Donald Byrd – The Cat Walk

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  • This pressing of Donald Byrd’s brilliant 1962 release boasts outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • Credit must go to Rudy Van Gelder once again for capturing the jazz energy of this superbly sympathetic ensemble
  • These sides are lively and fun, with the kind of sound RVG managed pretty consistently to get on tape
  • 4 stars: “Donald Byrd and baritone saxophonist Pepper Adams worked together on several recordings between 1958 and 1961, and The Cat Walk (released on LP in 1962) is among the best. Byrd’s playing throughout is typically sleek and lyrical, and Adams’ sturdy, husky baritone sound is the perfect counterbalance, making The Cat Walk an essential Byrd purchase.”

Covers for this album are hard to find in clean shape. Most of them will have at least some ringwear, seam wear and edge wear. Some will have cut corners. We guarantee that the cover we supply with this Hot Stamper is at least VG, and it will probably be VG+. If you are picky about your covers please let us know in advance so that we can be sure we have a nice enough cover for you.


This vintage Blue Note pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely even BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with this stellar quintet, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.

What the best sides of The Cat Walk have to offer is not hard to hear:

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1962
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional space of the studio

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

Copies with rich lower mids and nice extension up top did the best in our shootout, assuming they weren’t veiled or smeary of course. So many things can go wrong on a record! We know, we’ve heard them all.

Top end extension is critical to the sound of the best copies. Lots of old records (and new ones) have no real top end; consequently, the studio or stage will be missing much of its natural air and space, and instruments will lack their full complement of harmonic information.

Tube smear is common to most vintage pressings and this is no exception. The copies that tend to do the best in a shootout will have the least (or none), yet are full-bodied, tubey and rich.

Best Practices

If you have five or ten copies of a record and play them over and over against each other, the process itself teaches you what’s right and what’s wrong with the sound of the album. Once your ears are completely tuned to what the best pressings do well that the others do not do as well, using a few specific passages of music, it will quickly become obvious how well any given pressing reproduces those passages.

The process is simple enough. First, you go deep into the sound. There you find something special, something you can’t find on most copies. Now, with the hard-won knowledge of precisely what to listen for, you are perfectly positioned to critique any and all pressings that come your way.

What We’re Listening For on The Cat Walk

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks for the piano, horns and drums, not the smear and thickness common to most LPs.
  • Tight, note-like bass with clear fingering — which ties in with good transient information, as well as the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the players.
  • Then: presence and immediacy. The musicians aren’t “back there” somewhere, way behind the speakers. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt — Rudy Van Gelder in this case — would have put them.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

The Players

Donald Byrd – trumpet
Pepper Adams – baritone saxophone
Duke Pearson – piano
Laymon Jackson – bass
Philly Joe Jones – drums

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Say You’re Mine
Duke’s Mixture
Each Time I Think Of You

Side Two

The Cat Walk
Cute
Hello Bright Sunflower

AMG 4 Star Review

Trumpeter Donald Byrd and baritone saxophonist Pepper Adams worked together on several recordings between 1958 and 1961, and The Cat Walk (released on LP in 1962) is among the best.

A quintet setting, with pianist Duke Pearson (another longtime Byrd collaborator), bassist Laymon Jackson, and a lively Philly Joe Jones on drums joining the front line of Byrd and Adams, the sessions for The Cat Walk benefited from the writing and arrangement skills of Pearson, who contributes three compositions here, the impressive opener “Say You’re Mine,” “Duke’s Mixture,” and “Hello Bright Sunflower,” which borrows its melodic structure from the opening bars of “Lullaby of Broadway” and features Byrd using a muted trumpet.

Byrd contributed the title track, which attempts to capture the coiled, taut, but somehow still relaxed and assured gait of a tomcat, thanks in no small part to Jones’ inspired drumming which hits the mark with stops and turns and smooth run-outs that are indeed very feline in nature. Byrd’s playing throughout is typically sleek and lyrical, and Adams’ sturdy, husky baritone sound is the perfect counterbalance, making The Cat Walk an essential Byrd purchase.