Whither the 16-RPM Jazz LP?

miles-davis-16-rpm-jazz-vinylHere are a few collectible rare jazz records we are following this week on eBay, starting with  Miles Davis and the Modern Jazz Giants, Prestige 3. This is the 16-RPM version of the record and it is, of course, an original pressing. The condition doesn’t look so great and the seller is asking for a starting price of $400 so it is not going to be of interest to me as a potential buyer, but I do have interest in the record as an oddity. Does anyone own this record and, if so, have you ever listened to it — indeed, do you have equipment to listen to it? Is the sound better, worse, the same as a 33-RPM record? And finally, does anyone have any idea why Prestige issued this record and several others in the 16-RPM format? Inquiring minds want to know.

Here are a couple more nice Prestiges from the Jazz Collector era:

Webster Young, For Lady, Prestige 7106. This is an original New York yellow label pressing listed in VG++ condition for the record and vG+ for the cover. The bidding is in the $250 range and there are about two days left in the auction as of this writing. Tadd Dameron and John Coltrane, Mating Call, Prestige 7070. This is an original New York yellow label pressing. You’ll have to read the seller’s description to assess the grade. The record is somewhere between VG+ and VG++ and the cover is VG++. The bidding is in the $200 range with two more days before the auction closes. Quick question for those of us fortunate enough to own this record: If you file by artists, as I do, where to you keep this one? Under Coltrane or under Dameron? Mine is with the Coltranes.

And what would a Monday at Jazz Collector be without a couple of Blue Notes, starting with Sonny Red, Out of the Blue, Blue Note 4032. This looks to be an original West 63rd Street pressing listed in VG++ condition for the record and VG+ for the cover. The price is in the $200 range, but I expect it to sell for quite a bit higher, particularly after that copy a couple of weeks ago sold for $1,802. Thad Jones, Detroit New York Junction, Blue Note 1513. This is an original Lexington Avenue pressing that is described to be in VG+ condition, although potential bidders would be advised to look at the picture of the cover to draw your own conclusions. The bidding is in the $300 range with more than a day left.

46 comments

  • Mating Call – Coltrane
    The Cats – Coltrane
    Coltrane and Burrell – Coltrane
    Bags and Trane – Coltrane
    Ellington and Coltrane – Coltrane

  • I have the Cats under Flanagan, Burrell and Coltrane under Burrell. The others, I’m with you.

  • The 16 rpm production of Prestige is limited to six albums. The first four albums to be released were re issues of existing 33 rpm albums, the last two were especially recorded for the occasion, but later re issued on 33 rpm. The audio quality is rather poor compared to 33 rpm. Just like 45 rpm re issues of 33 rpm seem to be superior.
    I have all six and the art work and production are faultless. I bought a Lenco turntable, 50 years old, had it revamped in order to play these six rarities. First issue fundamentalists should have # 16-5 and 16-6.

  • Kristian kristiansen

    I have the one with Horace Silver on one side and I think Milt Jackson on the other. Played on my renovated Thorens 124II with SPU mono cartridge it sounds fine, not poor.

  • i like the idea of the 16rpm records and find them fun as a concept. my turntable has a 16rpm option, though i’ve never owned one. came close once on the one which “Dakar” comes from, but alas, no dice. i have heard that the sound quality is not great, but i would still love to hear one.

    as for filing, the first listed artist gets the file. so frank wess is where “wheelin’ and dealin'” goes for me. i also think of that album by name more than by artist, since there wasn’t a clear leader, so “w” makes sense for that reason, too.

  • With Al on The Cats. I think that one would bother me not being under Flanagan. How about Tenor Conclave? Never quite sure where to keep this one.

  • As stated on the back of the jacket, one 12-inch 16 (2/3)-RPM record is the equivalent of two 12-inch 33 (1/3)-RPM recordings, so maybe Prestige was merely testing the waters to see if there was any interest in the format. However, although it may have seemed like a decent idea to pack twice as much music onto a single record, given the poor fidelity of 16-RPM compared to 33, it must have had limited appeal.

    I own two 1960s-era turntables that can play at 16-RPM (a German-made Dual 1019 and a Swiss-made Lenco B52) but can’t say that I have ever actually owned a 16-RPM record.

  • Abrasive_Beautiful

    With regards to filing, I do everything by label and catalog number. It gets slightly annoying when I have only one record on a label like Vanguard for instance, but for the most part everything is easily accessible and found with this method. I also have a knack for remembering catalog numbers for specific titles, especially on Blue Note, so it works perfectly for me.

  • Kristian, I will give it another try and compare Baritones and French Horns, 16-6, with Dakar, 7280, the re issue on 33 rpm.
    Filing: never a problem, by label and catalogue number. The smaller labels are lumped together, alphabetically.

  • Al asked the question why Prestige launched the 16 rpm series. Nobody replied. Let me make a guess. The system was already used for Spoken Word recordings. Bob W. may have thought to be the first in a new trend. He did a lot of promo work. Many copies I have come across have a promo stamp. Of course, suitable turntables are required. In Europe most turntables had the 16 rpm speed option. I don’t know about the US. But in Europe 16 rpm Prestige were not imported.
    But, the reputation of bad audio quality must have been a deadly blow. Ask someone and that will be the first reaction. Now to give 16 rpm a fair chance, I will do the test this p.m.
    Bob went into the experiment half heartedly. The first four were re issues. The last two were made for the occasion, but still different groups on each side, in stead of a long and deep exploration of one group.
    The sleeves were of the highest quality, excellent cover design. These were Prestige’s heydays, around 1958, with productions like For Lady, TEO, the Prestige Jazz Quartet, the MAl/ series. The launching of the innovative New Jazz label. In that spirit the 16 rpm option fitted very well. What a shame that very soon the label would degrade to tenor and organ sessions.

  • hey rudolf! i LIKE some tenor and organ sessions! 😉

  • While on the subject of strange recording …… how about those Riverside l.p.s that play from the inside to the outside? Were they superior sounding? I can’t tell, how about you?

  • The two most interesting 16 rpm productions are # 5 and # 6, both entitled “Modern Jazz Survey”, subtitled “New York Jazz” (#5), respectively, “Baritones and French Horns” (#6).
    Both have cover art by Peter Davies/Esmond Edwards.
    I selected a particular favourite of mine, Teddy Charles’ DAKAR.
    I had the Lenco 16 rpm running to warm up as required.
    First the 33 rpm Dakar, yellow label 7280 with a MC Mono only Dorian cartridge on a Rega turntable. The sound blurred out very neatly, Doug’s bass feather light as always, A.T.’s cymbals a joy, very distinct.
    Then switching to a MM cartridge on the Lenco turntable for the 16 rpm version of Dakar: I needed to turn the volume knob two grades higher to come to the same volume level as what I heard a few seconds ago. The sound was correct, but less neat, less brilliant. One could very well live with the 16 rpm result, but one should not compare.
    Remark: The Dorian cartridge certainly contributes to the brilliant mono sound of the 33 rpm. So the comparison lacks objective elements to be called fair.

  • GtF: as you know, “de gustibus……..

  • rudolf: of course. all fun.

    art: i have never heard of those! tell me more!

  • With LPs, I organize by size (8-inch, 10-inch, 12-inch, and 16-inch; then by label and catalog number). The 8-inch are Lang-Worth Collector’s Items transcriptions 1-79. The 16s (only a few) are transcriptions. With 78s, I organize by size (7-inch [Bell 78s and 45s, and a few Columbias]), 10-inch and 12-inch), then alphabetically by artist. This includes oversize (11-inch) test pressings, studio lacquers, and “mothers.” Prolific artists often recorded for different labels so I bring all recordings together by the same artist alphabetically by label (Ellington is a good example). Exceptions are 12-inch V-Discs, which are organized by branch of service (Army, Navy) and by catalog number. V-Discs pressed by RCA Victor are vinyl; those by Columbia Records are heavy (breakable) shellac. A late Canadian collector friend had most of the 905 issued V-Discs plus unissued test pressings. 10-inch and 12-inch 78 r.p.m book albums are organized by size and alphabetically by artist. Other audio media include private and Voice of America reel tapes, private and commercial cassette tapes, CDs, and music DVDs, none of which is organized.

  • Gregory, I mis spoke. The label is Fortissimo not really Riverside. It is red vinyl and is the same record as Blue Mitchell’s Smooth as the Wind. It is calledBrasses and Strings xk8006 stereo.Sorry for the delay, but it was behind a pillar in “M’s” and it hiding from me! The liner notes are all about this new process and nothing about music or the players. I do not know anything else about this l.p. It sounds great on my low end system.

  • I always thought the 16RPM series was produced for the AM radio market. The playing time would give DJ’s a longer bathroom break, radio was live back then, which would also be incentive to play your record.

  • I would file “Mating Call” under Tadd Dameron. He was the leader and all the compositions are his. Also at the time of the release of the LP, Dameron was better known to me since the late ’40s than Coltrane. I had only seen Coltrane once or twice with Miles in ’55 or ’56.

  • For me, Tenor Conclave and Wheelin’ and Dealin’ are filed under Coltrane.

  • Yeah, it makes sense to file all Coltrane with Coltrane — that is, unless Miles, Cecil, Blakey or Dizzy is leading.

  • thanks for the correction, Art. still, i need to find out more about that. sounds fascinating! i have some mechanical concerns…. but still! does the needle fall off the end of the record when it is done?

  • Gregory,No it does not fall off! It has a fade out that ends at a raised edge.

  • Rudolf. YOu mentioned two of the six released were made for the occasion. Were these sessions ever reissued in other formats?

  • Chris- All 6 of the 16RPM Lps were released later as 33 1/3 pressings. I’m not sure how close the early 7000 series release dates were to the PRLP16 dates.
    PRLP 16-1 Milt Jackson Quartet
    also released as Prestige PRLP 7003 + PRLP 7005.
    PRLP 16-2 Billy Taylor – Let’s Get Away From It All
    Billy Taylor (piano) Earl May (bass) Charlie Smith (drums)
    also released as Prestige PRLP 7015 + PRLP 7016.
    PRLP 16-3 Miles Davis And The Modern Jazz Giants
    also released as Prestige PRLP 7109 + PRLP 7150.
    PRLP 16-4 J.J. Johnson/Kai Winding/Bennie Green – Trombone By Three
    also released as Prestige PRLP 7023 + PRLP 7030.
    PRLP 16-5 George Wallington/Phil Woods/Donald Byrd/Red Garland – Modern Jazz Survey – New York Jazz
    also released as Prestige PRLP 7280 + Status ST 8305.

  • I find it best to file by label. The spines of Blue Note, Prestige, Impulse, Verve, etc. are so recognizable, I just find it easier to locate and refile this way as opposed to keeping it all in perfect alphabetical order. On filing those jam session lps like Tenor Conclave, The Cats, Earthy, All Day Long & Olio, I have these filed together on one end of all the Prestige lps.

  • Woody: 16 rpm one to four are made up of material recorded well before the event. The fact that 7150 was released later than the 16 rpm series has no meaning, since the material is on this LP is re issued from the 10 inch 196 and 200 session. Recorded for the occasion,
    16-5 was re issued as NJ 8207 and 8304; 16-6 as Pr 7280 and NJ /Status 8303.

  • Typing error in my last, Status 8305.

  • Question about The Cats – is there a difference between covers? I have a deep groove original and the cover is light purplish/pinkish/mauve color, but I’ve seen copies where the cover is darker and a bit deeper purple. Otherwise, the same in all respects (heavy, laminated, address is the same, price on back is the same, etc.) Is the slightly lighter-colored cover “first?” Or are they just different print runs?

  • On filing – I don’t have a copy of Tenor Conclave, Cats or Mating Call, so if someone wants to send me a copy I’ll let y’all know how I file it 🙂

  • Joe: I have had second print non DG copies of the Cats and they had the darker coloured sleeves, however without the printed retail price of $ 3.98 on the back.
    I have always considered the lighter shade variety you describe to be first issues.

  • PRLP 16-4 J. J, Johnson, Kai Winding, Bennie Green: Trombone By Three contains tracks originally issued on 78 and 10-inch LP. The four Johnson and the four Winding tracks were issued on 10-inch PRLP 109, which has noisy playing surfaces. I have all 78 sides on this LP (except the two alternate takes, which are original to the LP) and they play much better and cleaner. Gradually the surfaces of the 10-inch Prestige LPs got better. The last 10-inch Prestige LP whose surfaces I don’t like is PRLP 116 Lee Konitz (I also have all the tracks as 78s). The first four Bennie Green tracks were issued on PRLP 123 Side B. The last eight tracks by Johnson and Kai Winding were issued on PRLP 195, a very nice LP, and one of the early LPs featuring the two trombonists as co-leaders.

  • Thanks Rudolf, I appreciate your insight, as always.

  • Rudolf- Do you know what year Prestige released the 16RPM titles? I had forgotten that several of them were made from 10inch lps.

  • Although 16-2/3 r.p.m. records were issued by various labels (mostly spoken word) until at least the 1960s and possibly ’70s, the recordings issued by Prestige are probably the best known to jazz people. Recordings made for original issue on Prestige 16-2/3 discs were recorded in Spring 1957. These were the last to be issued by Prestige, suggesting earlier discs of reissues may have been released in late 1956. At the very least, the program was short-lived and discs may not have been sold through standard retail stores. This would explain why so few people have seen or own them.

  • Should have added this to my last e-mail. The general rule in audio reproduction is that the slower the speed the lower the quality. This is true for reel tape recordings, as well. This is why some audiophile jazz labels today are issuing 12-inch recordings that play at 45 r.p.m because the higher speed delivers better sound and nobody I’m aware of is issuing any jazz discs at 16-2/3 r.p.m. and calling them “audiophile.” Whatever Prestige’s marketing objective was in issuing 16-2/3 discs, I think it was a mistake!

  • Woody/Geoffrey: no mention at all of the 16 rpm Prestige set in my Schwann of April 1958. So they were really short-lived. It is my feeling, on the basis of the sleeves’ particulars, that they were issued just before the transfer from Manhattan to Bergenfield, i.e. late 1957, early 1958.

  • Geoffrey, thank you, I wonder how many people had a turntable with a 16-2/3 speed setting. Back in the 90’s a dear friend of mine Jack “BeaBopa” just gave me a really clean copy of PRLP 16-4 that I thought had a cool cover because, “Woods, nobody wants 16-2/3 records”. It wasn’t until the Ebay era that it’s Warhol cover made it desirable.

  • Woody, I was a good friend of the late audio engineer, Jack Towers. He had lots of equipment but no turntable that could handle 16-2/3. I saw one of the records briefly at a Jersey bash. Bob Porter was looking at it but I don’t think it was his. Also, I have never seen a turntable that could accommodate 16-2/3. At one point, I had five turntables but used only two–a Dual CS 5000 for 78s, and a Denon DP-60L with two interchangeable tone arms for LPs–one for pre-1955 LPs, and the other for post-1955 LPs. The rest of the equipment was mainly Carver, plus gold audio cables that were given to me by my older daughter (she briefly worked for one of the companies). My younger daughter’s husband works for a high-end audio retailer so I get to hear what some of my records sound like on $80,000 turntables and $300,000 speakers.

  • Geoffrey that reminds me – a few years back my local high end stereo shop had a pair of one of the world’s most expensive speakers in for a limited time and offered a promotion where you could bring in an album and hear it on these speakers! I forgot the brand but they were gigantic and the price moreso. I chose to hear my mint copy of “phase III” by the Rendall/Carr quintet because it’s a lovely Lansdowne production IMO. A fun experience!

  • Mark, hearing a favorite record on a selection of high-end speakers to see which pair sound best to my ear is a wonderful experience, but the price tags are scary. I have done this once a year for the past three years and have felt intimidated each time. I think I have two LPs by Don Rendell boxed up in a storage unit. I remember enjoying his playing.

  • Geoffrey confirms, to what I referred to in previous comments, in the US turntables with the 16 rpm option were not common. So the project was dead born. In Europe, most common brands in the late fifties had the option (Thorens, Lenco, Dual, B & O), but no 16 rpm music records to be had.

  • Rudolf, this is why I thought the 16 2/3 lps were produced for the AM radio market as promotional items to help expose new customers to the Prestige catalog. My assumption(yeah, I know, never assume) was that at that time almost all the radio stations had turntables with the 16 2/3 to play all the spoken word content being produced at that time.

  • Woody, that is an interesting assumption: promoting regular sales through radio stations, using 16 rpm as a marketing tool.
    There is one thing which pleads against : on the sleeves there is some sort of a story, how the concept was elaborated with top engineer RvG to offer more music on one record for the record buying public. This pep talk was adressed directly to the end consumer. Anyway, we will never know and it is nice to keep on guessing.

  • I still have my record player from when I was young; plays 16, 33, 45, and 78. Just had it totally reconditioned. I own:
    Sidney Bechet ?– En 16 Tours; Label: Disques Vogue
    The Billy Taylor Trio ?– Let’s Get Away From It All; Label: Prestige 2
    Modern Jazz Quartet, Milt Jackson Quartet – Concorde; Label: Prestige 1

  • I picked up the Miles Davis 16rpm LP last year, it played just fine on my old Sanyo 4-speed turntable, I only played it once before putting it away, just to be able to watch a record spin at 16rpm and play music (I’d previously only used the 16rpm feature for transcribing solos), and for that matter, the greatest music in history. The great thing about these Prestige 16rpm issues is their alternate album art work not offered on the standard 33rpm copies for the same session (or sessions). The “Trombones by Three” art work is by none other than Andy Warhol.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *