Blue Mitchell: Boss Horn (1966) Liberty Blue Note

UPDATE: May 8, 2021:  Harry M Photos – Blue, Mickey and ChickSelection: Straight Up And Down (Corea)

.  .  .

Track Listing (Wiki source )

  1. Millie (Pearson) – 6:18
  2. O Mama Enit (Mitchell) – 5:34
  3. I Should Care (Sammy Cahn, Axel Stordahl, Paul Weston) – 7:31
  4. Rigor Mortez (Dave Burns) – 6:21
  5. Tones for Joan’s Bones (Chick Corea) – 6:37
  6. Straight Up and Down (Chick Corea) – 6:36


Blue Mitchell, trumpet; Julian Priester, trombone; Jerry Dodgion, alto sax, flute; Junior Cook, tenor sax; Pepper Adams, baritone sax; Cedar Walton, piano #1-4; Chick Corea, piano #5,6; Gene Taylor, bass; Mickey Roker, drums; Duke Pearson, arranger; recorded Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, November 17, 1966, released the following year, October 1967.

If the sound is familiar solid Blue Note, it is because the assembled team includes the core members of The Horace Silver Quintet from 1959 (Finger Poppin’)  through to 1964 (Song For My Father): Blue Mitchell (trumpet), Junior Cook (tenor), Gene Taylor (bass), Mickey Roker steps in here for the regular Roy Brooks (drums). Take Horace out of the band, replace him with Chick Corea or Cedar Walton. Chick takes the piano seat for his two compositions, the undervalued Cedar Walton delivers solid underpinnings on the other four tracks.


Boss Horn is one of Mitchell’s best recordings, fronting a septet, with arrangements by Duke Pearson. On the menu, two boogaloo boppers, a jazz standard, and Chick Corea brings two compositions, “Tones For Joan’s Bones” ( It’s Mrs Corea’s bones again, send for the chiropracter) and “Straight Up and Down”, which gets my selection. Straight Up and Down is a great workout, for me the pick of the album, Chick’s dazzling fingers skating over the keys, and high-energy solos, especially Junior Cook and ever reliable Pepper Adams.

Mitchell offers a particularly strong reading of the standard  I Should Care, clarion call clear and burnished tone, lyrical, crafting the melody. The four other horns – alto, tenor, bari and trombone –  huddle together and deliver the ensemble harmonies as scored by Pearson.The ability to “arrange” was a prized talent, though the arrangement here is somewhat glutinous ’40s Hollywood form.  I Should Care was a 40’s popular song, Frank Sinatra with orchestra. Perhaps that presentation is what Pearson was aiming for.

I Should Care has a solid jazz history, with versions by Bud Powell (on four different albums) , Thelonious Monk (Thelonious Himself) , and Bill Evans (How My Heart Sings). I’ve learned to try the lyrics, so here we go –

I should care
I should go around weeping
I should care
I should go without sleeping

Strangely enough I sleep well
‘Cept for a dream or two
But then I count my sheep well
Funny how a sheep can lull you to sleep

A song rhyming sheep and sleep? Another large dry Martini please, and some valium.  Three more verses to go but at this point I lost interest. I should care, but I no longer did. Frank Sinatra injects it with a little more life than the bare words on the page. Compare Blue’s reading with that of Old Blue Eyes:

Vinyl: BST 84257

A top-notch Van Gelder recording pulled off with practised ease, natural stereo balance, punchy full tonal and dynamic range, and loud.  VAN GELDER stamp, and signature runout spiral three-ring lock groove. With this early Liberty catalogue number, 4257, certainly an All-Disc pressing, which are always very strong. It’s still Blue Note sound.

I left the shrink on. It’s done its job, but it does no harm to leave it on.

The Discogs description didn’t mention any Van Gelder stamp, and without label pictures I couldn’t see if it was a Bert-Co or a Keystone label , so expectations were low. The usual reason to failing to mention the presence of something of importance is because it is not there. No mention of ear usually means it’s got no ear.  Few sellers say “it has no ear”. It’s got no nose and mouth either. With no mention of a Van Gelder in the runout, I enlisted the help of another Detective.

Don’t mess with the Audiophile Detective.  

Don’t try and reach for Paypal, punk. “I know what you’re thinking. Does this record have a VAN GELDER stamp, or not? But being this is a 1967 Liberty original pressing, with the Blue Note Division Of Liberty Records label, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: ‘ Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do you, punk?”

Boss Horn was a new title recorded some months after the Liberty aquisition of Blue Note. Unlike Blue Note reissues, Liberty new issues were usually VAN GELDER stamped on both coast pressings. I figured either way, East or West Coast pressing, it would be a Van Gelder copy. Feeling lucky, I reached for Paypal. The Magnum hammer clicked on an empty chamber.

My luck was in. When the record arrived, unwrapping revealed a VAN GELDER stamp and East Coast Keystone labels. But first it had a date with the Ultrasonic Vinyl Cleaner, see off over 50 years of dirt, smoke, cigarette ash, and … who knows what?

 UPDATE May 8, 21: Harry M’s photos, Blue Mitchell, Sydney 1973; Mickey Roker, Montreux 1975; Chick Corea, Antibes 1969.

Collector’s Corner

Original Blue Note pressings don’t come cheap, and this is  effectively original Blue Note, first edition. Recorded by Van Gelder at Englwood Cliffs, and mastered by Van Gelder, then issued by Liberty in late 1967. All the dates just spill over into the Liberty years, but apart from having no ear, or nose and mouth, the sound is pure Blue Note.

It also concludes my Blue Mitchell Blue Note Collection, which chronologically starts with the hugely under-valued  LT Series “Step Lightly” (LT 1082), recorded August 13, 1963. but not released until 1980 by Michael Cuscuna for United Artists. 

The great line up  of Step Lightly pairs Blue with Joe Henderson on tenor, Herbie Hancock on piano, and Leo Wright on alto. Wright fled to Europe shortly after. The boogaloo Mamacita (Henderson) is parked firmly in 1963, a year before The Sidewinder swept the board, but the appeal of boogaloo was not yet recognised.

The LT Series are definitely worth pursuing, though seem to be becoming scarce.

Blue Mitchell Core Blue Note Collection

Confessions of a rookie collector. Pulling this together for a Blue Mitchell post was instructive. I hadn’t realised I had aquired all these titles over the last decade, and as original pressings. In some cases I noted ill-informed disappointment on the inner sleeve of a record I purchased ten years ago: “NY label, but no “ear” ” I wrote, on a first pressing issued in 1967, with VAN GELDER.   It was the NY label that was wrong, but I thought wrongly I had been sold a pup  because it had no “ear”. You realise how little you knew as a rookie collector starting out, and how much you have learned. Some titles I had also neglected to play in a long time, or to review, time to make amends.

4142 Step Lightly (unissued)  LT1082 –  future review

4178 The Thing To Do

4214 Down With It

4228 Bring It Home To Me (future review)

 4257 Boss Horn

4272 Heads Up (future review)

Two later titles follow in the tail end TransAmerica/Liberty years, 1969, Bantu Village and Collision in Black, which don’t come up to the standard of his earlier  Blue Notes.  In the early ’70s  Blue Mitchell moved to the Mainstream Records label, where he began to experiment with an enlarged line-up including flute and picolo, a second reed and vocal effects by Miss Susaye Greene. It sounds surprisingly good, but not a direction I wanted to pursue further.

Dirty Vinyl? No problem (until there’s a problem).

Dirty Harry meets Dirty Vinyl: a seamless link. Last week, my German-made AudioDeskSysteme Pro ultrasonic record cleaner experienced pump failure. After three and a half years of use, dead.  No user-serviceable internal parts, only an expensive out-of-warranty repair, return the machine to the Gläss factory in Germany for a new pump. Imagine if a Mercedes had to be freighted back to Dusseldorf to fit a new part..

This was one of those situations that reminds you of the need to keep the original packing  of things,  in the event of future need.

Boxed up, the dead machine was about to set out on an international courier journey, across a minefield of import/export Customs and Excise barriers.”So, an Ultrasonic vinyl record cleaner. What is the  Product Category Classification Code?  This type of machine doesn’t seem listed. (There is a helpline for hard-to-classify products, ha ha, up to six months turnaround time) . It is not an export, it is a repair-service return. And the code for that is?  Value, for value added tax? As a non-functioning machine it has no intrinsic value. But once fixed, on its return journey? No, it has already been taxed once, when it was first imported. But it has a value for insurance, of course?  

Never was it more true that there are two economies: the Productive Economy, and the Obstructive Economy: the King’s tax-collectors over centuries, a burden on trade.

There were other record  cleaner options, but none attractive – a new ADS machine, a refurbished ADS machine (someone else’s pump failure). The rival Degritter cleaner is made in Estonia, twice the distance to Germany, and has no supply for four weeks

It’s a bugger. If your car breaks down, you call the garage, but if your record cleaner breaks down…call The Samaritans! My sympathies are with the dealers and importers of our essential vinyl machines.

The delights of vinyl. If only it wasn’t so much better than everything else, but sometimes the burden is heavy.






16 thoughts on “Blue Mitchell: Boss Horn (1966) Liberty Blue Note

  1. Would this repair have been an easier and less expensive transaction if the UK hadn’t left the EU?

    • The cost has nothing to do with the EU. Simply what the German factory charges for the repair and the cost of freight both ways. There may be VAT charges somewhere but that was always the case. The paperwork is the nuisance. but that is largely down to our own customs and revenue looking for something they can levy import durty on.

  2. Hi LJC ,
    I have a Liberty pressing of Boss Horn which is identical to your copy including the three ring lock groove BUT there is no Van Gelder stamp on the record.
    I sat down and had a hard listen to the record today and you wouldn’t know that it wasn’t an RVG stamped pressing. The sound is fantastic .
    I have a range of Blue Note issues/reissues from original ear pressings to a couple of hideous South Park pressings.
    It’s a lottery which I won in the case of Boss Horn ….. YESss !
    Regards and hope your cleaning machine is working again real soon.

  3. Blue Mitchell is an under the radar artist and his LPs are not as highly valued- lucky for collectors…. Early Liberty RVG Keystone vinyl sounds every bit as good as EAR pressings. Great purchase ! As for US cleaners, I use a Chinese US machine, and a Vinyl Spinner rotisserie holder. My cost was less than $500 3yrs ago, and can now be fully replaced for less than that. Results are phenomenal, but there is more work involved than an AutoDesk machine or similar. Just another data point…..

  4. I fear my audiodeske has the same problem. Have they given an estimate for what it will cost to repair?

    • You need to contact the importer/ dealer for your country, who you will find on the Official Glass website. They will estimate the time and cost for your machine. From the UK to Germany was about six weeks turn around time, and £500-600 GBP cost including all the transit costs. It was suggested to me that the US agent was exaggerating the cost to to line their own pockets, and overcharging for the machine itself. Just hearsay.

  5. Ultra sonic German quality? For this money it has to last longer. Or how much are you cleaning?

      • For that money it really should last longer! Hope they take their responsibility even if the warranty is is worn out! Good luck!

        • In my experience VPIs tend to last 15-20 years without issue and are then easily fixed with sub £100 parts, Chinese ultrasonic tanks tend to last for 3-4 years and manage a few thousand records, brand new replacements start at £70, if it was my expensive German cleaner I’d have been tempted to take it apart and see if the pump is an off the shelf part that costs under £100, might well be.

  6. I enjoyed reading this. But I disagree that Collision in Black and Bantu Village are not up to snuff. They are actually both great and should have a place in a Blue Mitchell Blue Note collection.

  7. I have copies of boss horn and heads up both 1970 reissues on the black and light blue labels. My boss horn has the same ‘corrected’ prefix on side A. Both have the van gelder stamps 🙂
    Blue’s riverside albums are excellent as well, I especially like blue’s moods and blue soul

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