Sam Rivers: A New Conception (1966) Liberty Blue Note
KEEP THOSE BLUE TRAIN MEASUREMENTS COMING IN! But we need a new detective story, today, it is the mysterious case of the Blue Note original, that isn’t.
Selection: What A Difference A Day Makes (Grever-Adams)
. . .
Though What A Difference…was written in Spanish in the mid 1930s, the best known English language version of this tune, probably Sam River’s point of reference, is the 1959 Dinah Washington version , a Billboard Top-20 entry which earned Dinah a Grammy.
Sam Rivers, tenor, soprano sax, flute; Hal Galper, piano; Herbie Lewis, bass; Steve Ellington, drums; recorded Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, October 11, 1966, released November 1967. Remember these dates, you will need them to unravel another record collecting mystery.
With the passing of greats every day, recently Lee Konitz, now McCoy Tyner, a quick obituary round up for A New Conception: Rivers finally left the stage in 2011, free at last; Herbie Lewis, bass, 2007, Drummer Steve Ellington, grand-nephew of jazz legend Duke Ellington, 2013; pianist Hal Galper is defiantly still with us, a sprightly 82 year old. I’m not sure it adds anything to appreciating their music, but at least you know.
A lot of the music I listen to was made by people no longer with us. As I listen, they are alive in their music, their towering achievement, alive in my head. People who listen to classical music dont grieve over a Bach, or Beethoven’s NYT obituary. The artists’s work is something to celebrate, their legacy, for which we are grateful.
In Rivers uncompromising approach to new directions, he reimagines seven standards with an avant-twist, while sounding more like Archie Shepp meets . . . Freddy Kreuger. An audacious idea, executed with respect for the tunes, but not permitting them to rest in peace, Nightmare on 43 West 61st St.
Rivers is fiery and playful, but the arrangements are the key. As the tunes are familiar, the listener’s attention is caught by the deviations from the familiar, sly references to the tune rather than the straight tune itself. The familiar evolves into an avant form, or the other way around, an avant and fairly free romp coalesces into its familiar form, or dips in and out, with Monk-ish dissonances, or just free-blowing ideas as passing clouds.
It is a great idea, one foot in the past, one foot in the future, hybrid jazz.
A New Conception cover is conceived as a furry young chick, bird-like posture, isolated against a backdrop with dramatic side-lighting. Reid Miles perfectly captures 60’s iconic fashion photography, with its eye-catching images. Supermodels had arrived – Jean Shrimpton, Twiggy – black and white photography, quirky expression, bizarre hair-styling, “dresses” suitable only to wear on the cover shoots of glossy fashion magazines. Not “retro” as seen from modern times, but of its time, modern, it shouts 1967.
Vinyl: BST 84249 New York, USA labels, VAN GELDER stamp, vinyl 139 grams.
Serrated edge – likely pressed by Keel Mfg Corp. Hauppauge L I, a third-party NY plant occasionally used by Liberty to supplement the East Coast capacity of All Disc. More on Keel later.
The Blue Note – Liberty Transition
Despite the catalogue number 4250 being the official point of separation of the Blue Note/ Liberty transition, 4249 and thirty four titles below 4250 were first released by Liberty. Sam Rivers A New Conception took nearly another year to release, yet New York USA labels were printed. All good detective adventure start with knowing the right question. You have to ask, printed when?
BLP 4249 was recorded in mid-November 1966, five months into the era of Liberty management control. The catalogue number and session date had been assigned seemingly four to five months before the recording session was actually held, hence below the break-point of BLP 4250.
Although the Blue Note company and catalogue had been sold to Liberty, Blue Note founder Alfred Lion remained actively producing records for the Blue Note label until mid-1967, granted artistic “carte blanche” by Liberty management (Reference Richard Cook’s Blue Note autobiography). Lion’s productions included this album by Sam Rivers. Lion’s last recording for the label as producer was in July 1967, a collection of pop tunes by a Stanley Turrentine Nonet, featuring titles like The Look Of Love, Up Up and Away, and Georgy Girl – a recording mercifully unissued until a CD thirty years later, as The Lost Recordings, better to have stayed lost.
Record centre labels and jackets can be printed only after the recording session has taken place. A session is scheduled , musicians booked , takes recorded, agreed or rejected, the sequence of the songs for the final mix decided, and label copy finalised. All this before it can go for mastering, plating, pressing, and label printing and jacket fabrication. So the “New York, USA” label was not printed before the sale of Blue Note to Liberty, it was printed six months possibly a year after the sale of Blue Note to Liberty.
The label typesetting fonts used and Blue Note design template indicate this New York, USA label was possibly printed by Keystone Printed Specialties, given its’ November ’67 release date, probably in the course of 1967. However other actors can not be ruled out, keep an open mind.
Lion was free creatively, but Liberty controlled manufacture, promotion, and label copy. They owned the registered trade mark of Blue Note Records, and were free to use it as they wished. I hadn’t anticipated, from a collector standpoint, that a New York, USA label could be freshly printed well into the Liberty years.
The Blue Note label was a very disciplined production line, with long timelines, planned release schedules, co-ordinated manufacture, and continuous production.
We find Liberty issuing new titles, with what many many sellers and collectors assume are “original” New York, USA labels, not to be confused with what they assume are later “reissues” with Division of Liberty labels. You can not have an “original” NY USA label printed in 1967. Physically impossible, original was long gone.
More to unpick in Collector’s Corner.
Though not quite in trophy territory, this Liberty release still attracts a respectable collector premium. The mono edition is sometimes assumed to be a “promo”. The NY label – NY USA! – draws plenty of attention but it is only the stereo that is NY USA. “Blue Note” gets lot of mentions.The word “Liberty” gets only three mentions in the top twenty auctions, despite all being a Liberty issue.
The “sealed/ shrink!” copies are almost all certainlyearly 1970’s West Coast Liberty UA Black/ Turquoise label, as it was their practice to shrink.
The mono gets only Division of Liberty labels, and a front cover designated with mono catalogue number. Several sellers conclude the mono edition is a promo copy. Liberty promos are usually found stamped “AUDITION COPY” in large letters on the back. Only one verified promo of New Conception could be found, stamped NOT FOR SALE , PROMOTION USE ONLY in upper left front cover corne, and it is stereo. Mono theory is toast.
The connection between Keel and serrated edge originates in Hoffman Forum discussions, not something I have any other knowledge of, but seems well-founded.
Bob Djukic, on his A New Conception auction of the Stereo with New York USA labels:
“Original U.S. Pressing · Original white and blue Blue Note Label With New York, USA address on the label · Van Gelder stamped in the trail-off vinyl. Serrated edge pressing (Obviously, an ABC-Impulse pressing)”
“Original U.S. Pressing” covers a multiplicity of possibilities, as does “original white and blue label”, stretching that word original, but Bob generally knows his stuff. My New York USA label copy is also serrated edge. Light bulb moment, I have overlooked the obvious!
What eagle-eyed Bob and I have noticed is the serrated edge, a characteristic of Keel pressings, and may be the clue that unlocks the New York USA label anomaly . What if Keel was the source of those NY USA label pressings, which can only have been printed in 1967? At this point, a good vinyl detective withholds judgement and collects more evidence, before jumping to conclusions.
There are five label variants found of A New Conception ( all of which are a product of Liberty Records). Four labels (numbers 2 to 5 below) follow the familiar pattern of Liberty East Coast and West Coast manufacture. The mono editions are all Division of Liberty, accompanied by a matching stereo Division of Liberty. Labels 2 and 3 are Keystone printed for East Coast plant/s, labels 4 and 5 are Bert-Co printed for West Coast plant/s. You can see from the helicopter view that label 1, the New York USA label is not historically “an original“, it is “an anomaly”, which requires a different explanation.
Pressing capacity was increasingly tight in the later Sixties, soaring demand for records, particularly in the stereo format as more homes were equipped with a stereo record player. More stereo copies were wanted, and Keel had massive capacity, and its own printing division, and was easy to supply with Van Gelder stampers. My guess is the New York USA is a Keel pressing, for which Keel were supplied with Van Gelder stampers, and centre labels set with an out of date Blue Note template, possibly one printed for themselves, or may be someone at Keystone up to mischief. From a previous post:
Keel Mfg., Hauppauge Long Island – the Serrated Edge
The serrated rim edge is believed to be a characteristic of Keel Mfg. Corp, 10 & 15 Gilpin Ave., Hauppauge Long Island, NY,. Keel was an arm of the giant Pickwick Records budget record operation, had massive capacity (a decade later, in 1978, there were 45 presses at Hauppauge) and their own printing facility, which meant they were in a position to fabricate their own Division of Liberty centre labels.
There is unresolved speculation on Hoffman as to other plants responsible for the serrated edge, but forum member suggestions are wide of the mark on location and year of manufacture (1966-69). My money is on Keel, convenient NY location to supply Van Gelder metal, its own in-house label printing facility, and likely spare capacity for custom clients.
SHOULD HAVE GONE TO SPECSAVERS Award
Finally, for anyone who has stayed awake through this post to the end, the LJC “SHOULD HAVE GONE TO SPECSAVERS” award goes to freddyfresh-pro-dj, for sighting a deep groove where there is none.
Keep spinning those discs, Freddy, but please, for your own sake, book an eye test. Still, at least Freddy didn’t use the most overused and miss-applied word in the Blue Note collecting lexicon, “original!” Though funnily enough, it is, as much as any of the others.
Do you have a copy of this album? Can you add anything to the story? Floor is yours.