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Joe Harley

Joe Harley

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BLUE NOTE, TONE POETRY AND AUDIOPHILIA

January 23 2019

I’ve been obsessed with jazz and sound for as long as I can remember. One of the first jazz records I owned was Sonny Clark’s classic Cool Struttin’ on Blue Note. I used to move the little speakers on my portable record player so that I could hear more of what Paul Chambers was playing! Blue Note quickly became the jazz label that I was most fascinated with.

Ron Rambach and I were more than excited when we began the Music Matters series of Blue Note LP reissues in 2007. We both have HUGE respect for the label, and it was like being given the keys to the dead sea scrolls of jazz!

Ron and I wanted to present the most elegant available editions of the Blue Note titles that we licensed. We wanted these to be definitive in every way, from the mastering to the pressings, packaging, and authenticity of the artwork, including the actual labels.

We started on a quest to capture the sound of those master tapes on vinyl and to allow listeners to know what it would sound like to actually be in Rudy’s living room in Hackensack or later in Rudy’s studio in Englewood Cliffs, NJ.

The work of mastering engineer Kevin Gray had continually impressed me over the years. His system was exceptionally clean and honest and I knew from experience that Kevin’s audio chain would tell us the truth about what was on those Blue Note masters. I will never forget the first time we heard a real Rudy Van Gelder Blue Note master tape on Kevin’s system. Let me tell you, those master tapes sound big, dynamic and real, as if the players are right in front of you! Ron and I were shocked at how great the master tapes sounded compared to the countless original pressing LP’s we had heard over the years, mostly from our own complete collections.

Our sonic goal became clear. We started on a quest to capture the sound of those master tapes on vinyl and to allow listeners to know what it would sound like to actually be in Rudy’s living room in Hackensack or later in Rudy’s studio in Englewood Cliffs, NJ. To this day, many say that the Music Matters Blue Note reissues are the finest way to experience what the music sounded like the day it was recorded.

A few years ago I began to hear that Don Was, President of Blue Note Records, was a huge fan of our reissue series. Not only that, but Don was starting to publicly say in interviews that we at Music Matters had “cracked the Blue Note code.” While working with Charles Lloyd on his most recent album for Blue Note Vanished Gardens, Don pulled me aside. He asked about every aspect of production, from the mastering, to the plating, pressing and jackets. He literally said, “however you do it for Music Matters, that’s how we want to do it here. And I want you to help us achieve that.” How could I say no???

And so that’s what we have here with the Tone Poet Series. (“Tone Poet’ is a nickname that Charles Lloyd gave me many years ago.) The LPs are mastered directly from the original analog master tapes by Kevin at his incredible facility called Cohearent Mastering. We go about it in the exact same way that we did for so many years for the Music Matters Blue Note reissues. We do not roll off the low end, boost the top or do any limiting of any kind. We allow the full glory of the original Blue Note masters to come though unimpeded! Short of having an actual time machine, this is as close as you can get to going back and being a fly on the wall for an original Blue Note recording session.

Moving on to LP pressing quality, after having many years of experience working with plating and pressing facilities throughout the world, Ron and I chose Record Technology, Inc. in Camarillo, CA for the Music Matters’ Blue Note series. Are they the cheapest? No …. far from it! But Don was unequivocal ….. “however you guys do this, that is what we’re going to do for the Tone Poet series!” Again, how could I say no??

When it comes to Blue Note LP packaging, extreme attention to detail has been paid to getting these right in every conceivable way, from the jacket cover graphics to the printing quality. Every aspect of these Blue Note releases is done to the highest possible standard. It means that you will never find a superior version. This is IT.

-Joe Harley