Vinyl Spotlight: Finger Poppin’ with the Horace Silver Quintet (Blue Note 4008)

April 11, 2017 /
  • Original 1959 mono pressing
  • West 63rd address on both labels without registered trademark “R”
  • Deep groove on both sides
  • Plastylite “P” etched and “RVG” stamped in dead wax
  • “47 West 63st St., New York 23” address on jacket

Personnel:

  • Blue Mitchell, trumpet
  • Junior Cook, tenor saxophone
  • Horace Silver, piano
  • Eugene Taylor, bass
  • Louis Hayes, drums

Recorded January 31, 1959 at Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, New Jersey
Originally released February 1959

For those of you who have read my first essay on this site about how I got into vintage jazz record collecting, you may recall that the first Blue Note original I ever owned was a copy of this album. That copy was not in great shape and has since been replaced with the copy being presented here (the first copy I found has sentimental value and I’ve decided to hang on to it regardless). So the story goes, I was in a dusty, creaky New Orleans records store when I found a vintage copy of this album in a horizontally-stacked pile of random LPs. I had no idea what I was doing at that time and accordingly overpaid for it but I was really excited about what I had found. It was pretty beat up though; upon listening, the record got so bad in one spot that it would skip depending on what mood it was in.

After doing a little research, a controversial Music Matters online article led me to the incorrect conclusion that Blue Note albums recorded after Halloween 1958 were intended for stereo release despite their mono counterparts being more valuable. So I found an original stereo copy via eBay Buy It Now (this was one of the earliest Blue Note stereo albums with the rectangular gold “STEREO” sticker). This copy was overpriced, over-graded, and didn’t sound much better than my mono copy.

A couple years went by without my giving much thought to vintage jazz records when I decided to give the hobby another go. Around this time I got lucky winning an auction that ended on a weekday morning for a very fair price, and that record is being presented here. It has its fair share of pops and ticks but it’s managed to remain in my collection because it’s wear-free, it’s a first pressing, and the cover and labels are both in great shape.

Shortly after acquiring this copy through the mail, I debated on whether I preferred the stereo or mono version of this album. I remember liking how I could hear all of the nuances of Louis Hayes’ drum kit on the stereo copy, but I also didn’t like the way Horace Silver was crammed in the left-hand corner of the mix along with the trumpet. Both mixes had their pluses and minuses, but after doing a lot of research I came to the conclusion that this album was meant to be heard in mono so I sold my stereo copy largely on principle. (Someday I might buy another original stereo copy, though. The spread was super-wide and it was a real treat to hear Louis Hayes’ drumming in such isolation.)

It’s fun to reminisce about the early days of my collecting, back when it was all so new and fresh to me, back when I had as much first-hand experience with mono Blue Note originals as I had with unicorns, back when I would marvel at the value of mono Blue Note originals in the Goldmine price guide. It’s crazy to think about how far removed I am from that place today both in terms of knowledge and experience. I’m a wiser collector with the collection to prove it but I do miss that sense of wonder.

This isn’t one of my favorite Horace Silver albums but it does include some of my favorite songs. I played the title track over and over again when I was auditioning my various copies of this album and it stuck with me. To this day, the opener’s frantic bebop is an exhilarating listen and has ultimately served as my introduction to the legendary, bold mono sound of original Blue Note pressings. “Sweet Stuff” is in the Silver tradition of syrupy ballads like “Shirl” and “Lonely Woman”, though that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable of a listen. And despite it not standing out initially, “You Happened My Way” is a beautiful melancholy number that has since become a favorite Silver composition.

Someday I’d love to own a clean first pressing of this album, which in all likelihood wouldn’t cost me an arm and a leg. Luckily, Silver was a very popular artist in his day so I reckon that the chances of this happening are pretty good.