Blue Note "Tone Poet" Series Launches With Wayne Shorter's "Etcetera"

Blue Note's new "Tone Poet Audiophile Vinyl Reissue Series" is part of the company's 80th anniversary celebration. Wayne Shorter's Etcetera is the first release in the series. Joe Harley, well known among audiophiles for his work with AudioQuest both as a press liaison (among other tasks) and especially for the series of all-analog AudioQuest LPs he produced back when vinyl was "dead", "hand picked" these "Tone Poet" titles and oversaw their production.

Harley is also half of the Music Matters team that has produced a rich catalog of Blue Note reissues and he's been closely associated with Charles Lloyd, who some years ago anointed him the "Tone Poet". Blue Note President Don Was was so impressed with the Music Matters reissues he invited the "Tone Poet" to oversee a deluxe Blue Note reissue series named for him. Quite an honor! Every record in the series will be cut, like this one, using the original analog master tape (other than in the few cases where the original recording was not analog).

Perhaps we will never know why this 1965 Rudy Van Gelder recording was not released until 1980. (as Blue Note LT 1056) It's certainly not because of the group featuring Herbie Hancock, Cecil McBee and Joe Chambers, nor, despite the somewhat dismissive album title, because the music sounds "tossed off" as in "etcetera". Perhaps it was shelved because it's not a funky "toe-tapping" session? It is a showcase for Shorter's compositional talents, including the gorgeous ballad "Penelope" and for this listener, the way drummer Chambers locks in with Hancock throughout, but particularly on "Toy Tune", side one's closer, where RVG's recording captures well the dynamics of his insistent accents. If you've been steeped in Shorter's epic Emanon , the title tune's opening saxophone pronouncement will sound somewhat familiar before the group launches.

Side two opens with Gil Evans' "Barracudas (General Assembly)" the unreleased history of which makes for quite a story that won't be told here, and closes with Shorter's serpentine "Indian Song", in which all four insistently and pleasingly "uncoil". I could swear I hear references to The Markett's "Out of Limits" and the "Mission Impossible" theme, but that's probably just my imagination (running away with me).

This is an interesting RVG Blue Note recording in that it's relatively dry compared to most and more importantly the piano is remarkably well-recorded compared to some of RVG's "swampier" sounding keyboards. Also Joe Chambers' drum kit seems more closely miked than usual and because of the dryness has an appealingly direct and dynamic quality.

Per Don Was's direction, everything about this reissue series closely mirrors the Music Matters releases that so impressed Was (gatefold laminated "Tip On" jacket, black and white Francis Wolff session photographs, Kevin Gray mastering from original tapes and RTI 180g pressing) except for the $35.00 price, which is is $15.00 less than what Music Matters charges, but then Was gets an "insider's" licensing discount!

An auspicious start for what is sure to be a vital "must have" series. Actually I know for a fact it is a "must have" series: the first run quickly sold out, which was beyond the label's expectations for such a costly package. Not surprising to "us" because we know that quality sells. The Tone Poet series will include 18 titles released this year taken from the Blue Note and Blue Note associated labels like Solid State. A review coming soon of the second "Tone Poet" release, Chick Corea's Now He Sings, Now He Sobs.

Music Direct Buy It Now

AnalogJ's picture

Yup. A slightly different final balance than many other RVG Blue Notes.

Michael, you mention $50 for an MM album when comparing to the Tone Poet series ($35 each).

The statement regarding the former is not really accurate. (Let's all say it together - "Fake news!).

Originally, the MM 45s came out at $50. Some still are, though most are now higher. And a couple have fallen. Elvin Jone's Genesis can be had right now for $35!

On the other hand, the titles which came out at 33 originally sold originally for $35. Then MM raised the price to $40, then $43. After that, it was whatever the market will bear. You want Wayne Shorter's Speak No Evil 33? That'll cost you $75.

And then there are the new 33 MM reissues pressed on a new formulation they call SRX. Very expensive, very quiet surfaces, blacker background. These will set you back $60 each.

The Tone Poet series is being pressed at RTI on standard vinyl. So not exactly apples to apples.

Michael Fremer's picture
I haven't shopped the MM site in a while....
daveming3's picture

not sure what you mean by "standard" vinyl. According to both MM and BN sites, both series are --

"mastered-from-the-original-master-tape 180g audiophile vinyl reissues in deluxe gatefold packaging. Mastering is by Kevin Gray (Cohearent Audio) and vinyl is being manufactured at Record Technology Incorporated (RTI)."

AnalogJ's picture

MM is now issuing their albums using a new, expensive vinyl formulation, reportedly resulting in quieter surfaces and blacker background.

The cost of the vinyl has meant a retail of $60 per single disc album. Compare that to the Tone Poet series costing $35 per single disc, but using a standard vinyl formulation.

daveming3's picture

Unless you're comparing the Tone Poet series with MM's new vinyl formation, in which case they are different. But The BB Tone Poets reissues are exactly like MM's original reissues on the old formulation.

DFacobbre's picture

Rather than buy all 18 I decided to be selective about it. I didn't like the Joe Henderson release, nothing wrong with the sound, more of a 9 than a 10, but the music didn't impress me. Conversely, the Gil Evans release is fun, and closer to a 10; and mine doesn't have the pressing errors others have complained of. I passed on Sam Rivers too, it being an acquired taste I haven't acquired. I can't agree with all the picks, and I'd chuck the ones I have for a Sam Records pressing any day, but so far, selectively speaking, and for the price (even cheaper on preorder) I've been selectively impressed.