Horace Silver Quintet – The Tokyo Blues

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  • You’ll find incredible Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides of this wonderful Blue Note stereo pressing
  • Spacious and three-dimensional, as well as relaxed and full-bodied – this pressing was a big step up over every other copy we played
  • 4 stars: “Silver’s Tokyo-influenced compositions fit right in with the subtle cross-cultural but very American hard bop he’d been doing all along… [his] compositions have a light, airy feel, with plenty of space, and no one used that space better at these sessions than Cook, whose tenor sax lines are simply wonderful, adding a sturdy, reliable brightness.”

If you know anything about Blue Note, you know that finding a copy that plays this quietly is rare. Add to that the excellent sound and music and you have yourself a real winner with this LP!

This vintage pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely 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 the band, 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 Tokyo Blues 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 studio space

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.

It Takes Work

The true sound of the master tape Rudy Van Gelder has engineered almost never ends up on the record. If it did we’d be out of business by now. You have to work to find the good RVG pressings. When you do find one, they can be as good as any jazz recording you have ever heard.

The mid-to-late ’60s and early ’70s were a good time for RVG. Freddie Hubbard’s Red Clay is from 1970, Grover Washington’s All the King’s Men from 1973, and both are amazing Demo Discs in their own right, one for quintet, one for large group. But only on the right pressings, another fact that seems to have eluded most jazz vinyl aficionados and at least as many audiophiles.

What We’re Listening For on The Tokyo Blues

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • Then: presence and immediacy. The musicians aren’t “back there” somewhere, lost in the mix. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt — Rudy Van Gelder in this case — would put them.
  • 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, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
  • Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also 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 instruments.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

The Players

  1. Horace Silver – piano
  2. Blue Mitchell – trumpet
  3. Junior Cook – tenor saxophone
  4. Gene Taylor – bass
  5. John Harris Jr. – drums

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Too Much Shake 
Sayonara Blues

Side Two

The Tokyo Blues 
Cherry Blossom 
Ah! So

AMG 4 Star Review

Following a series of concert dates in Tokyo late in 1961 with his quintet, Horace Silver returned to the U.S. with his head full of the Japanese melodies he had heard during his visit, and using those as a springboard, he wrote four new pieces, which he then recorded at sessions held on July 13 and 14, 1962, along with a version of Ronnell Bright’s little known ballad “Cherry Blossom.”

One would naturally assume the resulting LP would have a Japanese feel, but that really isn’t the case. Using Latin rhythms and the blues as a base, Silver’s Tokyo-influenced compositions fit right in with the subtle cross-cultural but very American hard bop he’d been doing all along. Using his usual quintet (Blue Mitchell on trumpet, Junior Cook on tenor sax, Gene Taylor on bass) with drummer Joe Harris (he is listed as John Harris, Jr. for this set) filling in for an ailing Roy Brooks), Silver’s compositions have a light, airy feel, with plenty of space, and no one used that space better at these sessions than Cook, whose tenor sax lines are simply wonderful, adding a sturdy, reliable brightness.

The centerpieces are the two straight blues, “Sayonara Blues” and “The Tokyo Blues,” both of which have a delightfully natural flow, and the building, patient take on Bright’s “Cherry Blossom,” which Silver takes pains to make sure sounds like a ballad and not a barely restrained minor-key romp. The bottom line is that The Tokyo Blues emerges as a fairly typical Silver set from the era and not as a grandiose fusion experiment welding hard bop to Japanese melodies. That might have been interesting, certainly, but Silver obviously assimilated things down to a deeper level before he wrote these pieces, and they feel like a natural extension of his work rather than an experimental detour.