid.
Miles Davis Original Quintet 7254 is ostensibly a mono recording text says “HIGH FIDELITY” but on the black/silver fireworks stereo label,
Yusef Lateef Plays for Lovers 7447 had been remastered for stereo. The mono edition was put in Stereo jacket and stickered “mono”, reads “Remastered for MONO”. Made me smile, a modern twist, remastered for mono.
Prestige Stereo label changes
Labels and address changes are the most common items that assist in dating manufacture of records, confirming original provenance, and “outing” later repressings and reissues.
The long six year run of the black/ silver fireworks Bergenfield NJ. label would make it difficult to distinguish an original from a repressing, but for the helpful manner through which Prestige gave reissues a new higher catalogue number,Van Gelder scratched out the original catalogue number code on the original metal, or derived metalware. I haven’t quite figured out how this worked.
Prestige used the stereo black/silver fireworks design with Bergenfield address from August 1958 through to September 1964. In late 1964, Prestige label owner Robert Weinstock decided it was time to give Prestige a more modern look, and a new logo: the trident. In mythology, the trident was a three pronged spear wielded by Neptune, God of the Sea. In the Prestige logo the trident is re-purposed as a metaphor, facing three directions at once: Past, Present and Future. At least that’s my theory, or, if you prefer, Up, Down and Sideways…recommended by the ’70s best-selling instruction manual, “The Joy Of Sex“.
The stereo label changed briefly to a black/silver trident label , PR 7310 up to around 7336), in parallel to a gold/black trident label for mono, and then both mono and stereo standardised on a blue/3 o’clock trident label. A series of further label changes followed before the sale to Fantasy in 1971, moving the trident from 3 o’clock to 12 o’clock, and placing a circle around it, and finally a colour change to a garish purple-pink. Yusef Lateef’s iconic Eastern Sounds can be found on every label variant above, apart from black/silver trident.
Prestige’s important back catalogue became its main source of revenue in its last few years and many titles are found reissued on these later labels. Weinstock no longer had the appetite for signing new artists, if there were any still to sign, and selling Prestige to Fantasy Records was probably the right decision at the right time. The future would be navigated by new blood, or at least until the past eventually came back into fashion. Music this good was never going to go away for long.
STEREO LABEL REFERENCE – BLACK/SILVER FIREWORKS LABEL 1958-64 (UPDATED APRIL 21, 2021)
Here for future reference, a Reference Guide to the Prestige Stereo Fireworks Label , by titlel. Most labels are Discogs uploads, but supplemented by other sources. I found eventually a black/silver label for all but two titles in the Prestige catalogue. In several cases the only source was a specialist Japanese record selling site.The large gaps between selected stereo pressings in 1960 are indicated. Some may eventually turn up, and be added later.
This Guide will be added to the permanent Guide to Record Labels under Prestige shortly. An equivalent Guide to mono pressings on the Bergenfield NJ. fireworks label is being finalised, and will drop shortly.
Thereafter at some point (not determined in this research) the short-lived black /silver trident stops and the blue/3 oclock trident continues, though it looks not a clean break, titles possibly issued out of catalogue number order, or exist on both labels..
Prestige Catalogue Numbers and recording dates
All series include reissues of earlier titles. New recordings approximate dates:
7000 series: 1955-1957
7100 series: 1957-1960
7200 series: 1961-1963
7300 series: 1963-1964
7400 series: 1965-1966
7500 series: 1966-1967
7600 series: 1968-1969
7700 series: 1969-1970
7800 series: mostly reissues of earlier titles
LJC, April 21, 2021.