Vinyl Spotlight: The Cats (New Jazz 8217) [Second “Blue Label” Pressing]

  • Second (Prestige) pressing with blue labels circa 1964
  • “RVG” stamped in dead wax

Personnel:

  • Idrees Sulieman, trumpet
  • John Coltrane, tenor saxophone
  • Tommy Flanagan, piano
  • Doug Watkins, bass
  • Louis Hayes, drums

Recorded April 18, 1957 at Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, New Jersey
Originally released in 1959

When I lived in Albany, New York, the East Greenbush library had a killer selection of classic jazz CDs, and the 1989 Original Jazz Classics reissue of this album was one of them. Flipping through the racks, this album piqued my interest because of its super-hip cover and the name “John Coltrane”. I became more familiar with this album over the years and acquired the Original Jazz Classics LP a few years ago through Discogs.

Then recently on one of my periodic trips to New York’s East Village record shops, I was doing my flip-through-the-jazz-bins routine, panning for gold and expecting to turn up nothing but the usual rocks. But then in the Kenny Burrell section, the deep purple of this cover peeked out from the tightly-packed row. I assumed this was another OJC reissue, but when I slid the record out of the jacket I was surprised to see the early ’60s blue Prestige label. Things were starting to heat up. The next crucial step was examining the dead wax. With any luck I’d find the initials of Mr. Rudolph Van Gelder stamped there, and sure enough, I did.

I then examined the vinyl, which looked solid VG+. The price tag made it seem like this one slipped by whatever staff member priced it, and strangely, the numbers on the sticker indicated that it had been priced for sale three months prior. I had to believe that it sat behind the counter for months before it made its way to the racks because this record at this price would never last in a store for more than a week. Finally, I brought it over to the listening station for the final leg of my inspection routine and was humbly blown away by how quiet and clean it sounded. So I didn’t hesitate to bring it to the front and I slammed my cash down on the counter: “It’s a deal.”

In the past I’ve expressed disbelief in the commonly uttered collector sentiment that “vintage jazz records sound better than they look”. But this record wasn’t just providing evidence to the contrary, it was proving me dead wrong. I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a record that looked more marked up and sounded so quiet. In fact, this record sounds cleaner than a lot of records I own that are visually EX.

Recorded in the spring of 1957, we hear John Coltrane in a less adventurous but more accessible mood characteristic of the saxophonist before he began his ferocious onslaught of scales later that year with the release of Blue Train (Blue Note 1577). “Minor Mishap” and “Eclypso” are two favorites, but the ultimate mood-setter is “Solacium”, a somber, quiet tune that will perfectly complement a rainy afternoon spent indoors. Available in bold, straight-down-the-middle Hackensack mono only — no stereo option here.