Two Blue Notes and a Dash of Pepper

The seller bluenote5 has some interesting and high priced records on eBay now including this one: Art Pepper Meets the Rhythm Section, Stereo Records 7018. So this is not the Contemporary version and it has the original loose plastic seal with a promotional card for the label inside. The seal is unbroken, so the record is in new condition and the cover is probably close to that as well. Here’s the conundrum with this record: When it was first issued on Contemporary it was 1957 and the labels weren’t producing stereo copies yet, at least not to my knowledge. This was probably the first Stereo release of this record, so in that way it is an original. But it was also probably released at least a couple of years after the original mono recording. You can see in the listing that it doesn’t have the red and blue writing on the back that would make it an original on the Contemporary label. I’m sure this copy is extraordinarily rare and nearly impossible to find sealed like this. As for me, Id rather have the Contemporary. BTW, my copy of this record was from the Bruce M. West collection in Baltimore and it also had the loose polybag cover the cover with the Contemporary promotional card inside. I removed the cover — after all, it was almost 60 years old and quite filthy — but I keep the promotional card inside. It was quite cool to see it in this condition, as if it were sitting on the shelf of a record store in 1957 The start price on the sealed Stereo version in this listing is $1,00. So far there are no bidders.  

From the same seller are these two Blue Note beauties:

The Magnificent Thad Jones, Blue Note 1527. This is an original Lexington Avenue pressing listed in M- condition for the record and Ex+ for the cover. This one also has a start price of $1,500 with no bidders yet.

Lee Morgan, Volume 3, Blue Note 1557. This is an original pressing with the New York 23 label. The record is in VG++ condition and the cover is VG+. Also $1,500, also no bidders. Although there are no bidders, my exception is that all three of these records will sell. The auctions close tomorrow. We’ll see.

At your various recommendations on the previous post, I’ve also spent some timing looking at the auctions from vinyl-house-uk. Some very interesting stuff, including this Informal Jazz cover, which I’ve never seen before and love. I’ll have more on this tomorrow, since most of the auctions don’t close for another five days or so.



  • I have an Esquire ‘Informal Jazz’, will dig it out. First time I have heard it described as ‘ultra rare’ but maybe it is. Anyone know?

  • I’m not sure about “ultra rare” but it sure is “crazy rare” 😉

  • I can’t imagine “Informal Jazz” sold that many copies in the US, never mind in stuffy old England, ergo it must be “ultra rare” 😉

  • “Informal Jazz” is rare because it was only pressed once, there are no 2nd pressings.
    It must not have sold that well as Prestige changed the name to “Two Tenors” with Hank Mobley and John Coltrane’s names on the cover for the N.J. pressing.
    My question is, does that make both “Informal Jazz” and “Two Tenors” first pressings?
    The songs are the same but the artwork and liner notes are different.

  • Contemporary founded Stereo records in 1958. The several Contemporary titles from as early as ’56-57 were actually recorded in true binaural form at Capitol’s Melrose Studio. The recordings were made by Howard Holzer and Roy DuNann live to two track. The reason Contemporary recorded binaural recordings was because of the open reel audiophile tape market, particularly as stereo LP’s didn’t come along until 1958. In ’58 Contemporary found that their backlog of stereo master tapes could be utilized for vinyl. There are several recordings from 1956-7 including Art Pepper Meets The Rhythm Section, Way Out West, Jazz Impressions Of My Fair Lady, and Poll Winners that exist in true binaural form. Steve Hoffman has apparently listened to both masters and thinks the binaural form sounds better. Apparently the mono tapes had a bit of compression and EQ added to them during recording, as was common in major studios at the time, but the two-track tapes were recorded largely neutral and uncompressed. About 30 titles were released by Contemporary on the Stereo imprint using an S70xx catalog number. When the Stereo imprint no longer was used Contemporary changed the stereo pressings to S75xx catalog numbers on the Contemporary imprint. I believe the oldest Stereo titles are all DG and all pressed at RCA Hollywood. If what Hoffman said is true I’d rather have the Stereo press. For those that don’t like early stereo recordings, in general, there is always the mono switch. Also, I believe the Stereo imprint form is much more rare than the mono first pressings from ’56-’57.

  • nicely written david j. Indeed the stereo record edition is quite rare – but it can be found. The separation is very much left and right but I like it anyway. Everything about the Stereo Records scream Contemporary – the pressing quality and look and feel of the jackets etc. The stereo master tapes were recorded “flat” with a much presence albeit with no reverb at all. Reverb was added in the mastering if I remember it right. Even so most collectors value the 1st mono more.

  • BTW the asking price of $1500 is a bit silly – sealed or not. Most likely no one will jump on that.

  • In the same period CR issued Way out West. I have the monaural and stereo versions. The monaural has the coloured tune box print and has copyright 1957. The Stereo Records 7017 has black print on the rear, but is still copyright 1957. I have never seen a Stereo Records album with colour print on the rear. So this is probably a first issue. To be sure one needs, to check the labels: first pressings had shiny black labels and gold letters, second pressings had mat (non-shiny) black with gold/greenish letters. Also the first issue had a frame cover, later ones not necessarily.
    This being said, I also believe with Al that the Stereo Records versions came later than the first monaural issues.

  • I think it’s 1958 for the Pepper stereo.

  • I prefer the mono Contemporary pressings to the Stereo Records pressings. The Stereo LPs are fine, but the mono Contemporary LPs are gems with a lovely, warm sound (on my set up, anyway).

  • Great overview of the Contemporary market, circa 19957-58. Thanks, David J, et al. There are five hours left on the Pepper auction. I disagree with Shaft — I think it will sell. There’s something about sealed original pressings that drive some buyers nuts. I think it’s to preserve the record and not even to listen. They probably have a separate copy for listening.

  • I bought the original album when it came out and know nothing of the Stereo version. I have a few LPs issued on the Stereo label, but the monos are my favorite. I loved this album when I first bought it and still do. Philly Joe Jones does a fantastic job!

  • Al: it did not sell and is re-listed. You are correct about collectors keeping their sealed copies sealed and having another copy for listening. I saw some years ago a sealed mono copy of the Pepper album sold for just over $ 1000.

  • Al, I hate to say I told you so 😉 No sell for the Pepper Stereo. It is up again with a lesser price.

    The Stereo edition is less valued overall – just read our friends comments. I myself have a Pepper stereo in quite nice condition that my father bought and I value that particular copy quite much 😉

  • Ah well. We’ll keep an eye on it and see if it sells this time. 🙂

  • I think it would fetch about $500….we will see.

  • How much would sitting down with friends and family for Thanksgiving while listening to Charlie Parker’s “Carving the Bird “ be worth ?

  • If it is the original Dial 1013 78, it is worth at least a toast,

  • I believe that everyone should listen to what they enjoy stylistically, format, etc. I do not understand mono fetishism.

    I prefer the best sounding issue regardless of mono or stereo. Sometimes one or another really do sound better. I also understand not enjoying early stereo that is panned hard left-right. I do not like fake stereo because of the electronic artifacts, but I usually don’t mind early stereo that is absent of compression, reverb, and other poorly implemented studio tricks. Again, I prefer the best sound.

    I especially don’t understand mono fetishism when recordings were made in stereo and mixed down to mono. Some labels, like Time, made really terrible stereo: I will not buy any stereo pressing on Time. Other labels, like Columbia, usually made fantastic stereo, depending on engineer and studio. Many Blue Notes were recorded in stereo and mixed down to mono. For first pressing fetishists those stereo and mono issues are frequently equally first. Van Gelder usually made very good stereo and some are really exceptional (i.e., Out to Lunch).

    I can’t tell if the mono fetishism in jazz record collecting is related to faddish behavior, or because some collectors’ playback gear isn’t as good as their records, or some other reason I haven’t considered yet. While I still believe that everyone should enjoy their preference, mine is the best sound of any pressing. If the Stereo Records pressing sounds better than the Contemporary pressing, then, barring other issues, I prefer the Stereo. If the Blue Note stereo sounds better, then I prefer that.

    I have two ears that work well, and I don’t walk around hearing in mono. So when I go to live shows I listen binaurally. I don’t need to force myself to listen in mono if that isn’t the best sounding issue a la Phil Spector. Moreover, with current mono fetishism, mono has often become more expensive, even when it isn’t the better sounding option (i.e., the previous Out to Lunch example).

    As for record playback and cleaning gear, I bought the best I could afford to be able to get the best sound from my records, be they mono or stereo. The amount I spent is certainly less than others, but within my budget it was the way to get the best sound out of both mono and stereo. I sometimes wonder if some collectors have really fantastic records, but listen to them with a 30 year-old Stanton cartridge that has never had the needle replaced (I’ve seen this more than once), and this might lend to a mono preference. That is not to say that Stanton isn’t good, or that cartridge/gear snobbery should enter into the discussion (which then switches from record collecting to audiophile gear), but needles do need to be replaced and worn out ones don’t sound good.

    I also wonder if dirty records can lead to a mono-only preference. I’ve seen countless times people who own records over which my collector’s envy really goes green, but the records are filthy. How do they listen to all that dirt? Why don’t collectors with massive, valuable collections buy even a cheap record cleaning machine? Can dirty, or not well-cleaned records make collectors prefer listening in mono?

    Listen to what you want, but I really don’t understand the Always Mono fad.

    The soap box is yours.

    Happy Thanksgiving.

  • I used to buy albums through “Jazz by Mail” back in the 60’s , he mainly sold cut outs and his motto was , MONO fills the hole in the middle” , still makes me smile today. I just bought a stereo copy of Impulse A12 ( Benny Carter) and noticed they credit a stereo engineer and a mono engineer , I guess ABC had money to throw around with the new label.

  • Ian: Sometimes the larger companies did parallell recordings – one mono and one stereo. Separate from Mics to Tape-recorders. RVG who was a one man show used mainly only one “chain”. Late fifties and Early sixties were stereo that was later folded down to mono. His main focus was mono and he basically used the stereo (2-channels) to balance a mono mix.

  • I generally agree with the point, and have often purchased a first press in Stereo because I couldn’t afford the Mono. Likewise, I have seen many people with records worth hundred$$ not employing a cleaning regime beyond Windex and a paper towel.

    I think part of the fetishism stems from the belief or fact that the artists heard the mix in Mono and that Mono best represented what they wanted to the public to hear. I was watching a Netflix documentary this week on the Beatles and Sgt. Pepper and one of the recording engineers they interviewed said the Mono release was the only version to get because the Beatles never heard a stereo mix. While I can see his point vis a vis the Beatles, I have my doubts as to how much time Art Blakey or Jimmy Smith spent in the studio obsessing over what the mix would sound like. They only got paid for 1 day of practice and 1 day of studio time (on Blue Note at least) so it was unlikely they took time away from making money in the clubs to hang out with Rudy in New Jersey just to get it right.

  • Here’s a puppy that somewhat reached the stratosphere. I was left behind at 300 pounds. As much as I’d love to own one of these, it most likely won’t happen in this lifetime.
    And most likely recorded in ESP off mike mono.

  • I’ve been looking for the Beatles Sgt. Pepper on mono. I heard it once, and it’s like heroin, you want more but that first taste will never be the same.

  • I have several “Stereo” records, but I’ve never been able to compare them because I’ve never had their mono counterparts. All of the “Stereo” records I have are dated 1957, but we all know they weren’t produced until the following year. And I do have one with color print on the back (Andre Previn- “My Pal Joey”, with a black finish and gold letters on the label. Haven’t a clue as to it’s value, and pretty much don’t care.

    As to “mono” vs. “stereo”, it all is in the mix, isn’t it? I used to prefer stereo, but now, it all depends on the recording.

  • That’s not a promotion anything: that was the insert that came with early copies of Spiritual Unity. My copy isn’t even a first pressing (I have the second press with the red image and the custom red-on-white labels, while I believe the first pressings were black images with red labels) and my lp came with a copy of the book. There is nothing promotional about it. The book contains an essay and poem about the avant-jazz music scene by Paul Haines and art by H Bernstein and FRAP studios. A review of previous auctions or a perusal of Discogs will confirm this. What we have are two uninformed individuals who spent more for an insert than for a very nice copy of the first pressing with the insert. A fool and his money…

  • Whoops! My bad! I didn’t read the full auction page. I take it all back, with apologies.

  • That’s crazy money for Spiritual Unity, even if it is the first ‘pre-release’ version.

  • The Joe Harriott ‘Abstract’ on the vinyl-house-uk list fetched a good price. Great album !

  • Thanks Shaft for the RVG info. Could it then be argued with RVG recordings of this period you are closer to the original sound with stereo as apposed to the “re-mixed” mono. That would throw a spanner in the works of collectors who mortgage the house for a mono.

  • Vinyl-House-UK just got $1052 for a copy of Dave Bailey Sextet for a seriously over-graded cover. The cover is given a VG+ but visually it looks closer to VG- at best. It’s hard to judge their audio grading accuracy when so many of their postings have photos of covers that obviously don’t match their descriptions.

  • Hi Ian,
    Well the stereo master tapes are the only master tapes of many RVG recordings. The earliest stereos date back to 1957 but I think they were parallell (have to check) with both a mono and stereo recording on 2 different tape machines.

    However (and this is important) the mono LPs cut from the laquer that Rudy made was made from the stereo tapes “on the fly” meaning that RVG did not create a mix mono tape at all. He mixed directly to mono laquer from the stereo tape. The stereo laquer was made the same way – but in stereo ofcourse. So in a way you are just as close in mono as stereo.

  • Vinyl House UK did damage with that sharp copy of Kary?bin, which continues to elude me in vinyl form. I cry.

  • I had both the Harriott and the SME in my watch list; needless to say I think I’ll have to be content with my CD reissues for awhile longer 🙁

  • I’ve bought one record from Vinyl House UK and it was so overgraded i asked for a refund. They refund without question. Their grading is VERY optimistic.

  • Michel: Thank you for your comment, I think you’re being kind by by referring to their grading as VERY optimistic rather than misleading.

  • Vinyl house is the same people that sold the misterious Mobley 1568 for 8k or whatever and then they said it was a trade or something. They also had a copy of peckin time with a fake deep groove. Id stay away

  • That Vinyl House copy of the Dave Bailey record was from the collection of Bob Richards. I’ve posted about him here before: He was jazz fan who lives/lived in Chicago. I own a number of his records (although I deeply wish I owned this one too!!) How Vinyl House UK ended up with one of his LPs is a mystery to me.

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