- A stunning sounding copy with Triple Plus (A+++) sound on ALL FOUR SIDES!
- Forget the originals – like so many of the early songbook pressings, they suffer from painfully hard and honky mastering EQ (and gritty sounding vinyl)
- We know whereof we speak when it comes to early Ella records – we’ve played plenty of them and found that most just don’t sound very good
- Exceptionally quiet vinyl throughout* — Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
- “Duke’s spectacular catalog dazzles, and his sprightly, lush textures are transfigured under Fitzgerald’s warm-timbred voice and elegant, precise delivery… each tune as familiar as it is delightful to hear in this new context.”
This mono reissue is the only way to find the MIDRANGE MAGIC that’s missing from modern records. As good as the best of those pressings may be, this record is going to be dramatically more REAL sounding.
Ella is no longer a recording — she’s a living, breathing person. We call that “the breath of life,” and this record has it in spades. Her voice is so rich, sweet, and free of artificiality you cannot help but find yourself lost in the music, because there’s no “sound” to distract you.
Rich, smooth, sweet, full of ambience, dead-on correct tonality — everything that we listen for in a great record is here. You could certainly demonstrate your stereo with a record this good, even one that’s not nearly this good, because this one is superb.
What the Best Sides of the Duke Ellington Songbook, Vol. 2 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 1957
- 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.
Old and New Work Well Together
This reissue is spacious, open, transparent, rich and sweet. It’s yet another remarkable disc from the Golden Age of Vacuum Tube Recording Technology, with the added benefit of mastering using the more modern cutting equipment of the early ’80s. We are of course here referring to the good modern mastering of 35+ years ago, not the dubious modern mastering of today.
Hey, we were as shocked as you are that a good record could still be cut in 1982 from 1957 tapes. The combination of old and new works wonders on this title as you will surely hear for yourself on these superb sides.
We were impressed with the fact that these pressings excel in so many areas of reproduction. What was odd about it — odd to most audiophiles but not necessarily to us — was just how rich and Tubey Magical the reissue can be on the right pressing.
This has not been our experience with most of the reissues on Ella’s records. Most of the Polygram-era records sound very smeary and compressed, the sound of the second, third and fourth generation tapes that are surely made from.
But if you play enough of them — and we do — every once in a while you run into one as good as this!
What We’re Listening For on Ella’s Songbook Albums
- 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.
The Players and Personnel
- Bass – Joe Mondragon, Ray Brown
- Drums – Alvin Stoller
- Guitar – Barney Kessel, Herb Ellis
- Piano – Oscar Peterson, Paul Smith
- Tenor Saxophone – Ben Webster
- Violin – Stuff Smith
- Producer – Norman Granz
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 recordings.
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.
The Players and Personnel
Bass – Joe Mondragon, Ray Brown
Drums – Alvin Stoller
Guitar – Barney Kessel, Herb Ellis
Piano – Oscar Peterson, Paul Smith
Tenor Saxophone – Ben Webster
Violin – Stuff Smith
Producer – Norman Granz
It Don’t Mean A Thing
Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me
I Let A Song Go Out Of My Heart
Don’t Get Around Much Anymore
Rocks In My Bed
Prelude To A Kiss
Just A Sittin’ And A Rockin’
Just Squeeze Me
In A Sentimental Mood
In A Mellow Tone Love You Madly
The AMG review below is for the complete sessions on 4 LPs, originally released as two Double Album sets in 1957, from which these small group tracks were pulled and compiled into the later release we are offering here.
This 1957 effort is distinguished from Fitzgerald’s other songbooks in that it is the only album in which the composer whose work she is singing actively participates. In fact, these recordings are packed with some of the key figures in 20th century jazz. As if Ella and Duke weren’t enough, Ellington’s arranger/composer Billy Strayhorn, guest musicians Dizzy Gillespie and Oscar Peterson, and brilliant record producer Norman Granz all have a hand in the proceedings.
And what better backing band could one want than Duke’s orchestra? The usual suspects — Jimmy Hamilton, Johnny Hodges, Paul Gonsalves, Harry Carney, and Sam Woodyard, among others — contribute fine performances throughout. Duke’s spectacular catalog dazzles, and his sprightly, lush textures are transfigured under Fitzgerald’s warm-timbred voice and elegant, precise delivery. Included here are classics like “Rockin’ in Rhythm,” “Caravan,” “Satin Doll,” “Sophisticated Lady,” “Prelude to a Kiss,” and “It Don’t Mean a Thing…,” each tune as familiar as it is delightful to hear in this new context.