Thursday, March 9, 2017

Arnett Cobb - Ballads by Cobb


One aspect of this album amuses me greatly: it has perhaps the ugliest cover of any record in my tcollection. And there's a reason for that.

Ballads by Cobb was originally issued by the great jazz label Prestige on its Moodsville subsidiary. The Moodsville label featured mellow, but solid jazz; music that could serve as background music to wooing your date on the couch, but which would also hold up to more attentive listening. The original Moodsville cover was kind of plain, but not ugly; it somewhat resembled the picture above, but with a pleasing color scheme.

Prestige had another subsidiary label called Status. Status was a budget label; when a Prestige album had been on the market for awhile, and presumably had met its expected sales goals, it was often given a Status issue. Prestige didn't scrimp on pressing quality for its Status records; a Status album provided the same listening experience as its higher-priced Prestige or Moodsville equivalent. But the company needed to give Status less, well, status, to minimize the market confict between the budget label and the main Prestige line.

So they made Status records look cheap and less desirable. Whoever was in charge of making Ballads by Cobb look crappier did a remarkable job by coming up with the bright blue lettering on the horrifyingly pink background. The labels on my copy are the regular Prestige/Moodsville labels - those were apparently used until the supply gave out and ugly Status labels were substituted.

The music is Moodsville-perfect. Saxophonist Arnett Cobb was of the hard-blowing "Texas tenor" school; he's somehow tough and gentle at the same time here. Pianist Red Garland is perfect for this kind of session, and veterans George Duvivier on bass and J.C. Heard on drums are tasteful and tasty.

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