- With two nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sides, this copy is close to the BEST we have ever heard, right up there with our Shootout Winner
- These are the stampers that always win our shootouts, and when you hear them you will know why – the sound is big, rich and clear
- “The complexity of the material on Jazz, as well as the arrangements by Joseph Byrd, dictate that this is Cooder’s most polished and orchestrated effort to date.” — Allmusic
We’re big fans of Ry Cooder here at Better Records, and it’s always fun to hear the eccentric instruments and arrangements he and his cohorts cook up. Of course, it’s even more fun when you have a great sounding pressing like this one that lets you hear what the musicians were up to.
This vintage Warner Brothers pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely 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.
The instrumentation here goes far beyond your average rock or jazz record. Rounding up a panoply of relatively exotic instruments for an album in and of itself doesn’t make a project especially noteworthy. It’s been done.
Thankfully Cooder’s up to more than that. Using an ensemble of seriously talented musicians, as well as studio engineers who really understand how to capture the qualities of these disparate instruments, with Jazz Ry Cooder succeeds in giving the audiophile public a full course spread of new and unusual sounds, all the while staying true to the popular songs from days gone by he knows so well.
Case in point: check out the mandobanjo on Face To Face That I Shall Meet Him, handled superbly by the one and only David Lindley, a man who has played practically every stringed instrument ever invented. That’s a sound you don’t hear every day.
Tuba — Ya Gotta Love It!
On the same track the listener is treated to a wonderful sounding tuba (one of the toughest instruments to record by the way) handling a sizable portion of the rhythmic chores. It’s punchy, huge, and powerful, yet it manages to add uniquely subtle shadings to the mix, never for a moment calling attention to itself. These instrumental choices are not evidence of Ry Cooder showing off his legendary musical knowledge.
This is the authentic Ry Cooder, using his musical knowledge to bring these songs back to life for an audience that barely knew they existed in the first place.
What the Best Sides of Jazz 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 1978
- 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 studio space
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.
What We’re Listening For on Jazz
- Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
- Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t “back there” somewhere, lost in the mix. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would put them.
- 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 so common to these LPs.
- Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also 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 instruments.
- Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.
Lee Herschberg, Engineer Extraordinaire
One of the top guys at Warners, Lee recorded and mixed this album (with the help of another engineer) as well as a number of others by Ry Cooder. You’ll also find his name in the credits for many of the best releases by the Doobie Brothers, Gordon Lightfoot and Frank Sinatra, albums we know to have outstanding sound (potentially anyway; you have to have an outstanding pressing to hear outstanding sound).
And of course we would be remiss if we didn’t mention the album most audiophiles know all too well, Rickie Lee Jones’ debut. Herschberg’s pop and rock engineering credits run for pages. Won the Grammy for Strangers in the Night even.
The most amazing jazz piano trio recording we know of is Herschberg’s as well: The Three (with Shelly Manne, Ray Brown and Joe Sample).
Mint Minus Minus and maybe a bit better is about as quiet as any vintage pressing will play, and since only the right vintage pressings have any hope of sounding good on this album, that will most often be the playing condition of the copies we sell. (The copies that are even a bit noisier get listed on the site are seriously reduced prices or traded back in to the local record stores we shop at.)
Those of you looking for quiet vinyl will have to settle for the sound of other pressings and Heavy Vinyl reissues, purchased elsewhere of course as we have no interest in selling records that don’t have the vintage analog magic of these wonderful originals.
If you want to make the trade-off between bad sound and quiet surfaces with whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing might be available, well, that’s certainly your prerogative, but we can’t imagine losing what’s good about this music — the size, the energy, the presence, the clarity, the weight — just to hear it with less background noise.
Big Bad Bill (Is Sweet William Now)
Face to Face That I Shall Meet Him
The Pearls/Tia Juana
Happy Meeting in Glory
In a Mist
We Shall Be Happy
Beginning with his self-titled debut in 1970, Ry Cooder’s records seemed to be as much history lesson as they were entertainment. Not because Cooder was trying to club you over the head with this stuff; he simply gravitated to great songs, no matter what the era or genre. Here he pays homage to some of the early tunes and masters of jazz… The complexity of the material on Jazz, as well as the arrangements by Joseph Byrd, dictate that this is Cooder’s most polished and orchestrated effort to date.