Verve Acoustic Sounds Series (2021): The Blues And The Abstract Truth

Selection: Stolen Moments  Verve Acoustic Sounds 2021 Stereo – replacement rip (L/R corrected),

.  .  .

Soundcheck – Old vs New

Stolen Moments Impulse Ampar 1961 Van Gelder mono master (replacement fresh rip)

.  .  .

Mono US AmPar original, LJC  reviewed in 2011. Too early, time to make good with a proper review..

With music this good, let’s see if Tone Poet has a rival in the new Verve Acoustic Sounds Series.

Artists

Freddie Hubbard, trumpet; Eric Dolphy, alto sax, flute; Oliver Nelson, alto, tenor sax, arranger; George Barrow, baritone sax; Bill Evans, piano; Paul Chambers, bass; Roy Haynes, drums. Recorded Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, February 23, 1961

Track List:

A1. Stolen Moments (8:47)
A2. Hoe-Down (4:43)
A3. Cascades (5:32)

B1. Yearnin’ (6:24)
B2. Butch And Butch (4:35)
B3. Teenie’s Blues (6:33)

Music

It’s not a stretch to put The Blues and the Abstract Truth in the same league as Kind of Blue, a perfect and cohesive whole, with Stolen Moments the jewel in the crown, and a common foundation in Bill Evans.

All Music:  “Stolen Moments” is a thing of beauty that is more timeless as the years pass.

Nelson’s composition flows effortlessly from one segment to another, melody carried in carefully composed call-and-answer sequences between a variety of different voices and harmonies. As the opening melody slips sideways into the modal centre, Roy Haynes maintains the propulsion, Chambers walks tall, while Freddie lights up the sky, just so perfect.

Within the composed structure, windows open for expressive solos. Oliver Nelson is a solid performer on both alto and tenor, his elongated lines contrasting with Dolphy’s saturnine rapid-fire flute and Hubbard’s life-giving exuberance.  Bill Evans playing is tighter and more rhythmic in a larger group structure, and his solo characteristically dances over the keys with beautiful cascading  lines and figures. George Barrow’s baritone adds the depth and texture, and Nelson’s artful arrangements of the horn parts makes the group sound bigger than it is, with the suppleness of  large small-group rather than regimented big-band. If ever there was an all-star supergroup, this is it, and Van Gelder captured it all.

Oliver Nelson probably was more succesful as composer / arranger than as a horn-player. Not to sell his playing short, but his compositions are a delight. More European-classical in form, but with very American swing, they stand on a par with George Russell and Charles Mingus: a strong core melody, executed through multiple voices, variations in mood and tempo, with space for improvisation.

This is my kind of jazz, a wave of genuine audiophile quality modern records, payback for many years of hifi investment, at last.

Vinyl: A-5-S

Verve Acoustic Sounds Series, mastered by Sterling Sound.

A landmark album, in equal measure, excellent compositions, excellent arrangements, excellent artists, excellent performance, and excellent recording. All that was needed was an excellent  all-analogue quality mastering and cutting to bring it all together, which Sterling Sound have delivered. Presented in a beautiful rich gloss gatefold cover, this is an edition that has been worth waiting for.

RKS etching – cut by Ryan K Smith at Sterling Sound, Nashville, TN. Though Stirling Sound don’t mention it, as well as big name singers (Adele, Beyoncé) and heavy electric rock, Smith has a recent history of AAA acoustic jazz cutting, classic titles mostly for the ” Vinyl Me, Please” (MVP) Record Club, where Kevin Gray makes the odd appearance.

Van Gelder did all the recording and mixing to the final tape, as Michael Cuscuna noted about the Van Gelder tapes he rescued from the UA vaults, all you have to do is not #*#* it up. Of course some engineers went on to do just that.

With the audiophile benchmark established by Kevin Gray/Tone Poets, Abstract Truth comes sonically from the same stable. Wide stereo sound stage, full tonal and dynamic range, rich in detail pulled from tape, without compressed dynamic range and loss of upper frequencies characteristic of digitally sourced reissues of recent decades.

The wide runout indicates the same thinking as Gray about packing the music more densely  towards the outer periphery of the vinyl by reducing the gain, permitting grooves closer together, to reduce distortion as the tonearm approached the record centre.  When re-ripping the Acoustic Sounds  and the Van Gelder 1961 mono, I reckon the original Van Gelder is about 25% louder, as expected, needing to push up the gain on the AS.

The original mono US original impulse has  a quite different punchy presentation in its own right, but a sextet line-up, with its tonal variety of voices, gains an additional dimension here in stereo, and by 1961 Van Gelder had much improved his stereo mixing.

The icing on the cake, fantastic value for money for mint condition quality vinyl pressing. Irresistable.

Gatefold

Portrait of Nelson replaces the original gatefold sculpture artwork, I have to say, he looks uncomfortable and ill-at-ease.  Pro photographers  say they used to shoot around 20-30 frames, until the subject was relaxed, and only then put an actual roll of film in the camera.  Ah, film, those were the days.

1961 Gatefold. The microphone is the hero.

Insert

Harry’s Place

Harry M pictured these artists in their day, shares his remarkable  archive of moments “stolen” at 400 ASA.

Oliver Nelson, Montreux, 1971

Roy Haynes, Newport All-stars, Sydney 1972Bill Evans, Montreux, 1975

 

Collectors Corner

Verve Acoustic Sounds Series?

Just as we have the Blue Note Bermuda Triangle – Tone Poet, Blue Note and Music Matters Jazz, with RTI pressing,  seems we have another player here under the Verve group umbrella:  Acoustic Sounds, Chad Kaseem of our old friend Analog Productions, and QRP pressing. I don’t have a dog in this fight, I’ll buy anything from anyone if they can deliver All Analog quality from original tapes, of titles not already well served in my collection. Abstract Truth was one.

Definitive audiophile grade versions of the most historic and best jazz ever recorded, Verve Label Group and Universal Music Enterprises’ audiophile Acoustic Sounds vinyl reissue series.

Most of these Acoustic Sounds Series are mastered by Ryan Smith, apart from one by Kevin Gray.

Insert – Verve Acoustic Sounds Series 2020

Enough of the praise. A somewhat  lacklustre choice of titles to launch the Series, looks more like the remainder bin at a record store, is that too cruel? Is it me, or are jazz singers are a little over-represented here? Four of twelve titles singers? The Bill Evans: Verve were late to the Bill Evan’s party, early Sixties territory held by Concord/ Riverside.  Getz/Gilberto is not quite finger on the pulse, nor Armstrong/Petersen. The Coltranes we all have – several copies of. Only the Russell/US Decca catches my eye, as US Decca were not great pressings.

One in twelve is not a good result for LJC. The Verve selection feels supply-led – this is what we’ve got, rather than demand-led, here is what you want. Who chose and who approved this selection? A committee checklist, not a jazz buyer list.  Amazon has its reissue jazz buyer algorithm on the pulse. I have five of six (the seventh, Sonny Clark is not released until August)  this is what is actually HOT in the real money-changing-hands world, feels right. Sorry Ella, you are not on it.

The series for 2021 looks only a little more promising. Mingus will appeal to some, but even more Ella and Oscar Petersen? Is Ella Wishes You A Swinging Christmas on your wants list? Do you know anyone for who it would be? The Coltrane collaborations with Ellington and Hartman are anodyne, I have all the other Coltranes. . Just the odd title  appeals, Roy Haynes/Roland Kirk is a potential beauty, but not until December, bummer.

May 14th

  • Ray Charles – Genius + Soul = Jazz (Impulse!, 1961)
  • Gil Evans Orchestra – Out Of The Cool (Impulse!, 1961)

June 25th

  • Oliver Nelson – The Blues and the Abstract Truth (Impulse!, 1961)
  • Sonny Rollins – On Impulse! (Impulse!, 1965)

July 30th

  • Bill Evans – Trio 64 (Verve, 1964)
  • Bill Evans – Trio 65 (Verve, 1965)

August 20th

  • Charles Mingus – The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady (Impulse!, 1963)
  • Charles Mingus – Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus (Impulse!, 1964)

September 10th

  • Ella Fitzgerald – Ella Wishes You A Swinging Christmas (Verve, 1960)

September 24th

  • Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong – Ella & Louis (Verve, 1956)
  • Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong – Ella & Louis Again (Verve, 1957)

October 22nd

  • Bill Evans – At Town Hall, Volume 1 (Verve, 1966)
  • John Coltrane – “Live” At The Village Vanguard (Impulse!, 1962)
  • John Coltrane – Crescent (Impulse!, 1964)

November 19th

  • Duke Ellington & Coleman Hawkins – Duke Ellington Meets Coleman Hawkins (Impulse!, 1963)
  • Oscar Peterson – Night Train (Verve, 1963)
  • Oscar Peterson – We Get Requests (Verve, 1964)

December 10th

  • Duke Ellington & John Coltrane – Duke Ellington & John Coltrane (Impulse!, 1963)
  • John Coltrane & Johnny Hartman – John Coltrane & Johnny Hartman (Impulse!, 1963)
  • Roy Haynes – Out Of The Afternoon (Impulse!, 1962)

ADDENDUM

Does the Past Have A Future Who owns Jazz History?

Basically, these guys:

(That’s me off the Christmas card list)

Universal Music Enterprises (UMe) is the centralized U.S. catalog and special markets entity for Universal Music Group, whose jazz catalogue includes EMI, Capitol, Decca, Blue Note, ECM, Mercury, Verve, Impulse and Pacific Jazz. UMe hold the strongest suit of jazz history, are the most active, and have unerring good taste in selecting targets for their Blue Note releases. Verve need to take note.

Concord Music Group own Prestige/New Jazz, Fantasy, Milestone, Riverside, Vee-Jay, Contemporary, Savoy, Debut, Volt, and Galaxy. They have not come forward with very much in the audiophile jazz resurgence, and are sitting on the Riverside Bill Evans legacy, Art Pepper, and so much other potential. Concord was owned by a private equity firm, Access Industries, investment vehicle of billionaire Russian oligarch Len Blavatnik. Concord’s strategic partner is …Starbucks, so expectations are not high for a Prestige revival any time soon. Or a decent cup of coffee.

Sony Music Industries own a small treasure chest of jazz recordings, primarily Columbia and RCA,  but show little interest in  exploiting it, which is a pity because of the extrordinary high quality and audiophile appeal of Columbia jazz recordings, Fred Plaut and The Church. Could they sound better than they already do? We need to know.

Warner Music Group is the remaining loose end, the Atlantic catalogue. They seem to have the least  interest in their jazz legacy, besotted with rock history on the British Parlophone label: Led Zepplin, Fleetwood Mac, and David Bowie, a legacy of their aborted attempt to buy the EMI portfolio, what happens when the corporate Mergers and Aquisitions team are let loose on music history.

The good news is that The British Are Coming (back). The touchpaper has been lit, the British Jazz Explosion  is in full swing, well, limbering up.

“Announcing a new jazz album series about British Modern Jazz. Featured classic 1960s & 1970s albums and sought-after tracks of artists include Michael Garrick, Stan Tracey, Don Rendell, Mike Westbrook, John Surman, Harry Beckett, Mike Taylor, Kenny Wheeler, Michael Gibbs and more. Many are released on vinyl for the first time since their original release”
 
 
Perceptive British Jazz writer John Fordham’s advance review:
 
“The first two releases in the series are the 14-track, two-disc compilation Journeys in Modern Jazz: Britain 1965-1972, and the powerful swing-to-post-bop saxophonist Don Rendell’s sparkily urgent and sometimes meditatively Coltranesque Space Walk.
On the generically wide-ranging compilation, a young Kenny Wheeler unveils his genius for balancing big-band clout and graceful melody on Don the Dreamer (from 1969’s Windmill Tilter), John Surman and John Warren show why the glowingly harmonised music from their Tales of the Algonquin album was so acclaimed, and the heat of Michael Garrick’s ingenious New Orleans-meets-post-bop groover Second Coming is fanned by the legendary Caribbean saxophonist Joe Harriott in scalding mood. Among many highlights, Michael Gibbs’ fusion of classical sonorities and vampy jazz-rock (Some Echoes, Some Shadows) signals eclectic jazz transformations to come in the years from 1970 to now.”
 
I believe it has a track from another Holy Grail of British Jazz, the 1970 Rendell-Carr-Ardley  album, Greek Variations, which sells for up to £600 (if you can find a copy).
I am happy to give the Decca boys a plug. I have seen pictures of the Decca archive of original tapes, put your trust in Decca, Argo and Deram labels, all-analogue studio sessions, great engineers, original tapes, real audiophile vinyl possibilities.
 
Great time to be a jazz fan, and vinyl lover, be grateful for what we have.
The 2xLP Journeys In Modern Jazz: Britain above is arriving chez LJC by  jazz courier  this afternoon. Exciting!
 

LJC

 

21 thoughts on “Verve Acoustic Sounds Series (2021): The Blues And The Abstract Truth

    • The Acoustic Sounds is bass-light, true. I A:B’d the Ampar 1961 mono Van Gelder and the Ryan K Smith yesterday ,on the big system, with two battle-hardened hi-fi buddies. Instant agreement the original mono has more force and energy, excitement. I don’t have an original stereo for comparison, that may be different kettle of fish, though I suspect not.

      Thought the Kevin Gray/ Ryan Smith mastering from original tapes delivers what I consider the best modern reissues in the last twenty years, they still sound a bit pale and limp when pitted directly against early sixties original pressings. Could be a lot of different explanations, I have no idea, but I know what I hear.

      On original pressing Stolen Moments when Freddie opens up, he literally lights up the sky. it’s organic. On the Acoustic Sounds edition, even after you ramp the volume, you think, oh, over there, someones playing the trumpet. It is analytical, not emotional.

      • This is the best concise description I’ve read of modern audiophile reissues vs. vintage pressings “analytical, not emotional”.

  1. Just to update your major label list. Concord are not owned by Access Industries as far as I can see – they own Warners.
    Warners have as you mentioned Atlantic, but also Roulette and Royal Roost.
    Sony also own CTI.
    Jazz was so low on the radar when EMI was sold to Universal that they were allowed to have as much as they wanted and added to the list you have they also have the Chess Records jazz subsidiaries – Cadet and Argo.
    As to the title decisions they have made on the Verve series, it seems like a classic American jazz reissue series of an accepted set of classics. These will always sell, but as you say, to see the same titles again is boring, and seems to have missed the sense of adventure that Blue Note has.
    There are reasons for this built into the DNA of how Blue Note has operated since the 80s – but also in how the label was marketed making even what were considered as unsaleable material for many years as now viable. Tone Poet is brilliant like that – selling copious copies of what for years would have been considered as second division material.

  2. I believe ECM and its catalog are still independent, and merely distributed by UMe. That’s why it was a big deal when they finally reached a deal with Spotify a few years back.

  3. There is an ABC-Impulse 2 disc set from 1978 by Oliver Nelson entitled “Three DImensions”, the first two sides of which are BATAT (sides 3 and 4 are almost as good). I can’t comment on how it compares to the other versions discussed here, but it sounds sweet to my ears and it didn’t cost much.

  4. Great article, enjoyed the label summary too. To be pedantic (who doesn’t love a good pedantic on a Friday!), the “back catalog” divisions actually manage the non-current artist content, so while you correctly identify UMe as the caretaker of Universal labels, it’s actually “Legacy” that does the Sony owned labels, and “Rhino” for Warner, and “Craft” for Concorde. All these majors are divided into Current Artists/Back Catalog separate divisions.

    • Always happy to learn something about the music business, thank you. Managing careers of livng artists is different to managing back catalogue of deceased artists, makes perfect sense, if I read that right. As an outsider it feels like running blindfold through a minefield, you feel lucky to get to the otherside hopping on just one leg.

  5. Concord is slowly making some of the Prestige and Riverside available via their Craft Recordings label. Mastering is a mix of Kevin Gray, Ryan Smith, and Bernie Grundman. Gray did the recent mono reissue of Kenny Dorham’s Quiet Kenny, as well as several Chet Baker albums and a handful of rare ‘70s soul jazz albums; Grundman appears to be confined to Craft’s ridiculously managed “Small Batch” scheme which thus far has produced Coltrane’s Lush Life and Yusuf Lateef’s Eastern Sounds in quantities so limited they seemed tailor made for eBay. RKS is doing Craft’s VinylMePlease (VMP) output, the latest to reach my home being a mono reissue of Abbey Lincoln’s It’s Magic.

  6. Cough, cough! Both samples are the AS!

    Great review of an outstanding pressing of this landmark album.

  7. Ryan K. Smith’s acoustic jazz pedigree – apart from the Verve Acoustic Sounds Series, most of which he’s done/will be doing:

    Dorothy Ashby – The Rubaiyat of Dorothy Ashby (VMP)
    Abbey Lincoln – It’s Magic (VMP)
    Impulse Records: Music, Message and the Moment
    Yusef Lateef – Before Dawn: The Music of Yusef Lateef (VMP)
    Ella Fitzgerald – The Lost Berlin Tapes
    McCoy Tyner – Sahara (VMP)
    Dave Brubeck – Lullabies
    Coleman Hawkins – The Hawk Flies High (VMP)
    Sonny Rollins – Freedom Suite (VMP)
    Errol Garner – Magician (VMP)
    Thelonious Monk – Palo Alto
    Norah Jones – Pick Me Up Off the Floor
    Herbie Hancock – Mr. Hands (VMP)
    Original Grooves: Bille Holiday – Nina Simone – Bettye LaVette
    Jon Batiste – We Are: Roots & Traditions
    The Dave Brubeck Quartet – Jazz Impressions of Japan (VMP)
    Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers – Freedom Rider (VMP)
    Ella Fitzgerald – Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas (VMP)
    Willie Bobo – Uno Dos Tres 1•2•3 (VMP)

    That’s just in the past two years. There are 33 pages of credits to his name on Discogs, going back years, much of which is acoustic jazz.

    • I was going by his own career highlights, as listed on his own pages, on the Sterling Sound official website, which makes no mention of any jazz titles
      https://sterling-sound.com/engineer/ryan-smith/
      Delighted to be corrected, and reassured he has a good jazz pedigree, must edit the text, thanks.
      The (VMP) list are all “Vinyl Me, Please” issues which I confess I have never seen before because it is apparently a subscription monthly Record Club, VMP is exclusive retailer, not a good way to collect records from my point of view. I see Kevin Gray has been moonlighting for VMP too, the pedigree looks good.

      • For what it’s worth (maybe nothing), VMP is good quality, especially for their jazz and soul releases, and generally worth the (minor) hassle of maintaining a membership. Sleeves aren’t Tone Poet / Music Matters level, but are much better than Blue Note’s Classic series. Mostly RKS mastering with some KPG here and there.

      • The mastering credits on Sterling’s website are corporate advertising, nothing more. I think Ryan himself would pick different ‘highlights’ from a musical standpoint.

  8. As an American, I’d be really happy to see a good British jazz reissue series. Nothing against the Acoustic Sounds list up there, but there’s none of those albums I’m not already intimately familiar with. Affordable good pressings will be nice, but I’d rather hear something new. Nothing against them at all (I’m ordering Blues and the Abstract Truth now as I don’t own it on vinyl) but British jazz still has a newness to me anyway.

    • I just played the newly released “Space Walk” reissue from the Decca series mentioned above, it’s excellent, my advice is to grab the whole series as they become available, the Tubby Hayes box set is also worth picking up if Rough Trade still have copies at £90, below half the original price.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s