Jimmy Smith – Back at the Chicken Shack

More Kenny Burrell

More Albums on Blue Note

xxxxx

  • Back at the Chicken Shack makes its Hot Stamper debut here with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on this New York label mono pressing
  • Joining Jimmy Smith is one of our favorite bluesy sax players, Stanley Turrentine – just play Kenny Burrell’s Midnight Blue to hear him at this best, and Burrell is especially good here too
  • Credit must go to Rudy Van Gelder once again for the huge space this superbly well-recorded quartet occupies
  • 5 stars: “Recorded in 1960 with Kenny Burrell on guitar, Donald Bailey on drums, and Turrentine, the group reaches the peak of funky soul jazz that all other challengers of the genre would have to live up to.”

*NOTE: On side 2, a group of marks makes 30 moderate pops half way into track 1, Minor Chant.

If you can tolerate the problems on side two of this pressing, you are in for some amazing Jimmy Smith, Stanley Turrentine and Kenny Burrell music with top quality sound. If for any reason you are not happy with the sound or condition of the album we are of course happy to take it back for a full refund, including the domestic return postage.


This vintage Blue Note 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 Back at the Chicken Shack 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 Back at the Chicken Shack

  • 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 organ, saxophone or guitar isn’t “back there” somewhere, way behind the speakers. It’s front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt –– Rudy Van Gelder 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 Smith – organ
Stanley Turrentine – tenor saxophone
Kenny Burrell – guitar
Donald Bailey – drums

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Back at the Chicken Shack
“When I Grow Too Old to Dream

Side Two

Minor Chant
Messy Bessie

AMG  5 Star Rave Review

Back at the Chicken Shack is one of organist Jimmy Smith’s classic Blue Note sessions, and the first to draw attention to tenor saxophonist Stanley Turrentine. Recorded in 1960 with Kenny Burrell on guitar, Donald Bailey on drums, and Turrentine, the group reaches the peak of funky soul jazz that all other challengers of the genre would have to live up to.

Included on this uptempo session is a reworking of “When I Grow Too Old to Dream” (a feature for Turrentine), Turrentine’s “Minor Chant,” two Smith compositions, “Messy Bessie” as well as the set’s notable title cut. Smith’s Midnight Special album was recorded at these same sessions, and is also exceptional.

Leave a Reply