Unbiased reviews of new vinyl releases, audiophile reissues, and more

Friday, May 22, 2009

Short Spin: Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers -- Moanin' 200 gram mono vinyl

Today brings a new feature to My Vinyl Review: The Short Spin. In this feature, I'll periodically cover a record I currently have in my regular rotation, and I'll review it without extensive comparisons to other vinyl or cd versions.

With the recent rush of 45 RPM jazz releases, I've spent a good deal of time with them: listening, reviewing, and flipping. And as sonically rewarding as they are, sometimes you want to get the experience of full album sides rather than getting up every five or ten minutes to flip the record. Furthemore, you don't necessarily want to spend $50 or $60 for every title. With these things in mind, I pulled out a classic Blue Note mono title released by Classic Records.

In 1958, Blue Note released Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers' Moanin' as Blue Note 4003. In addition to Blakey on drums, the session featured a blistering Lee Morgan on trumpet, Benny Golson on tenor sax, Bobby Timmons on piano, and Jymie Merritt on bass. The record starts out with the title cut, written by Timmons, which will get your toes tapping and fingers snapping, and is undoubtedly one of the all-time classic hard bop tunes. It swings from start to finish, and features superb performances from all of the players, most of all Morgan and Golson. The rest of the album features a mix of originals and covers, and while none are as iconic as Moanin', there are plenty of noteworthy performances and no filler to be found.

This pressing is part of the excellent Blue Note Mono series from Classic Records. Like the rest of the series, this release was mastered by Bernie Grundman from the original master tapes, pressed onto high quality 200 gram vinyl, and housed in a premium glossy cover made of extra-heavy card stock.

The sonics on this record are excellent, imparting a wide dynamic range. The soundstage of this mono pressing reaches well behind the speakers, and despite being mono, one still has a very nice sense of the players at the date.

Tonality is what one would expect from Bernie Grundman, and all but those who are ultra-senstive to high frequencies should appreciate his approach of smoothing things out only so much, without significantly altering the original recording style of Rudy Van Gelder.

Low level detail is very good--there is a very different tone imparted to Morgan's, at times shrieking trumpet, than to Golson's rich, reedy sax. And Blakey's drums and cymbals have a realism that propel the tunes forward. Only the piano, at times can sound boxy, which I attribute more to the original recording than any mastering issue.

I have been very pleased with the Blue Note reissues from Classic Records, and this title is no exception. While it doesn't have the last degree of detail or dynamics of its 45 RPM counterpart, this mono pressing represents an excellent value with excellent sound, all-analog mastering, and very nice packaging.

Highly Recommended


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