The Japanese Toshiba Blue Note LT Reissue CD's Rev
Jimmy Smith is one of the premier organ players. He influenced all that came after him not only in jazz but rock music as well. Jon Lord of Deep Purple cited him as the main influence as to why he took up the organ in the first place. Jimmy’s sound was full-bodied, round and greasy with a lot of funk. He was just an incredible player. Even Miles Davis said so. In my opinion his albums “Open House” and “House Party” are two of the crown jewels of the Blue Note catalog.
This is going to be my capsule review of three of the new Blue Note Japan LT Series CD titles that recently were released. These are my impressions on why you should pursue them. So first off Jimmy Smith “Confirmation” (TOCJ 50276).
Recorded in 1957 and 1958 at the Manhattan Towers. A location that Rudy Van Gelder had to take his equipment to, in order to record the session instead of recording it in his living room. This was because of the time of the night the session took place. These tracks are outtakes from Smith’s “The Sermon” and “House Party” and what outtakes they are.
First off the sound, it is warm and full but open showing its age somewhat. It has firm bass supplied by the organ itself and the soundstage is deep. With a clear top end that is smooth and open. This blowing session features several rare performances by the featured horn players. For instance on the first cut you can hear the ubiquitous George Coleman walk up to the mic and lift his horn as his presence enters the session. Appearing after Lee Morgan makes his entrance he blows some smooth trumpet in the left channel along with Coleman.
Jimmy Smith centered in the stage plays some of the very fastest he has played on any session and just knocks down the walls with his organ sound. On the title track “Confirmation” recorded in 1958 his organ grinder funk force comes to a head and the sound is more open than on the first track from 57. The horns, the guitar make use of the natural echo more so on this cut than the first.
Tina Brooks makes a rare appearance worth getting this CD for alone. Tina matches almost every note and really blows when called for and snaps the listener’s ears to attention. Art Blakey appears on this session too and throws in some fast drum rolls and leads the song to the outro and ending.
On track 3 recorded in 1957 the guitar enters and plays the head of the tune with Jimmy Smith backing Kenny Burrell. Lee Morgan enters stage left and then more guitar on the right with Morgan playing fast and funky. Dave Bailey is on drums and Jimmy Smith comps behind the horns soloing with Jimmy smoking the organ to the ending all heat and fire.
Ike Quebec’s “With a Song in my Heart” (TOCJ 50290) was his final 45 session which featured the emergence of Earl Van Dyke on organ. The album opens with “How Long has This Been Going On” with beautiful playing that only Quebec can do with a sound that is big, warm and bluesy. The ubiquitous Willie Jones appears on guitar with picked chord notes rolling up the strings and then lays out and comps.
On track 3 Ike blows with a sound that is as big as he is and this is a standout cut. Ike on the left and the organ with Van Dyke in the middle, the guitar and the drums on the right with Sam Jones on bass centered in the middle on track 5 only.
Ike Quebec was one of the greatest tenor sax players ever. This session from February 1962 was his last recording. The sound is in wide stereo. If someone were to reissue this on LP in a limited edition it would sell out immediately. Just listen to track 1 and to track 9 they will floor you. That is the evidence of this great player.
Dexter Gordon’s “Landslide” (TOCJ 50289) the title track is Dexter’s own. He has played this track faster on other recordings but not with as much feeling. The track features a watery piano sound that Van Gelder recordings sometime have and the pianist is Kenny Drew. But the sound is open with the bass and piano in the middle and the drums to the right of the soundstage.
Track 2 is a smoky blues and the piano sound improves and it is more transparent, less watery and the space seems larger probably due to the artificial reverb that Van Gelder put right on the tape.
These are unreleased tracks from 1962 compiled for this release. The tune “Landslide” a leftover from Dexter’s “Dexter Calling”. Tommy Turrentine and Dave Burns appear on trumpet and swing on a few cuts. The sound varies but is always transparent and open. There is a noticeable difference in the piano sound. There is some great bass playing on the latter cuts by Ron Carter propelling songs like “Blue Gardenia” to a higher level. I actually prefer this version to the one that appears on Dexter’s “GO” album.
Sam Jones smokes with Dexter blowing cutting lines over a moving rhythm section that accents all the right places and Dave Burns swings hard on his solo counterpoint to Dexter.
The CD’s themselves open to an all solid blue label CD with the Blue Note logo in white as the stylized "b" like the later Liberty LP pressings which were the LT Series. When you take out the CD it opens to all 33 releases in the series on the back cover with 11 in showcase covers and the other 22 in list format so that you can drool over them as they are enticement to buy more of the series. But really this is just to show you how complete the colection really is.
The Toshiba reissues were supervised by Michael Cuscuna for release who I am sure supplied the master tapes and cover art. These 24/192 remasters were done up by Yoshi Okazaki in 2012. So Rudy Van Gelder had nothing to do with the remaster for those that must know.
Sonically I have to say these CD's are on par or better in sound that the paper sleeve 1500 and 4000 series replica CD’s that Toshiba released in 1999 as the Alfred Lion series. Those sold for around 50 dollars each and were super deluxe. Today those CD's are still super deluxe and today command a premium on the used market.
These LT releases do not have the paper sleeves but they do have a fold out booklet that tells of the recording date, time and personnel on each cut. The foldout booklet additionally names the producers of the series and the remaster engineers in detail.
Inside the two page foldout booklet is another 8" by 8" foldout sheet that has the original Liner notes or perhaps new ones drawn up in English on one side and Japanese on the other. I must call this reissue project a success. The music is rare and the sound is excellent all around. These CD's are a jazz reissue celebration done right.