Duke Ellington/Johnny Hodges – Blues Summit – Better Sound than the Originals?

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  • This superb jazz double album makes its Hot Stamper debut here with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from start to finish
  • What surprised during our shootout was that this later pressing from 1976 actually sounded quite a bit better than virtually all the early pressings we put it up against
  • The Classic Records pressings from 1995 aren’t bad, but they head to head they can’t begin to compete with a pressing as good as this one
  • Superb engineering from the man behind so many great sounding Verve records, Val Valentin
  • 4 stars: “… this very enjoyable double LP includes two related sessions… Highly recommended in one form or another.”

This vintage Verve 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 Blues Summit 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 1973
  • 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 Blues Summit

  • 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.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Wabash Blues
Basin Street Blues
Beale Street Blues

Side Two

Weary Blues
St. Louis Blues
Loveless Love
Royal Garden Blues

Side Three

Stompy Jones
Squeeze Me
Big Shoe
Going Up

Side Four

Just A Memory
Let’s Fall In Love
Ruint
Bend One
You Need To Rock

AMG  Review

… this very enjoyable double LP includes two related sessions. The main one is both unusual and delightful for it features altoist Johnny Hodges and trumpeter Harry “Sweets” Edison leading a sextet that found Duke Ellington on piano. The repertoire is inspired, a variety of jam tunes including several by W.C. Handy, and both Sweets and Hodges are heard at their most expressive. The remainder of this two-fer teams Hodges and trombonist Lawrence Brown with tenor-great Ben Webster and the exciting trumpeter Roy Eldridge; this time Billy Strayhorn is on piano and the music is almost as memorable. Highly recommended in one form or another.

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