Blue Note 45s and the Sunday Times

I have an article in the Arts & Leisure section of this past Sunday’s New York Times about vinyl reissues of Blue Note jazz albums mastered at 45 rpm.

Yes, you read that right: an article about such audiophile labels as Music Matters Jazz, Analogue Productions, and Classic Records was featured in the paper of record, and quite prominently so: 1,500 words, spread out on two pages, with four photos, including one of a Blue Note 45 spinning on my own VPI Classic.

Is it a sign that the MSM are beginning to take all this seriously—or just an editor who agrees that a narrative piece about obsessives is always a diverting Sunday-morning read? Either way, I’m thankful to the section’s editors for taking it and giving it good play.

And now a bonus for you fellow obsessives: a list of those Blue Note 45s (at least of those I’ve heard) that I can recommend most heartily for both their music and their sound.

Among the Music Matters Jazz LPs (which offer the most lavish packages and the quietest pressings): Eric Dolphy, Out to Lunch; Sonny Clark, Cool Struttin’; Lee Morgan, Search for the New Land; Sonny Rollins, Vol. 1; and, coming next month (I’ve heard a test pressing), Andrew Hill, Point of Departure. I also wouldn’t pass up Clifford Brown, Memorial Album, which, though recorded in 1950 and ’53 (and not by the vaunted Rudy Van Gelder, though he remastered the sides for the late-‘50s LP), sounds amazing for its time, especially in the horns.

I haven’t heard many of Analogue Productions’ Blue Note 45 series, but Kenny Burrell, Midnight Blue is particularly tasty.

I don’t know if Classic’s Purity single-sided, 4-LP 45 rpm pressings are still available (Classic went out of business and was recently bought out by Analogue Productions), but if they are, rush to buy Cannonball Adderley, Somethin’ Else.

Nick's picture

Clifford Brown's Memoria album has always been one of my desert island recordings. I am glad to see it has been re-issued.

Derwyn Goodall's picture

Great article in the Times Fred, congratulations. I own many of those 45 RPM jazz releases and also feel they generally sound great. They are expensive but are destined to become collectors items. I did find the 45 RPM Cannonball Adderley at Acoustic Sounds, thanks for the tip.One musical and sonic treat I am currently enjoying is my original Impulse mono, Freddie Hubbard - The Body and the Soul. Many of the original Impulses just sound so vivid and "right" and in many cases, the mono reigns supreme. Another case in point, Ben Webster - See You at the Fair.Both are highly recommended.

Lee's picture

Great article and love seeing MusicMatters getting the notice they deserve. However, are these reissues actually better than the originals?

Fred Kaplan's picture

Lee - I've been able to compare only a few MusicMattersJazz reissues with the ORIGINAL pressings. In all cases, the reissues were better on most criteria (not always all). I've been able to compare several more with other LP and CD reissues, and the MMJs are way better than those on all criteria....Fred

SteelyTom's picture

Fred-- Your NYT article put my financial future at risk by alerting me to AP et al.... I'm an SACD guy. Do your words of praise apply, for example, to SACD versions when the (re)mastering engineer (e.g. Kevin Gray) is the same for digital and analogue products? Or is it an illusion, do you think, to believe any digital format can match the Holy Grail of vinyl? Oh... and have you sampled any of the AP Impulse issues?

Tony's picture

If your goal is solely the pursuit of some Holy Grail of audio, then these ever more esoteric reissues are OK. But if it is about music, ther ei simething pathetic and depressing about buying yet anotehr reissue of the same groups of Blue Note suspects. There is so much new music worth listening to, it's a shame that folks can't get their heads out of the same old same old. BTW, one can find Liberty pressings and even Blue Note's own recent reissues that sound fine--and for much less.

Fred Kaplan's picture

Tony - In one sense, I agree with you, and in fact I've written in this space about the fetishization of Blue Note and Rudy Van Gelder. That said, many of these new reissues sound extraordinary, and some of them rank, musically, among the finest jazz recordings. That is a combination that anyone who treasures jazz - and who values hearing great music in the most lifelike sound ("high fidelity") - would want to seek out. The Liberty pressings were so-so, the new Blue Note/EMI pressings sound mediocre; they have none of the magic of the originals...Fred

SteelyTom's picture

Tony-- you may be right about musical necrophilia. But the fact is, we're in the twilight of the CD era. So if someone somewhere can lay convincing claim to producing the best remastering of the great music of the past-- it's now or never. There won't be endless iterations in the future.

Stephen Scharf's picture

Fred,I've been acquiring some of the Music Matters 45s, which I agree are really superb. Some of my faves, including Sonny Clark's "Cool Struttin'" are Hank Mobley "Hank Mobley", and Lee Morgan's "Tom Cat". Regarding "Somethin' Else", I'm fortunate enough to have found a perfect, deep-groove mono Blue Note from 1959.