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Record Store Day 2024 First Impression Preview Roundup:  Fine Jazz 2LP Sets From Mal Waldron & Steve Lacy, Shelly Manne and Cannonball Adderley

Mark Smotroff gets a sneak peek spin of some jazz gems coming out on Record Store Day, April 20, 2024


By Mark Smotroff

Following are “first look, first listen” impressions of some upcoming Record Store Day releases we’ve been honored to preview here at Audiophile Review. All of these are nice looking, deluxe gatefold edition, 2LP packages with bonus booklets, informative liner notes, archival photos, etc. They are pressed on 180-gram vinyl that is generally quiet (caveats noted below) and well centered. But at the end of the day it is comes down to the music. I’ve been enjoying these so perhaps you might want to consider adding them to your Record Store Day shopping list.

Mal Waldron and Steve Lacy, The Mighty Warrior: Live In Antwerp 1995 (Elemental Records)

This fine sounding set captures legendary jazz pianist Mal Waldron and soprano sax icon Steve Lacy in top form in the mid 1990s, backed by no less than Reggie Workman on bass and Andrew Cyrille on drums. Probably captured as a digital recording given the time period, it is a wonderful performance taped on Waldron’s 70th birthday.  The band feels engaged and exploratory.  I especially like how they tackle the Thelonious Monk tunes (“Epistrophy” and “Monk’s Dream”) as well as a few  of Waldron originals (“What It is,” “Snake Out” and “Variations On A Theme By Cecil Taylor”). One side is dedicated to a Workman original (“Variation of III”). Honestly, I’ve yet to find a bad Mal Waldron recording so far in my exploration of his not-always-easy-to-find back catalog, so I’m not surprised ultimately that this concert is so good. This is one of my RSD favorites so far despite some surface noise at the end of one side… Now I need to track down some of the other recordings Waldron and Lacy made, which I’ve read about online.

Shelly Manne & His Men: Jazz From The Pacific Northwest (Reel To Real Records)

Featuring solid performances by this West Coast jazz icon, the recordings from October 4, 1958 are particularly significant given that it was taped at the very first Monterey Jazz Festival!  These recordings are not perfect but do sound very “live,” capturing the feel of the out-of-doors bandstand venue. The drums feel a little hot in this mix but that could be intentional given that the band leader is in fact also the drummer. Unfortunately Monty Budwig’s bass is not super apparent. The 1966 recordings from Seattle’s The Penthouse not surprisingly sound a little less open given they were made in a club vs. out-of-doors. Curiously, Monty’s bass is again lower in the mix than I’d like but at least you can hear what he’s playing this time. I have to note that the vinyl sounds very clean and quiet. However, my review copies arrived opened and if they weren’t played before, looked to be a bit on the dirty side. They played quietly though so it wasn’t a big issue. Hopefully mine were just a one off anomaly. 

Cannonball Adderley: Poppin’ In Paris, Live At Olympia Paris 1972 (Elemental Records)

This strong live set captures the brothers Adderley still a-swingin’ and a-growin’ after all those years during the 1972 Paris Jazz Festival. An interesting blend of older classics and newer more progressive spiritual jazz oriented explorations, especially taking advantage of bassist Walter Booker who bows his gorgeous solo on “Soli Tomba.”  For me this concert is fascinating as it captures keyboard wizard George Duke between his gigs with Frank Zappa (of whom, many of you probably know, I am a big fan). I’ve long read about this period in Duke’s career when he had to leave the Zappa-verse to honor his commitments with Adderley, it is great to hear some recordings from that tour.  Beyond this being a solid performance, it also helps fill important gaps for Duke fans, especially as the album opens with one of his tunes, a 20 minute opus called “Black Messiah” (which is the title track of Adderley’s 1971 live album from The Troubadour in Hollywood). Generally the pressing here is solid though I heard a wee bit of noise at a couple of points (a brief non – fill type moment) but nothing I would consider a deal breaker.  This is a useful release as those albums Duke recorded with Adderley are limited and don’t show up a lot out in the wilds of collecting (I’m still looking for them!).  

Cannonball Adderley: Burnin’ In Bordeaux, Live In France 1969 (Elemental Records)

Your level of interest in this collection will depend, I suspect, upon your level of interest in the band supporting Adderley which includes his brother Nat on trumpet and a pre-Weather Report Joe Zawinal on piano. The concert sounds good and the performances fine, but for me personally it was musically a bit less interesting than the later show with George Duke. But if you are an Adderley completist you’ll probably want to grab this one too on Record Store Day.

More RSD previews to come soon.  Stay tuned…

[Mark Smotroff has been reviewing music at AudiophileReview for many years but can also be found at AnalogPlanet.com. In the past he has written for Sound & Vision, DISCoveries, EQ, Mix and many more.  An avid vinyl collector and music enthusiast who has also worked in marketing communications for decades you can learn  more about his background at LinkedIn.]

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