Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers – The Freedom Rider (1961)

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Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers
The Freedom Rider
1961 Blue Note (BST 84156)

1         Tell It Like It Is
2         The Freedom Rider
3         El Toro
4        Petty Larceny
5         Blue Lace

    Bass – Jymie Merritt
Drums – Art Blakey
Piano – Bobby Timmons
Tenor saxophone – Wayne Shorter
Trumpet – Lee Morgan

   Cover Design – Reid Miles
Engineer – Rudy Van Gelder
Liner Notes – Nat Hentoff
Photography – Francis Wolff
Producer – Alfred Lion

Recorded at the Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey; February 18 (track B2) and May 27, 1961 (tracks A1-B1, B3).

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Ripping details

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Vinyl ; Pro-Ject RM-5SE turntabl, Sumiko Blue Point 2 cartridge, Speedbox power supply; Creek Audio OBH-15; M-Audio Audiophile 192 Soundcard ; Adobe Audition at 32-bit float 192khz; Click Repair light settings, sometimes turned off; individual clicks and pops taken out with Adobe Audition 3.0 – resampled (and dithered for 16-bit) using iZotope RX Advanced. Tags done with Foobar 2000 and Tag and Rename.

foobar2000 1.2.2 / Dynamic Range Meter 1.1.1
log date: 2013-02-02 14:42:29

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Analyzed: Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers / The Freedom Rider
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DR         Peak         RMS     Duration Track
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DR12      -2.04 dB   -17.13 dB      7:55 01-Tell It Like It Is
DR16      -1.04 dB   -20.89 dB      7:29 02-The Freedom Rider
DR12      -1.05 dB   -15.81 dB      6:21 03-El Toro
DR11      -2.00 dB   -17.64 dB      6:16 04-Petty Larceny
DR12      -1.62 dB   -17.37 dB      6:00 05-Blue Lace
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Number of tracks:  5
Official DR value: DR13

Samplerate:        96000 Hz
Channels:          2
Bits per sample:   24
Bitrate:           3117 kbps
Codec:             FLAC
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JUST FOR THE SAKE OF COMPARISON – The Japanese Toshiba RVG pressing dynamic range is as follows:
foobar2000 1.2.2 / Dynamic Range Meter 1.1.1
log date: 2013-02-02 14:43:38

——————————————————————————–
Analyzed: Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers / The Freedom Rider
——————————————————————————–

DR         Peak         RMS     Duration Track
——————————————————————————–
DR10      -0.18 dB   -12.31 dB      7:55 01-Tell It Like It Is
DR16      -0.18 dB   -18.15 dB      7:27 02-The Freedom Rider
DR11      -0.18 dB   -14.21 dB      6:21 03-El Toro
DR11      -0.18 dB   -13.58 dB      6:15 04-Petty Larceny
DR10      -0.18 dB   -12.86 dB      5:59 05-Blue Lace
——————————————————————————–

Number of tracks:  5
Official DR value: DR12

Samplerate:        44100 Hz
Channels:          2
Bits per sample:   16
Bitrate:           804 kbps
Codec:             FLAC
================================================================================

Well I had originally planned to post this on Martin Luther King  Day (Jan 21) but like pretty much everything else in my life, I was late with it.  This is actually a vinyl rip that I worked on for months, in spare free moments, so urgency hasn’t exactly been a word I would associate with it.

This is the Jazz Messengers at their most soulful and swinging, with a young Lee Morgan and Wayne Shorter reminding us of why they are now legends.  Aside from the drum solo, which is pretty listenable as far as drum solos go – it’s Blakey, after all – they composed everything here and every tune is top notch.  “Tell It Like It Is” and “Petty Larceny” (great title) are classic, deep soul jazz.  The last tune, Morgan’s “Blue Lace,” is breathtaking.  It makes me want to get up and do a little hard-bop waltz around the room.  The close intervals between Morgan and Shorter give an illusion like there are a lot more horn players in the room.  Bobby Timmons’ dances lightly across the piano on his solo.  The whole thing is a fine example of what Hentoff is talking about in his liner notes regarding Blakey’s spirit of youthfulness, also bolstered by his choice to always surround himself  with younger musicians in the Messengers.   If you suffer from depression or seasonal-affect disorder, I highly recommended listening to “Blue Lace” three times a day or as needed.  Side effects may include euphoria and unexpected goatee cultivation.  

I have yet to find a copy of this that includes a lyric sheet for the title track, unfortunately.

So, I am not going to make claims about anything  sounding “better” than anything else, but for those of us unhappy with Rudy Van Gelder’s remastering of his own work, this vinyl rip is a viable alternative to the (Japan-only) reissue.  I have not heard the original Blue Note CD pressing, presumably if it is a Michael Cuscuna job than it must be a lot more satisfying than the recent RVG.  

I’m no jazz scholar, so this is all you’ll get from me in terms of a write-up.  Nat Hentoff’s original notes are good, as always, so go read those.

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Doug Carn – Infant Eyes (1971)

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Doug Carn
“Infant Eyes”
Released 1971 on Black Jazz Records (BJ/3)

Welcome 1:15
Little B’s Poem 3:50
Moon Child 7:56
Infant Eyes 9:50
Passion Dance 5:58
Acknowledgement 8:45
Peace 4:30

Doug Carn – piano, electric Piano, organ
Jean Carn – vocals
Bob Frazier – flugelhorn, trumpet
George Harper – flute, tenor, saxophone
Al Hall Jr. – trombone, trombone
Henry Franklin – bass
Michael Carvin – drums

Produced by Gene Russell

Although he recorded a 1969 album in a trio setting for Savoy (which I’ve never heard), Doug Carn is of course most famous for his relationship with the independent Black Jazz label. His albums on that imprint may be single-handedly responsible for the label’s canonical status in Afrocentric spiritual jazz. They are remarkable for many reasons, not least of which is the presence of innovative lyrics sung by his then-wife Jean Carn, who not unlike Abbey Lincoln used her voice as part of the ensemble arrangements rather than as a vocalist with a backup band. The communal family vibe is accentuated by the beautiful album cover photography and the opening tune Little B’s Poem; together with the cover photo, I feel like I knew their daughter and wonder where she is now and how she feels about all the musical attention today. While the following albums from the Doug and Jean Carn would push further with original material, this first album is noteworthy for it’s reworking of compositions by jazz heavyweights that they admired – Bobby Hutcherson, Horace Silver, Coltrane, McCoy Tyner, and Wayne Shorter. In particular, adding lyrics to that material and making the compositions into something else is the big achievement here.

I have a repress vinyl of this that sounds pretty good and began to mess around with a digital rip of it, but am unsure whether or not to keep working on it. This CD pressing from 1997 sounds okay but the second side (of the original LP) suffers from nasty wow and flutter from whatever source tape they used. This was the first appearance of this album on CD and I am not sure if there has been any other remastered versions since, but I kind of doubt it. In fact last year somebody claiming to have a set of Black Jazz master tapes was selling the whole bundle on Craig’s List for a hefty sum; the auction was dubious as they were comprised of 1/2″ reels, which even for a studio on a budget in the early 70s would have been a substandard format, and claimed to come with full reproduction rights. Most likely the reels were production copies or just plain counterfeit, the listing was not online long before it was either met with an offer or taken down. Hopefully that doesn’t mean that we’ll be seeing a new series of reissues mastered from 1/2-inch tape.. Unfortunately a few of the other extant Doug Carn reissues have the same wow-and-flutter problem. Badly stored tapes, damaged playback equipment, sloppy transferring, or all of the above, it doesn’t really matter – the end result is that this precious, important music hasn’t received the treatment that it merits. But the most important thing is that it is still available and people can hear it. Since the reissued vinyls were most certainly just the CD master with an R$AA equalization curve applied, there isn’t much point in having both versions except for purely fetishistic reasons. Unless I can manage to get my hands on original vinyl pressings, they are however all we’ve got..

The liner notes by Doug Carn are a treasure. Written just for the reissue, they have a remarkable amount of detailed recollections for being composed more than thirty years after the recordings, showing just what a special time this was for everyone involved. While this is not my favorite of the Carn albums on Black Jazz, it is unique and on its own it is a great record. The title cut, which according to the notes was the first fruits of Doug’s experience with writing lyrics to other peoples’ music, stands out as the most fully realized work here.

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