Duke Ellington – Blues In Orbit

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Blues In Orbit

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  • An excellent original Columbia Six-Eye pressing with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from start to finish  
  • Huge amounts of three-dimensional space and ambience, and Tubey Magic by the boatload – this amazing 30th Street recording from 1960 shows just how good Columbia’s engineers were back then
  • “… it captures the essence of a late-night recording date that was as much a loose jam as a formal studio date, balancing the spontaneity of the former and the technical polish of the latter.”

For us audiophiles both the sound and the music here are wonderful. If you’re looking to demonstrate just how good 1959-1960 All Tube Analog sound can be, this killer copy will do the trick.

This pressing is super spacious, sweet and positively dripping with ambience. Talk about Tubey Magic, the liquidity of the sound here is positively uncanny. This is vintage analog at its best, so full-bodied and relaxed you’ll wonder how it ever came to be that anyone seriously contemplated trying to improve it.

This IS the sound of Tubey Magic. No recordings will ever be made like this again, and no CD will ever capture what is in the grooves of this record. There is of course a CD of this album, but those of us who possess a working turntable and a good collection of vintage vinyl could care less.

If Large Group Jazz Music is your thing, you should get a big kick out of this one. If you like the sound of relaxed, tube-mastered jazz — and what red blooded audiophile doesn’t — you can’t do much better than the Ellington recordings on Columbia from this era. The warmth and immediacy of the sound here are guaranteed to blow practically any record of this kind you might own right out of the water.

Both sides of this very special original stereo pressing are huge, rich, tubey and clear. As soon as the band got going we knew that this was absolutely the right sound for this music.

What the best sides of this Classic Ellington Album have to offer is clear for all 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 double bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with the guitar and drums having the correct sound for this kind of recording
  • 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 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.

What to Listen For (WTLF)

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 pressings from the ’50s and ’60s 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.

A Big Group of Musicians Needs This Kind of Space

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.

And most of the time those very special pressings are just plain more involving. When you hear a copy that does all that — a copy like this one — it’s an entirely different listening experience.

Hi-Fidelity

What do we love about these vintage pressings? The timbre of every instrument is Hi-Fi in the best sense of the word. The unique sound of every instrument is reproduced with remarkable fidelity. That’s what we at Better Records mean by “Hi-Fi,” not the kind of Audiophile Phony BS Sound that passes for Hi-Fidelity these days. There’s no boosted top, there’s no bloated bottom, there’s no sucked-out midrange.

This is Hi-Fidelity for those who recognize The Real Thing when they hear it. I’m pretty sure our customers do, and whoever picks this record up is guaranteed to get a real kick out of it.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Three J’s Blues 
Smada 
Pie Eye’s Blues 
Sweet And Pungent 
C Jam Blues

Side Two

In A Mellow Tone 
Blues In Blueprint 
The Swingers Get The Blues Too 
The Swingers’ Jump 
Blues In Orbit 
Villes Ville Is The Place, Man

AMG Review

…. an album worth tracking down, if only to hear the band run through a lighter side of its sound — indeed, it captures the essence of a late-night recording date that was as much a loose jam as a formal studio date, balancing the spontaneity of the former and the technical polish of the latter. Ellington and company were just back from a European tour when the bulk of this album was recorded at one after-midnight session in New York on December 2, 1959 — the arrangements had to be hastily written out when the copyist failed to appear for the gig. So on the one hand, the band was kicking back with these shorter pieces; on the other, the group was also improvising freely and intensely at various points.

The title track, recorded more than a year before most of the rest, is a slow blues that puts Ellington’s piano into a call-and-response setting with the horns, with Ellington getting in the last word. “Villes Ville Is the Place, Man” is a bracing, beat-driven jaunt, highlighted by solos featuring Ray Nance, Harry Carney, and Johnny Hodges on trumpet, baritone sax, and alto, respectively. “Three J’s Blues” shows off composer Jimmy Hamilton playing some earthy tenor sax in a swinging, exuberant blues setting. “Smada” features Billy Strayhorn on piano and Johnny Hodges on alto, in a stirring dance number, and “Pie Eye’s Blues” is a hot studio improvisation featuring Ray Nance and Jimmy Hamilton trading three solos each.