MID-WEEK MUSIC SPOT: Modern Jazz in Britain 1965-72
LJC change of process: this is a 2xLP sampler, so I have taken a sample of the samples Sounds fair, no?
True to my mission: searching for original first pressings, because they (almost always) sound the best, and the practice of comparative listening, which for all it’s faults is at least evidence-based, and posting rips, with all their limitations, you can decide for yourself, we proceed to inform and entertain. Comments always open, it’s a two way process.
I have three of the sampler tracks as originals. The originals have significantly higher gain than the Sampler, so I have increased the gain on the sampler rips to bring them both approximately the same loudness on playback, level playing field. Almost all modern audiophile reissues over the last two years have been quieter than original vintage pressings, I have a few notions why, but I am not an engineer.
My impression is that today’s engineers do the best they can with the tape they get. Sourcing an original pressing is out of scope, and does not inform their mastering process. Modern re-masters can capture more detail from the original tape, original vinyl can be more “muddy” but have more punch and emotion. It is always an interesting process of discovery. What you get is not always what you expect.
Declaration of interest: my thanks to Decca for supplying me with this review copy. The original pressings for comparison are from my own collection, the cost of which did serious damage to my bank balance, and in some cases took years to obtain. The collector’s burden is to own an original, which conveniently provides a baseline comparison with modern reissues.
Sound Check 1: Don Rendell Quintet
A: Don Rendell Quintet – A Matter Of Time – Space Walk – Decca Sampler, 2021
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B: Don Rendell Quintet – A Matter Of Time – Space Walk – EMI Columbia/ Lansdowne issue 1972
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Interestingly, just like the original release of Kind of Blue, the original edition of Spacewalk (1972) has a track sequence error on the cover and label. This cut is ” A Matter of Time”, and not “Spacewalk” as listed on the cover. This was confirmed to me by Decca producers. Gearbox engineer Caspar Sutton-Jones also added that the Decca reissue of Spacewalk was cut from a safety back-up tape running at 7½ ips , not a 15 ips original master tape. This apparently has a slight earth-hum, removed on the digital edition but present on the vinyl edition.
Despite this admission, good for you Caspar, the Decca reissue sounds bright, open and lively, while the original sounds recessed, muddy and a little lacking in life. So it goes, you never know with comparisons, you have to leave you assumptions at the door. My original Spacewalk cost me ten times the sampler, bummer, but it’s the original, including the original track sequence error.
Sound Check 2: Stan Tracey Big Band
A: Stan Tracey – Matinee Days – The 7 Ages Of Man – Decca Sampler 2021
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B: Stan Tracey – Matinee Days, EMI Columbia Lansdowne SCX 6413 The 7 Ages Of Man
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The stereo mix sounds very different between the original and the sampler, I have no idea why. Hope I didn’t make a mistake with the mono-stereo switch.
Sound Check 3: Mike Westbrook Concert Band
A. Mike Westbrook Concert Band – Waltz for Joanna – Decca Sampler 2021
. . .
B. Mike Westbrook Concert Band – Waltz for Joanna – from Deram DML 1047 Marching Song Vol 1
. . .
A compilation/sampler of different artists and styles in late 60s British jazz is like a list of starters on a menu. You wouldn’t order 12 starters, would you? Many of these tracks heard here are from albums rarely seen in the wild, so it is interesting to hear what you have almost certainly been missing.
It includes some albums which are not to my personal taste. The late 60s and early 70s UK jazz scene included a lot of composed and arranged big band recordings, often two, three or four players on each instrument, and one or two soloists stepping forward. Stan Tracey Big Band (I prefer his small ensemble) , Mike Westbrook Concert Band, Johnny Dankworth, Mike Gibbs. Gibbs line up includes up to seven reed-players, six trumpeters, four french horns, three bass trombones, two drummers and Chris Spedding on rock guitar. . It was the style and some like it hot, for me probably more exciting live than on record.
Composed and arranged multi-instrument power big band is not my kind of jazz, but there is enough here of what I do like – small group improvisation, quartets, quintets, even sextets. Don Rendell, Ian Carr, Michael Garrick, Mike Taylor (rare!) Dick Morrisey, Alan Skidmore, John Surman, some very fine saxophone players and pianists, sometimes quirky, avant-leaning, and cut loose from American blues and soul-informed genres, quite refreshing.
The original albums are all very rare, from which I conclude they didn’t sell many at the time. Mike Taylor Quartet ‘s Pendulum has only a dozen or so copies ever reached auction, highest selling for over $2,000. Scarcity has it’s price. One question: is Collin Bates album “Brew” your cup of tea? Play on words, it’s British thing. However Collin Bates (two L’s) isn’t, he was Australian.
Vinyl: Decca 2xLP
Mastered and cut by Caspar Sutton-Jones at Gearbox Records, London, pressed at Optimal, Germany.
Three sampler tracks I was able to compare were significantly quieter than the three originals, in Audacity looks like around 20% lower gain, not especially noticeable given the dynamic load of big band.
This lower gain business, I am beginning to sound like a cracked record, but I figure Rudy ran the dials hot for a reason. But engineers making today’s audiophile reissues seem to follow the same formula. Caspar confirmed he was happy with the loudness of his cutting.
The collage of cuttings from the ’60s British music press generates a certain twinge of nostalgia. Gigs at The Marquee, Klook’s Kleek, Ronnie Scotts, Bull’s Head… I swear I was at some of those gigs – Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac and Chicken Shack, both at the Marquee, and Led Zepplin at Klooks Kleek. Those gigs are burned into my memory. But I heard none of the jazz sessions, which weren’t of any interest to me at the time. Right time, right place, just “wrong” taste.
The 60s scene was more about live performance, accessible artists at accessible venues, London clubs and Uni-gigs. Many gigs you could buy someone in the band a drink at the bar in the intermission. Records were a poor relation of live performance. However none of these artists will be performing live any time soon, or ever again, so I will look forward to adding some of these titles to my shelf.
Thrown in for period authenticity unrelated to Modern Jazz, ads for David Bowie, The Who, Arthur Brown (The Crazy World Of, Fiyer!!), and a rather a lot of Pink Floyd gigs, early days before they became multi-millionaires and Dark Side Of The Moon (1973) became the standard hi-fi demonstration disc, particularly those more interested in hi-fi than music. Nothing wrong with that, it’s a personal choice. There are some who like their vice versa, only interested in the music, and not the hi-fi.
Decca’s 20-page insert documents the backround of each recording and artist
The Decca Jazz Explosion is the brainchild of Tony Higgins, bravo.
There has been a source of British jazz of the 60s and 70s available for the last ten to 15 years, no surprise, not in Britain, but in Japan. Why do the Japanese have more interest in British Jazz than the British?
The series title, “ブリティッシュ・ジャズの逆襲,” roughly translates to English as “British Jazz Strikes Back“, and also found in a selection from other Universal Music Japan series, however many only on The Evil Silver Disc. I have four of the titles below on original vinyl, and the Decca reissue programme (hopefully there is a progamme) will see more vinyl editions of titles like these. Tales Of The Algonquin 1st title below has a track on the sampler.
Below are the original editions of three titles already scheduled. From the Sampler selection the rest are slated for future reissue:
I’ll sample the starters, and move on to the main course. There are at least three I will order without hesitation. Interesting times! Looks like the past has a future after all.
It would be great to see a quality re issue of Pendulum. I have the CD and it sounds ok to me but I’ve never seen or heard the original vinyl.I also have the CD of Mike Taylor’s Trio, again sounds ok to me , again never seen or heard the original. There is what I presume to be a bootleg of Trio on vinyl floating around – the labelling in Russian is something of a give away. Mika Taylorowski?Taylor was a gifted composer and pianist – his stuff should be more widely available
Wonderful starters! I would order them all and add some main courses and a desert. Wonderful and exciting Waltz for Joanna, thank you for putting online😊😊
Thanks for the samples> I also have the original albums but I’m liking the Decca sampler versions: I’ll probably hold out for re-issues of the actual albums.
Interestingly, the Mike Westbrook seems to be off-pitch: is the Decca pressing off-centre? If not, I wonder if there’s an element of tape stretch?
“Wow” would be the more appropriate term. The pitch as such is roughly the same in both samples. But it does seem that the Decca pressing is slightly off-centre.
My copy of Hum Dono has a visible imprint of 75p on it. Wonder if it passed through Cob records (wherever that was?) at some point!
If you was around in the early 70s many of these British Modern Jazz albums were available in second hand form from retailers such as Cob Records for a pittance. Talking about 75p even 50p, still got ‘The Baptised Traveller’ ‘Prayer for Peace’ ‘DDBC’ from that source, plenty of others were purchased but, alas, have disappeared over the years
It certainly does look as if the past has a future — well put, LJC.
I have held off on ordering the sampler on the assumption that everything on it will eventually see re-release in the Decca series. If not, why put it on the sampler? And although it looks a lovely package I keep reminding myself that I rarely if ever listen to compilations — precisely for the reason you mention, that it seems like sampling a menu of starters.
Anyway, with the exception of Stan Tracey my introduction to much of this ‘Brit Jazz’ music was the Gilles Peterson compilations of twenty years ago (two double LP sets) and the series of CD reissues he did in conjunction with Tony Higgins — I think the series was called Impressed: Reimpressed or something like that. All of these are now nearing twenty years old and most if not all are out of print. The time is ripe for analogue reissues done properly.
I certainly won’t be ordering all of the Decca reissues but I am looking forward to CELEBRATION: Mike Westbrook (a fantastic record — hugely swinging big band music with a young and brilliant John Surman); Neil Ardley’s GREEK VARIATIONS (a genuine masterpiece); Mike Taylor Qt PENDULUM; perhaps Harry Beckett’s FLARE UP.
I’m attracted by these in the first instance because they were all part of the Argo/Decca/Vocalion reissues Gilles Peterson masterminded and by and large the CDs sounded very thin and nasty. Or perhaps it was my CD player of the time? Who knows.
The other long lost classic I wish Decca would include in this series is Graham Collier Septet’s DEEP DARK BLUE CENTRE — a marvellous record, rather reminiscent of Ardley’s GREEK VARIATIONS I always think.
So far I have been a little underwhelmed by Don Rendell’s SPACE WALK but it is gradually growing on me as I continue to explore it and listen more closely. I don’t think it’s up tp the standard of any of the Don Rendell/Ian Carr Quintet LPs, and in fact they themselves are a little patchy — shot through with brilliance but not necessarily consistently brilliant. I have a feeling that if one listens honestly the same can be said for quite a bit of this extremely rare and collectable British jazz of the period — rarity has resulted in musical as well as financial inflation in some cases, I suspect…
Still, let’s be thankful.
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It wasn’t your CD player. It was the mastering.