Red Mitchell Quartet – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.

TWO SUPERB SIDES on quiet vinyl. This stunning copy of this Better Records fave has some of the best upright bass sound we’ve heard; it’s welll-defined with texture and weight. It’s also unbelievable dynamic and lively. The clarity and transparency are mindblowing here. We went crazy over the huge soundfield on this copy — wall to wall, floor to ceiling, and then some.

We love the sound of Contemporary Records — it’s our favorite jazz label by a long shot. Roy DuNann always seemed to get The Real Sound out of the sessions he recorded — amazingly realistic drum sound; full-bodied, breathy horns; lots of top end extension; deep, note-like bass; weighty piano, studio ambience, three-dimensionality, and on and on.

The Sound of the Best Copies

Let’s face it: many reissues of this 1957 recording — this pressing is on the yellow ’70s label — have a veiled, dull quality to their sound. When they don’t, man, they can really beat the pants off even the best originals.

We get Black Label original Contemporary pressings in all the time, but few of them are mastered right and most never make it to the site. Some are pure muck. Some have bass so bloated that it’s hard to believe anyone would ever take that kind of sound seriously.

Don’t buy into that record collecting slash audiophile canard that Original Equals Better. That’s bullshit. Records don’t work that way, and anyone with two good ears, two good speakers and a decent-sized record collection should have learned that lesson a long time ago. The fact that a minority of audiophiles and record collectors actually do understand these things is a sad commentary on the state of reproduction in the home. But that’s another story for another day.

Dunann Is The Man

The smooth natural sound Roy DuNann achieved on virtually every session he ever recorded is testament to his skills. Free of phony gimmicks and recording studio tricks, this is the sound that we have come to appreciate above all others.

The record features James Clay on sax and flute, Lorraine Geller on piano & Billy Higgins on the drums. It’s a relaxed session of West Coast jazz, with plenty of opportunities for Red to solo on the string bass. If you’re a fan of flute jazz, I don’t think you could find a much better album than this one!

The best sounding songs are the tracks where James Clay switches from flute to tenor sax. You’re going to love that full-bodied sax sound.

Size

One of the qualities that we don’t talk about on the site nearly enough is the SIZE of the record’s presentation. Some copies of the album just sound small — they don’t extend all the way to the outside edges of the speakers, and they don’t seem to take up all the space from the floor to the ceiling. In addition, the sound can often be recessed, with a lack of presence and immediacy in the center.

Other copies — my notes for these copies often read “BIG and BOLD” — create a huge soundfield, with the music positively jumping out of the speakers. They’re not brighter, they’re not more aggressive, they’re not hyped-up in any way, they’re just bigger and clearer.

Side one was As Big As It Gets and that, along with everything else it was doing it right, earned it Top Honors in our shootout.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Scrapple From The Apple 
Rainy Night 
I Thought of You
Out of the Blue

Side Two

Paul’s Pal 
Sandu 
Cheek To Cheek

AMG Review

A talented bassist who was always in great demand, Red Mitchell was originally a pianist and he doubled on piano on an occasional basis throughout his career. He switched to bass when he was a member of an Army band in Germany.