The Curtis Counce Group – Volume 1 – Landslide

More Contemporary Label Jazz

More Jack Sheldon


  • A STUNNING copy of the group’s 1956 release with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • The clarity and transparency on this vintage pressing are wonderful, but more importantly it’s the unerringly correct tonality that’s most impressive when you play these real Contemporary pressings against the competition
  • Yet another amazing All Tube Contemporary recording from Roy DuNann and Lester Koenig at the beginning of the stereo era
  • 4 1/2 stars: “During 1956-1957, bassist Curtis Counce led an excellent Los Angeles-based hard bop quintet… All of Counce’s recordings are well-worth getting by collectors [and especially audiophiles] interested in 1950s straight-ahead jazz [with top quality sound].”

Jack Sheldon is absolutely amazing and completely original on trumpet here. Check out his stellar work on the first track, Landslide. Not only that, but the sound of his instrument is wonderful — you’ll never hear a trumpet sound so rich and full on a Rudy Van Gelder recording, that’s for sure!

Both sides are over twenty minutes, giving you a lot of well-played West Coast Jazz for your money.

This vintage Contemporary Stereo 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 this superb quintet, 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 Volume 1 – Landslide 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 1956
  • 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 Landslide

  • 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 lead instruments (trumpet and sax) aren’t “back there” somewhere, lost in the mix. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt — Roy Dunann in this case — would have put them.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

The Players

Curtis Counce – bass
Jack Sheldon – trumpet
Harold Land – tenor saxophone
Carl Perkins – piano
Frank Butler – drums

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Landslide
Time After Time
Sonar

Side Two

Mia
Sarah
A Fifth For Frank

AMG 4 1/2 Star Review

During 1956-1957, bassist Curtis Counce led an excellent Los Angeles-based hard bop quintet comprised of trumpeter Jack Sheldon, tenor saxophonist Harold Land, pianist Carl Perkins, bassist Curtis Counce, and drummer Frank Butler. They recorded four albums’ worth of material for Contemporary…. For their debut album, the group performs selections by Land (“Landslide”), Perkins, Sheldon, and two by Gerald Wiggins (including “Sonar”), plus the lone standard “Time After Time.” All of Counce’s recordings (which include a slightly later album for Dootone) are well-worth getting by collectors interested in 1950s straight-ahead jazz.

Curtis Counce

“Curtis Counce was an in-demand session bassist and one of the first African Americans to get heavily involved in the West Coast jazz movement in the 1940s. He studied violin and tuba in addition to bass before leaving his native city for employment with the Nat Towles Band in Omaha at the age of 16. He moved to L.A. in 1945, taking a job with Johnny Otis at the Club Alabam and made his recording debut with Lester Young the following year. He recorded prolifically as a sideman (Shelly Manne, Lyle Murphy, Teddy Charles, Clifford Brown) before starting his famous quintet in 1956. His premature death (1963) from a heart attack was a tragic loss to jazz.” — AMG