Genre – Jazz – Drummer Led

Shelly Manne & His Friends – Bells Are Ringing

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  • Incredible Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on vinyl that’s about as quiet as these Black Label originals ever play
  • The piano sounds lifelike right from the start, a beautiful instrument in a natural space, tonally correct from top to bottom
  • This copy makes it clear that this is a Demo Disc Quality Recording for Contemporary, and that’s saying a lot
  • It’s also our favorite jazz piano performance by Andre Previn on record
  • “Previn’s piano is the lead voice and his virtuosity, good taste, melodic improvising, and solid sense of swing are chiefly responsible for the music’s success.”

I have a very long history with this album, dating back close to twenty years. My friend Robert Pincus first turned me on to the CD, which, happily for all concerned was mastered beautifully. We used it to test and tweak all the stereos in my friends’ systems.

Playing the original stereo record, which I assumed must never have been reissued due to its rarity (I have since learned otherwise), all I could hear on my ’90s All Tube system was blurred mids, lack of transient attack, sloppy bass, lack of space and transparency, and other shortcomings too numerous to mention, all of which I simply attributed at the time to Old School vintage jazz vinyl.

Well, things have certainly changed. I have virtually none of the equipment I had back then, and I hear none of the problems with this copy that I heard back then on the pressing I owned.

To be fair, this is of course a different pressing. I sold the old one off years ago, but I have to think that much of the change in the sound was a change in cleaning approach, equipment, tweaks and room treatments, all the stuff we prattle on about endlessly on the site.

In other words, if you have a highly-resolving modern system and a good room, you are should be knocked out by the sound of this record. I sure was. (more…)

The Chico Hamilton Quintet

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  • This superb live recording finally makes its Hot Stamper debut, boasting a Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) side two and an outstanding Double Plus (A++) side one
  • A killer mono pressing, with solid weight, lovely richness and warmth, real separation between the instruments and wonderful immediacy throughout
  • Recorded live at The Forum Theater in Los Angeles in 1956, this vintage pressing boasts exceptionally natural sound, as well as the energetic live interplay of these five musicians (including a cellist)

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Shelly Manne – Manne – That’s Gershwin!

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  • KILLER sound from start to finish with each side earning a Triple Plus (A+++) grade for its Shootout Winning sound, or one very close to it 
  • “The Gershwin program includes some of the typical familiar standards but also versions of the lesser-known “By Strauss,” “The Real American Folk Song,” “Prelude #2” and “Theme from Concert in F… this music generally swings, leaves space for concise solos and is fairly fresh.” – All Music

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Art Blakey – At The Jazz Corner of the World, Vol. 1

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  • An outstanding copy of this superb live album, with solid Double Plus (A++) sound from the first note to the last
  • Both sides here have big, full-bodied master tape sound – huge, Tubey Magical and lively
  • The presence is astonishing — turn it up loud and it’ll be as if you were right there at the Jazz Corner of the World with Blakey and the boys
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Mixing up standards and favored originals from peer group composers, the band is, in the vernacular of the era, cooking… this band was as definitive a modern jazz ensemble as there ever was, and the immaculately chosen repertoire elevates this to one of the greatest live jazz session ever, and belongs on the shelf of all serious jazz listeners.”

There’s lots of deep, note-like bass to go a long with plenty of extension up top. The transparency is mindblowing — you can really hear the sound of the musician’s breath moving through the horns. (more…)

Art Blakey – Meet You At The Jazz Corner… Volume 1

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  • The first in this superb 2-volume live set makes its Hot Stamper debut here with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last
  • Tubier, more present, more alive, with more of that “jumpin’ out of the speakers” quality that only The Real Thing (an old record) ever has
  • Credit goes to RVG once again for the huge space that the superbly well recorded combo occupies
  • “Here all ears are tuned to the proverbial “jazz corner of the world,” better known as Birdland, where the quintet serves up a healthy sampling of its concurrent catalog… a welcome addition to the library of most any jazz lover.”

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Art Blakey – At The Jazz Corner Corner of the World, Vol. 2

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  • With two seriously good Double Plus (A++) sides, this was one of the better sounding copies we played in our recent shootout – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • The presence is superb — turn it up good and loud and you’ll be right there at the Jazz Corner of the World with Blakey and the boys, circa 1960  
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Mixing up standards and favored originals from peer group composers, the band is, in the vernacular of the era, cooking… this band was as definitive a modern jazz ensemble as there ever was, and the immaculately chosen repertoire elevates this to one of the greatest live jazz session ever, and belongs on the shelf of all serious jazz listeners.”

There’s lots of deep, note-like bass to go a long with plenty of extension up top. The transparency is mindblowing — you can really hear the sound of the musician’s breath moving through the horns. (more…)

Shelly Manne & His Men – At The Blackhawk Vol. 1 – Reviewed in 2011

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

WONDERFUL SOUND AND MUSIC! This Contemporary Yellow Label LP is West Coast Jazz at its best! The sound is SUPERB — airy, open, and spacious with an STUNNINGLY GOOD bottom end. You won’t believe how ALIVE the bass sounds — the depth and definition are OUT OF THIS WORLD! Each instrument here sounds just right — weighty, percussive piano; punchy drums; and lovely leading edge transients on the brass. Contemporary got live nightclub jazz sound down to a “T” here. (more…)

Shelly Manne & His Men – At The Blackhawk Vol. 2 – Reviewed in 2008

More Shelly Manne

More At The Blackhawk Vol. 2

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

WONDERFUL SOUND AND MUSIC! This Contemporary Yellow Label LP is West Coast Jazz at its best! The sound is SUPERB — airy, open, and spacious with an STUNNINGLY GOOD bottom end. You won’t believe how ALIVE the bass sounds — the depth and definition are OUT OF THIS WORLD! Each instrument here sounds just right — weighty, percussive piano; punchy drums; and lovely leading edge transients on the brass. Contemporary got live nightclub jazz sound down to a T here.   

“These lengthy performances (“Vamp’s Blues” is over 19 minutes long) give trumpeter Joe Gordon, the cool-toned tenor-saxophonist Richie Kamuca, pianist Victor Feldman, bassist Monty Budwig and the leader/drummer a chance to really stretch out. Fine 1950s bebop.” — AMG (more…)

Mendelssohn / Scotch Symphony / Maag – Reviewed in 2011

More of the music of Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)

Scotch Symphony / Maag

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame

Both sides of this record have that classic Decca chocolatey, rich, sweet sound. It”s not for everybody, it”s probably not the sound one would hear in a concert hall, but we love it and so do many audiophiles. 

The performance here by Maag is legendary and definitive. The sound is perfectly suited for this music, with massed strings to die for. This is classic Tubey Magical Decca orchestral sound. If you want immediacy, buy a Mercury. If you want luscious, rich string tone, this London should be right up your alley.

Side two had less smear and less distortion and congestion than we heard on side one. It’s also even RICHER sounding, if such a thing is possible. More transparent too. A good balance of clarity and richness. A++ all the way. (more…)

Art Blakey Quartet – A Jazz Message

More Art Blakey

A Jazz Message

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  • This original Impulse stereo pressing has stunning nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound from start to finish 
  • Both sides here are superb — big, full-bodied and super dynamic with a huge bottom end and lots of space around all of the players
  • “Although this session was under Blakey’s leadership, Stitt (on both tenor and alto) emerges as the main soloist, playing his trademark bebop lines with creativity and typical enthusiasm.” – All Music

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