Blue Note recordings: mono, stereo, pseudo-stereo

In July 1957 Blue Note recording engineer Rudy Van Gelder  first began experimenting with two-track recording. For the next year a few selected sessions were recorded simultaneously on both single track and two track tape recorders, the remainder solely on one track. By late 1958, almost  all sessions were routinely recorded to two track. By the end of that year, simultaneous one track recording was discontinued, judged superfluous, as a mono master could be created by “folding down” the two tracks. (The existence of a simultaneous back-up “safety recording”, routine practice in large studios, has been rumoured but seems not to have been commonly part of Van Gelder’s workflow).

As a result, of the 340-odd titles in the Blue Note 1500  and 4000 series up to 4250, around ninety recordings were released only in mono, around 250 went on to have both a mono and a true stereo release (based on a two-track recording mix), and a handful were released in stereo only, a practice that became standard during the Liberty years. However there were thirty five solely mono recordings from the 1500 series that were electronically reprocessed, to create a “pseudo stereo” official release. Whilst the jackets clearly state they are “electronically re-recorded to simulate stereo” or similar words, sellers will often fail to draw attention to this.Electronic-warning-1600

From a collectors perspective, it is important to be aware of and avoid pseudo-stereo Blue Note releases: many are a deeply inferior listening experience by Blue Note standards. Any release with an “8” prefix (stereo)   early in the 1500 series should set alarm bells ringing. These were recorded only in mono.

Two-track recordings not intended for stereo

The initial purpose of two track recording was to allow the engineer more control in preparing the final mono mix, and was not intended for stereo.

There are a small number of genuine “true stereo” releases towards the end of the 1500 series, recorded to two-track and mastered in both mono and stereo by Van Gelder.  However early two track recordings issued as “Stereo” often exhibit hard panning of instruments left, right or centre -the only options on some early mixing desks. They are not comparable with modern wrap-around soundstage  stereo recordings, and the mono edition is often to be preferred.

Van Gelder was a late-adopter of stereo and it was not really until around 1962,  start of the New York label (BNST 4069 and higher) that Blue Note stereo mixes came of age.

Rogue Stereo

To complicate matters for the collector, there are some later Blue Note reissues from the Liberty era, 1966-70, a time when records were released solely in stereo, are fake stereo. A stereo tape is known to have existed, but for whatever reason, the two-track tape was lost, or unavailable at the time, and was not used, and the stereo mix is fashioned electronically from the mono tape mix.

Also, some records labelled stereo are in fact a straight mono mix, the word “stereo” merely added to the cover and labels at the behest of the Sales department.

Electronically re-recorded to simulate stereo”.

A special case is a dozen or more Blue Note titles which were issued only in mono, received no stereo release prior to 1966, but for whom a two track Van Gelder tape source existed. The first stereo release was often by Liberty, or later, by United Artists or King, Japan in the ’70s. Van Gelder had never created a stereo master from these recordings, so these first stereo editions were  mastered from the Van Gelder two-track tape by house engineers. These stereo titles are commonly described on their jacket as “Electronically re-recorded to simulate stereo”. That warning, which is the death-knell of electronic trickery applied to mono recording, means simply a first mastering in stereo from original two-track tape. They sound perfectly normal, somewhat hard panning like other early stereo, but are not “pseudo stereo” as suggested. A good few early 4000 series come into this category.

Full Catalogue Stereo Status

The following reference table, taken from the Cuscuna/Ruppli Blue Note Discography, identifies which titles in the Blue Note catalogue exist in mono only, mono and fake stereo, mono and genuine stereo, and in a few cases, in stereo only. Only those titles indicated with an “s” were issued in genuine stereo.

Catalogue Number, Artist, Title and Year Recorded, mono stereo pseudo-stereo

Key:  mono (m), genuine stereo (s) and pseudo stereo (ps)

1501: Miles Davis, Miles Davis, Volume 1 (1953) m ps
1502: Miles Davis, Miles Davis, Volume 2 (1954) m ps
1503: Bud Powell, The Amazing Bud Powell, Volume 1 (1951) m ps
1504: Bud Powell, The Amazing Bud Powell, Volume 2 (1953) m ps
1505: J.J. Johnson, The Eminent J. J. Johnson, Volume 1 (1954) m ps
1506: J.J. Johnson, The Eminent J. J. Johnson, Volume 2 (1955) m ps
1507: Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, Cafe Bohemia, Volume 1 (1955) m ps
1508: Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, Cafe Bohemia, Volume 2 (1955) m ps
1509: Milt Jackson, Milt Jackson (1952) m ps
1510: Thelonious Monk, Genius of Modern Music, Volume 1 (1947) m ps
1511: Thelonious Monk, Genius of Modern Music, Volume 2 (1952) m ps
1512: Jimmy Smith, A New Sound, A New Star, Volume 1 (1956) m ps
1513: Thad Jones, Detroit-New York Junction (1956) m
1514: Jimmy Smith, A New Sound, A New Star, Volume 2 (1956) m ps
1515: Jutta Hipp, At the Hickory House, Volume 1 (1956) m
1516: Jutta Hipp, At the Hickory House, Volume 2 (1956) m
1517: Gil Melle, Patterns in Jazz (1956) m
1518: Horace Silver, Horace Silver and the Jazz Messengers (1955) m ps
1519: Herbie Nichols, The Herbie Nichols Trio (1956) m
1520: Horace Silver and Art Blakey, Sabu (1953) m ps
1521: Art Blakey, A Night at Birdland, Volume 1 (1954) m ps
1522: Art Blakey, A Night at Birdland, Volume 2 (1954) m ps
1523: Kenny Burrell, Introducing Kenny Burrell (1956) m ps
1524: Kenny Dorham, ‘Round Midnight at the Cafe Bohemia (1956) m
1525: Jimmy Smith, The Incredible Jimmy Smith, Volume 3 (1956) m ps
1526: Clifford Brown, Memorial Album (1953) m ps
1527: Thad Jones, The Magnificent Thad Jones (1956) m
1528: Jimmy Smith, At Club Baby Grand, Volume 1 (1956) m ps
1529: Jimmy Smith, At Club Baby Grand, Volume 2 (1956) m ps
1530: Jutta Hipp, With Zoot Sims (1956) m
1531: Fats Navarro, The Fabulous Fats Navarro, Volume 1 (1949) m
1532: Fats Navarro, The Fabulous Fats Navarro, Volume 2 (1948) m
1533: Johnny Griffin, Introducing Johnny Griffin (1956) m
1534: Paul Chambers, Whims of Chambers (1956) m ps
1535: Kenny Dorham, Afro-Cuban (1955) m
1536: J. R. Monterose, J. R. Monterose (1956) m
1537: Lou Donaldson, Quartet/Quintet/Sextet (1952) m
1538: Lee Morgan, Lee Morgan Indeed! (1956) m
1539: Horace Silver, Six Pieces of Silver (1956) m ps
1540: Hank Mobley, With Donald Byrd and Lee Morgan (1956) m
1541: Lee Morgan, Volume 2 (1956) m ps
1542: Sonny Rollins, Sonny Rollins (1956) m ps
1543: Kenny Burrell, Kenny Burrell, Volume 2 (1956) m ps
1544: Hank Mobley, And His All-Stars (1957) m ps
1545: Lou Donaldson, Wailing with Lou (1955) m
1546: Thad Jones, The Magnificent Thad Jones, Volume 3 (1957) m
1547: Jimmy Smith, A Date with Jimmy Smith, Volume 1 (1957) m ps
1548: Jimmy Smith, A Date with Jimmy Smith, Volume 2 (1957) m ps
1549: Cliff Jordan/John Gilmore, Blowing in from Chicago (1957) m
1550: Hank Mobley, With Farmer, Silver, Watkins, Blakey (1957) m
1551: Jimmy Smith, At the Organ, Volume 1 (1957) m ps
1552: Jimmy Smith, At the Organ, Volume 2 (1957) m ps
1554: Art Blakey, Orgy in Rhythm, Volume 1 (1957) m s
1555: Art Blakey, Orgy in Rhythm, Volume 2 (1957) m s
1556: Jimmy Smith, The Sounds of Jimmy Smith (1957) m ps
1557: Lee Morgan, Volume 3 (1957) m
1558: Sonny Rollins, Volume 2 (1957) m ps
1559: Johnny Griffin, A Blowing Session (1957) m
1560: Hank Mobley, Hank (1957) m
1561: Sabu Martinez, Palo Congo (1957) m
1562: Horace Silver, The Stylings of Silver (1957) m s
1563: Jimmy Smith, Plays Pretty Just for You (1957) m s
1564: Paul Chambers, Quintet (1957) m
1565: Cliff Jordan, Cliff Jorda (1957) m
1566: Lou Donaldson, Swing and Soul (1957) m s
1567: Curtis Fuller, The Opener (1957) m
1568: Hank Mobley, Hank Mobley (1957) m
1569: Paul Chambers, Bass on Top (1957) m s
1570: Sonny Clark, Dial “S” for Sonny (1957) m
1571: Bud Powell, Bud! [= The Amazing Bud Powell, Volume 3] (1957) m s
1572: Curtis Fuller, Bone and Bari (1957) m
1573: John Jenkins, With Kenny Burrell (1957) m
1574: Hank Mobley, Peckin’ Time (1958) m
1575: Lee Morgan, City Lights (1957) m s
1576: Sonny Clark, Sonny’s Crib (1957) m s
1577: John Coltrane, Blue Train (1957) m s
1578: Lee Morgan, The Cooker (1957) m s
1579: Sonny Clark, Trio (1957) m s
1580: Johnny Griffin, The Congregation (1957) m
1581: Sonny Rollins, A Night at the Village Vanguard (1957) m ps
1582: Cliff Jordan, Cliff Craft (1957) m
1583: Curtis Fuller/Art Farmer, Curtis Fuller/Art Farm (1957) m
1584: Louis Smith, Here Comes Louis Smith (1958) m
1585: Jimmy Smith, Groovin’ at Small’s Paradise, Volume 1 (1957) m
1586: Jimmy Smith, Groovin’ at Small’s Paradise, Volume 2 (1957) m
1587: Bennie Green, Back on the Scene (1958) m s
1588: Sonny Clark, Cool Struttin’ (1958) m
1589: Horace Silver, Further Explorations (1958) m s
1590: Lee Morgan, Candy (1958) m
1591: Lou Donaldson, Lou Takes Off (1957) m
1593: Lou Donaldson, Blues Walk (1958) m s
1594: Louis Smith, Smithville (1958) m
1595: Cannonball Adderley, Somethin’ Else (1958) m s
1596: Kenny Burrell, Blue Lights, Volume 1 (1958) m s
1597: Kenny Burrell, Blue Lights, Volume 2 (1958) m s
1598: Bud Powell, Time Waits [= The Amazing Bud Powell, Volume 4] (1958) m s
1599: Bennie Green, Soul Stirrin’ (1958) m s
4001: Sonny Rollins, Newk’s Time (1957) m s
4002: Jimmy Smith, House Party (1957) m s
4003: Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, Moanin’ (1958) m s
4004: Art Blakey, Holiday for Skins, Volume 1 (1958) m s
4005: Art Blakey, Holiday for Skins, Volume 2 (1958) m s
4006: Dizzy Reece, Blues in Trinity (1958) m
4007: Donald Byrd, Off to the Races (1958) m s
4008: Horace Silver Quintet, Finger Poppin’ (1959) m s
4009: Bud Powell, The Scene Changes (1958) m s
4010: Bennie Green, Walkin’ and Talkin’ (1959) m s
4011: Jimmy Smith, The Sermon (1958) m s
4012: Lou Donaldson, Lou Donaldson with the Three Sounds (1959) m s
4013: Jackie McLean, New Soil (1959) m s
4014: The Three Sounds, Bottoms Up (1959) m s
4015: Art Blakey, At the Jazz Corner of the World, Vol 1 (1959) m s
4016: Art Blakey, At the Jazz Corner of the World, Vol 2 (1959) m s
4017: Horace Silver, Blowin’ the Blues Away (1959) m s
4018: Walter Davis, Davis Cup (1959) m s
4019: Donald Byrd, Byrd in Hand (1959) m s
4020: The Three Sounds, Good Deal (1959) m s
4021: Kenny Burrell, At the Five Spot (1959) m s
4022: Duke Pearson, Profile (1959) m s
4023: Dizzy Reece, Star Bright (1959) m s
4024: Jackie McLean, Swing, Swang, Swingin’ (1959) m s
4025: Lou Donaldson, The Time is Right (1959) m s
4026: Donald Byrd, Fuego (1959) m s
4027: Freddie Redd, Music from “The Connection” (1960) m s
4028: Horace Parlan, Movin’ and Groovin’ (1960) m s
4029: Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, The Big Beat (1960) m s
4030: Jimmy Smith, Crazy Baby (1960) m s
4031: Hank Mobley, Soul Station (1960) m s
4032: Sonny Red, Out of the Blue (1960) m s
4033: Dizzy Reece, Soundin’ Off (1960) m
4034: Lee Morgan, Leeway (1960) m s
4035: Duke Pearson, Tender Feelin’s (1959) m s
4036: Lou Donaldson, Sunny Side Up (1960) m s
4037: Horace Parlan, Us Three (1960) m s
4038: Jackie McLean, Capuchin Swing (1960) m s
4039: Stanley Turrentine, Look Out! (1960) m s
4040: Freddie Hubbard, Open Sesame (1960) m s
4041: Tina Brooks, True Blue (1960) m
4042: Horace Silver, Horace-Scope (1960) m s
4043: Horace Parlan, Speakin’ My Piece (1960) m s
4044: The Three Sounds, Moods (1960) m s
4045: Freddie Redd, Shades of Redd (1960) m s
4046: Duke Jordan, Flight to Jordan (1960) m s
4047: Art Taylor, A. T.’s Delight (1960) m s
4048: Donald Byrd, Byrd in Flight (1960) m s
4049: Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, A Night in Tunisia (1960) m s
4050: Jimmy Smith, Home Cookin’ (1959) m s
4051: Jackie McLean, Jackie’s Bag (1959) m s
4053: Lou Donaldson, Lightfoot (1958) m s
4054: Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, Meet You…, Volume 1 (1960) m s
4055: Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, Meet You…, Volume 2 (1960) m s
4056: Freddie Hubbard, Goin’ Up (1960) m s
4057: Stanley Turrentine, Blue Hour (1960) m s
4058: Hank Mobley, Roll Call (1960) m s
4059: Kenny Drew, Undercurrent (1960) m s
4060: Donald Byrd, At the Half Note Cafe, Volume 1 (1960) m s
4061: Donald Byrd, At the Half Note Cafe, Volume 2 (1960) m s
4062: Horace Parlan, Headin’ South (1960) m s
4063: Kenny Dorham, Whistle Stop (1961) m s
4064: Grant Green, Grant’s First Stand (1961) m s
4066: Lou Donaldson, Here ‘Tis (1961) m s
4067: Jackie McLean, Bluesnik (1961) m s
4068: Baby Face Willette, Face to Face (1961) m s
4069: Stanley Turrentine, Up at Minton’s, Volume 1 (1961) m s
4070: Stanley Turrentine, Up at Minton’s, Volume 2 (1961) m s
4071: Grant Green, Green Street (1961) m s
4072: The Three Sounds, Feelin’ Good (1960) m s
4073: Freddie Hubbard, Hub Cap (1961) m s
4074: Horace Parlan, On the Spur of the Moment (1961) m s
4075: Donald Byrd, The Cat Walk (1961) m s
4076: Horace Silver, Doin’ the Thing (1961) m s
4077: Dexter Gordon, Doin’ Allright (1961) m s
4078: Jimmy Smith, Midnight Special (1960) m s
4079: Lou Donaldson, Gravy Train (1961) m s
4080: Hank Mobley, Workout (1961) m s
4081: Stanley Turrentine, Dearly Beloved (1961) m s
4082: Horace Parlan, Up and Down (1961) m s
4083: Dexter Gordon, Dexter Calling (1961) m s
4084: Baby-Face Willette, Stop and Listen (1961) m s
4085: Freddie Hubbard, Ready for Freddie (1961) m s
4086: Grant Green, Grantstand (1961) m s
4087: Leo Parker, Let Me Tell You ‘Bout It (1961) m s
4088: The Three Sounds, Here We Come (1960) m s
4089: Jackie McLean, A Fickle Sonance (1961) m s
4090: Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, Mosaic (1961) m s
4091: Sonny Clark, Leapin’ and Lopin’ (1961) m s
4092: Kenny Clarke, The Golden Eight (1961) m
4093: Ike Quebec, Heavy Soul (1961) m s
4094: Fred Jackson, Hootin’ ‘n’ Tootin’ (1962) m s
4095: Leo Parker, Rollin’ with Leo (1961) – s
4096: Stanley Turrentine, That’s Where It’s At (1962) m s
4097: Art Blakey, The African Beat (1962) m s
4098: Ike Quebec, Blue and Sentimental (1961) m s
4099: Grant Green, Sunday Morning (1961) m s
4100: Jimmy Smith, Plays Fats Waller (1962) m s
4101: Donald Byrd, Royal Flush (1961) m s
4102: The Three Sounds, Hey There (1961) m s
4104: Art Blakey, Buhaina’s Delight (1961) m s
4105: Ike Quebec, It Might as Well Be Spring (1961) m s
4106: Jackie McLean, Let Freedom Ring (1962) m s
4107: Don Wilkerson, Preach Brother! (1962) m s
4108: Lou Donaldson, The Natural Soul (1962) m s
4109: Herbie Hancock, Takin’ Off (1962) m s
4110: Horace Silver, The Tokyo Blues (1962) m s
4111: Grant Green, The Latin Bit (1962) m s
4112: Dexter Gordon, Go (1962) m s
4113: Freddie Roach, Down to Earth (1962) m s
4114: Ike Quebec, Bossa Nova Soul Samba (1962) m s
4115: Freddie Hubbard, Hub-Tones (1962) m s
4117: Jimmy Smith, Back at the Chicken Shack (1960) m s
4118: Donald Byrd, Free Form (1961) m s
4119: Charlie Rouse, Bossa Nova Bacchanal (1962) m s
4120: The Three Sounds, It Just Got to Be (1960) m s
4121: Don Wilkerson, Elder Don (1962) m s
4122: Stanley Turrentine, Jubilee Shout (1962) – s
4123: Kenny Burrell, Midnight Blue (1963) m s
4124: Donald Byrd, A New Perspective (1963) m s
4125: Lou Donaldson, Good Gracious (1963) m s
4126: Herbie Hancock, My Point of View (1963) m s
4127: Kenny Dorham, Una Mas (1963) m s
4128: Freddie Roach, Mo’ Greens Please (1963) m s
4129: Stanley Turrentine, Never Let Me Go (1963) m s
4130: John Patton, Along Came John (1963) m s
4131: Horace Silver, Silver’s Serenade (1963) m s
4132: Grant Green, Feelin’ the Spirit (1962) m s
4133: Dexter Gordon, A Swingin’ Affair (1962) m s
4134: Horace Parlan, Happy Frame of Mind (1963) – s
4135: Freddie Hubbard, Here to Stay (1962) – s
4136: Solomon Ilori, African High Life (1963) m s
4137: Jackie McLean, One Step Beyond (1963) m s
4138: Harold Vick, Steppin’ Out (1963) m s
4139: Grant Green, Am I Blue (1963) m s
4140: Joe Henderson, Page One (1963) m s
4141: Jimmy Smith, Rockin’ the Boat (1963) m s
4143: John Patton, Blue John (1963) – s
4144: Johnny Coles, Little Johnny C (1963) m s
4145: Don Wilkerson, Shoutin’ (1963) m s
4146: Dexter Gordon, Our Man in Paris (1963) m s
4147: Herbie Hancock, Inventions and Dimensions (1963) m s
4148: George Braith, Two Souls in One (1963) m s
4149: Hank Mobley, No Room for Squares (1963) m s
4150: Stanley Turrentine, A Chip Off the Old Block (1963) m s
4151: Andrew Hill, Black Fire (1963) m s
4152: Joe Henderson, Our Thing (1963) m s
4153: Grachan Moncur III, Evolution (1963) m s
4154: Grant Green, Idle Moments (1963) m s
4155: The Three Sounds, Black Orchid (1962) m s
4156: Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, The Freedom Rider (1961) m s
4157: Lee Morgan, The Sidewinder (1963) m s
4158: Freddie Roach, Good Move (1963) m s
4159: Andrew Hill, Judgment! (1964) m s
4160: Andrew Hill, Smoke Stack (1963) m s
4161: George Braith, Soul Stream (1963) m s
4162: Stanley Turrentine, Hustlin’ (1964) m s
4163: Eric Dolphy, Out To Lunch (1964) m s
4164: Jimmy Smith, Prayer Meetin’ (1963) m s
4165: Jackie McLean, Destination… Out! (1963) m s
4166: Joe Henderson, In ‘n Out (1964) m s
4167: Andrew Hill, Point of Departure (1964) m s
4168: Freddie Roach, Brown Sugar (1964) m s
4169: Lee Morgan, Search for the New Land (1964) m s
4170: Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, Free For All (1964) m s
4171: George Braith, Extension (1964) m s
4172: Freddie Hubbard, Breaking Point (1964) m s
4173: Wayne Shorter, Night Dreamer (1964) m s
4174: John Patton, The Way I Feel (1964) m s
4175: Herbie Hancock, Empyrean Isles (1964) m s
4176: Dexter Gordon, One Flight Up (1964) m s
4177: Grachan Moncur III, Some Other Stuff (1964) m s
4178: Blue Mitchell, The Thing to Do (1964) m s
4179: Jackie McLean, It’s Time! (1964) m s
4180: Anthony Williams, Life Time (1964) m s
4181: Kenny Dorham, Trompeta Toccata (1964) m s
4182: Wayne Shorter, Juju (1964) m s
4183: Grant Green, Talkin’ About! (1964) m s
4184: Sam Rivers, Fuchsia Swing Song (1964) m s
4185: Horace Silver, Song for My Father (1964) m s
4186: Hank Mobley, The Turnaround! (1965) m s
4187: Larry Young, Into Somethin’ (1964) m s
4188: Donald Byrd, I’m Tryin’ to Get Home (1964) m s
4189: Joe Henderson, Inner Urge (1964) m s
4190: Freddie Roach, All That’s Good (1964) m s
4191: Duke Pearson, Wahoo! (1964) m s
4192: John Patton, Oh Baby! (1965) m s
4193: Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, Indestructible (1964) m s
4194: Wayne Shorter, Speak No Evil (1964) m s
4195: Herbie Hancock, Maiden Voyage (1965) m s
4196: Freddie Hubbard, Blue Spirits (1965) m s
4197: The Three Sounds, Out of This World (1962) m s
4198: Bobby Hutcherson, Dialogue (1965) m s
4199: Lee Morgan, The Rumproller (1965) m s
4200: Jimmy Smith, Softly as a Summer Breeze (1958) m s
4201: Stanley Turrentine, Joyride (1965) m s
4202: Grant Green, I Want to Hold Your Hand (1965) m s
4203: Andrew Hill, Andrew! (1964) m s
4204: Dexter Gordon, Gettin’ Around (1965) m s
4205: Pete LaRoca, Basra (1965) m s
4206: Sam Rivers, Contours (1965) m s
4207: Freddie Hubbard, The Night of the Cookers, Vol 1 (1965) m s
4208: Freddie Hubbard, The Night of the Cookers, Vol 2 (1965) m s
4209: Hank Mobley, Dippin’ (1965) m s
4212: Lee Morgan, The Gigolo (1965) m s
4213: Bobby Hutcherson, Components (1965) m s
4214: Blue Mitchell, Down with It (1965) m s
4215: Jackie McLean, Right Now (1965) m s
4216: Anthony Williams, Spring (1965) m s
4217: Andrew Hill, Compulsion (1965) m s
4218: Jackie McLean, Action (1964) m s
4219: Wayne Shorter, The All-Seeing Eye (1965) m s
4220: Horace Silver, The Cape Verdean Blues (1965) m s
4221: Larry Young, Unity (1965) m s
4222: Lee Morgan, Cornbread (1965) m s
4224: Ornette Coleman, At the “Golden Circle,” Volume 1 (1965) m s
4225: Ornette Coleman, At the “Golden Circle,” Volume 2 (1965) m s
4226: Don Cherry, Complete Communion (1965) m s
4227: Joe Henderson, Mode for Joe (1966) m s
4228: Blue Mitchell, Bring it on Home (1966) m s
4229: John Patton, Got a Good Thing Goin’ (1966) m s
4230: Hank Mobley, A Caddy for Daddy (1965) m s
4231: Bobby Hutcherson, Happenings (1966) m s
4232: Wayne Shorter, Adam’s Apple (1966) m s
4235: Jimmy Smith, Bucket! (1963) m s
4237: Cecil Taylor, Unit Structures (1966) m s
4238: Donald Byrd, Mustang! (1966) m s
4239: John Patton, Let ‘Em Roll (1965) m s
4240: Stanley Turrentine, Rough ‘n Tumble (1966) m s
4242: Larry Young, Of Love and Peace (1966) m s
4243: Lee Morgan, Delightfulee Morgan (1966) m s
4244: Bobby Hutcherson, Stick Up! (1966) m s
4245: Art Blakey, Like Someone in Love (1960) m s
4246: Ornette Coleman, The Empty Foxhole (1966) m s
4247: Don Cherry, Symphony for Improvisers (1966) m s
4248: The Three Sounds, Vibrations (1966) m s
4249: Sam Rivers, A New Conception (1966) m s
4250: Horace Silver, The Jody Grind (1966) m s


58 thoughts on “Blue Note recordings: mono, stereo, pseudo-stereo

  1. I have a 1st Stereo pressing of Herbie’s Takin’ Off that sounds like mono to me. I hear all instruments equally from both speakers. It sounds fantastic… and exactly like my mono original pressing Blue Notes to my ears. It has the BNST in runouts and Stereo on labels and sleeve. Is this unusual or what exactly is going on here? Any help is appreciated. Thanks!

    • It was common practice to cannibalise left over label and jackets on subsequent pressing runs, not to rule out human error, so there can be some odd things turn up. However if the runout is the stereo BNST 8 number etching, from 1962, then there must be some other explanation. Rudy cut separate lacquers for the mono and stereo edition. One way to test your own impressions is to run a rip through Audacity, which will show the waveform in db of each channel separately. It is the gold standard proof of format. Some mixes are on a widely distributed soundstage, others are centrally-focussed, but I have never seen a van Gelder incorrectly etched. I have only the mono edition, and I can confirm it is mono.

  2. Just discovered that my 1970s purchase of Jackie McLean’s Capuchin Swing (BST 84038) has the dreaded simulated stereo mark. However, as mentioned above, I think this is from a two-track recording. Certainly trumpet and alto are definitely located left-right and do not sound like fake stereo.

  3. Hi LJC,

    I’ve got an original stereo of Sam Rivers “Contours”. The cover if the BST stereo, the labels are NEW YORK STEREO, but surprisingly the record actually plays mono! Looking at the matrix, the VAN GELDER stamps are here, but not the “STEREO” that usually follows. Do you know if the “STEREO” stamp is always present for stereo masters? And have you ever come across mixed mono/stereo master/labels?

    • “Stereo” is not always stamped in the deadwax on stereo Blue Notes. I assume the catalog number in the deadwax is “BNLP-4206” not “BNST-84206”?

    • 4206 was recorded in May 1965, and I include it in the 40-odd list of titles first released by Liberty a year later. Certainly my copy has no ear and is accompanied by the 27 Years inner sleeve characteristic of the first wave of Liberty releases. It is stereo, the runout matrix is BNST and the stamp is VAN GELDER. The Blue Note NY Stereo label typesetting is Keystone/Vogue Intertype, same as Blue Note and early east coast Liberty

      Rudy ceased the STEREO master stamp in the runout back somewhere around 1962. Both mono and stereo thereafter bear simply VAN GELDER .

      I see that I haven’t reviewed a couple of my Sam Rivers titles – Contours and A New Conception. I must make ammends.

      Consulting Vinyl Detective

      • Well, not really actually. I’ve checked more and my OG stereo copy of “Point of Departure” (1964) has the “STEREO” stamp, as well as my UA black/light blue pressing of Joe’s “Our Thing”.

        • Feet of clay, I was talkin’ bolloxs, there are lots of titles with a tiny STEREO stamp in addition to the “VAN GELDER” stamp. I was thinking of the older big “RVG STEREO” stamp. I don’t think I have paid attention to that tiny stereo stamp before. I’ll take a closer look. You get an “Eagle Eye” boy scout badge.

  4. I have what I believe is a 1966 repress of Lee Morgan’s The Cooker that says the following on the back cover’s upper right corner: “BLP-1578/No Stereo.”

    I’m assuming this means it is mono, but I don’t know. How often was this notation used to describe the recording? And what, exactly, does it mean?

    • Yes, it’s mono (the label should have “microgroove” along the top, not “STEREO”).

      I don’t have and exact range but the “No Stereo” designation was only used for a short time at the beginning of the Liberty years. What’s odd is that it’s typically found on titles where no stereo tape exists but there actually is a stereo tape for The Cooker.

      • like Aaron has stated I have only seen the ‘no stereo’ on early liberty pressings where no stereo tape exists. I have both volumes of the eminent JJ Johnson with that designation. One has liberty labels and the other is mixed (liberty and NY label). I have a 1970 reissue of the cooker (black label with blue on the side) and it is true stereo. Does anyone know which is the first stereo pressing of the cooker?

          • Interesting, that Discogs entry for the Liberty Stereo Cooker makes no mention of Van Gelder stamp in runout. The labels are West Coast type-setting, so re-mastered locally by Research Craft, probably from copy tape, not Rudy mastering,

              • Another interesting example of RVG transitioning, from mono to stereo. According to our friend DGmono, Rudy started experimenting with two-track tape in July 1957. The Cooker (BN 1578) was recorded soon after, September 29, 1957, during which time Rudy was recording to one-track and a two-track simultaneously, prior to adopting the fold-down solution.

                It is entirely possible that he never made a stereo master, though a two-track tape will have existed. I have the King Records edition, which is stereo. Liberty and later UA/King seized the two-track tape, to issue as stereo a recording intended for a mono mix. When I listen to stereo records from this transitional period, I switch the phono-amp to mono, sounds much better.

                • An interesting notation from the RVG 2006 CD ” the stereo version of this LP
                  was issued years after the initial mono release.
                  For the stereo master of a night in Tunisia on this album and on The best of Lee Morgan, the wrong out theme insert ending was edited onto the master take. It has been corrected for this release.

            • Stereo mix on The Cooker is very primitive with different instruments hard panned left & right. I found it a bit distracting to listen to so got a mono Classic Records pressing instead which sounds just great.

  5. Hi there
    doubling maybe from a zoot simms/jutta hipps comment but probably more relevant here.
    are microgroove/UA (70s) “real” mono pressings (microgroove)
    or “mono sound” pressed on stereo grooves? am i clear enough?

  6. Hi, do I understand it correctly to stay away from mono albums? Why exactly is that? Sorry, but i am new at this and trying to find out what to purchase and what not. I had my eyes set on BLP 4117 Jimmy Smith Back at the Chicken Shack, mono first pressing.

    • Emphatically no, LJC is not against mono, to the contrary, especially for recordings made before 1961/2, mono is the preferred choice. The problem becomes one of preference after stereo had come of age at Blue Note. After that you have to choose between the two formats, both of which offer a different but very acceptable presentation. There is not a “right” choice. It is entirely down to your preference, only you can decide that. You need to take the plunge, dive in, see how these things grab you. A good starting point is finding a mono and stereo copy of the same title, see which you enjoy more, which gives you more insight into the music. Then you are on a roll.

  7. I’ve got the Lou Donaldson Lou Takes Off 81591. The Kenny Burrell Blue Lights Vol 1 & 2 81596/7. All of these have the Electronically Re-Recorded To Simulate Stereo on the back cover top right. None of these have the ps in the list provided. I’m assuming these are poor versions to own?

    • I’m not sure about the lou Donaldson, but I have the Kenny Burrell blue lights vol. 1 and it’s real stereo even though it is marked ‘ electronically re recorded to simulate stereo’ 😉

      • Ed……Many thanks for replying. I do find this all very confusing. Hard to know which ones are ‘real’ stereo in advance of purchasing them. How does your Blue Lights sound?

        • I’m happy with the way it sounds. It is typical of van gelders early stereo with ‘hard panning ‘.
          Many blue note reissues are mislabeled and are actually real stereo, I have several.

          • That’s interesting Ed…..the hard panning on the Lou Donaldson is what made automatically made me think it was pseudo stereo. I’m not really sure how to know for sure?

          • One question Ed….I’m not doubting you at all, but how do you know it’s real stereo? Is there a definitive list or are you going purely on how it sounds? I’m not sure I’d know the difference between real and pseudo or is it that obvious when it’s played? Thanks

            • I’m not Ed but it’s pretty obvious once you hear it. Fake stereo either has the highs shifted to one side & the lows shifted to the other or has the mono signal split in two with a slight delay put on one and then panned left & right.

              • Please see most recent post tonight, on BN 4063, Kenny Dorham “Whistle Stop” with samples. Because there was no RVG stereo master, just a two track tape, record companies described their stereo reissue as “electronically re-recorded to simulate stereo” It is a simple two track tape mastered as stereo instead of a fold down as RVG intended. There is no electronic monkeying, just hard panning, but it is not “pseudo stereo”.

                  • If I understand the Ruppli/Cuscuna source correctly, the table is intended to list what formats were released during the Blue Note period up to 1966. BLP 1591 was one of a number of recordings released by Blue Note only in mono. Most if not all these late 1500 series were recorded to two track, but not all were issued in stereo at the time. The first stereo release came later on, by Liberty, hence it’s listed as only “m”. It is not intended to mean it was recorded to one track. Hopefully that’s clear, but happy to be corrected.

                    Dreaded drainpipe strikes again!

  8. Hi there I have 84038 Capuchin Swing that says “electronically re-recorded to simulate stereo'”..sounds horrendous lol..not included on your list?!

    • With nearly 30 McLean titles in my collection, 4038 is actually one I don’t have in any form. It was released at the time only in mono (November 1960), though certainly recorded on two-track (April 17, 1960) , and therefore a candidate for a stereo edition.

      Liberty was the first to release it in stereo. Both King and Toshiba brought out stereo editions in the ’80s, so we know two-track existed, and there was no reason for Liberty and UA to “fake” stereo out of a mono recording. The table distinguishes “fake stereo” (ps, pseudo stereo) re-mastered from a mono recording, and “true stereo” (s), mastered from a two track recording.

      Looks like Van Gelder didn’t cut a stereo master, so Liberty had no legacy metal, and mastered it themselves in stereo for the first time, from a two track tape. These stereos were derived from a two track recording destined for a mono fold down, and will often exhibit hard panning and an unnatural sound-stage, but they are “stereo” not electronically reprocessed mono to simulate stereo.

      I expect the claim on the back cover doesn’t describe how it was actually prepared. However, as with all these things, anything’s possible.

      • Such a classic title not to have! This is a blue label with white ‘b’ pressing. No Van Gelder in deadwax. Trust the ears..I’m on look out for better pressing as of today 😉 thx and great blog

        • I have the same pressing, just played it this morning – typical early RVG stereo, not the best mix but definitely not fake stereo.

  9. Soul Station hank mobley BST-84031

    I just got this today. On the chart above it says This date exists in true stereo but the sleeve has the “electronically re-recorded…” label on the back. It is a liberty record from 1968 (year is etched in the runout). Is this record a true stereo despite the “re/recorded” label on the back? How do you tell from listening- I have some bona fide BN stereos w very hard panning but this is the first “electronic” stereo I’ve ever bought.
    Also it is an alternate cover from the well-known mono original. This must be the ugliest blue note cover of all time! Thanks in advance for any help and sorry if I’m kicking a dead thread….

    • Do you mean this alternative Liberty cover?

      The liner notes on my copy make no reference to electronic reprocessing. It’s stereo, a lousy job as it’s not VAN GELDER metal, Liberty remastered it for themselves. I assume they couldn’t find the original metal, like they couldn’t find the original artwork, but decided to go ahead anyway. Nothing good to be said about it and the artwork is shockingly bad composite execution.

      It smacks of Liberty after the Transamerica takeover in 1968: milk the catalogue, cut production costs, focus on the money, nobody’s going to notice quality anyway. Well, not for another 50 years.

      The language “reprocessing for stereo” can be a misnomer. Sometimes its a straight two track tape mastered for stereo, sometimes its virtually mono apart from a few high and low frequencies filtered off and positioned left or right, other times its a mono recording that the engineer has monkeyed with to simulate stereo, using reverb and delay lines asymmetrically to make the two channels sound different. The best is when they simply lie on the cover – say its stereo and it’s plain untouched original mono.

      The gold standard is to rip a track in Audacity software and watch the waveforms on each channel. In mono, they are identical. In stereo, they ain’t.

      • Yes it’s this one. A real gem! Just kidding. Yes mine has the reprocessed sign that you posted in the article. on the back top right corner. It’s definitely stereo but the bass is on the right. I don’t hear any weird reverb effects but my copy isn’t clean at all it’s not a great listen on any level! no RVG on mine either. At the least the cover is good for a face-palm laugh. But I guess technically this is the stereo first pressing!!

  10. I have a 70s Liberty Pressing of Bud Powell’s “Time Waits” that is “electronically re-recorded” to simulate stereo” according to the back of the jacket. This one is not on your list. I am usually careful to not buy fake stereo LPs but I slipped on this one.

    • D, are you sure the record itself is fake stereo, no matter what the sleeve says? A stereo master tape was available, so why should anyone have put any effort into fake stereo? I really have no idea, but I guess your record should be either mono or real stereo, with the drums right, bass left, and piano in the centre. Could you perhaps listen through headphones to make sure?

      • Groovewear,

        That is a good point. I was playing the record recently and my answer is – I’m not sure. I panned the balance knob on my integrated amp back and forth while listen to try to figure it out. The piano is in both channels, and I can’t hear the cymbals very lightly in the right channel. The bass is definitely in the left channel, which is where the bass drum seems to be as well.


        • Listening through a headphone should provide a definite answer. Just try the title track, where the position of the bass is unmistakable from the start.

          But I’m not saying that a fake stereo version doesn’t exist. I have a Japanese 45 RPM maxi single of “Alison’s Uncle” (aka “Bangoon”, now a bonus track on “Somethin’ Else”), with the album version of “Autumn Leaves” on the flip side. For reasons unknown, the latter is in fake stereo while the former is in stereo.

  11. Thanks for the follow up. That explains why my 1965 Stereo Lee Morgan Cornbread sounds wonderful. By that time RVG was “thinking in stereo” 😉

    Too bad my 1961 Jackie McLean Mono Fickle Sonance (4089) sounds so thin and bland…

    Not trying to compete with the big boy collectors on original pressings, or top grade condition/investment grade BN’s. Very interested, however,
    in good sound. Many thanks for sharing your knowledge and analyses.


  12. Dear LJC,
    The BN sessions recorded in the Rudy’s stereo era, with New York labels, tend to sell for way less than the mono (foldover?) versions. Why would this be??? And why shouldn’t we be gobbling them up? With Appreciative Thanks, -David

    • Up until July 1962 the stereo was released some time after the mono, so you have the argument that the original first pressing is the mono. Reissues and recent digital editions are most often only stereo, meaning early vinyl is often a unique mono source, making the mono edition more sought after.

      I guess there is a form of purism among collectors that mono is the “authentic Blue Note sound”, whether fold down or dedicated mix. Perhaps mono is more “retro”. Seems to be how the rock and pop collectors think.

      A lot of RVG stereo in the early ’60s, I still consider shonky, with eccentric instrument positioning which is a distraction from the music, though I keep being told some people like it. I figure it wasn’t until around ’64 RVG began to think in stereo. That is a personal thing and not market sentiment, which is what determines price.

      It does appear that mono in near mint condition is the most collectable artefact – the “investment grade” copy.

  13. I just picked up what I thought was a stereo copy of BN 4011. Jimmy Smith’s The Sermon. First side has a stereo label while the second side has a mono label. Sleeve has stereo sticker.Mono label lists the two tracks from the second side in the wrong order. Side one sounds like stereo. Side two sounds like mono on one track and stereo on the other. This was pressed right around the time BN was starting to print both. Any idea what this is? I read the mongrel article, but it states that mongrels were always mono. Thank you.

    • From the number of times I have seen this title I would guess it sold in large quantity compared with other Blue Notes, they probably ordered extra pressing runs, and print runs, cannibalised mono labels from stock to eke out the first stereo label print run, mistakes were made, a complete clusterf**k. Doesn’t really surprise me, but interesting nevertheless. Some photos would be helpful, labels and cover, for comparison with other copies. That may tell us more of the story.

  14. “4001: Sonny Rollins, Newk’s Time (1957) m s” I have a Japanese copy of this that is fake stereo, pulls hard to the left just as you describe. Is it a new ball of wax when evaluating Japanese King Blue Notes?

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