Jimmy Heath – Swamp Seed

xxxxx

  • Jimmy Heath makes his site debut here with this superb Riverside Black Label stereo pressing of his 1963 album, which boasts Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish
  • With Donald Byrd on trumpet and Herbie Hancock on piano (as well as French horns and a tuba!), this is a fun session with top players 
  • Based on what we’re heard, this is an outstanding recording – the top opens up nicely and there’s plenty of space in the studio, giving all the players room to breathe
  • “This is a delightful if underrated set… The multi-talented Jimmy Heath has many consistently rewarding and distinctive tenor saxophone solos..

This vintage Riverside 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 Swamp Seed 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 1963
  • 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 Swamp Seed

  • 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 saxophone isn’t “back there” somewhere, way behind the speakers. It’s front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt — Ray Fowler in this case — would have put it.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

The Players

Jimmy Heath – tenor saxophone
Donald Byrd – trumpet
Jim Buffington, Julius Watkins – French horn
Don Butterfield – tuba
Herbie Hancock, Harold Mabern – piano
Percy Heath – bass
Connie Kay, Albert Heath – drums

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Six Steps
Nutty
More Than You Know
Swamp Seed

Side Two

“D” Waltz
Just In Time
Wall To Wall

Leave a Reply