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Positive Feedback ISSUE 1
june/july 2002


Miles Davis, Young Man With a Horn
Classic Records/Blue Note LP 5013
by Dave Glackin

Mike Hobson of Classic Records made the crowd of veteran audio scribes gasp when he announced Classic’s "Back to Mono" campaign at the 2002 CES in Las Vegas. I know because I was in the front of the crowd, scribbling madly. Classic Records has chosen to reissue the highly revered series of Blue Note mono jazz 10-inch LPs from the 50s. These are essentially unobtainable in mint condition, and good copies go for a fortune. (If you want to see where the really big bucks are paid for records, go hang around with the more rabid jazz collectors.) Classic has made a savvy move by choosing to reissue this particular series. Their audience is built in.

Commendably, Classic has gone to great lengths to do this right. They listened to test pressings from both stereo and mono cutting systems. According to Hobson, the results from the mono system were "spot on." They restored an original Westrex mono cutter system with a 2A cutting head, as well as a mono Ampex 300 tape deck, and both are now in residence at Bernie Grundman’s mastering facilities. They are reproducing the original "deep grooves." They also chose to mimic the original paste-up construction techniques in creating the record jackets, and the labels are gorgeous. Everything appears authentic, right down to the listing of "Personnels" on the back of the jacket.

If you only listen to stereo recordings, you don’t know what you’re missing. Don’t be scared by mono. My favorite jazz record is mono. Many recordings sound better in mono. And many sound like "fat mono," with the players filling a discernible chunk of space between your speakers, sounding very real within that space. With a good mono recording of good music, you will soon forget about the mono and concentrate on the music. And with a great mono recording of great music, such as this, you won’t care about the mono from the very first note.

Miles Davis’ Young Man With a Horn was his first recording for Blue Note. And from the very first bar, this is unmistakably Miles. Now this is classic jazz. This portrait of a "young man" is illuminating, in that it points the directions to Miles’ future quite clearly. And the other musicians, on trombone, alto sax, piano, acoustic bass, and drums, are no slouches either. The interplay between the musicians and the level of musicianship is astounding. This record is more evocative of the mood of that era than anything I have heard for a long time. Talk about being whisked back in time. The effect is mesmerizing.

This is one outstanding LP. My only beef is that there are only six cuts. If you have the slightest interest in jazz, run out and buy this recording. It may spark a much more serious interest in jazz. If you have a rabid interest in jazz, you’ll want this ASAP. It may spark a desire to have the rest of the Classic Blue Note Mono series. I know it’s done that to me.

Enjoyment 10 Sound Quality 10