This is one of our favorite orchestra-backed jazz records here at Better Records. A few others off the top of my head would be Wes Montgomery’s California Dreaming (1966, and also Sebesky-arranged), Grover Washington’s All the King’s Horses (1973) and Deodato’s Prelude (also 1973, with brilliant arrangements by the man himself).
On a killer copy like this the sound is out of this world. Rich and full, open and transparent, this one defeated all comers in our shootout, taking the Top Prize for sound and earning all Three Pluses.
What’s especially notable is how well-recorded the orchestra’s string sections are. They have just the right amount of texture and immediacy without being forced or shrill. They’re also very well integrated into the mix. I wouldn’t have expected RVG to pull it off so well — I’ve heard other CTI records where the orchestration was abominable — but here it works as well as on any album I know of.
Both sides blew us away with a deep, wide soundstage and full extension on both the top and the bottom.
The bass is deep and defined; the tonality of the guitar and its overall harmonic richness are Right On The Money. The piano has the weight and heft of the real thing.
This kind of warm, rich, Tubey Magical analog sound is gone forever. You have to go back to 1971 to find it!
The high point for side one is clearly the first track. It’s got a Midnight Blue relaxed groove going on, the kind that Kenny Burrell seems to be able to bring to any session he plays on. Or maybe it’s the rhythms Ray Barretto works out in the songs that make them so relaxed and swinging at the same time.
Side two is magical from start to finish. The two extended songs, both more than eight minutes in length, leave plenty of room for the band and the orchestra to stretch out.
Digging Creed Taylor Inc.
We’ve been really digging these Creed Taylor productions for years now. On the better albums such as this one, the players tend to sound carefree and loose — you can tell they’re enjoying the hell out of these songs.
Don’t get me wrong — we still love the Blue Note and Contemporary label stuff for our more “serious” jazz needs, but it’s a kick to hear top jazz musicians laying down these grooves and not taking themselves too seriously… especially when it sounds as good as this Rudy Van Gelder engineered copy does.