Prestige Bergenfield Years: Stereo (Updated)

UPDATES:

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 racethe 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.

The modern home was remodelled to accommodate a new piece of furniture, the home stereogram, and its evil sibling, the portable record player, which enabled records to be scratched anywhere.

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.

Prestige Curiosities

Label change always causes problems co-ordinating recording, printing and pressing.

Mose Alison’s Creek Bank 7152 was mistakenly assigned a stereo catalogue number, PRST 7152 – copies exist with the correct PRLP number, a label printing error.

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.

13 thoughts on “Prestige Bergenfield Years: Stereo (Updated)

  1. Nice work! But If I understand it right Prestige issued quite a bit of “fake stereo” where the recording was originally only made in mono. An example would be the Tenor Conclave recording. These early stereo editions are generally only of little or no interset to me. Is there any way apart from looking at recording dates to see of the labels presented here are fake or real stereo recordings?

    • Shaft: the labels wouldn’t mention anything regarding fake stereo, but the sleeves had “remastered for stereo ” printed on the sleeve front. I had two examples, J.J.’s Looking Back and Monk’s Wee See in the 7240+ series. Stereo labels, the remastered mention on the sleeve. The astonishing thing was the records were real mono and of a better sound quality than the mono originals. Rudy must have done something, I cannot say what, but the end result was excellent.

      • UPDATE TO POST:

        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”.

        Full text and pictures added to the Guide.

        • How nice to see them all together. I have had them all, but only 3 or 4 in stereo. The audio of mono and ’stereo ’ was excellent. None is left. I decided to keep the originals, in 25 cm if possible. E.g. the superb Raney with Sven Coolsen. How is that as a name for Stan Getz to fool Norman Granz?

  2. Well I’ve been following your excellent blog for a few years have you ever listened to Grant Green at the light house l got it with a pools winning in 1992 for £30 from Mole Jazz

  3. I visited America (from New Zealand) in September 1966, and Mono LPs were marked down at $1.98, so I bought “several”, including that “Basie Reunion” and had to keep my hand baggage around the corner at airline check-ins. New Zealand was still running on the Finance Emergency Regulations, 1940, and my daily allowance worked out at about $US14.

  4. I dug up Prestige ’s 1960 catalogue and went to their “STEREO ALBUMS” section, which is in alphabetical order.
    Cobb, 7151
    Garland, 7139, 7157
    Lockjaw, 7154
    Hawk, 7156
    Quinichette, 7147
    Scottie, 7155
    Singer, 7153
    So Red’s Manteca, 7139, seems to be the first Prestige Stereo album.

  5. For what it’s worth, I never see the black/silver fireworks out in the wild. Granted, I’m more of a scavenger. I don’t usually go to the high end collectors shops. Maybe this is where they’re hiding. But, if it’s stereo, I almost alway find label #3 or later. It also seems like Prestige was even more caviler about reusing mono sleeves than other labels. I have a lot of mono sleeves with stereo records in them. Maybe the “stereo” sticker fell off over time?

    (Also, to be really pedantic, you have the mono version of “Sound of a Thousand Strings” up there. I know this because I also collect Crown records and I just picked the stereo up recently. The stereo is actually called “Your Invitation to Stereo” and the word STEREO takes up about a third of the sleeve, lest you miss it.)

    • A Crown collector, eh? There had to be one… Classic LJC gaffe, Hi Fi Spectacular about stereo, posts cover in mono. Fixed it, thank you, Rob. Must be very rare, the Discogs entry is just for the mono, no stereo, and it took some digging to turn one op.

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