Vinyl Spotlight: The Horace Silver Quintet, The Tokyo Blues (Blue Note 4110)

February 7, 2017 /
  • Original 1962 mono pressing
  • “NEW YORK USA” on both labels
  • Plastylite “P” etched and “VAN GELDER” stamped in dead wax
  • “43 West 61st St., New York 23” address on jacket without “Printed in U.S.A.”

Personnel:

  • Blue Mitchell, trumpet
  • Junior Cook, tenor saxophone
  • Horace Silver, piano
  • Gene Taylor, bass
  • John Harris, Jr., drums

Recorded July 13-14, 1962 at Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey
Originally released November 1962

This record is one of the finest examples of engineer Rudy Van Gelder’s original mono mastering work in my entire collection. Granted, I only own a handful of these, but I’ve had dozens more pass through my hands over the years and this is definitely one of the good ones. What makes it one of the best? Condition. Since so many original Blue Notes seem to have suffered groove damage at the hands of primitive playback equipment, I have found that the key ingredient in a stellar-sounding original is the extent to which past usage has left its mark on the record. Not only does this record look amazing 55 years after it would have been taken home from the store, the sound is still fresh and vivid — the way you might expect it to have sounded back in 1962.

It’s possible that bandleader Horace Silver’s choice of a Far Eastern theme influenced drummer John Harris Jr.’s choice of a more minimal, sparse style of playing throughout, which gives each instrument plenty of room to breathe and cut through. (Less percussive energy also provides less of a challenge when getting the music onto tape and into the grooves of the wax.) The standout moment here is Silver’s four-and-a-half-minute romp on the keys in “Sayonara Blues”, a solo with trance-like qualities reinforced by a two-chord, left-hand mantra.