- The transients are uncannily lifelike – listen for the huge amounts of kinetic energy produced when Shelly whacks the hell out of his cymbals
- My favorite Piano Trio Jazz Album of All Time; every one of those six tracks is brilliantly arranged and performed (if you have the right takes of course; more about that later)
- 4 stars: “One of Joe Sample’s finest sessions as a leader” – with Shelly Manne and Ray Brown, we would say it’s clearly his finest session, as a leader or simply as the piano player in a killer trio
If you want to hear the full six tunes recorded by The Three at that famous Hollywood session (which ran all day and long into the night, 4 AM to be exact), our 33 RPM pressings are your best bet.
If you want absolutely amazing, mind-blowing, you-are-there sound, a Hot Stamper 45 is the only way to go.
The music is so good that I personally would not want to live without the complete album. The Three is, in fact, my favorite Piano Trio Jazz Album of All Time; every one of those six tracks is brilliantly arranged and performed (if you have the right takes of course; more about that later).
This East Wind 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 stellar trio, 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 The Three 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 1977
- 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.
If you have full-range speakers some of the qualities you may recognize in the sound of the piano are WEIGHT and WARMTH. The piano is not hard, brittle or tinkly. Instead, the best copies show you a wonderfully full-bodied, warm, rich, smooth piano, one which sounds remarkably like the ones we’ve all heard countless times in piano bars and restaurants.
In other words like a real piano, not a recorded one. This is what we look for in a good piano recording. Bad mastering can ruin the sound, and often does, along with worn-out stampers and bad vinyl and five-gram needles that scrape off the high frequencies. But a few — a very few — copies survive all such hazards. They manage to reproduce the full spectrum sound of the piano (and of course the wonderful performances of the musicians) on vintage vinyl, showing us the kind of sound we never expected from a non-descript jazz album such as this.
What We’re Listening For on The Three
- 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 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.
More on the Subject of Energy
This is a quality no one seems to be writing about, other than us of course, but what could possibly be more important? On this record, the more energetic copies took the players’ performances to a level beyond all expectations. It is positively shocking how lively and dynamic the best copies of this record are. I know of no other recording with this combination of sonic and musical energy. It is sui generis, in a league of its own.
Both sides are so transparent you can hear Shelly Manne vocalizing as he’s playing the drums. The drum solo on side two is killer here. So full of energy and so dynamic. Why aren’t more drum kits recorded this well? Check out the pictures inside the fold-open cover to see all the mikes that were used on the drums. That’s where that wall to wall, floor to ceiling sound comes from.
The transients are uncannily lifelike, conveying the huge amounts of kinetic energy produced when Shelly whacks the hell out of his cymbals.
Ne Plus Ultra Piano Trio
This record is made from the “backup” tape for the session. East Wind released two versions of the famous direct to disc version at 33 RPM, and for those of you who bother to read the commentary, you know that take one of that pressing presents a completely different performance of the music than the one found on the Inner City on offer here.
There was a time when the best copies of a recording like this would go directly into my collection. If I wanted to impress someone, audiophile or otherwise, with the You-Are-There illusion that only Big Speakers in a dedicated room playing a live recording can create, this would be up near the top of the list. There is practically nothing like it on vinyl in my experience.
This is without a doubt my favorite piano trio record of all time. Joe Sample, Shelly Manne, and Ray Brown only made one album together, this one, recorded direct to disc right here in Los Angeles for Eastwind in the Seventies. Joe Sample for once in his life found himself in a real Class A trio, and happily for jazz fans around the world, he rose to the occasion. Actually, it was more like an epiphany, as this is the one piano trio album I put in a class by itself. All three of The Three are giving us the best they’ve got on that November day in 1975.
When it comes to small combo piano jazz, there is none better.
Mint Minus Minus 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.
A Must Own Jazz Record
We consider this Piano Trio album a Masterpiece.
It’s a recording that should be part of any serious Jazz Collection. Others that belong in that category can be found here.
On Green Dolphin Street
Round About Midnight
Excerpts from the Liner Notes
On a windy and unusually cold night in Los Angeles, each of the three musicians arrived before the session start time of 10 PM on November 28, 1975. At exactly 10 PM, The Doobie Brothers session that was going on since morning ended. Two assistants immediately started setting up for the session. The Steinway concert grand piano, delivered the previous day, was wheeled in to the center of the room and got tuned. Shelly Manne’s drum kit was assembled in a makeshift “booth.” Microphones were set up, checked and positions adjusted.
Initially, Telefunken microphones were positioned on the piano, but later were replaced by two Neumann U87s. The piano lid was opened to the concert position and microphones were centered relative to the keys and placed a foot (30 centimeters) inward from the hammer and a foot (30 centimeters) away from the stings. One mic was pointed toward the bottom notes and the other pointed toward the top.
To record Ray Brown’s bass, a Shure SM56 and a Sony 38A were pointed at the bridge of the bass, two inches above it. The Shure was used to capture the attack and the Sony mic was used to capture the rich low tones.
Seven microphones were used to capture the sounds of the drum set. Two U87’s were placed overhead, roughly 16-inches above the cymbals facing down. The bottom quarter of the kick drum was dampened with a blanket on the outside and was mic’ed with a Shure SM56. SM56’s were also used for toms and bass toms. Sony 38A was used on the snare and Sennheiser’s Syncrhon on the high-hat.
Each mic was placed 2 inches away from the instruments in a close mic set up. Mr. Itoh got involved with fine tuning mic positioning for tone, stereo placement and balance. Meanwhile, final adjustments were being made on the cutting machine set up.
Within the hour, the set up was done and all preparations were completed. The musicians finished warming up and were ready for Take One. The usual banter subsided and everyone put on their “game face.” Even Ray Brown, who usually cracked jokes in a loud voice, looked serious as he turned his attention to Mr. Itoh, waiting for his cue. As soon as he was notified through the intercom that the cutting needle was put down, Mr. Itoh gave the signal with his hand, and the recording started. In 16 minutes, three tracks were recorded in rapid succession.
Relieved that the initial take was over, the musicians joined the producer and engineer in the control room to listen back from the 2-track tape that was used as back up. With the initial tension gone, all three excitedly made comments and evaluated their own performance and the sounds they got. The thumbs-up was given by the cutting engineer for take one and the musicians went back to the live room for the next take. This process was repeated until 4 AM the following morning, resulting in a total of three takes per track.
Interview with Producer Yasohachi “88” Itoh
I have to say that The Three by Joe Sample, Ray Brown and Shelly Manne was by far the most challenging experience of all the East Wind titles.
We wanted to use direct-to-disc or direct cutting recording technique for the project, which we heard was being used in Los Angeles. Since we were always interested in the latest technology, we wanted to try this new method. So we booked the session at a Los Angeles studio to work with a certain cutting engineer. We later realized that the booking was made on the week of Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, the studio cancelled the session on us at the last minute. I was already on a plane headed to Los Angeles. The session was cancelled on the day I arrived. I found out about it from our coordinator after I landed. The coordinator had already notified everybody of the cancellation.
Refusing to give up so easily, I started to look for an alternate location to record. I was able to find Amigo Studio, owned by Warner Brothers, who happened to have an excellent cutting engineer, Bobby Hatta, on staff. The Doobie Brothers was recording there until midnight and we were able book a session afterwards. We had to call and round up all the musicians and had to set up everything again and make sure everyone was rehearsed.
We finally got out of the studio around 6 AM. I felt sorry for Ray Brown, who had to go to Japan that day for a one-day session. Overall, I was very pleased with the session and thought the recording came out very good.
I was gratified when the record sold extremely well. We sold the first LP with all first takes until the stamper mold for the vinyl gave out. We put out another LP with second takes and that sold well. The CD version has both the first and second takes of each song.
The success was particularly sweet because we had to go through so much to get the project finished. It was both a trying and memorable experience
Amazon Rave Review
Before Joe Sample detoured into smooth jazz, he was a first-rate bop pianist. This 1975 set found bassist Ray Brown and drummer Shelly Manne (the latter two had worked together often, particularly with Barney Kessel), getting together for a session of standards, familiar jazz compositions, and one original.
The abbreviated liner notes don’t explain the challenge of making this recording. First, the scheduled studio booking was canceled at the last minute, requiring that a new studio be found once original producer Yasohachi “88” Itoh arrived in California, while they also had to wait until the Doobie Brothers finished recording at the new location.
It was also done direct-to-disc, requiring that an entire LP side be recorded in one take. Fortunately, the performances went well and the limited-edition project sold well until the stampers literally wore out, then the two sides of second takes were separately issued.
The [current] CD compiles both editions of the original LP and was evidently remastered from the session’s backup tapes, though this release oddly lacks credits for the composers and lyricists. Comparing the two takes of each tune is illustrative. The first take of “On Green Dolphin Street” has a longer, more inventive introduction and Sample’s energy seems a bit higher, though Brown’s bass work sizzles in each one.
Both versions of Oliver Nelson’s “Yearnin'” (which debuted on his landmark album Blues and the Abstract Truth) include a motif from his “Stolen Moments” and are cut from similar cloth. Brown introduces each version of the dramatic “‘Round Midnight” unaccompanied, with Sample’s bluesy piano sounding elegant yet never in a cocktail mood.
Finally the collaborative “Funky Blues” (likely composed on the date) has infectious gospel roots and swings like mad. Manne, always a superb drummer, complements his partners beautifully throughout the session.