Don't Play This With a Mono Cartridge! Or Maybe You Should?
You get this record, which was originally issued with different cover art as a Columbia "6-Eye" (CS 8079) back in 1958. Actually there were three groupings of musicians recorded on three different days in June of 1958, during a visit to America by the French jazz arranger Michel Legrand, then still in his twenties. Columbia had previously released a number of Legrand's albums, but those were more in the then popular "mood music" vein.
This album's energetic arrangements were written earlier that June after Legrand had been in America for about a month. Legrand's game plan was to write arrangements for the chosen instrumentalists, with the structures designed to showcase and highlight particular soloists: four for Miles ("Wild Man Blues," "The Jitterbug Waltz," "'Round Midnight" and "Django," while still leaving plenty of space for other greats to play in the big bands Legrand had created.
Two tunes spotlight Ben Webster and some were designed to highlight ensemble playing. All of the tunes are by now pop and/or jazz chestnuts if they weren't then (like "Stompin' At the Savoy"), but all of them swing like hell in arrangements that are spirited, youthfully audacious and exhibit a particularly French sense of tonal colors, helped on some tracks by the addition of harpist Betty Glamann. The take on John Lewis's familiar "Django," with Glamann introducing the "KOB" grouping of Miles, Coltrane, Evans and Chambers (Kenny Dennis was on drums) plus Phil Woods and others is just gorgeous! Though there's not a bad track on the album.
I don't know how this album was received then or how jazz connoisseurs consider it now. I've always loved it both for the Franco-American arrangements that provide unusual settings for familiar musicians and for the spacious, though sometimes cavernous sound.
Why no one stateside has thought to reissue this remains a mystery to me but Speakers Corner just did it, using the artwork and an "unusual" tape from Philips, which had obviously licensed the title for Europe.
Since the artwork and label don't mention "stereo" I at first assumed this was the mono edition and played the first track using the mono Miyajima Labs Focus cartridge currently under review and it sounded okay but something wasn't right, so I played it with a stereo cartridge and? And it sounded like "electronically reprocessed for stereo" and I'm sad to say that's what it is.
I hadn't played the original for a while but when I did, the spacious 30th Street Studio appeared in all of its enormous glory. Even if you flip the mono switch you're going to hear the effects of artificial echo or odd phasing that messes everything up.
Since the players are so noteworthy and the record is too, I felt it my obligation to alert you to this mess before you bought it. Find an original or don't bother.
This is one of the very rare screw ups by the folks at Speakers Corner and I really don't understand how this might have happened other than they called for the stereo tapes from UMG's Berliner vault and didn't know any better because at first it sounds like "stereo". It kind of fooled me for a few minutes, but surely if Willem Makkee looked at his oscilloscope he would have seen it if he didn't hear it.
A real shame. Can we please get the stereo tape reissue? BTW: if you didn't know better you'd think this sounds "pretty good" but it really doesn't.