Gil Evans's "Out of the Cool" Into the Crapper?

Last winter an old audio biz friend of mine visited bearing a gift: a new Italian 45rpm pressing of Gil Evans' dark, brooding and oh so slinky 1960 recording of Out of the Cool originally issued in 1961 by the then new Impulse! label created by producer Creed Taylor for parent company ABC-Paramount. The album was Impulse! A-4, the label's fourth release.

This reissue on the DOXY label puts the entire album on a single 45rpm record. Given that side one runs almost 21 minutes, I was surprised they squeezed it onto a single side. Sides two's approximately 16 minutes is slightly more manageable with "slightly" the operative word.

The original's inner gatefold features a black and white profile of Evans on the left side and annotation by Tom Stewart on the right, along with a layout of the instrumentation and who plays what. It even tells you what microphones were used for each instrument. "Minimally miked" this ain't but it results in timbral richness and transient clarity as well as a dramatic instrumental presence. While the layout arrays most of the instruments across a "U" shaped stage the final mix doesn't strictly follow the diagram.

With its orange and black spine, high gloss gatefold jackets and exclamation point logo, the label had a distinctive look. For this and many outings, Taylor went to recording great Rudy Van Gelder who created for the label a sonic presentation distinct from the famous cavernous, reverberant Blue Note sound, though by this time Van Gelder had moved from his Hackensack living room studio to a larger facility in Englewood Cliffs, NJ so the Blue Note Sound itself was somewhat different as well.

The album's opener, a fifteen minute G minor 7th/G major vamp called "La Nevada" is an improvised tune built upon a now familiar (to Evans and Miles Davis fans at least) theme and of course reminiscent of some of Kind of Blue as well as, of course, Evans' earlier collaborations with Miles. It opens with Evan's piano center stage, bathed in a reverberant field. A shaker enters on the right channel along with Elvin Jones's ride cymbal and snare. On the left channel Ray Crawford's hollow bodied electric guitar enters with a figure that will remind many of Bitches Brew, which wouldn't exist until the end of the decade. In fact, the whole record, including some of John Coles's trumpet part presages Bitches Brew, though Evans uses growling brass here, including tuba, bass trombone, and trombone and relies on his signature woodwind/brass interface to drive the tunes. Bitches Brew was far more a rhythmic and electric exercise.

I've been asked many times to produce a top 10 or top 100 LPs list and this record would be right near the top both because of how it has influenced jazz (and surely Henry Mancini I'd say) and because it's superbly produced, engineered and especially played. The improvised performances are astonishing every play and the sound is superbly transparent, vivid and dynamic, though the soundstage is unnaturally wide with most instruments hard left and right, but don't sweat the small stuff because Cinerama stereo isn't always bad and here it's more than fun.

Okay? I've got an original first pressing orange/black label, a second press black/red label that's pressed from the same master and I've got a 1997 Alto Analogue reissue (Alto Analogue was a German reissue label) mastered by Bernie Grundman from the original master tape. I've got the actual reissue and a test pressing dated June 17th 1997. More recently I received an Analogue Productions double 45rpm reissue too. So I've got plenty of Out of the Cools! Oh, and I have two original monos that are arguably more coherent because they don't unnaturally spread instruments hard "left/right" but believe me, the stereo is plenty good.

So my friend hands me the new 45 and onto the turntable it goes. At first I did not recognize the music as Out of the Cool. The piano was flat and hard. The shaker, so carefully layered back in space was coarsely presented right up front plastered to the right channel speaker. The slinky cymbal and snare, so subtly placed back in the mix was now in your face and sounding ridiculous. This just sucked. I stopped playback after about five minutes and expressed my opinion that this was bullshit!

Then I pulled out the pressings I have and let him hear why I thought that. "Sheepish" does not describe how he must have felt after we'd played the various versions, the best of which I felt was the 1997 Alto-Analogue, but that was partly due to the quality of the pressing compared to the two originals that were somewhat noisy and suffer from some distortion that I assume was part of the original mastering. That was a problem with some early Impulses and it explains why many Impulse! reissues beat the original (check out Analogue Productions' reissue of Ray Charles' Genius + Soul=Jazz for a good example). Needless to say he did not leave the two Goldnote supervised DOXY pressings.

So what do I read on line on a well-known American audio magazine's website? A laudatory review of this piece of sonic excrement! It gets 4 out of 5 stars for sound! The review claims the record was mastered from "original tapes". Well guess what? There IS NO ORIGINAL TAPE! It was incinerated in the spring 2008 Universal Studios fire along with thousands of other master tapes. Universal at first denied anything of importance was lost, but like this "original tape" reissue, that was bullshit! Enough bullshit!

Let me be clear about something. We can disagree about reissue quality. Some prefer originals, some prefer reissues, but well-produced reissues should at least sound similar to the original. That's the idea.

In this case the reissue sounds nothing at all like the original. So far apart that at first I wasn't sure it was the same recording. Yet the review compares it (more) favorably to the original and to a recent 45rpm double 180g reissue released by Analogue Productions from a second generation tape, which now is the best available source and to which this DOXY release surely did not have access. And even had the reissue producer access to a second generation tape stored at UMG's Hanover, Germany facility, what they did to that tape in their DMM mastering was nothing short of disgusting. But in my opinion the DOXY doesn't sound as if it was mastered from tape. I'd like to see photos of the mastering session if they exist.

And here's another odd thing: the DOXY label has been around for more than a few years (not to be confused with Sonny Rollins' label of the same name!) yet this review claims the Italian audio company Goldenote "has launched the DOXY record label dedicated to an ongoing reissue series." More bullshit!

But not as much B.S. as the review, which claims the original is "mighty good" (ya think?), the Analogue Productions version "airer and a bit warmer" (ya think?) and this DOXY DMM that shoves the 20 minute plus side one onto a single 45rpm side, as "very pure....with rich, lovely tone color...and excellent dynamic rendering." Utter bullshit. Nothing about the DOXY reissue is "rich". Tone color is not "lovely" whatever that means. And dynamics are as squashed as you might expect when you put 20 plus minutes of music at 45rpm onto a single side.

So here's what you need to know: first of all do not buy that DOXY disaster. I compared my two originals and the Alto-Analogue 1997 reissue with the double 45 from Analogue Productions and here's the straight poop: the Alto-Analogue (good luck finding one), mastered from the original tape by Bernie Grundman is, in my opinion, better than the original overall.

Spread across four 180g sides, mastered by Kevin Gray and pressed at RTI (before QRP was up and running), the Analogue Productions reissue offers greater dynamics than the Alto-Analogue but is softer and has less presence and natural transient bite than either the original or the Alto-Analogue—a consequence of the second generation source.

If you can find a clean, quiet original (not likely you'll find a quiet one, though you will occasionally find originals going for circa $35 on Ebay and expect either noise, and/or distortion), you might wish to take your chances on one, but unless you were to compare the Analogue Productions reissue to an original, you won't know what's been lost in the second generation tape and Kevin Gray's mastering is superb as usual and the glossy gatefold "tip on" jacket cover art is beautifully reproduced though the inside portrait of Gil is an awful "artists sketch" version of the original photo, which I guess wasn't available.

One way or another a copy of this masterpiece belongs in every good record collection (unless you don't like jazz) and given the reality of the day, fifty plus years after it was originally released and five years after the fire, the best available version is Analogue Productions'. If you buy the DOXY version, which costs about half of what the AP costs, you'll be getting way less than half of the music. (The sound rating is for the Analogue Productions reissue of course).

Music Direct Buy It Now

COMMENTS
planarhead's picture

Was the AP Impulse! Out of the Cool pressed at RTI? I do not have this one, but I have many others in the AP Impulse! titles and they are all pressed at Pallas.

Michael Fremer's picture

Based on the matrix codes I believe this one was pressed at RTI. I will confirm with Analogue Productions tomorrow but either pressing plant wins in my book.

planarhead's picture

Alright the reason I say the others were pressed at Pallas is they have the Pallas paper/poly inner sleeves (not pink ones) and Pallas vinyl has that sort of sharper edge on the outside. But these were all later on in the Impulse! reissues series I believe Gil Evans was one of the first if not the first title released.

Brian Hartsell's picture

The best recent version reissued of this record is the 33 1/3 LP done by Alto Records out of Germany say 12-15 years ago. It is quite good. Warmer with more dynamics than the original but with less air, older master tape? Either way this was done off the since departed analogue master tape. The Doxy is a complete ripoff and should not be bought period. My understanding is all of the AP 45 impulse reissues were pressed at the Pallas and not RTI.

 

Brian

vinyl listener's picture

It's high time folks were warned against these Poxy public domain vampires.

The only semi-decent release I've seen from these guys was a multi-LP album of Kurosawa soundtracks - material that I haven't seen on any other label.

Nice packaging.

Awful sound.

iyke's picture

I too have had a run in with Doxy. I made the mistake of buying Anatomy of A Murder Lp reissue from Doxy. It was utter crap. Sounded like somebody took my CD copy of that album and pasted it on on wax. If you are an audiophile stay away from any record with Doxy on the jacket. These guys wouldn't know a master tape if one hit them in the face, and even then they still wouldn't know what to do with it

Kevin Ray's picture

I didn't know about the Universal fire. Was a lot of Impulse stuff lost?

Michael Fremer's picture

Many masters were lost, but much was also saved, ironically because they were out being re-mastered, many for vinyl reissues. Analogue Productions announced the Impulse! series in 2009 by which time many of the tapes had already been pulled and were off the lot—at least that's what I have been told.

Also it's my understanding that a great deal of it had been moved but UMG is not forthcoming with what was lost and what was saved. 

It's also fairly common knowledge that many Impulse! masters 'went missing' years ago and much of what's been issued on CD is from copies of masters, some procured from the U.K. and other overseas sources.

At some point soon I will post pictures of the UMG Berliner facility's tape vaults that I took when I visited some years ago. How many years? I can't remember off the top of my brain....

 

 

Mr Olsen's picture

Sadly Doxy vinyl releases are all over the record stores here in Europe...

Martin's picture

Michael, 

Once again, a great review, you do a great job. Ignore anyone who doesn't like your humour. 

Firstly, the DOXY label is a disgrace. Mostly they do reissues in Europe of titles that have gone off copyright protection and have entered the public domain. To my knowledge they master exclusively from digital sources and don't seem to care what the source is. The few I have heard sound like a CD mastered to vinyl. 

Second, I think it is GREAT that you are talking about the 2008 Universal studios fire and all that was lost. People should know and be aware of the collossal screw-up and incompetence that allowed a huge amount of original master tapes and other original material to be destroyed. Not to mention gross negligence in not ensuring a supposedly secure facility had a functioning fire extinguisher system. That a large portion, if not most of the old Chess masters went up in smoke is not widely know. Nor that a huge amount of Decca classical master tapes also went.  I know you know a lot of it was backed up and sits in Germany. But it included material that was never backed up and is only available as 44.1/16 files, if at all. This event is also the only case of censorship I know of over at the Hoffman forum, where there is radio silence on this event and administrators have instructions to delete posts that mention it. 

Then there is the silence from UMG on what was lost. Do they not know? Was the material never catalogued? Do they even know what was lost? 

In my opinion, this event should be as widely publicized as possible including who was responsible to try to make as sure as possible that something like this never happens again. 

rosser's picture

I own both the AP 45 rpm version of Out of the Cool, as well as a Van Gelder stamped red/black label "original" in nice condition. I did not know that the AP used a copy of the master, though that explains the sound. When I heard it and compared it to my Van Gelder-mastered original, I thought the AP lacked detail and air, as you mentioned. That it was made with a copy explains the deficits. It's a tough call when I want to listen to this album: choose the original with more detail and impact but some noise and distortion, or the AP with quiet vinyl and the solidity of 45 rpm, but sounding exactly like a generation removed. I guess my quest for this album is not yet finished. 

Jody's picture

I don't have this particular record, but I do have other AP double 45's on Impulse, and they have both RTI and Pallas matrix codes in the runout area. I guess they were plated at RTI and pressed at pallas. Oliver Nelson's 'Blues & The Abstract Truth' is one example.

elliotdrum's picture

I purchased the original Out of the Cool when it came out in 1961. 

I wore it out playing it on a VM changer with nickels on the tonearn

not pennies.  It's been one of my desert island jazz recordings now

for about 50 years....FIFTY YEARS!!!!

I purchased the AP SACD a few years ago and It doesn't even come

close to the $11.99 MCA Impulse reissue that came out in 1996 which

sounds like they used the original master. I have been wanting to get 

the vinyl version but I have waited because the AP SACD didn't sound

like they used the original master for SACD -the sound is flat and lifeless

IMHO. 

I called Chad Kassem and he didn't sound like he really cared for my opinion.

Mike it's great that you do what you do because someone has got 

to keep people honest. It's just is not the same if the original master

is not used and not worth $30 for a cd. At least MoFi sells the non-

original master silver series for less money which is the fair thing to do.

And disclose what type of source was used-fair is fair for god's sake!

I will look for the Alto version, Thank you Mike!

AP should learn that from MoFi 

The original Impulse label first 4 titles from the first ad in Downbeat Magazine- 

                                          April 13, 1961

                                      The New Wave in Jazz  -

                                       Feel It On Impulse 

             The new force in jazz recording--Stereo $5.98 -Mono $4.98

1. Ray Charles: Genius + Soul=Jazz  -Impulse /A-2

2. J.J. Johnson & Kai Winding: The Great Kai & J.J.- Impulse /A-1

3. Gil Evans: Out Of The Cool -Impulse /A-4

4. Kai Winding: The Incredible Kai Winding Trombones -Impulse/A-3

Michael Fremer's picture

I agree with much of what you've written but go easy on AP! They used the best available source since the master no longer exists. In 1996 it did, so if that's what MCA used, chances are it could sound better but keep in mind that many great sounding LP first releases and reissues were produced from flat transfer master tape copies.

elliotdrum's picture

I wish I could go easy on a company that sells that particular SACD

knowing how poor it sounds. I owned 2 record stores in the past and

if a customer asked me how a certain recording sounded I was honest

even though that could cost me a sale. I asked if I could exchange it

and they refused. What I used to call a homerun in my store was a 

recording that had great music and sound, when you got that then 

you know that......... life is good!!!

Thank you for the work you do.

Preston's picture

I just received, last night. a Doxy re-issue of a Django Reinhardt LP.  I did some research last year and someone, somewhere said that this was from the analog master tapes. Now I don't even want to listen.  Oh, well: perhaps I will be pleasantly surprised ... hope springs eternal!

randolph32's picture

I've seen Doxy here in the States, especially Half Priced Books stores.  The few I've bought sound very good (but I certainly will listen with a more critical ear the next time I spin them), haven't tried a 45rpm lp. The nice thing about these stores is you can return the lp's if you don't like them, even used LP's.  The European CD's they sell are dreck, bought one and took it back the next day, absolutely dreadful sonics.

Smafdy Assmilk's picture

Be careful when you're accusing a company who claims to use 'original master tapes' of not using the original master tapes. Lawsuits happen that way.

Michael Fremer's picture

In this case I am fully confident they didn't use the master tape since it no longer exists.

BOBo's picture

 Mikey, thanks for setting the "Record" straight. Few in this industry have the fortitude to speak the truth. Keep Up Your Great Work. 

markp's picture

I may have owned the Alto Out of Cool years ago, then later switched to an Impulse 4 logo mono, then switched to the Analogue Productions 45 RPM. Ever since reading this review, I've been on the lookout for another copy of the Alto version, and found one on eBay, along with an original 4 logo stereo Impulse copy. Everything in the review was right on, and I think all three versions are a good with their own merits, with the Alto being the most pleasing to me.

X