What the Hell Happened to Bernie Grundman and Doug Sax?

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This Contemporary pressing has wonderful sound. This should not be too surprising as it was recorded by one of our favorite engineers, Allen Sides, working out of his Oceanway studios. (Supposedly he is a big fan of vintage mics and the like, with many superb and valuable examples.)

In addition the album was mastered by Bernie Grundman, who was at the time still cutting very good sounding records, this being 1980. Since then he has gone precipitously downhill, as we have noted on the site often.

This is the man who cut some of the best sounding records I have ever played, including many of the best Contemporary recordings, but his work in recent decades has left much to be desired.

He sure has fooled a lot of audiophile record reviewers, but not us I venture to say. We never jumped on the Classic Records bandwagon, and to this day we cannot understand how any critical listener could be fooled by the countless Heavy Vinyl mediocrities that awful label put out.

You can say the same thing for Doug Sax, a man whose work took a turn for the worse long ago. The sad reality is that the dull, thick, lifeless, veiled, ambience-free records he cut for Acoustic Sounds and Klavier in the ’90s were no worse than the dreck being made today.

The more things change…

On this pressing you will find the patented big bottom end that Allen Sides is known for, with real dynamics and 3-D studio sound. Add to each of those naturally correct timbres and you have one excellent recording. It reminds me very much of a good Joe Sample record.

This is a pop-jazz album. Most of the time it may not be especially deep, but it’s not trying to be. It is what it is – sophisticated, melodic, well-crafted piano- and vibes-based jazz. With the awesome Freddie Hubbard on trumpet.

There is one true bop tune on the album, there to show that these guys can play the real thing when they want to. But that’s not really what they are going for, and this kind of fun jazz is harder to find than bop jazz anyway, so enjoy it for what it is. AMG gives it a rave 4 1/2 Star review and I agree with practically every word.

What the best sides of Cables’ Vision 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 even as late as 1980
  • 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.

This vintage Contemporary 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.

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 Cables’ Vision

  • 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

George Cables – piano, electric piano
Freddie Hubbard – flugelhorn
Bobby Hutcherson – vibraphone
Ernie Watts – tenor saxophone, flute
Tony Dumas – bass, electric bass
Peter Erskine – drums
Vince Charles – percussion

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Morning Song
I Told You So
Byrdlike

Side Two

Voodoo Lady
The stroll
Inner Glow

AMG 4 1/2 Star Review

One of the most satisfying recordings to be released in 1980…, this date by pianist George Cables (who contributed four of the six group originals) features trumpeter Freddie Hubbard (who brought in “Byrdlike”) and tenor saxophonist Ernie Watts in fiery form; the two horn players took time off from their much more commercial efforts for other labels.

Vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson is also in the sextet/septet with bassist Tony Dumas, drummer Peter Erskine, and sometimes percussionist Vince Charles; the one departure is “The Stroll,” which is an adventurous piano-vibes duet by Cables and Hutcherson. The solos overall are concise and make expert use of each note. Cables’ tunes (including “Morning Song,” “I Told You So,” and “Inner Glow”) are generally catchy and memorable while “Byrdlike” gives the virtuosos an up-tempo blues to romp through.

This logically conceived and well-paced set is a gem that is highly recommended.

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