Gene Ammons / Sonny Stitt – Prime Cuts

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  • This copy of Ammons and Stitt’s 1972 soulful mainstream bop collaboration boasts outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on all four sides – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • Remarkable Tubey Magical richness, as well as the kind of immediacy and transparency that most copies failed to match
  • We’ve known this was a great sounding record for a very long time, and now we have the copy to prove it
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Gene Ammons and Sonny Stitt always made for a perfect team… The two tenors (with Stitt doubling on alto) are heard at their most combative during these consistently exciting performances”

*NOTE: A mark makes 10 light, then 10 very light ticks at the beginning of track 3, Why I Was Born.

This vintage Verve T label 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 duo, 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 Prime Cuts 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 1972
  • 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 Prime Cuts

  • 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.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

The Players

Gene Ammons – Tenor Saxophone Sonny Stitt – Alto Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone
Charles Williams – Double Bass
William James – Drums
George Brown – Drums
Paul Weeden – Guitar
Donald Patterson – Organ
John Houston – Piano

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Walkin’
Long Ago And Far Away
Why I Was Born

Side Two

John Brown’s Body
Bye, Bye Blackbird

Side Three

Blues Up And Down
Counter Clockwise

Side Four

There Is No Greater Love
The One Before This
Autumn Leaves

AMG 4 1/2 Star Review

Gene Ammons and Sonny Stitt always made for a perfect team and it is a real pity that the music on this double LP has not yet surfaced on CD. The two tenors (with Stitt doubling on alto) are heard at their most combative during these consistently exciting performances; one session is with a piano trio led by John Houston while the other features organist Donald Patterson. Highpoints include “John Brown’s Body,” “Bye, Bye Blackbird,” “Blues up and Down” and “There Is No Greater Love.”