- This is a classic from Pepper – all the songs were written by saxophonists and he tears into them with gusto and naked emotion, hallmarks of his style of play
- This is some seriously good-sounding saxophone-led jazz, thanks to Roy DuNann and Lester Koenig
- 4 1/2 stars: “Pepper is very much on top of his game throughout, ably demonstrating a capacity for precision and intimidating passion. Nowhere is proof more readily available than on these sides, which project Pepper at the peak of his craft.”
- If you’re a fan of classic jazz from the ’50s and ’60s, this Contemporary from 1960 undoubtedly belongs in your collection
- The complete list of titles from 1960 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.
The horns are really jumpin’ out of the speakers here, but they never get hard or squawky like they do on some pressings. This combination of clarity and fullness is not easy to come by, but it lets the music flow in glorious waves of All Tube 1960 analog. With the always wonderful Jack Sheldon on trumpet, this is a great date from the Golden Age of Jazz Recordings.
With the always wonderful Jack Sheldon on trumpet, this is a great date from the Golden Age of Jazz Recordings.
This vintage Contemporary pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records cannot 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 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 Smack Up 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 1960
- 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.
We love the sound of Contemporary Records — it’s our favorite jazz label by a long shot. Roy DuNann always seems to get The Real Sound out of the sessions he recorded — amazingly realistic drum sound; full-bodied, breathy horns; lots of top-end extension; deep, note-like bass; weighty piano and so on. RVG and Columbia make great recordings too, but none are as consistently natural as those on Contemporary.
What We’re Listening For On Smack Up
- 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.
The Players and Personnel
- Bass – Jimmy Bond
- Drums – Frank Butler
- Piano – Pete Jolly
- Saxophone – Art Pepper
- Trumpet – Jack Sheldon
- Producer – Lester Koenig
Pepper on Sax
Leonard Feather’s sleeve notes include two quotes by Pepper which throw light on his approach to playing jazz:
Knowing the relationships of chords to one another, how they fit into sequences and how you build on them, all reminds you that there’s an important relationship between mathematics and music.
The way a man walks, the way he talks, the timbre of his voice, the cadences of his speech, his little variations in phrasing a thought — all have so much to do with individuality. The same thing is true of a man’s playing in jazz… his tone, the way his sound moves, his feeling for time. That’s why jazz is consistently fascinating. You could ask six guys to play an identical solo, but when you heard the results, you’d hear six different solos.
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.
Las Cuevas De Mario
A Bit of Basie
How Can You Lose?
Maybe Next Year
AMG 4 1/2 Star Review
Pepper is very much on top of his game throughout, ably demonstrating a capacity for precision and intimidating passion. Remarkably, his personal demons rarely (if ever) dissipated his talents or resulted in less than enthusiastic recordings. Nowhere is proof more readily available than on these sides, which project Pepper at the peak of his craft.