Jimmy Smith – A Difficult to Reproduce Jazz Masterpiece

More of the Music of Jimmy Smith

Rudy Van Gelder Is One of Our Favorite Engineers

In the past we’ve complained about “Rudy Van Gelder’s somewhat over the top echo-drenched brass,” but on a copy such as this there is nothing to complain about!

All that reverb on the brass sounds RIGHT. If you have a top quality front end (and the system that goes with it), this recording will be amazingly spacious, three-dimensional, transparent, dynamic, and open.

Copies of this album are sometimes so sour or dull (or both) that they go right in the trade pile. Add to that the difficulty of finding copies that are scratch-free and not too noisy and you have one tough shootout. Inner Groove Distortion caused by the non-anti-skate-equipped turntables of the day is a chronic problem with vintage jazz records, and this title is typically no exception — except in this case! 

A Must Own Jazz Record

This Demo Disc Quality recording should be part of any serious Jazz Collection.

It also ranks fairly high on our Difficulty of Reproduction Scale. Do not attempt to play it using any but the best equipment.

Unless your system is firing on all cylinders, even our hottest Hot Stamper copies — the Super Hot and White Hot pressings with the biggest, most dynamic, clearest, and least distorted sound — can have problems .

Your system should be thoroughly warmed up, your electricity should be clean and cooking, you’ve got to be using the right room treatments, and we also highly recommend using a demagnetizer such as the Walker Talisman on the record, your cables (power, interconnect and speaker) as well as the individual drivers of your speakers.

This is a record that’s going to demand a lot from the audio enthusiast, and we want to make sure that you feel you’re up to the challenge. If you don’t mind putting in a little hard work, here’s a record that will reward your time and effort many times over, and probably teach you a thing or two about tweaking your gear in the process.

Side One (The Fun Side)

With all that crazy swingin’ brass. Doc Severinsen on trumpet — who knew?

A+++, White Hot and the clear winner for side one. It’s BIGGER, richer and dramatically more Tubey Magical than any copy we have ever played before, yet there is no sacrifice in transparency or clarity. This is tube mastering at its finest. Not many vintage tube-mastered records manage to balance all the sonic elements as correctly as this copy did.

It’s so transparent — just listen to the echo off the back wall of the studio on track three!

What to Listen For — Side One

The bell tree in the right channel on track one of course. A great test for top end extension, harmonic complexity, clarity and freedom from smear. Get all the top end you can from whatever tweak or room treatment you’re trying, then check to make sure that all the brass instruments still sound right and you are good to go.

Side Two (The Organ Trio Side)

A++, with a real Midnight Blue groove going on. It’s tonally correct, lively and dynamic. It’s not as rich sounding and not quite as immediate as side one so we are calling it Super Hot, close to the best but not quite there.

RVG Redux

Regarding Rudy Van Gelder, you many have noticed that he comes in for a lot of criticism here at Better Records. We played multiple copies of this record. Obviously all of them were recorded by RVG. They also all happen to be mastered by Van Gelder, but not all of them sound very good.

You can’t fault Rudy Van Gelder for the sound of pressings that, for one reason or another, do not share the qualities of the hottest stamper copies.

He obviously cut many of his recordings properly, but for some unknown and unknowable reason the RVG magic didn’t end up in the grooves. We can’t really know who is responsible for the bad sound on some of them, but we know Rudy must be responsible for the good sound on the ones that do sound good. There’s nobody else involved.

The Gold CD

Steve Hoffman remastered this Five Star album on DCC Gold CD and did a wonderful job. If you have good digital playback, consider buying the CD.

It will never sound as good as one of our Hot Stampers, but you can be fairly sure it will sound better than the average uncleaned Verve disc you might find in the bins.

Further Reading

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