Last Updated: February 6,, 2019
The hallmark of a Rudy Van Gelder master is the presence of his name or initials in the vinyl land between the grooves and the record label, variously described as the deadwax, runout or trail-off.
1) 1956-7 and earlier – hand written initials RVG
(click each to view full screen)
2) 1958-62 Machine stamp RVG initials
3) 1961/2 onwards, machine stamp VAN GELDER, roughly though not exactly coinciding with the introduction of the NY label. Some early NY label titles still bear the second RVG machine stamp.
The Van Gelder hallmark was applied on the master acetate, and transfers during the various stages of metalwork through to the final stamper It indicates the mastering was carried out by Van Gelder and its absence means the master has been created by other usually inferior ears.
It is not however a guarantee of quality as Van Gelder-mastered stampers continued to be used during the Liberty and United Artists, in some cases beyond their useful life. Also, Van Gelder was not the only great sound engineer, and the quality of his tape mixes was often so high it was difficult for another engineer to make a poor transfer, though some did.
Similar hallmarkings are found on Van Gelder’s work for other labels, notably Prestige and Impulse and as Rudolf reminds me, also Debut and Savoy.
Van Gelder mastering stamp in the ’70s and ’80s adopted the following new form: Master By Van Gelder –
This stamp is found on some titles for Mosaic, Uptown, and a few other labels. Though his association with Blue Note was long gone, his Englewood Cliffs recording studio continued to be a sought after, and guaranteed work for Van Gelder. However, by the early 80s the lead Van Gelder had enjoyed over most other engineers in previous decades had narrowed. What had been cutting edge use of microphones and recording equipment in the ’50s and ’60s suffered in industry convergence to the mean – every studio had similar multi-track facilities, solid state equipment had replaced valves, and shortly the Evil Silver Disc would replace vinyl as a medium of music distribution. The magic is often no longer present with “MASTER BY – VAN GELDER”.
In closing, Van Gelder would return to Blue Note in the ’90s by remastering his recordings for CD.