Benny Carter – Jazz Giant

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More Jazz Giant

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  • With two Triple Plus (A+++) Shootout Winning sides, this copy blew the doors off of everything else we played
  • If you still think that Analogue Productions is remastering records properly, you have definitely never heard a real Contemporary that sounds like this(!)
  • The sound of Contemporary Records is alive on this copy, with space, size, clarity and richness that no other pressing can match
  • “Benny Carter had already been a major jazz musician for nearly 30 years when he recorded this particularly strong septet session for Contemporary … This timeless music is beyond the simple categories of “swing” or “bop” and should just be called “classic.”

If you like the sound of Contemporary Records, you won’t find a better example than this! Midrange magic doesn’t get anymore magical.

It’s been a few years since our last shootout, but we hope the lucky buyer of this copy realizes it was more than worth it. To find a copy of Jazz Giant that sounds as good as this one is a very special event indeed.

What outstanding sides such as these have to offer is not hard to hear:

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1958
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

Roy Dunann

We love the recordings made at the legendary Contemporary Records studio in the ’50s and ’60s — it’s our favorite jazz label for sonics by a long shot. Roy DuNann, their principal engineer, always seems to get The Sound of Real Instruments out of the sessions he recorded — amazingly realistic drums in a big room; full-bodied, breathy horns; Tubey Magical guitar tone; deep, note-like bass; weighty pianos; vocal immediacy, and on and on.

On the better pressings such as this one there’s just nothing between you and the music. You will have a very hard time finding a much better sounding jazz record than this very copy.

What We Listen For on Jazz Giant

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • Then: presence and immediacy. The instruments aren’t “back there” somewhere, lost in the mix. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt — Roy DuNann in this case — would have put them.
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
  • Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

The Players

Alto Saxophone – Benny Carter 
Bass – Leroy Vinnegar 
Drums – Shelly Manne 
Guitar – Barney Kessel 
Piano – André Previn 
Piano – Jimmie Rowles 
Tenor Saxophone – Ben Webster 
Trombone – Frank Rosolino 
Trumpet – Benny Carter

An Overview

I haven’t heard the new 45 RPM version, but I seriously doubt that it sounds like this. It wouldn’t be done on vintage tube cutting equipment, and that sound is the sound we love here at Better Records.

The OJC versions of Contemporary Records are typically thin and somewhat opaque, as well as tizzy up top, the kind of sound one often hears on CDs (and that CD lovers for some reason never seem to notice). Some OJC pressings, however, are excellent. The pressings that were mastered and put out by Contemporary in the mid-’70s (until they were bought by Fantasy) are usually superior to the OJCs, but these “rules of thumb” break down so badly and so often that the only workable approach is just to play as many different copies of the album as you can get your hands on and simply let them sort themselves out sonically. This of course is exactly how we conduct our shootouts.

Although we’ve liked the OJC of Jazz Giant in the past, last time around the OJC versions were quite a bit smaller and less energetic than our “real” Contemporary stereo pressings. They were a big step down from our killer shootout winner. The notes read “100x better” if that tells you anything (!)

Fun Listening Test

On track two of side one Benny plays lead on the trumpet. There is another sound that seems to be coming from behind him at the beginning of the song. If you have a good copy — this one should do nicely — and a highly resolving system, you should be able to recognize the sound easily. If you think you know what it is, feel free to email us with your answer. We would love to know if others are hearing what we’ve hearing.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Old Fashioned Love 
I’m Coming Virginia 
A Walkin’ Thing

Side Two

Blue Lou 
Ain’t She Sweet 
How Can You Lose 
Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gives to Me

AMG Review

Benny Carter had already been a major jazz musician for nearly 30 years when he recorded this particularly strong septet session for Contemporary. With notable contributions from tenor saxophonist Ben Webster, trombonist Frank Rosolino and guitarist Barney Kessel, Carter (who plays a bit of trumpet on “How Can You Lose”) is in superb form on a set of five standards and two of his originals. This timeless music is beyond the simple categories of “swing” or “bop” and should just be called “classic.”

Scott Albin Review

Nat Hentoff’s liner notes for the original Jazz Giant described it as “the first all-jazz, hot, small combo blowing album under Benny Carter’s name” since the advent of the LP about 10 years earlier. That was a shame, but since Carter was almost completely immersed in his second career in Hollywood writing for film and TV, he primarily appeared on Norman Granz impromptu jam session dates and little else.

Whoever assembled this intriguing ad hoc septet was either a creative genius or just plain lucky, for it works beautifully. “Blue Lou” is a case in point. First introduced by Carter on a 1933 big band recording, “Blue Lou” was a Swing Era favorite, and the riffing melody with its animated bridge is given a respectful and enthusiastic performance.

Ben Webster reminds us that he could still improvise fleetly and forcefully when the setting is right. Andre Previn is bluesy and flashy in an Oscar Peterson vein. Frank Rosolino’s pungent trombone adds texture, and his solo features nimble, incisive phrasing. Barney Kessel’s twangy improv is a joyful attention grabber.

Finally, Carter takes command with an enticing logic and clever thematic reworkings, swinging relentlessly all the while. Vinnegar and Manne drive the group throughout, maintaining a stimulating pulse. The riffing conclusion comes across as a fitting salute to the big band era.

Heavy Vinyl

You may remember that Acoustic Sounds did a version back in the ’90s, which we noted at the time was a complete disaster. I haven’t heard the recent 45 RPM version, but the chances of it sounding remotely like this are practically nil. We have yet to hear a single Heavy Vinyl 45 that sounds any good to us, judged by the standards we set in our shootouts. (Actually the records themselves set the standards; we simply grade them on the curve they establish.)

We guarantee that none of their LPs can hold a candle to this very record or your money back. If you have one of the new pressings and don’t know what’s wrong with it, or don’t think that anything is wrong with it, try this copy. It will show you just how much better a real record can sound, with more space, more transparency, more energy, more presence, more drive, more ambience — more and more of everything that’s good about the sound of music on ANALOG LP.

It is our contention that no one alive today makes records that sound as good as the ones we sell. Once you hear this Hot Stamper, those 180 gram records you bought might not ever sound right to you again. They sure don’t sound right to us, but we have the good fortune of being able to play the best older pressings (reissues included) side by side with the new ones, where the faults of the current reissues become much more audible — in fact, exceedingly obvious. When you can hear them that way, head to head, there really is no comparison.