Lee Morgan – The Gigolo (Blue Note/Liberty BST 84212)


Discographical Details

Artist: Lee Morgan.
Title: The Gigolo.
Label and catalogue Number: Blue Note/Liberty BST 84212.
Personnel: Lee Morgan (trumpet), Wayne Shorter (tenor sax), Harold Mabern Jr (piano); Bob Cranshaw (bass); Billy Higgins (drums).
Side 1: Yes I Can, No You Can’t; Trapped; Speed Ball.
Side 2: The Gigolo; You Go To My Head.
Recording Date: 25 June 1965 and 1 July 1965 at the Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, USA.

Selection: Yes I Can, No You Can’t

Listening Notes


I recently made one of my infrequent visits to London and it was too good an opportunity to miss the chance to do some good old fashioned crate digging. With limited time available, I opted to target one shop “South of The River” as they used to say on The Sweeney. My mission bore fruit with the assistance of the very congenial staff at the shop in question and I came away with a bag full of goodies including three Liberty-era Blue Note stereo first pressings, a Blue Note Plastylite mono first pressing and a Prestige stereo purple label (first?) pressing. The Liberty covers are in far from mint condition but the vinyl itself is in terrific shape for all three apart from a little storage dust. So much so that I suspect that they have hardly been played in their 40+ years since leaving the pressing plant. The first one out of the bag for my listening pleasure is this Lee Morgan record (in future posts I’ll discuss the others from this score).

This date shares three performers with Hank Mobley’s Dippin’ and, despite the catalogue number jump from 84209 to 84212, it is in fact the next record in the Blue Note catalogue and compiled from the next two Blue Note recording sessions (the missing catalogue numbers were used later for a pair Ornette Coleman records). And, even allowing for the funkier nature of the Side 1 opener Yes I Can, No You Can’t, the lineage is all too clear.

The premise that most Morgan LPs post-The Sidewinder led out with a funky number is an over-used cliche. It’s almost become a device to deride those tunes when, in my opinion, many of them stand up as great performances in their own right. Yes I Can, No You Can’t springs to mind as a case in point and the comparison with The Sidewinder is especially apposite considering that both are propelled along by Cranshaw’s sinuous bass work (not to mention Higgins on drums). I dare you to resist the urge to nod your head, tap your toes and involuntarily move other parts of your anatomy along with this groover.

It’s not all about the bass though. Throughout the LP, particularly on his opening solo, Shorter is full of vigour. Mabern is once again the unsung hero with a combination of fleet fingered soloing and consummate comping. Higgins is, well, Higgins with his trademark sizzling cymbals. His sideman appearances on Blue Note dates seem to have given him the ideal environment to develop a clear and readily identifiable style and attack. It seems odd to me that several other regular drummers at Blue Note eventually got their own leadership opportunities yet Higgins’ number never came up.

Let’s not forget, though, that this is a Morgan date with three out of the five tunes being his compositions (the original sleeve notes mis-attribute Trapped to Morgan but Bob Blumenthal’s notes for the 2005 RVG remastered release correct this to being a Shorter composition). Up next is the aforementioned Trapped, the only cut from the first session to make it to the record (takes of The Gigolo, A Stitch in Time and Yes I Can, No You Can’t didn’t get past Lion, Wolff and Van Gelder quality control that day). Perhaps it’s just me, but the piano sounds different on this track – almost like an electric piano, with which Mabern was known to dabble on some recording dates. Maybe the piano tone is one of the reasons why so much of the first session was rejected? No such speculation is required for the final track on Side 1: Speed Ball lives up to it’s name as it cracks along at a hiply swinging pace. There’s so much to enjoy here: not least the quickfire exchanges with Higgins towards the end. Little wonder that it subsequently became one of Morgan’s preferred vehicles on live dates.

And so to Side 2 and the LP’s title track. It’s fresh, intense and modern from the outset and wouldn’t raise an eyebrow if you told me that it came from a 2015 recording let alone one cut fifty years ago. All five musicians build up the fervour on this one before the tension is eventually resolved in the final round. After that, You Go To My Head comes as gentler stress relief with its slower melody and lilting feel. Morgan opts for a fat juicy tone here that shows he was capable of just as much authority on ballads as he was on upbeat numbers. Shorter takes his cue from Morgan’s lead with a breathier, reedier sound that allows a warming touch of vibrato to seep into tune. All in all, that brings the record to a deeply satisfying conclusion.

For Collectors Only


Side 1 is non-deep groove, bears a “VAN GELDER” stamp and has a hand etched matrix number “BNST 84212 A” with a Division of Liberty Records, Inc. label. Side 2 is non-deep groove, bears a “VAN GELDER” stamp and has a hand etched matrix number “BNST 84212 B” with a Division of Liberty Records, Inc. label. The cover is non-laminated and has the “1776 Broadway, New York, N.Y./6920 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, Calif.″ address. I’ve recorded the vinyl weight as 141g.

So why do I consider this a stereo first pressing rather than a later Liberty pressing? Firstly, all the identifying features are consistent with a first pressing. Secondly, the quality of the pressing (and the vinyl weight) tally with this being an early rather than later pressing. Finally, the label printing is of high quality as witnessed by the clear rendering of the ring around the R registered trademark.

An interesting diversion for collectors is that this is one of 17 Blue Note/Liberty records that were also issued in limited numbers as mono promotional pressings for US radio stations. Such pressings bore a sticker reading “AUDITION MONO LP NOT FOR SALE” that obscured the word “STEREO” on the front cover. Over time, these stickers often fell off, so watch out! Conventional wisdom is that these mono promotional copies command a price premium, so I chose to carry out a little analysis of Popsike auction data to test this theory. There were ten Liberty mono promo copies of The Gigolo to analyse, with an average selling price of £81.60. Compare this with the average price of £24.89 for the 56 Liberty stereo pressings that I could confidently identify. This clearly shows that the mono premium extends into the Liberty era though I suspect that this must have more to do with rarity than audio quality. I’ve graphed this data below for your enjoyment.

Lee Morgan - The Gigolo - Graph

I’m perfectly happy with my stereo copy but I wouldn’t turn down a mono copy – just for the purpose of scientific comparison, you understand 🙂


The observant among you may have noticed a change (hopefully, improvement) in the photography. A tip of the beret here to Andy over at London Jazz Collector. His record photography school was the inspiration for me to dust off the digital SLR camera and tripod in place of the previously used hand-held mobile phone. Time permitting, I’ll go back over older postings and re-do the photography for them too.

Still plenty work to do before I can match the master’s deadwax imagery though!

The Cannonball Adderley Quintet – Them Dirty Blues (Riverside RLP 12-322)

Cannonball Adderley Quintent - Them Dirty Blues

Discographical Details

Artist: Julian Cannonball Adderley
Title: Them Dirty Blues
Label and Catalogue Number: Riverside RLP 12-322
Personnel: Julian Cannonball Adderley (alto sax); Nat Adderley (cornet); Barry Harris (piano); Bobby Timmons (piano); Sam Jones (bass); Louis Hayes (drums).
Side 1: Work Song; Dat Dere; Easy Living.
Side 2: Del Sasser; Jeannine; Soon; Them Dirty Blues.
Recording Date: 1 February 1960 at Reeves Sound Studio, New York, USA and 29 March 1960 at Ter-Mar Recording Studio, Chicago, Illinois, USA.

Listening Notes

julian adderley - them dirty blues - rear

Here’s the second of three Adderley Quintet records I’m going to discuss as part of my extended Orrin Keepnews tribute. Within a year of their opening salvo In San Francisco, the band were in the studio (well, studios plural) to record again. The two dates that comprise this LP straddle the point at which Timmons elected to rejoin The Jazz Messengers with Harris being called up to occupy the still-warm piano stool.

The LP’s sequencing gives us listeners a chance to test our chops at correctly detecting the pianists because, for reasons lost to posterity, the tracks are not presented in chronological order. This is immediately apparent from the first track which features Harris rather than Timmons. Any thoughts that a personnel change would slow the groups momentum are instantly swept aside: in anybody’s book Work Song is a classic as witnessed by the fact that it continues to be played to the present day – including Gregory Porter’s version on his 2011 album Be Good using the evergreen vocals penned by Oscar Brown Jnr. Harris fits in from the off. He maybe less baptist and more bop than Timmons but, for this band, those are simply two sides of the same coin.

We get a chance to make the comparison on the second tune. Timmons’ Dat Dere is his own response to his earlier hit composition This Here and, again, is a tune that subsequently was to receive the Oscar Brown Jnr. vocal treatment. While I could have mistaken Harris for Timmons on the previous track, it’s much harder to mistake Timmons for Harris on this number. The mood changes for Easy Living, a ballad that provides both brothers with the opportunity to highlight their more sensitive sides. The band close Side 1 with Del Sasser, a rare compositional contribution from bassist Jones that sees the musical chairs game continue with Timmons reclaiming the piano stool.

A third pianist, Duke Pearson, enters the fray for Side 2’s opening number but as composer rather than performer of Jeannine. This tune is one of my favourite’s from this era and I’m hard pushed to choose between this studio version and the live version on which Pearson appears on Donald Byrd’s At the Half Note Cafe, Volume 2. The latter features great soloing from Byrd and Pepper Adams while the version under discussion here has the virtue great bass playing by Jones. Indeed, Side 2 offer ample opportunities to enjoy Jones’ performances. The band knocks off a Gershwin tune before closing out the LP with the most overt blues of the record – the title tune Them Dirty Blues. Adderley Senior takes centre stage for this number and virility is the word that springs to mind to describe his performance. It’s easy to see why, post-Parker, Adderley was the pre-emiminent altoist on the scene by the end of the 1950s.

For Collectors Only

julian adderley - them dirty blues - labels

Side 1 has a blue and silver small (92mm diameter) reels and microphone deep groove “BILL GRAUER PRODUCTIONS” (no “INC”) label and a faint hand etched “RLP-12-322 A” matrix number. Side 2 has the same label with an equally faint hand etched “RLP-12-322 B″ matrix number. The vinyl tips the scales at 136g (in my experience Riverside pressings are lighter than Blue Note pressings of the same period) and is probably best described as being in VG+ condition due to a few audible scratches.

The cover is non-laminated and has the “235 West 46th Street New York 36, N.Y.” address. It’s in excellent condition except for the original owner’s stamp on the rear. To be certain that this is a first pressing, I’d expect to see the “553 West 51st Street New York 19, N.Y.” address but there were plenty of anomalies, so who knows?

The Cannonball Adderley Quintet – In San Francisco (Riverside RLP 12-311)

julian adderley - in san francisco - front

Discographical Details

Artist: Julian Cannonball Adderley.
Title: In San Francisco.
Label and Catalogue Number: Riverside RLP 12-311.
Personnel: Julian Cannonball Adderley (alto sax); Nat Adderley (cornet); Bobby Timmons (piano); Sam Jones (bass); Louis Hayes (drums).
Side 1: This Here; Spontaneous Combustion.
Side 2: Hi-Fly; You Got It!; Bohemia After Dark.
Recording Date: 18 and 20 October 1959 at The Jazz Workshop, San Francisco, California, USA.

Listening Notes

julian adderley - in san francisco - rear

In a tragic coincidence, I had already selected this record as the subject of my next posting before the sad news of Orrin Keepnews’ recent death. I can’t think of any finer tribute to Keepnews than to include this video in which he recalls the circumstances under which he signed Adderley to Riverside and how this date came to be recorded.

It falls to few records to have the honour of being the genesis of a movement in music. Yet just such a claim can be made for In San Francisco and its place in the rise of the soul jazz style; it also heralded a revitalised vogue for live in concert recordings. To me, it’s no coincidence that a quintet fronted by brothers Julian and Nat should manage both these achievements. The Adderleys represent perhaps the most finely honed balance between the struggle for artistic integrity and the desire to please an audience.

It hardly seems radical now, but Keepnews’ decision to open Side 1 with one minute and 20 seconds of Julian Adderley speaking to the audience was unheard of at the time. Yet this rapport and keenness to explain his music to the public was an endearing hallmark of Adderley’s career. With the talking over, the band hit the accelerator hard to the floor and don’t let up for the whole of the side. “For reasons of soul” and for plenty of others besides, This Here is an instant classic from the first second that Timmons’ sanctified fingers make contact with the keyboard. There’s hardly time to draw breath before Spontaneous Combustion, for which I can hardly think of a more apt title. How exhilarating it must have been to be inside the cramped and hot Jazz Workshop on the night of this recording and experience the exuberant fraternal call and response routine between Julian’s alto and Nat’s cornet that both launches and climaxes this cut.

Side 2 is also graced by another spoken introduction from Adderley senior and shows his willingness to promote the music of young composers, even those not in his employ. The beneficiary this time is pianist Randy Weston as Hi-Fly gets the treatment. Next we get You Got It! which, despite the embellishment of an exclamation mark, is probably the least interesting performance on the record for me. Proceedings close with a nod to another famous jazz venue of the 1950s as the band do justice to Oscar Pettiford’s Bohemia After Dark.

Apparently, Time magazine credited this LP with 50,000 sales inside a year which, if accurate, puts the number of copies pressed an order of magnitude higher than many other jazz records at the time. So finding inexpensive copies shouldn’t be too much of a chore. However, finding well preserved copies might prove more challenging. Mine’s in excellent shape with a few crackles at the start of each side during the quiet spoken introductions. But you might prefer the lure of modern re-issues some of which include bonus tracks like Straight No Chaser and alternate takes of This Here and You Got It!

For Collectors Only

julian adderley - in san francisco - labels

Side 1 has a blue and silver small (92mm diameter) reels and microphone deep groove “BILL GRAUER PRODUCTIONS” (no “INC”) label and a faint hand etched “RLP-12-311A” matrix number. Side 2 has the same label with an equally faint hand etched “RLP-12-311B-2” matrix number. The cover is non-laminated and has the “553 West 51st Street New York 19, N.Y.” address.

The cover address is anomolously early for this catalogue number but in all other respcts this looks like a first pressing. Though I’m slightly cautious about that claim if there really were 50,000 copies sold in the first year following release!

Booker Ervin – The Freedom Book (Prestige PRST 7295)

booker ervin - the freedom book - front

Discographical Details

Artist: Booker Ervin.
Title: The Freedom Book.
Label and Catalogue Number: Prestige PRST 7295.
Personnel: Booker Ervin (tenor sax); Jaki Byard (piano); Richard Davis (bass); Alan Dawson (drums).
Side 1: A Lunar Tune; Cry Me Not; Grant’s Stand.
Side 2: A Day To Mourn; Al’s In.
Recording Date: 3 December 1963 at the Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, USA.

Listening Notes

booker ervin - the freedom book - rear

This record is my first purchase of 2015 and has barged it’s way to the front of the queue. There are musical reasons for this promotion but there are also collecting reasons which I want to get off my chest first. While bidding on this record, I also took an interest in two other eBay auctions running at the same time. Both of them proved to be a source of frustration but for differing reasons.

The first was a near mint condition copy of Dusk Fire by the Don Rendell/Ian Carr Quintet. For those of you unfamiliar with this record, it’s one of the rarest, best and most sought after Brtish jazz LPs of the 1960s. As such, well preserved copies of this record sell for painfully high prices with Popsike reporting an average price of over £400 with top condition copies going for double that figure. I had no intention of bidding at these prices and was simply sitting back with my popcorn to enjoy the view. The bidding reached £335 with over eight hours to go and then, much to my surprise, stopped dead with no last minute flurry. Now that’s the kind of price that would make me gulp and think very hard before bidding but, given how auctions for this record typically go, I am left with a latent feeling in the back of my mind that I may have just missed my best chance ever to get this record. In a final twist of the knife, it turns out the seller actually lives only a few miles from me!

The second was a copy of Roy Haynes’ Cracklin’ with purple New Jazz labels (co-incidentally from the same seller as the Booker Ervin that is the main subject of this posting). This record is high on my wants list and moreover the seller was based in the UK, so I stood to avoid significant shipping costs if I won the auction. Therefore, I did my market research, formulated my bidding strategy and set up a snipe bid. So you can imagine my annoyance when I discovered that my snipe didn’t fire because of a “network connection error” but, worse still, the winning bid was lower than my snipe. In mitigation, the sniping service I use is free (so caveat emptor) and the winning bidder may have had a higher maximum bid waiting in the background. But it’s still frustrating.

And so to the main subject of this posting. It strikes me that there’s a well worn template for reviewing Booker Ervin records: the reviewer begins by saying how he first heard Ervin as a member of Mingus’ group and typically cites one or more favourite tracks or LPs; this is followed by some lament for Booker’s early death at the age of 39; next comes a reference to the tenor saxophonist’s legacy of recordings often with a mention of his work on Prestige and the “Book” series in particular before finally alighting on the record under consideration.

I won’t, indeed can’t, follow this route for the simple reason that I haven’t listened to much Mingus. And what little I have heard has not left me in a position to recognise that I might have heard Ervin. Indeed, The Freedom Book is, to my knowledge, my first encounter with Ervin. In fact, it’s also my first encounter with pianist Byard and drummer Dawson too. Bass player Davis is another matter completely because I know him from Bobby Hutcherson’s Dialogue among others. Sometimes, you’ve got to give something new a try – especially as a jazz fan – because there’s so much out there to discover. Without risk, there’s no reward and I’m delighted to say that The Freedom Book does indeed offer reward. But it’s not the kind that you’re going to get from a couple of casual listens, especially if you’re used to a diet of standard hard bop or soul jazz.

I often wonder what thought processes go into the sequencing of tracks for an LP. I get that it makes sense to start off with an uptempo number to draw in listeners but, in this case, the opening track on Side 1, A Lunar Tune, is probably the most challenging on the whole record for a first listen. Instead, my recommendation would be to flip over and begin at Side 2, which opens with the LP’s highlight and context setter: A Day to Mourn. This session took place less than a fortnight after the assassination of John F. Kennedy and this track is the quartet’s potent emotional response. It alternates between sorrowful slow passages and swinging interludes; a bittersweet combination of mourning an untimely death and celebrating a life well lived. It also gives an immediate sense of what these four musicians are all about.

Ervin’s tenor sax has a distinctive tone that he seems to be able to manipulate across a range of feelings at will. One moment it’s redolent of the blues; a moment later it exudes the whiff of a mysterious North African souk. Byard’s piano style is hard to pin down. Across the LP it moves inside and outside, sometimes sounding quite traditional but an other times introducing very modern dissonance. On bass, Davis is no surprise to me: he’s elegant, wiry and tactile as he moves up and down through the full range of his instrument. But the revelation for me is Dawson on drums. He produces a range of timbres on A Day to Mourn that have me wondering if he’s forsaken the sticks for using his hands directly on the skins at times. And the second track on Side 2, Al’s In is clearly intended as a showcase for Dawson. Over the course of an extended solo, he explores his whole kit with verve, subtlety and pliancy. The penny dropped only when I read the sleeve notes: at the time of the recording, Dawson was based in Boston where he taught drums at the Berklee School and numbered Tony Williams among his students.

Having assimilated Side 2, I was ready to tackle Side 1 armed with a better understanding of the group’s musical vocabulary. The first track, A Lunar Tune, comes flying out of the blocks with Ervin stating the gnarly theme before a breakneck solo. Then everybody else gets airtime in a variety of ways. Next comes Randy Weston’s ballad Cry Me Not which is all about Ervin’s unique tone. The final cut on Side 1, Grant’s Stand, starts out seeming like the most conventional tune on the record with Ervin dropping honking clues to his Texas tenor upbringing. Things change as soon as we get to Byard’s solo though: here things get fully post bop as the pianist throws the kitchen sink at it and Davis follows up with his best solo of the date. Throughout Side 1, Dawson eschews the opportunity to solo in favour of providing wide ranging ways to keep the pulse going and prompt the soloists to further efforts.

One final note: by late 1963, Rudy Van Gelder had perfected recording for stereo. This means this record is a treat for the ears. Sure, Ervin’s tenor is out to the left with Dawson’s drums biased to the right and the piano and bass haunting centre stage. Yet the soundstage isn’t artificially wide and I get the feel of ths true positon of the musicians, especially when I close my eyes. Plus it’s all topped off with the slightest hint of reverb on the horn. Delicious!

For Collectors Only

booker ervin - the freedom book - labels

Side 1 is non-deep groove, bears a “VAN GELDER” stamp, a “STEREO” stamp and has a hand etched matrix number “PRST 7295 A”. Side 2 is also non-deep groove, bears a “VAN GELDER” stamp, a “STEREO” stamp and has a hand etched matrix number “PRST 7295 B”. Both sides also bear a tiny ” MO” (or possibly “MR”, it’s too small to read clearly without the aid of a magnifying glass) stamp which I take to be the pressing plant’s mark. The labels on both sides are dark blue with silver print, the Prestige trident and “203 S. Washington Ave., Bergenfield N. J.” address. The cover is laminated with the “203 So. Washington Ave., Bergenfield N. J.” address. The vinyl tips the scales at 140g.

From a collector’s perspective, this record would have needed to have the black and silver fireworks labels to be a stereo first pressing. However, from an audiophile perspective, there’s an argument that this slightly later (but still original) dark blue/silver labels pressing is preferable because there’s a lower chance of recycled vinyl causing the dreaded hissing. Listening to this copy backs up that theory – the vinyl is gratifyingly quiet apart from a few low level pops in the quieter passages that don’t impair my enjoyment.

Hank Mobley – Dippin’ (Blue Note BNST 84209)

hank mobley - dippin - front

Discographical Details

Artist: Hank Mobley.
Title: Dippin’.
Label and Catalogue Number: Blue Note BNST 84209.
Personnel: Lee Morgan (trumpet); Hank Mobley (tenor sax); Harold Mabern Jr (piano); Larry Ridley (bass); Billy Higgins (drums).
Side 1: The Dip; Recado Bossa Nova; The Break Through.
Side 2: The Vamp; I See Your Face Before Me; Ballin’.
Recording Date: 18 June 1965 at the Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, USA.

Listening Notes

hank mobley - dippin - rear

I’ve made several attempts to write this posting over the last week or two and each time I’ve given up, dissatisfied with the direction things were going. Finally, last Sunday afternoon, I worked out why an apparently straightforward task was giving me so much difficulty. You see, it parallels the record itself: on the face of things Dippin’ looks and sounds like an archetypal Blue Note 1960’s recording – indeed, almost a model, if unsung, one. But on deeper thought, I realised that this is a transitional record. Transitional for Mobley, transitional for Blue Note and therefore transitional for collectors. And that’s what makes it harder to write about.

Mobley’s career and sound up to 1960 followed a consistent trajectory. Then came the two great records of that year, Soul Station and Roll Call, and the short-lived tenure with Miles Davis before Mobley returned to leading his own line-ups. After recording Workout, Mobley’s sessions with Blue Note went through an odd period with some not being released at the time (e.g. Another Workout and Straight No Filter) and others being paired together to compile records like The Turnaround! and No Room For Squares. For me, Dippin’ marks the culmination of this transition and the emergence of a more confident, consistent and richer sounding Mobley.

For Blue Note, too, this was a period of transition. The Dippin’ session was recorded on 18 June 1965, while Blue Note was still an independent record label. But by the time of the record’s release, the company had been sold to Liberty and change was creeping in. The result is also transition for collectors, because Dippin’ is one of those “on the cusp” records late enough to pressed at Liberty’s preferred pressing plant (so not the revered Plastylite) but early enough for first pressings to bear left-over New York labels. It was certainly a case of “waste not, want not” in the financially restricted world of jazz recording!

Despite all this, the record itself is a masterpiece of high quality consistency. I suspect one of the key factors in it coming together is the presence of Lee Morgan. Mobley and Morgan were regular complementary sparring partners on each others’ records and Dippin’ is a fine example of the pairing. Morgan is typically ebullient, brash and triumphant on the up-tempo cuts. Never more so that during his solo in the middle of Recado Bossa Nova which starts innocently enough but climaxes with Morgan piling on one sparkling phrase after another. I also like how Mabern shows a genuine feel for latin tunes and some of his comping would not have been out of place on a Fania Records salsa session! Mabern didn’t make much of a splash as a leader his own own right during the 1960s (just a few LPs with Prestige) but was often one of Morgan’s preferred sidemen and he certainly seemed to understand what both Morgan and Mobley wanted underneath them.

The whole of Side 1 is practically a manifesto for the Blue Note sound. An exciting, highly skilled collision of vintage hard bop playing welded to latin themes for The Dip and Recado Bossa Nova with Billy Higgins sustaining the pulse underneath by adding just enough accents for you to enjoy but no so many that they become an intrusion. A smile always comes to my face as the last cut on the side, The Break Through, draws to a close with Higgins trading fours with each of the horn players turn and turn about.

Side 2 is more straight ahead and perhaps not quite so enjoyable but it does offer us the date’s sole ballad I See Your Face Before Me sandwiched between two upbeat Mobley compositions. Mobley brings a mature masculinity to the ballad which is complemented by Morgan’s muted Davis-like tone. The Vamp could easily have been from the soundtrack to a vintage Michael Caine spy thriller and Ballin’ rounds out the set with another sprightly hard bopper.

For Collectors Only

hank mobley - dippin - labels

Side 1 is non-deep groove, bears a “VAN GELDER” stamp and has a hand etched matrix number “BNST 84209 A” with a New York label. Side 2 is non-deep groove, bears a “VAN GELDER” stamp and has a hand etched matrix number “BNST 84209 B” with a New York label. The cover is non-laminated and has the “43 West 63rd St., New York 23” address. The vinyl itself weighs in at a chunky 164g.

In this case, being a Liberty pressing, the absence of the Plastylite “P” is to be expected, and the presence of New York labels combined with the weight suggest this is a first pressing. I got this one from a seller in Germany who I admire for the detail and accuracy of his eBay descriptions. He billed the vinyl spot on as “S.1: ex to ex- (some light scratches, some ticks). S.2: ex+ to ex (few light marks+ticks). WONDERFUL SOUND !” – definitely one for my trusted sellers list!

“Big” John Patton – Oh Baby! (Blue Note BNST 84192)

john patton - oh baby! - front

Discographical Details

Artist: “Big” John Patton.
Title: Oh Baby!
Label and Catalogue Number: Blue Note BNST 84192.
Personnel: Blue Mitchell (trumpet); Harold Vick (tenor sax); Grant Green (guitar); John Patton (organ); Ben Dixon (drums).
Side 1: Fat Judy; Oh Baby; Each Time.
Side 2: One to Twelve; Night Flight; Good Juice.
Recording Date: 8 March 1965 at the Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, USA.

Listening Notes

john patton - oh baby! - rear

I know it’s hard for some people to imagine, but there was a time before eBay. Back in those days, the main way to find and collect records was by the traditional crate digging technique. A highlight of my occasional trips to London would be a visit to the now long defunct Mole Jazz record shop located in the slightly seedy environs of Kings Cross. Even on week days, this shop seemed to be well populated with fellow enthusiasts thumbing through the racks in hope of finding a sought after prize. But the proprietors knew their stuff and the best pieces only rarely surfaced on the shop floor. Instead, they were held back for the periodic postal auctions.

These auctions will sound archaic to those of you weaned on online instant gratification. First, you had to get yourself on to Mole Jazz’s postal mailing list. Then you had to wait… And eventually a plump A4 envelope would flop through your letterbox. The contents were sheet after sheet of detailed and densely typed record listings. The next step would be several pleasant evenings perusing each page in detail marking up the items of interest in readiness for preparation of your bid. As I recall, the envelope included a bidding form with one row for each item. The deal was that you had to fill in the details and enter your bid – one bid figure only with no idea what others might bid. And then you had to make sure that you posted it back before the auction’s deadline. This was an oddly stressful process with plenty of chewing the end of your pencil over pitching your bids right: high enough to win, low enough to avoid over-paying. Remember, no opportunity to watch other peoples’ bids!

And then you had to wait some more…

Eventually, if you were successful, a package would arrive. The subject of this posting is the result of one such pleasurable ordeal some 25 years ago. If memory serves, I also scored a Freddie Roach LP in the same auction.

I have to admit that I have a weakness for the Hammond organ. There were an awful lot of players who climbed aboard the organ bandwagon in the 1950s and 1960s but only a few of them were premier league players and even they couldn’t always hit consistently high standards. Patton was definitely one of the top players and Alfred Lion must have thought so too because “Big” John was the second most prolific organist on Blue Note, beaten only by Jimmy Smith. Oh Baby! was Patton’s fourth release and comes from his hot streak in the first part of his Blue Note career.

It’s no coincidence that he’s accompanied by Green and Dixon, the other two members of what was effectively Blue Note’s house electric rhythm section of the time. The trio had performed together on all of Patton’s previous sessions and the understanding between Green and Patton in particular is clear to hear across this record with each egging the other on to new heights. Dixon is no slouch either and contributes compositionally too with the opening track and possibly choice cut Fat Judy. Other highlights include One to Twelve, Good Juice and the title track. In fact, the standard is consistently high across the whole record and if I do have any criticism, it’s that things are sometimes a little one-paced. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good groovy, bluesy pace – I would just have liked a little more variety.

For Collectors Only

john patton - oh baby! - labels

Side 1 is non-deep groove, bears the Plastylite “P”, “VAN GELDER” stamp and has a hand etched matrix number “BNST 84192 A” with a New York label. Side 2 is non-deep groove, bears the Plastylite “P”, “VAN GELDER” stamp and has a hand etched matrix number “BNST 84192 B” with a New York label. The cover is non-laminated with the “43 West 61st St., New York 23” address. The vinyl itself weighs in at a satisfying 155g. In other words, all the hallmarks of a first pressing.

2014’s Top Scores

The seed was sown for this blog almost exactly a year ago when, over the 2013-14 Christmas/New Year holidays, I stumbled across Andy’s London Jazz Collector blog. So, on this (more or less) first anniversary of that discovery, rather than sitting on the sidelines and posting the occasional comment, now seems a good time to start making my own contribution. I’ve got an awfully long way to go to catch up with Andy, so I’d better get started…

Rather than focus on an individual record for my first posting, I thought I’d briefly discuss my top five collecting highlights of 2014. That’ll kill two birds with one stone: first it’ll save me the almost impossible decision of picking a single record with which to open my account and, second, by covering five records, I can give a flavour of my interests. The choice of these five records wasn’t determined by one single consistent criterion; rather it’s a combination of things: how collectible the record is, whether it’s a first or original (whatever that means) pressing, condition, the quality of the music and the recording, personal preference and a bunch of other less tangible factors that I’ll try to elaborate on as I go along.

So here they are in no particular order:

Kenny Burrell with Art Blakey – On View at the Five Spot Café (Blue Note BLP 4021)

Kenny Burrell - On View at the Five Spot Cafe

I could easily have filled all five choices with Blue Notes but that would have left no room for variety, so I’ve aimed to ration myself. Why this one then? Firstly, the line-up: not just Burrell and Blakey but Bobby Timmons on piano and the fabulous Tina Brooks on tenor sax. I’ve been a fan of Brooks for as long as I can remember, and the chance to snag another one of his few appearances on record was too good to miss. Secondly, this pressing is the real deal: mono first pressing, 47 West 63rd Street address and deep groove labels, all the right markings in the deadwax and a laminated cover. Copies of this record in top condition sell for silly money and I got lucky and picked this up for less than a quarter of what seems to be the going rate. The seller listed this on eBay as VG++ for both record and cover – a description that I was happy to see was accurate when it arrived in my eager little hands. All the more so after I got the record properly cleaned. Even better, it was UK seller, so no hefty shipping charges.

All in all, an atmospheric live recording and a sweet deal. As with all five choices here, I’ll revisit this one in more detail in a future dedicated posting.

Miles Davis Quintet – Miles Smiles (Columbia CS 9401)

Miles Davis - Miles Smiles

Collecting original jazz recordings can sometimes be a frustrating experience: so many records on the wants list, so few of them readily available and when they are, the prices can be prohibitive for those of us of limited budgets. So I try to break things down into attainable small targets. One such target is my plan to obtain original stereo pressings of the acoustic recordings of the so-called second great Miles Davis quintet (i.e. the Davis, Shorter, Hancock, Carter, Williams line-up). I’ve had a copy of ESP for a while (well, two actually but that’s a story for another time), so I was delighted to win the auction for this one. It’s got two-eye labels and is in near mint condition apart from a small red pen mark on the rear of the cover. Now, dedicated Columbia collectors can get very excited over matrix numbers in the deadwax and ones ending in “1A” command premium prices. I had no idea of the matrix numbers on this copy when I bid for it and nor did I particularly care. But it turned out to be “1A” on both sides, so I got lucky. I suspect if the seller had known to look for this and to mention it in the description, the auction kitchen would have got hotter than I was prepared to stay in.

More to the point, Miles Smiles is a strong candidate for the best record in the whole Davis canon. With so many to choose from, in so many styles over such a long career, it’s inevitable that we’ll each have our own favourites but this one is up there for me.

Nina Simone – Pastel Blues (Philips PHS 600-187)

Nina Simone - Pastel Blues

This one just scrapes in by virtue of being my last purchase of 2014. Was Simone a jazz singer? A blues singer? A gospel singer? A folk singer? All of those or none of them? Who cares! One thing is certain, she was unique. And that’s without bringing her piano playing into the equation.

Almost all of Simone’s recordings have been reissued or anthologised over the years, so it’s pretty easy to pick up the songs on this LP in one form or another but I’ve been holding out for originals. Collecting a set of her Philips records is another one of my attainable targets and probably one I’ll focus on in 2015. Pastel Blues was top of my list and is in this top five for one single reason: the astonishing ten minute rendition of Sinnerman that closes side 2. Several other tracks are also stand outs including Strange Fruit and Be My Husband.

Copies of this record aren’t that rare but I’d been waiting several months for a stereo pressing in the best possible condition and this one came up only a couple of weeks ago as a “Buy It Now” item on eBay from UK seller. Conventional wisdom is that “Buy It Now” deals don’t always offer the best value or condition but there are always exceptions to the rule. Mono pressings seem to be slightly more expensive though I’m not convinced that they are sonically superior. Having said that, as I wrote this, one very well known eBay seller had a mono copy up for auction that sold for almost double my stereo copy. So did I get a good deal, did the bidders on this auction get overexcited or was the mono pressing worth the premium? You decide.

The Cannonball Adderley Quintet – Them Dirty Blues (Riverside RLP 12-322)

Cannonball Adderley Quintent - Them Dirty Blues

The Riverside recordings of the Adderleys show that collecting original pressings of high quality jazz doesn’t always have to leave a gaping hole in your finances. What you do need, though, is patience to search for copies in sufficiently good condition and then the research knowledge to know that what you’re looking at is the genuine article.

This group was famous for a series of exciting live recordings for Riverside but this LP, recorded on two dates in the Spring of 1960, shows they could be just as potent in the studio. Swapping pianist from Bobby Timmons to Barry Harris between the two dates, the quintet hardly breaks stride as they confidently burn through seven great tunes including classics like Nat Adderley’s Work Song, Timmons’ Dat Dere and Duke Pearson’s Jeannine. The latter is one of my favourites and serves as a great reminder of the talents of bassist Sam Jones.

Correct identification of original Riverside pressings can be a finicky business and I can do no better than refer you to Andy’s guide to Riverside pressings over at LJC. If you’re wondering, yes my copy has the correct small reels and microphone blue and silver labels (with deep groove) for a first pressing but the cover address is the slightly later 235 West 46th Street one. I thoroughly recommend these Adderley Riverside records as a hugely enjoyable and affordable way to get into collecting first pressings.

Freddie Redd – The Complete Blue Note Recordings of Freddie Redd (Mosaic MR3-124)

Freddie Redd - The Complete Blue Note Recordings

My first period of serious jazz record collecting was back in the late 1980s and early 1990s before a different expensive hobby claimed precedence when my wife and I had daughters! That period coincided with Michael Cuscuna and Charlie Lourie setting up Mosaic Records. Back then, those limited edition Mosaic box sets seemed like an expensive if wonderful proposition, so I could only afford a few. Had I known how sought after they would become, there are several more I would have invested in at the time. One such is this three LP Freddie Redd set.

So you can imagine how delighted I was to be able to rectify that situation during 2014 with a set that’s in almost perfect condition and bears the magically low number of 14 of the 7,500 that were made. The set covers both the Freddie Redd LPs that Blue Note released back at the dawn of the 1960s – The Music from the Connection and Shades of Redd plus a previously unreleased third session which has since been made available as Redd’s Blues. As with all Mosaic box sets, it’s a labour of love: beautifully made with a terrifically written and illustrated large format booklet and the inclusion of alternate takes of several tracks.

With three records to consider, detailed discussion will have to wait for another time but suffice to say that originals of the first two are among the most highly prized by collectors of the Blue Note 4000 series. A first pressing Shades of Redd in particular qualifies for the often overused holy grail status with it’s value increased, I suspect, by the presence of both Tina Brooks and Paul Chambers.

So there you have it, potted highlights from 2014’s collecting. What were your best collecting moments of the year?