Donald Byrd – Blackjack

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  • KILLER sound throughout for this later Blue Note pressing with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the second side and solid Double Plus (A++) sound on the first 
  • Exceptionally quiet vinyl throughout — Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
  • “One can sense that Byrd wanted to break through the boundaries and rules of hard bop but had not yet decided on his future directions… Byrd and Red in particular are in excellent form throughout the date.” – All Music

We played a bunch of these recently and only a few had the kind of sound we were looking for. This one was one of the best we heard — big, bold and lively with excellent presence. The bottom end is meaty and punchy, the highs are sweet and extended, and the mids sound right on the money. Most copies didn’t jump out of the speakers the way this one does! You’ll have a hard time finding such rich, smooth sound for this wonderful jazz album.

Some of these later pressings are just plain weak, but every now and then you find one like this that clearly benefits from the use of modern cutting equipment. The bass is tighter, the drums have more snap, and the soundfield has real depth. There’s excellent energy and good presence throughout side one, and the top end sounds just right.

What amazing 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 1968
  • 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.

What We Listen For on Blackjack

  • 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 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.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Blackjack
West of the Pecos
Loki

Side Two

Eldorado
Beale Street
Pentatonic

AMG Review

One of three Donald Byrd albums from 1967 (the end of his hard bop period), this recording features the trumpeter/leader with altoist Sonny Red, tenor saxophonist Hank Mobley, pianist Cedar Walton, bassist Walter Booker, and drummer Billy Higgins. The six tunes (five of which are originals by Byrd or Red) are all quite obscure and to one extent or another quite explorative. One can sense that Byrd wanted to break through the boundaries and rules of hard bop but had not yet decided on his future directions. The music does swing and highlights include “West of the Pecos” and “Beale Street”; Byrd and Red in particular are in excellent form throughout the date.

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