Acoustic Sounds

Sonny Clark Trio

Sonny Clark



Label: Blue Note "Tone Poet"

Produced By: Alfred Lion

Engineered By: Rudy Van Gelder

Mastered By: Kevin Gray and Joe Harley

Lacquers Cut By: Kevin Gray

By: Michael Fremer

August 4th, 2023





Sonny Clark Shines in Trio Setting

"Cool Struttin'" may be the Blue Note ne plus ultra album but...

Sonny Clark's 1958 Blue Note release "Cool Struttin'" (BLP-1588) is rightly a Blue Note classic that epitomizes the label's musical heritage and ethos. The mono original is among the most sought after, collectible and costly original Blue Notes—an original went for almost $4500 on Discogs— (but I think the sonic signature forced upon it—dynamic compression and low bass attenuation with mid-bass boost —so it would track the inexpensive turntables of the day [something RVG detested] can only be favored among cultists and the mono "purity" is also misguided), but here, without the "distraction" of Art Farmer and Jackie McLean, the trio of Clark, 'Philly Joe' Jones and Paul Chambers allows Sonny to shine and the rays are bright!

The Hackensack living room recording October, 13th, 1957 is remarkable. Mic leakage puts you in the space, Rudy gets a clean, open sound from Philly Joe's drum kit and super-clean unusually nimble bass, but most remarkable is that Rudy delivers Clark's center stage piano as he rarely did in those days—excellent tonal balance, free of the typical "honky" sound Rudy often produced in that room, with a dollop of distortion on top. There's none of that! Instead the piano sound is well balanced, sporting plenty of wood and the upfront mix also lets Clark's funky craft shine.

Rudy caught a hard boppin' trio on fire that day playing standards and jazz classics (Dizzy's "Be-Bop", Dameron's "Tadd's Delight") capped by the 26 year old's sensitive solo take on the standard "I'll Remember April". Highly recommended for both music and stereo sound. Also some useful history in Leonard Feather's annotation. Of course the usual gatefold deluxe laminated "Tip-on" jacket presentation.

Music Specifications

Catalog No: BST 81579/B0034576-01


Speed/RPM: 33 1/3

Weight: 180 grams

Size: 12"

Channels: Stereo

Source: original master tape

Presentation: Single LP


  • 2023-08-04 05:09:34 PM

    Jeff 'Glotz' Glotzer wrote:

    Killer! Thanks for this review, Mikey. Your knowledge is always key.

  • 2023-08-04 08:17:42 PM

    Jonti Davies wrote:

    Michael, couldn't agree more about the merits of this album, and especially the "woody" quality of the piano. The copy in my collection is a 1983 Japanese mono pressing (King Record) with "Stereo" labels. Very confusing but sounds magnificent!

    I'm not sure how widely known this is outside Japan, but here (here only, to the best of my knowledge) two additional volumes of this album were released in the early 1980s: Vol. 2, containing "alternate masters" from the same Otcober 13, 1957 set AND tracks from a November 16, 1958 set, and Vol. 3, which is a complete set from December 7, 1958 that was apparently shelved until being released exclusively in Japan in 1979 initially under the title "Blues In The Night" before a 1985 re-release as "Vol. 3". I think Vol. 2 has never been released outside Japan, but it seems Vol. 3 in its "Blues In the Night" guise was finally released in Europe on Doxy in 2012. Aside from the music, the other thing I love about the original record is its cover art and sleeve design. The cherry on the cake is that Vols. 2 and 3 use the same design with different colour schemes. Together, as a trio of Trio records, they belong in a MoMA somewhere. Take a look:

  • 2023-08-04 08:29:38 PM

    Jonti Davies wrote:

    Oh and speaking of Sonny Clark sleeves, I also have a Japan-only "not-for-sale" disc called "The Amazing Shoichi Yui Volume 2" which is essentially jazz critic Yui-san talking the listener through the highlights of the Blue Note discography, with snippets from more than 40 tracks spread across its two sides. Anyway, the cover photo is a hilarious parody of Cool Struttin', with Mr. Yui standing outside the Toshiba EMI HQ in Tokyo and a pair of Japanese legs walking by:

  • 2023-08-04 09:07:26 PM

    Come on wrote:

    Yes, this is a great one. My old Japanese Masterpiece special replica heavier vinyl release was not bad and still doesn’t have to hide away with certain characteristics, but this one is more pure sounding, nice!

    • 2023-08-05 10:35:14 PM

      Come on wrote:

      In fact (I listen right now) the Tone Poet as usual sounds much better than my Japanese release. Transparency, air, extension, bass precision, dynamics, everything. What was obvious, too, n the Byrd Slow drag much more than on this one is, that KG panned some instruments much more left/right than on the originals and also the Japanese. This widens the stage a bit, but also puts them more into the speakers than on the original. If I could choose I’d pass on this, not sure why it’s done - and how without remixing.

      • 2023-08-08 03:30:45 PM

        Joe Harley wrote:

        Glad you're digging' it. Re panning though Kevin does not pan "some instruments more left/right" on this or any other Blue Note he masters. What you are hearing is the presentation as recorded to the master tape. Remember, these are live-to-two-track tapes....there is no ability to "mix" afterward.

        • 2023-08-09 08:51:24 PM

          Come on wrote:

          Thanks for your input Joe, your releases with Kevin are the best and I appreciate the good mixture of well known war horses and more interesting albums for those who are well supplied already.

          I’m aware there’s no remix possible and yours are certainly much closer to the tape than anything, but how then did the panning a little more towards the middle and behind the speakers come on many originals and e.g. Japanese (the latter being from copies anyway)?

          Please compare the Slow Drag original, it’s a more obvious one.

  • 2023-08-06 03:06:43 PM

    bwb wrote:

    Given this was originally released in mono in 1958 and the first stereo version not until 1972 (according to Discogs) I don't understand your comments about "misguided mono purity" when according to RVG these albums were never intended to be stereo ...

    “…Everything that was made in Hackensack was mono. Even towards the very end when we were recording two-track we weren’t listening in stereo. We were recording in two-track and we were listening in mono because there was only one speaker in Hackensack in the control room and only one speaker in the studio. So how could you listen in stereo when you only have one speaker? And all the judgments, (producer Alfred Lion)’s judgments, as to mix and balance, and mine too and the musicians too and how they sounded in relationship to each other, and all that during the creative part of those recordings was done in mono. It couldn’t be any other way. Towards the end we were running two-track sessions but no one had ever listened to them. So there was no particular attention or attempt at creating a stereo field at that time.”

    Van Gelder Interview (1999)