Thelonious Monk With John Coltrane Complete 1957 Riverside Recordings (Mastering Info Update)

In his annotation for Riverside’s 1966 reissue of the 1961 Jazzland original single LP release Monk & Coltrane (RS 390) critic Ira Gitler (who is credited for inventing the expression “sheets of sound” to describe the note cluster technique Coltrane devised during his short time playing with Monk) writes “Coltrane’s talent, set in such a fertile environment, bloomed like a hibiscus.”

Coltrane acknowledged Monk’s strong influence on him in a 1960 Downbeat interview quoted in those original liner notes. So while this deluxe, imaginatively packaged 3 LP set, the first from Craft Recordings—a new label from Concord Bicycle Music—does “stretch” to fill three records with a false start of “Monk’s Mood”, multiple takes of “Crepuscule with Nellie” (five in all) and even one track on which Monk famously doesn’t play, these are the only studio recordings Monk made with Coltrane during the period where Coltrane “bloomed”.

That one Monk-less track, “Blues For Tomorrow", featuring Coleman Hawkins, John Coltrane and Gig Gryce with Art Blakey on drums, Wilbur Ware on bass and Ray Copeland on trumpet was recorded June 25th, 1957 after a frustrated Monk walked out of the studio. Producer Orrin Keepnews, eager to get something useable from the session had Gryce organize the blues number, presented here in stereo for the first time.

Of course Monk and Coltrane performed live nightly at the Five Spot Café in New York between April and July of 1957, so it’s not as if these are exploratory “get acquainted” sessions—far from it. Though the core of the set are the quartet tracks “Ruby My Dear”,“Trinkle, Tinkle”and “Nutty” (Coltrane, Monk, Ware and “Shadow” Wilson on drums), all of this material will be of interest to Monk and Coltrane fans.

While a CD version of this was released in 2006, this edition is newly re-mastered “from the original analog sources” by veteran cutting engineer George Horn and Anne-Marie Suenram and plated and pressed at RTI.

Realistically, a compilation like this was probably transferred track by track to high resolution digital (it will also be released as high rez files) because between splicing together the tracks and having the azimuth shift on each, and duping each track to assemble running masters, presents two less than ideal options.

What matters is the final sound, and in a word it’s “spectacular”: spacious, three-dimensional and especially transparent. These are early, mostly stereo recordings and like most such recordings have their sonic pluses and minuses, but here they are mostly in the plus column. If in fact the set was cut from tape, this review will be amended. Here's the amendment: Joe Tarantino mastered the tracks to 192/24 bit files, which were used to cut lacquers by George Horn. That's why it sounds so great.

Add Keepnews’ original eyewitness notes from the 2006 set, new artwork and great photos in a full sized booklet plus unique “file folder” presentation, this is a set fans of these two greats will want to own and enjoy.

rip38-65's picture

HDtracks sells this album as high rez files and notes that they are "48 kHz mastered to 192 kHz". I wonder if the vinyl was cut from 48 kHz or upsampled 192 kHz masters.

Jim Austin's picture

Perhaps beyond the scope of an analogue site, but this is actually quite interesting. HD Tracks is selling 192kHz files, as you say, but says it was recorded at 48kHz. Meanwhile, ProStudioMasters, which makes a point of providing the best available technical info (though much of the time it's not great), is selling 96kHz files and says it was recorded at 44.1/24. So either someone's wrong or there's more than one digital transfer.

PAR's picture

Whatever way I look at this, one is buying an album where the data has been upsampled, presumably to play some sort of numbers game. Worse , the upsampling is possibly asynchronous i.e. from 44.1 to 96 or 192KS/s.

In order to persuade me further not to buy this album in digital form the running order is such that all of the alternative takes are placed consecutively so that all of the five versions of Crepuscule with Nellie play one after another ( OK the non-Monk blues track interrupts but you still get three of them after each other, a break for the blues track, then another two). I haven't come across this sort of practice since the early days of CD. Usually these days alternative versions are placed at the end of the running order of the original release. I guess that I am like most people and these alternatives tend to be a listen once and never again option. The original producer was usually savvy enough to make the right choice for release.

Does the LP have the same running order?

Michael Fremer's picture
From the label: "Per our conversation the other day, I checked in with the engineer who mastered the set, Joe Tarantino. He supplied high res transfers to George Horn to cut from. 192/24, transferred/assembled from original ¼” analog."
PAR's picture

Thanks for your comment and clarification. However I did not make a mistake. It seems that HDtracks did. The thread begins with a quotation " HDtracks sells this album as high rez files and notes that they are "48 kHz mastered to 192 kHz" posted by rip38-65 and expanded upon by your Stereophile colleague Jim Austin who introduces the factoid that it was recorded at 24/44.1*. The quotation from HD Tracks is/was correct as I checked HDtracks' website before posting. My remarks were based upon this information.

So I would humbly suggest that your correction should be aimed at the Bros. Chesky and/or Mr. Austin.

NB: whatever, I still hate the idea of consecutive tracks within the main running order that are different takes of the same number.

* A common delivery, if not recording, format prior to current AES recommendation that the minimum delivery format from studio to client should be 24/96.

Michael Fremer's picture
"Per our conversation the other day, I checked in with the engineer who mastered the set, Joe Tarantino. He supplied high res transfers to George Horn to cut from. 192/24, transferred/assembled from original ¼” analog."
volvic's picture

Can't wait to get it. Thanks for sharing and constantly posting such great recommendations.

J. Carter's picture

I was fortunate enough to find my local store (Newbury Comics) having a 25% off vinyl sale this weekend so I picked this up. My vinyl was nice and quiet and it sounds terrific like Michael mentioned.