Off-Beat Labels, Deep Grooves and More

I tend to be fairly knowledgeable when it comes to jazz records, so it is always a pleasant surprise when I find something brand new to me. Case in point: Ahmad Jamal Plays, Parrot Records 55-245. It was surprising to see any Ahmad Jamal record fetching a collectible price, let alone one I had never seen from a label I had never heard of. A quick Google search tells us that Parrot Records was in existence only from 1953 to 1956 and mostly issued 78s and 45s. In fact, according to Wikipedia, this Jamal record was the only 12-inch LP issued by the label. This copy is listed in VG++ or M- condition for the record and G+ or VG- for the cover. There is one bid at $300 and the auction closes in a few hours.

Mode is another short-lived label you don’t see all that often. Here’s one: Warne Marsh, Music for Prancing, Mode 125. This is an original pressing listed in M- condition for the record and VG+ for the cover. The record has shrink wrap, but I doubt it was originally issued that way back in 1957 or 1958. Perhaps Rudolf would have a better idea. Anyway, the start price for this is $250 and so far there are no bids.

Here’s one from a label that is perhaps somewhat more familiar to our readers: Art Taylor, AT’s Delight, Blue Note 4047. This is a West 63rd Street pressing that seems to have the RVG stamp in the deadwax, but no ear and no deep grooves. It’s funny, my copy (autographed by Arthur Taylor in 1980) is of the same vintage. Would you say, early in the Liberty years. I listened to it a couple of weeks ago and the sound was fine. Anyway, this copy is listed in Ex condition for the record and VG+ for the cover. The bidding is already in the $260 range. I wonder how much my autographed pristine copy would sell for. Not that I’m looking to sell it.

Speaking of deep grooves, a reader sent the following note/question:

“I have followed your site for several years, and I am continually impressed by the content provided by you and fellow collectors. I have a question for you, that may also become a suitable topic for a blog post.  My question is, when did Blue Note, (and Plastylite and Liberty), Prestige, Impulse, Riverside, etc. convert mono pressings from 1mil groove width to .7mil groove width? I ask because I have participated in a discussion on another blog site regarding this issue and which stylus to use for optimal mono playback. Thank you.”

I told the questioner that I didn’t know the answer but it was highly likely someone here would know the answer. Let’s see.



  • I have seen many Mode albums, but never one with a sealed sleeve. If Mode would have issued their records factory sealed, it would have been the baggy seal.
    This shrink is the standard shrink applied by shop owners in the sixties/seventies.
    This album is fantastic music-wise.

  • The Ahmad Jamal was released under the title “Chamber Music of the New Jazz” on Argo the following year, and again a few years later on Cadet. Each had different cover art.

  • Abrasive_Beautiful

    Interesting, if this Ahmad Jamal was later released on Argo, I wonder if the Johnny Griffin it advertises(on the back) was as well? Or is there some long lost session out there?

  • Al – I’ve been blessed with having the opportunity over the years to compare several “Liberty” 63rds with no “P” to their original deep groove counterparts and as long as they have the Van Gelder stamp they seemed to sound almost identical to me. The UA mono’s seem to go for money because they’re mono but they weren’t mastered by Van Gelder and if you compare them to an original they all seem “flatter?”… If I see an RVG or Van Gelder at an affordable price I jump.

  • @Abrasive_Beautiful, I’d assume the Griffin on Argo (rec. 1956) was the session referred to on the back of the Parrot sleeve. Came out a few years later.

  • Indeed, Clifford. “J G” on Argo from 1958 was derived from that session, but the actual recording date is questionable. “Ahmad Jamal Plays” was the only Parrot LP that saw production.

  • The label of the Jamal’s record shows that the first track on Side A is “It Could Happen to You”, but according to the jacket it is actually “New Rhumba,” which was replicated by Miles Davis – Gil Evans Orchestra.

  • ah — thanks Tim.

  • Apart from the talk about labels and the like-“not that there’s anything wrong with that”-I’ll add that Jamal’s version of “New Rhumba” is a track that makes me smile every time I hear it. I always imagine Gil or Miles hearing it for the first time and thinking “Yeah,man”. And whether its on my first pressing black label Argo(Tim,thanks for info} or my cd issue mini-lp from Japan,it’s still swinging,60 years later…

  • Gregory The Fish

    I am in the process of collecting the complete Mode catalog. I have about 2/3 of the titles. I don’t have that Warne Marsh yet, but that seems to be an absurdly high price.

  • Yeah I thought about it too but didn’t feel like peeling off that much cash.

  • Has anyone had any luck with sending a record away to believe professionally flattened? I have a Coltrane/Prestige Bergenfield NJ pressing that has a warp that effects the 1st track on sides A and B. There are people on ebay who offer the service of flattening out warps for between 10-25$. Think I might give it a shot.

  • I guess I should start posting questions in the forum and not in the comments section. My bad

  • Though I’m a bit embarrassed to admit, I own a “Vinyl Flat” I tried a cheap LP in it, in the oven, as per the instructions. I reduced both the temperature and time slightly, so as not to overcook, and I let it cool down as instructed.

    The LP came out pretty flat, but the grooves had melted! For about 18 months now I’ve had an LP in there cold. I take it out every few months to have a look – last I saw it was flat on one side, but not the other!

    Moral of the story is, I wouldn’t put a nice LP anywhere near it.

  • I like the Mode records as well, Gregory. Alas, I only have 10 in my collection, but that Warne Marsh has been on my want list for some time and I too, won’t cough up that much cash for it.

  • I’ve sent one to a guy who flattened the LP perfectly. It was a $50 LP.

  • Clifford – did he reveal his methods?

  • I think it was the Vinyl Flat.

  • Gregory The Fish

    i would imagine that flattening an LP, which is really ruining part of the vinyl while trying not to ruin another, is a very delicate thing to do. it probably takes a lot of practice.

  • Scott – We had a professional record flattener that took about 4 hours per lp and it didn’t work on every one. If your record has a heat warp a pro machine could flatten it but usually any groove distortion will still be audible. I had better luck with thinner lps from the late 60’s through the 80’s than earlier deep groove pressings.

  • @GTF, I’ve also casually collected the Mode LPs over the years. Question: do you accept the Premier label reissues? For example, I’ve got the Bernie Nero Trio (117) but it’s on Premier (and issued as Peter Nero). I’ve never really done enough research to understand the crossover/timeline there.

  • Japhy: I have a couple of the 1959 Interludes, Pepper Adams and Victor Feldman. These are re-issued Modes as well. The worst though is when I am crate digging and come across a Mode and I am in Eureka mode (pun not intended) until I see the dreaded “V.S.O.P” on the back.

  • The Mode/Marsh is terrific. Remember when I found it–at a used vinyl/jazz store close to thr old Kezar stadium in San Francisco in 1971. Will,play it tonight.

  • I find the best way to flatten an LP is to stuff it between other LPs on a wooden shelf, ie, fill the shelf with LPs and then force the warped LP into the pile.Removing the LP in about 2 months and it is flat!

  • Fun story: I recently tried to flatten a warped LP by putting it under my Hammond organ (about 300lbs). Was under there for a month but no change. Shame, that.

  • If one piled 16 cement blocks on top of a warped lp, the lp will remain warped. Wedging into a tight pile of lps on a wooden shelf must put a very heavy weight on the lp because it will flatten

  • @Bob, horizontally ?

  • GW – are you referring to the Magic Flute? What a great store. I found many records, made many friends and found a partner for my own record store there.

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