- Tonally correct from top to bottom and as transparent as any vintage recording you’ve heard, the combination of clarity and Tubey Magic here is hard to beat
- The Trio, including Ray Brown and Ed Thigpen, are in fine form on these live recordings from the London House in Chicago; if you want to hear one of the great jazz trios at the height of their powers, this is the ticket!
- “…[Peterson] was generally in peak form during this era. He sticks to standards on this live [album] (a good example of the Trio’s playing), stretching out ‘Sometimes I’m Happy’ creatively for over 11 minutes and uplifting such songs as ‘In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning,’ ‘Chicago’ and ‘The Night We Called It a Day.'”
- If you’re a fan of Oscar’s, this Top Title from 1961 belongs in your collection.
- The complete list of titles from 1961 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.
Peterson really puts on a great show. He’s made an awful lot of records during his career and most of them aren’t especially noteworthy. This album is clearly an exception to that rule. (If You Could See Me Now is another one.)
This pressing was a HUGE step up from the other copies we played in our recent shootout. This killer copy has the immediacy that puts you front and center at The London House for a great jazz show. Ray Brown is his usual incredible self on bass.
This vintage Verve stereo 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.
What The Best Sides Of Live From Chicago 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 1961
- 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.
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 Live From Chicago
- 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.
If you have big, full-range speakers one of the qualities you may recognize in the sound of the piano is 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.
This is what good live recordings tend to do well. There isn’t time to mess with the sound. Often the mix is live, so messing around after the fact is just not an option. 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 capture these wonderful musical performances on vinyl, showing us the sound we never expected from Verve.
This is one.
Boy, these old Verve pressings are sure all over the map. If there’s one jazz label that gets an “F” for consistency, it’s Verve. And they typically get an “F” (or at best a “D”) for mastering as well, since good-sounding Verve pressings are few and far between. I guess that should not come as much of a surprise to many of our long time customers, but to hear how bad some of these pressings are mastered is nevertheless pretty shocking. One of the Strobe label copies we played had such a boosted top end it was positively distorted. (The RIAA curve does not allow that kind of top end boost on record without causing serious problems.)
Lucky for you, dear reader, we found a few copies with the presence and transparency that really let this live jazz album transport you back in time to a small club in Chicago in the ’60s. (Some of the talking patrons won’t even shut up for the likes of Oscar Peterson!)
As we mentioned above, some copies are poorly mastered, so poorly that Ray Brown’s bass all but disappears from the trio! Other copies made Thigpen’s snare sound hard and too forward in the mix. This is obviously just a mastering EQ problem, since the good copies get all those elements to balance beautifully.
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.
A Must Own Jazz Record
We consider this Oscar Peterson album a Masterpiece.
Others that belong in that category can be found here.
I’ve Never Been in Love Before
Wee Small Hours
The Night We Called It a Day
Sometimes I’m Happy
“…the pianist was generally in peak form during this era. He sticks to standards on this live [album] (a good example of the Trio’s playing), stretching out “Sometimes I’m Happy” creatively for over 11 minutes and uplifting such songs as “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning,” “Chicago” and “The Night We Called It a Day.”