Dave Brubeck – Tonight Only!

More Dave Brubeck

Tonight Only!

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  • This superb Brubeck recording, with Carmen McRae on vocals, finally returns to the site with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish
  • This Six-Eye Stereo pressing was richer and tubier and just plain more musical than every other copy we played (which is exactly why it won the shootout)
  • The first of three collaborations between Brubeck and McRae in the early ’60s
  • Billboard notes that “Brubeck teams up with canary Carmen McRae on this package and the results are eminently tasteful and listenable”.
  • Every reviewer on Amazon for this album (on CD of course) gave it Five Stars – how often does that happen? 


The music has a kind of bluesy feel to it. We would love to do more McRae albums but so few of them are any good. We expect that fans of the singer should get a lot out of this one.

The drums are especially well recorded on this album. The first two tracks on both sides — and probably more besides — have a drum sound that really makes you sit up and take notice.

This Columbia Six-eye Stereo pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely even BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.

What the best sides of Tonight Only! 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 1960
  • 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 space of the studio

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.

Copies with rich lower mids and nice extension up top did the best in our shootout, assuming they weren’t veiled or smeary of course. So many things can go wrong on a record! We know, we’ve heard them all.

Top end extension is critical to the sound of the best copies. Lots of old records (and new ones) have no real top end; consequently, the studio or stage will be missing much of its natural air and space, and instruments will lack their full complement of harmonic information.

Tube smear is common to most vintage pressings and this is no exception. The copies that tend to do the best in a shootout will have the least (or none), yet are full-bodied, tubey and rich.

What We’re Listening For on Tonight Only!

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • 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 common to most LPs.
  • Tight, note-like bass with clear fingering — which ties in with good transient information, as well as 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 players.
  • Then: presence and immediacy. The musicians aren’t “back there” somewhere, way behind the speakers. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would have put them.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Melanctha 
Weep No More 
Talkin’ And Walkin’ 
Briar Bush

Side Two

Paradiddle Joe 
Late Lament 
Strange Meadowlark
Tristesse 
Tonight Only

AMG Review

One of the more obscure Dave Brubeck albums is really a showcase for the young singer Carmen McRae who performs nine numbers: six composed by the pianist/leader, one song apiece by altoist Paul Desmond and bassist Eugene Wright and the lesser-known standard “Paradiddle Joe.” McRae is in fine voice but strangely enough all of the songs (except for “Strange Meadowlark”) have been long forgotten.