Guide To The New Jazz Record Label

Warning: there are not as many clues to confirm provenance as found with Blue Note or to a lesser extent, Prestige, and not all apparent “originals” are desirable. For some titles, it remains inconclusive.

New Jazz – Early Days

The founder of Prestige/New Jazz label was 20-year old jazz fan and entrepreneur, Bob Weinstock. His New Jazz/Prestige label started issuing titles in 1949, on 10″ shellac. The format evolved through 10″ microgroove vinyl in the early ’50s, to the 12″ microgroove LP in 1955-6. A series of label design changes accompanied the changing formats, before reinventing the name “New Jazz” in 1958 as a separate label, the New Jazz label.

New Jazz Purple Label (1958-63)

New Jazz Catalogue/Discography 8200 Series (1958 – 63)

The 8200 Series, starting with PRLP 8201 – Mal Waldron – Mal/3 – Sounds, recorded at Van Gelder Home Studio, Hackensack, NJ, January 31, 1958. The initial Prestige PRLP catalogue prefix on a handul of early releases was soon replaced by NJLP.

Around a hundred “new” recordings were issued on the New Jazz label between 1958 and the end of 1963, though the label continued to front reissues for several more years. In its prime years, the New Jazz label leant towards more adventurous material, whilst the Prestige label itself leaned more towards soul jazz organ-combos, though in practice both labels were interchangeable.

The New Jazz catalogue featured many exceptional artists of the time, including must-have recordings of Roy Haynes, Yusef Lateef, Eric Dolphy, Kenny Dorham, Walt Dickerson, Mal Waldron, Dizzy Reece, Oliver Nelson, Jackie McLean, and many others. My pick of a dozen favourites, YMMV, but so hard to acquire.

The label’s most collectable and valuable record has, for some years, remained Kenny Dorham’s Quiet Kenny (NJLP 8225). With around 300 auctions listed, Popsike ranks this among the most valuable jazz records ever.

Many Prestige/New Jazz sessions were recorded by Van Gelder at Hackensack and Englewood Cliffs and exhibit the benefit of Van Gelder mastering, evidenced by RVG and VAN GELDER stamps. The audio quality is correspondingly fine.

By the end of 1963, (around catalogue number 8300) the New Jazz label had more or less run its course as regards new jazz titles and artists, with just the occasional issue. Thereafter novelty compilations and reissues marked the end of the road. Lusty Moods, indeed. OK ’60s bachelor demographic, who is it to take home for the weekend, Lusty Moods, or Latin Soul? Both? Dream on. Sex sells, apparently, but I guess not enough to keep a once great record company afloat.

With many of his artist signings having moved on and up to majors, Weinstock turned his attention to the re-issue of older New Jazz and Prestige titles of those now big names, through the short-lived Status label. Status picked up the New Jazz catalogue numbering system at 8300, but with the prefix ST. The same numbers but with the prefix NJLP was used for completely different recordings. Surplus stocks of New Jazz covers would be given a Status sticker, and the recording issued with a Status label. Cannibalisation of everything became the name of the game.

Meanwhile, under the auspices of the Prestige label, around 1965 the blue label/ silver trident (on side) was introduced to serve the same purpose. Reissues given a different later catalogue number, with a PR prefix, or hijacked the new Jazz NJLP catalogue number. In many cases, Van Gelder metal was reused on both Status and Prestige Blue label. To Weinstock, labels were not an iconic “brand” so much as a vehicle of convenience. And disposable.

Weinstock’s menagerie of record labels rumbled along in a chaotic fashion until it was sold to Fantasy Records in 1971, for allegedly $3m (Billboard, Jan 16, 1971).

Fantasy purchased the entire Prestige catalogue, including its subsidiary labels New Jazz, Bluesville, Folklore, Swingville, Tru-Sound, and Moodsville. Thereafter New Jazz recordings would appear as OJC issues (original Jazz Clasics) and commonly in Japan, through Victor. These issues were all remastered. Though Van Gelder’s original recordings remained, Van Gelder metal masters tragically disappeared off this earth. Perhaps now enjoying a Saturn postcode.

Birth of the New Jazz Label (1958)

Commencing in 1958, a reluctant forceps delivery. The Prestige 8200 Series started life not as “New Jazz” at all, but simply a continuation of the well-established Prestige “fireworks” label which had active since 1955, the 7000 Series. The previous 440 W. 50th St N.Y.C label address was replaced in 1958 by Prestige’s new address that year, 203 South Washington Ave. Bergenfield, N.J. A new catalogue number, pick any number, 8200? Sounds good to me. After a hand full of releases, a new identity based on the Prestige original 1949 name, “New Jazz”, emerged, with its own purple label.

Example below PRLP 8202, recorded at Van Gelder Home Studio, Hackensack, NJ, December 6, 1957, first issued in 1958. The same recording, same Abbey pressing die ring on Side B, both deep groove, both bear the text “High Fidelity” in proper format, typeset with the same Intertype fonts, though different typesetter layout choices.

Quick forensic on the labels: the album title is set in the same geometric sans-serif round font, Intertype Vogue, as used by Keystone Printed Specialties Scranton PA, who were also print supplier to Blue Note/ Plasytlite, and known to supply Prestige/Abbey in their early years.

Which is “first”? The fireworks, of course.

Illustrated below, PRLP 8201 to PRLP 8204 are found on both Prestige “Fireworks” label and purple New Jazz label. From PRLP 8205, the legend on the label departs from the Prestige form “High Fidelity” , capitalised to become “HI FIDELITY”. The NJLP catalogue number replaces PRLP the first time at NJLP 8207. Fireworks PRLP ceases with 8209 (more of 8029 later, you have an Easter Egg to look forward to)

Pressing New Jazz: Abbey Record Mfg.

Weinstock’s preferred pressing plant for New Jazz in 1958 was the very high quality Abbey Record Mfg., East Newark, New Jersey – of similar standing to Plastylite, the regular partner of Blue Note.

The relationship between Van Gelder, Blue Note and Plastylite has been documented in great detail, relationships with Prestige less so. Proof of Plastylite pressing rests on presence of the “ear”, a cursive inverted “P”, applied during pressing. It does not appear on any metalwork. Abbey also had its own signature mark, the letters AB, hand written, appear in the runout usually near the label edge. The AB appears on both Prestige and New Jazz, though the pin-etched two letters are not as easy to discern as the “ear”.

The difference between the “ear” and the “AB” (which few if any record sellers are aware of) is that the AB must appear on the metalwork: witness, it can be seen on many UK Esquire pressings, which were pressed by Decca in the UK (with Prestige-supplied metal). Van Gelder applied his stamp during the preparation of his master acetate. The AB must have been applied during the manufacture of metal parts from the Van Gelder master. You may be able to figure out how else. As a result, Prestige stampers had both the AB etching and Van Gelder stamps, and those stampers could be sent to any pressing plant (according to cost-advantage), not necessarily pressed by Abbey, though the indications are that many were, at least initially.

Abbey pressing can be positively identified by a distinctive pressing die in use at Abbey between 1958 and 1961. I emphasise this is not independently verified anywhere, but my own deduction. After 1961 there were changes in the type of dies used across the industry, and this tell-tale “signature” seems to have disappeared. Other pressings may be OK, there may be exceptions, but having been burned four times times, I recommend proceding with caution, especially with expensive New Jazz records purchased at a distance.

Abbey Test Pressings – Search For The Original.

The earliest authenticated issue of any title is the test pressing. Perhaps a dozen copies would be pressed from the first stamper derived from the master, to confirm the acceptable quality of mastering and obtain sign-off from the musicians and their label executives.

Abbey test pressings, with their distinctive white label, appear infrequently on-line, but by combining Prestige and New Jazz titles, sufficient examples cover the critical period 1958-63. (Note: evidence, verify, not “take my word for it”)

Abbey Test Pressings 1958-63

Test pressings displayed shown above provide documentary evidence of the impression left by pressing dies in use at Abbey throughout the period 1958 to 1961: a wide outer deep groove ring on both sides and the small circular pressing ring around the spindle hole on one side. Towards the end of 1962, commercial pressings begin to show a new narrow deep groove, some with the small circular ring, some not. The examples found for test pressings in 1963 show no deep groove either side, and no small circle around the spindle hole.

Abbey plant operators identified the title of the test pressing in writing on only one side, though some were left blank and identifiable only from the matrix codes. Some titles include the date of test, others do not . It also helpfully confirms the Prestige convention for identifying each side was A / B, and not as SIDE 1/ SIDE 2 as found on some later re-pressings of New Jazz titles

Seen here, an Abbey test pressing, of NJLP 8233, hand-written dated June 2, 1960, wide outer deep groove both sides,with a small circular pressing die around the spindle hole, on one side only.

Records in the commercial release with these authentication marks  are definitively “the original pressing” – RVG initials in the run-out, deep wide outer groove in the label area on both side, small inner pressing ring around the spindle hole on only one side, possibly a visible hand-etched AB at the label edge both sides. One copy on Discogs claims to have  a date, and the letters ABM (Abbey Record Mfg. I assume) etched in the run-out.  (No-one to my knowledge has verified this photographically).

Preview Copy/ Promos

After the test pressing was signed off,  a preview copy put out to radio stations and disc jockeys. The practice is not well documented. Some early titles were issued stamped “Not For Sale”, and Prestige briefly produced white label for Preview Copies, though their scarcity suggests this was by exception. Below, a Coltrane session recorded in 1958 issuedas promo  by Prestige on white label in December 1961:

The characteristic Abbey small pressing ring is evident above  on the B side. Prestige/New Jazz early fireworks labels stamped “Not For Sale”, for avoidance of State sales tax, as promos were not sold (until later, of course)

Subsequently, New Jazz promos were identified only by the back cover which was stamped PREVIEW COPY in red.

None of the records I found with the Preview Copy cover were Abbey pressings. Most were groovless pressing of titles towards the end of the New Jazz Series, 1962-3. Perhaps it was only then Weinstock ramped up the marketing.

Commercial Release

An Abbey pressing with same pressing die rings as the test pressing above, of the same title.

Unfortunately, some record sellers include a picture of only Side A (if a label picture at all). They claim it is an “original” but you can not verify. With New Jazz, it requires a picture of both sides to confirm Abbey provenance ( 95% Side B (about 5% Side A). Without it, you are in the realm of Mystic Meg. Record dealers seem to have no vocabulary around these authentication characteristics.

There are three other potential indictors of provenance and it is worth examining these in turn.

1. Label Colour “Purple”

The New Jazz label is generally described as the “purple label”, and it is not uncommon for sellers to claim their copy is “on the original purple label”, as though there were other colours that were not original. Examples below uploaded by record sellers vary enormously. As well as hi fidelity, there is an issue around colour infidelity. Below, from on-line record offerings.

Purple is a secondary color made by combining red and blue. It is a difficult color for a camera to capture colour corresponding to that seen by the human eye. An imbalance between red and blue sends the hue towards violet or magenta, exposure inaccuracy magnifies this into lilac or mulberry, and many camera-phones are designed to lie – enhancing blue sky and skin tone.

My New Jazz original pressings viewed in daylight are closer to “jam” than any other shade of purple. (Cue, Deep Purple, Smoke On The Water (1972))

Colour Thesaurus: Purple

Whatever the fidelity of image capture, the result then must be displayed on a computer or TV screen (calibrated, of course?) or printed on paper using dye or ink, which can introduce further unwanted colour-drift. Most of the pictures here are from internet sources. As a result, label colour (as viewed on-line) is not helpful in establishing provenance of original pressings. They are all “purple”, of one shade or another.

2. How Deep Is Yo’ Groove?

The “groove” is an impression in the label area from the dies which held the stampers during record pressing. In the late 50’s and very early ’60s, most if not all 12″ LPs were “deep groove”, dies whose dimensions were modelled on those used in the manufacture of shellac 78rpm. Around 1960/1a new design of non-DG pressing dies arrived, and gradually came into use industry-wide. DG dies were replaced incrementally, as the older dies wore out, and the following years saw original pressings and reissues increasingly without deep groove.

About two-thirds the way through the New Jazz series (8266), in late 1961 and through 1962, the wide outer deep groove was replaced on new titles and reissues by the narrow deep groove. The following year, 1963, saw narrow deep groove replaced by “no groove” pressings.

Time to get physical.

On New Jazz, there are several different widths of deep groove left by different pressing dies. These vary from a wide deep square trench, to a thin narrow deep groove and then a single pressing ring step which is no deep groove at all. The indicator of original provenance is the appropriate type of groove to the year of release/manufacture, not unfounded claims that “deep groove proves original”. Evidence trumps everything, trust your own eyes.

The first groove illustrated (top left) is an Abbey pressing. Wide outer deep groove, (and small circular ring) .

Using the groove-characteristics of  new issues as a indicator of dies in use at that time, it is possible to say with reasonable confidence whether a copy has the characteristics appropriate to an original pressing or a later pressing.

Summary: original first pressings:

The wide outer deep groove both sides/ single second inner ring appears on the original pressing of titles issued between 1958 and late 1961. This spans catalogue numbers 8201 to 8266. Re-pressings of earlier titles within this window of time are likely to have the same characteristics.

The  narrow deep groove first appeared on new issues in late1961, on catalogue number 8267 and, during 1962, from catalogue numbers 8272 to 8276. Where the narrow outer deep groove appears on lower catalogue numbers, they are a second pressing from within this window of time.

The narrow deep groove was replaced by “no deep groove” on new issues in 1963, commencing with 8277 up to 8296. The remaining titles 8297-99 were not issued. Any “no groove” pressing on lower catalogue numbers is a second or later pressing.

In the below example of a record issued in 1959,  8218 Yusef Lateef – Other Sounds. The original pressing release in Oct-59  has a wide outer deep groove, small circular ring one side. The second copy of 8218 is a second pressing manufactured most likely in1962, at the time the narrow outer deep groove first appeared. The third copy is a still later pressing, from 1963 or beyond, when the “no deep groove”  appear on new release pressings for the first time. This no-groove pressing has the SIDE 1/2 text variation, also found on some narrow deep groove pressings (1962).

Caution is required in assessing groove status, by viewing both side A and side B grooves. Grooves can be slightly different between sides, though not to the extent of being mistaken for a different groove-type. This “no groove” example illustrates the difference:

The one step no groove (in this example, Side A) is the defining presence. Unhelpfully, Side  B  has a “bevelled step” which could be mistaken for the narrow deep groove, unless Side A is taken into account as the principal indicator.

3. Whose Side Yo’ On?

Sides of the New Jazz label are conventionally A and B, in the form NJLP 82## A and NJLP 82## B. Or so I thought. However, researching the entire series shows some copies are designated SIDE 1 and SIDE 2, as well as coventional A/B copies for that title. Not all titles had a SIDE 1/2 variant, in fact as little as 15% of the catalogue, not to be too precise as the research was not exhaustive of all copies ever seen, but in that order of magnitude.

To understand what is going on, the most useful analytical tool is to assemble an array of “small multiples” to expose patterns (after Edward R Tufte, information graphic guru:

At the heart of quantitative reasoning is a single question: Compared to what?

Small multiple designs, multivariate and data bountiful, answer directly by visually enforcing comparisons of changes, of the differences among objects, of the scope of alternatives. For a wide range of problems in data presentation, small multiples are the best design solution.

– Edward Tufte

And there is indeed a pattern. Test your observational skills, top row, the conventional A/B form, below it, the SIDE 1/2 form for that title (in a few cases I was unable to find an exact A/B and 1/2 match, so they don’t) .

All of the SIDE 1/2 copies are not deep groove, even the earliest catalogue numbers which hail from the totally deep groove era.

The SIDE 1/2 labels follow the same naming and text positioning conventions, have the same font typesetting, though condensed where required to fit in long text. They use the same font for song titles and credits, and those credits are exactly the self same as found on the original release copies.

From this I conclude the SIDE 1/2 copies are a batch job, a reissue pressing of selected New Jazz titles, labels printed by the same printer, manufactured together at the same time, somewhere after 1962-3 when deep groove dies had disappeared.

Lastly, my rogue recycled vinyl copy of 8286 “Cracklin’ ‘” (highlighted by red stroke) is completely rogue. It is a SIDE 1/2 copy, but it doesn’t fit in with any of the SIDE 1/2 family characteristics. It smacks of a completely rogue operation, labels printed roughly correct but ask no questions, using Van Gelder stampers for authenticity, running off cheap copies with recycled vinyl to bulk up supply and skim more profit. May be Weinstock knew nothing about it, may be he did. I could be wrong. If the cap fits…

New Jazz pressings by Abbey Record Mfg., by title.

Between 1958 and 1959, and into 1961, New Jazz titles were being pressed by Abbey, evidenced by the inner pressing ring on one side (usually B). I was able to find an Abbey pressing for most of titles up to 1961, though there were also many other non-Abbey pressings in circulation. There after, an increasing number are not found, and eventually, none after 8275. This can be interpreted in a number of ways. Possibly Weinstock became increasingly more aggressive in shopping around pressing plants for more competetive prices, or Abbey changed to dies with different characteristics, possibly both. My own take is that it was the first reason, competitive pressing cost, which attracted the business-minded Bob Weinstock. This was the man who would not pay for rehearsal time, and had rejected take tapes overwritten.

These are the known Abbey pressings, identified by the small pressing ring on one side. A significant number of these were found only on Japanese record-seller sites. Whilst others cry original! insanely rare! our friends from Tokyo know.

Some issues come still with the outer deep groove, though that too begins to disappear, as the grooveless pressing became the norm, and it becomes increasingly difficult to assess the origin of pressing

Sadly, there is no magic key to identify all original pressings of all New Jazz, just a battery of signs and indicators, clues. Until someone invents a vinyl carbon-dating service, it’s the best we have.

The Curse Of New Jazz – The Introduction of Recycled Vinyl

Somewhere around 1963, Prestige/ New Jazz began to commission pressings incorporating recycled vinyl. Mostly this appears on the repressing of earlier New Jazz titles, but may well include new titles issued for the first time in that year. Recycled vinyl included paper fibres from labels and detritus, which the cartridge stylus reads as “musical information”, resulting in a continuous hiss during playback (not unlike tinnitus!). This can vary from mildly intrusive to highly intrusive on more delicate pieces. Original metal was used, so the tainted pressings bear VAN GELDER stamps. No amount of crowing about original labels, deep groove, or Van Gelder stamp is going to alter the experience, it sucks.

Walt Dickerson, This is Walt – end of track one, start of track two, short rip

. . .

Recycled Vinyl, Close Up.

It can be difficult to detect recycled vinyl visually in room light, and not at all on an Ebay photo taken with an amateur phone. But the Canon EF100mm 1:1 macro (great toy!) with unidirectional lighting reveals all . View this horror macro at full screen (caution: vinyl lovers may find sight disturbing, keep good single malt to hand). Maintain a sense of scale. A cartridge stylus has to be able to detect movement in the groove wall as little as 1/20th the thickness of a human hair. This lot is like driving down a back road strewn with tree trunks after a hurricane.

Above, an expensive original New Jazz pressing, tainted by recycled vinyl hiss. Scattered reflections from recycled vinyl can be seen most easlily in the vinyl land, between label and grooves, in direct light. Some record sellers seem willfully blind to this, and I have been told “it’s just normal vinyl – all vinyl sounds”. This is not normal.

In my albeit limited experience, the problem is found only in some New Jazz and to a lesser extent some Prestige pressings, dating from around 1962-3. It is not restricted to particular titles – one copy may have recyled vinyl hiss, another, not, if they originate from different batches or plants. I suspect the initial pressing run of some popular titles will have been topped up by further pressing runs within a few years, hence the variety of origin of the same title, some clean, some not.

It was a dreadful practice, but who knew? I have never seen the problem admitted in an auction description, and it is not something that can be identified on-line, only by direct sight and play. I have no idea how widespread the practice was. The best indication of a New Jazz original pressing which avoids recyled vinyl hiss is one actually pressed by Abbey, though others may in practice be fine.

Prestige picture-inner sleeve

With Blue Note, the unique picture inner sleeves between 1962 and 66 are an indispensible tool for identifying Plastylite manufacturing dates. It seems Weinstock experimented with a rival picture-inner sleeve showcasing his various labels – New Jazz, Moodsville, Swingville and of course Prestige (shown below). However this was not followed up, and remains an oddity.

Other New Jazz Oddities

For no apparent reason, two New Jazz issues, 8258 and 8259, suffered an identity crisis and broke with the NJLP catalogue number prefix, declaring themselves hybrids, non-binary or something, PRNJ.

Another aberration with these two PRNJ titles is the font style of the album title/artist, a condensed hippy font with drooping serifs. Too much weed at the print shop, but in a good way.

If you got this far, congratulations, you have just one final mystery to solve

New Jazz Easter Egg Alert!

The strange case of 8309 Dorothy Ashby and Frank Wess

(Adjust deerstalker, take deep breath. The Guide to New Jazz contains an Easter Egg. The game is on).

A record pressed originally with Prestige fireworks (8209) was revealed to have a paste-over purple New Jazz label. One record seller unmasked the transition in labels, however there is more to this story than meets the eye.

Searching the net for variations of each title I was looking for what should have been NJLP 8209, purple label, with an Abbey pressing ring. Except what I fopund was PRLP 8209 with a Prestige fireworks label. The fireworks label had thought to have been stopped at 8204. More interesting, what at first looked like tears in the label typical of sticker removal damage, on closer examination, showed paper residue on top of the label. For some reason, the fireworks label had been concealed under another label.

However, this is not The Beatles Butcher cover. Someone had carefully tried to remove the top label, with only limited success. It seemed a lot of trouble to go to, but collectors can be funny people, perhaps they thought the fireworks label was more valuable (original!).

Time to dive deeper, buckle up.

Some time later, I returned to the case of 8209, this time on Discogs, might even have been the same copy, but here the owner had documented the unmasking. 8209, which been the subject of a New Jazz cover up.

The reason for covering up up the fireworks label of 8209 with the New Jazz label was not, as I first thought, “corporate vanity”. There was a another reason. Finding yet another example 8209, this time a big clear shot, I stumbled on the reason. A small detail on this copy below caught my eye. Can you see it?

The label Side A correctly matches the matrix code 8209A, helpfully captured in the seller’s picture. Hardly noticable, the label Side has been corrected from “A” to “B”. Bingo. This was the reason for the hasty cover up of PRLP 8209 with a New Jazz label. On the fireworks label, the print-supplier’s typesetter had accidentally transposed the tracks on each side: B was A, and A was B. I’m sure Dorothy Ashby and Frank Wess would have something to say. A rush print job of the New Jazz label was a timely opportunity to conceal a potentially expensive mistake.

Life lesson 1: it’s not the original mistake that reveals the story, it’s the cover up.

Supplementary context: PRLP 8209 should not have been issued on fireworks label anyway (which ceased with 8204). Its cover up replacement New Jazz label should have been given catalogue number NJLP 8209 not PRLP 8209. This suggests that the time of manufacturing 8209 was chronological out of sequence, some time before New Jazz nomenclature had been established. It was an old mistake.

Life Lesson 2: When you expect things to happen in an orderly way, it is not the way things happen that is wrong, it’s your expectations.