Genre – Jazz – Big Band

Count Basie – On My Way & Shoutin’ Again

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On My Way & Shoutin’ Again

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  • Incredible shootout winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it from start to finish – relatively quiet vinyl too
  • Both sides here are clear, present, and energetic, with plenty of Tubey Magic, befitting this All Tube Recording on Verve from 1962
  • “A solid and worthwhile album that has been out of print for far too long, this will be a welcome addition to any Basie lover’s collection, and comes highly recommended to anyone even mildly interested in excellent large-ensemble mainstream jazz.” 

For us audiophiles both the sound and the music here are wonderful. If you’re looking to demonstrate just how good 1962 All Tube Analog sound can be, this killer copy will do the trick. (more…)

Benny Goodman – Benny Goodman Swings Again

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Benny Goodman Swings Again

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  • Benny Goodman Swings Again makes its Hot Stamper debut with Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound throughout – exceptionally QUIET vinyl too 
  • This Columbia Six Eye stereo pressing was hard to fault – big, open, clear, with space and three-dimensionality that modern pressings can only dream of
  • On a live recording such as this, the transparency of this All Analog recording has the power to transport you to the front row of Ciro’s in West Hollywood – what a thrill!
  • “With a particularly strong lineup that includes vibraphonist Red Norvo, tenorman Flip Phillips and trumpeter Jack Sheldon, this out-of-print LP features Benny Goodman at his best (even if the swing era had supposedly ended 15 years earlier).”

These Nearly White Hot Stamper pressings have top quality sound that’s often surprisingly close to our White Hots, but they sell at substantial discounts to our Shootout Winners, making them a relative bargain in the world of Hot Stampers (“relative” being relative considering the prices we charge). We feel you get what you pay for here at Better Records, and if ever you don’t agree, please feel free to return the record for a full refund, no questions asked. (more…)

Ted Heath – Swings In High Stereo

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.

This Super Hot Stamper has DEMO QUALITY SOUND. Just listen to Heath’s arrangement of My Funny Valentine on side one, or Big Ben, the second track on side two, for audiophile Big Band sound. Many consider Ted Heath’s early London recordings to be some of the best big band ever recorded. The American big bands rarely got the kind of sound that the Decca engineers were able to achieve on records like this. For one thing they didn’t have Kingsway Hall, Kenneth Wilkinson or the Decca “Tree.”

Unlike some of the American big band leaders who were well past their prime by the advent of the LP era, Heath is able to play with all the energy and verve required for this music. He really does swing in high stereo.  (more…)

The Direct Disc Sound of the Glenn Miller Orchestra

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.

One of the all time GREAT Direct to Disc recordings. For sound and music this one is hard to beat. And the vinyl is as quiet as any you will find. 

We went a bit overboard years ago when we wrote, “I don’t think you can find a better sounding big band record on the planet.” Well, we’ve heard plenty of amazing big band albums in the course of our Hot Stamper shootouts for the last five or ten years, albums by the likes of Basie, Zoot Sims, Ellington, Shorty Rogers, Ted Heath and others. (more…)

Count Basie – Chairman of the Board – The Reissues that Beats the Originals (and of course the Classic Records Remaster)

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  • A Shootout Winning copy with Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the first side and Double Plus (A++) sound on the second
  • From first note to last, this copy is big, clear, rich and lively, with huge amounts of space around the band
  • Forget the honky, hard-sounding Roulette originals, and of course the second-rate Classic Records pressing – this reissue is the way to go
  • 4 1/2 stars: “This 1958 date for Roulette was a rare chance for the orchestra to perform on its own, and listeners to hear how powerful the band could be when its concentration was undiverted… The record is admittedly heavy on the blues, but it’s a brassy, powerful vision of the blues… A dynamic date, it shows the ‘new testament’ edition of Basie’s orchestra in top form.”

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 ’70s. We are of course here referring to the good modern mastering of 30+ years ago, not the dubious and too often disastrous modern mastering of today. 

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 leads me to think that most of the natural, full-bodied, lively, clear, rich sound of the album is on the tape, and that all one has to do to get that vintage sound on to a record is simply to thread up the tape on the right machine and hit play. (more…)

Ellington and Basie – The Count Meets the Duke

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First Time – The Count Meets the Duke

 

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  • Shootout Winning sound quality – both sides earned our top grade of Triple Plus (A+++) or close to it
  • Huge amounts of three-dimensional space and ambience, and rich Tubey Magic by the boatload – this 30th Street recording shows just how good Columbia’s engineers were back then 
  • Quiet throughout – good luck finding a Six Eye Stereo pressing this nice on your own, they sure don’t grow on trees
  • “… a very successful and surprisingly uncrowded encounter… Ellington and Basie both play piano (their interaction with each other is wonderful) and the arrangements allowed the stars from both bands to take turns soloing.” – 4 1/2 Stars

What the best sides of this wonderful collaboration between two jazz giants 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 back 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 of this large group of players 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 above

Production and Engineering

Teo Macero was the producer, Fred Plaut or Ray Moore were probably the engineers for these sessions — we cannot find the credits to know one way or the other — in Columbia’s glorious sounding 30th Street Studio. It’s yet another remarkable disc from the Golden Age of Vacuum Tube Recording. (more…)

My-Fi Versus Hi-Fi

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We went wild recently over a marvelous copy of the Ted Heath record you see pictured. Talk about Tubey Magic, the liquidity of the sound was positively uncanny. This was vintage analog at its best, so full-bodied and relaxed you’ll wonder how it ever came to be that anyone seriously contemplated trying to improve upon it.

This is our kind of sound. It’s also important to keep in mind that our stereo seemed to love the record. (Stereos do that.) Let’s talk about why that might be the case.
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Louis Armstrong & Duke Ellington – The Great Reunion

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  • With a nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) side two and a solid Double Plus (A++) side one, this vintage stereo pressing was one of the best in our most recent shootout
  • So big, so rich, so Tubey Magical, we doubt you have ever heard Louis Armstrong sound remotely as good as he does here  
  • We remember the Classic pressing as being a very good sounding record but make no mistake, this is a GREAT sounding one
  • “One of the best things about this configuration is the sound of the Duke’s piano – an underrated pianist, he seldom recorded in such an intimate context.”

Note that the second track on both sides is slightly smoother and more natural than the first. Listen for it! (more…)

Masterpieces By Ellington from 1950

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  • You’ll find DEMO quality sound on this 6 Eye pressing, boasting outstanding Double Plus (A++) grades or BETTER on both sides 
  • For his first LP, Ellington is freed from prior 3-minute constraints and the results are nothing short of breathtaking on a record this good
  • The early mono sound is shockingly real – not for the era, but for any era – it’s remarkably big, rich and Tubey Magical
  • 4 1/2 stars: “…he and the band rose to the occasion with extended (11-minute-plus) “uncut concert arrangements” of “Mood Indigo,” “Sophisticated Lady,” and “Solitude,””

We’ve known about this wonderful album for decades, since first got hold of a red label copy from the ’70s. Although not in the league with the best 6 eye pressings, even that late reissue had enough Columbia magic left in its grooves to impress the hell out of me.

And the fact that a jazz album recorded in 1950 was still in print more than twenty years later is testament to the lasting power of Ellington’s music. As Kenny Burrell would say, “Ellington Is Forever.” (more…)

Basie’s Farmers Market Barbecue – First Among Equals, or The Best Pablo Ever?

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Musically FMB is a Top Basie Big Band title in every way. This should not be surprising: many of his recordings for Pablo in the ’70s and early ’80s display the talents of The Count and his band of veterans at their best.

Sonically it’s another story. Based on our recent shootout for this title, in comparison to the other Basie titles we’ve done lately we would have to say that FMB is the best Basie big band title we’ve ever played. Since so many Basie big band recordings are so good, we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves; after all, we haven’t done shootouts for all of his Pablo large group recordings. To be safe we’ll just call this one First Among Equals.

The following are some general guidelines as to What to Listen For (WTLF) while you critically evaluate any of the Basie Big Band Pablo recordings (or any other big band recordings for that matter). 

Simply put, we offer here a short list of qualities that we’ve come to appreciate on the best of the Basie Big Band pressings, qualities that we find are often in short supply on lesser LPs (and, as a rule, those that have been remastered onto Heavy Vinyl). (more…)