Genre – Jazz – Large Group

Wes Montgomery – California Dreaming – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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

This White Hot Stamper Shootout Winner has the REAL Wes Montgomery/ Creed Taylor/ Rudy Van Gelder MAGIC in its grooves. You will not believe how big, rich and full-bodied this pressing is on side one! Since this is one of Wes’s best albums, hearing this side one was a THRILL for us and will no doubt be as big a thrill for you too.   

Beware any and all imitations (even the one I like somewhat, the Cisco version). They barely BEGIN to convey the qualities of the real master tape the way this pressing does. This White Hot Stamper exhibits huge amounts of ambience and spaciousnesss, with far more energy and the kind of “see into the studio” quality that only the real thing ever seems to have. 

Wall to Wall

Note especially how so much musical information is coming from the far sides of the soundfield. The Cisco reissue makes a mockery of that wall to wall sound, sucking it into the middle and flattening it into a single plane. Ugh.

To be fair — and I always am — the Cisco did beat and will beat the pants off of practically any copy you run across. There is a very simple explanation for this: Verve is probably the most poorly mastered label in the history of the world. No other label produced so many wonderful sounding recordings that were turned into lousy sounding LPs — I could list them for days. We rarely even pick up most Verves, having been burned so many times we just can’t face another badly mastered noisy LP. (more…)

Marty Paich Big Band – What’s New

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What’s New

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

This is a wonderful example of the kind of record that makes record collecting FUN.

Albert Marx was the producer of the original sessions back in 1957. Fast forward to the ’80s and Marx is now the owner of his very own jazz label, Discovery Records. Who would know the sound of the original tapes better than he? Working with Dave Ellsworth at KM, Marx has here produced one of the better jazz reissues we’ve heard in years.

As we never tire of saying, Old and New can sometimes work extremely well together. What’s New is another remarkable Demo Disc from the Golden Age of Vacuum Tube Recording Technology, with the added benefit of mastering on the more modern cutting equipment of the early ’80s. We are of course here referring to the good modern mastering of 35 years ago, not the bad modern mastering of today. (more…)

Zoot Sims – Passion Flower – Our Shootout Winner from 2014

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

One of the all time great Pablo sleepers. Why is no one else writing about records like these? The music is wonderful and the sound is top drawer on the best copies. If you’ve tried and failed with other Pablo Zoot Sims records, fear not: this title is one of his best, musically and sonically. 

If you want to hear the Duke’s music swing in top sound, get this album.

This is a big group, probably at least a dozen pieces at any given time, and all that energy is captured on the best copies with tremendous engineering skill. The lively arrangements are by none other than Benny Carter, a man who knows his jazz. His career started in the ’20s(!) and lasted into this century if you can believe it. I consider myself fortunate to have seen him play locally when he was more than 90 years old. He stlll had it, kind of. (more…)

Benny Carter – Further Definitions

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  • KILLER sound throughout for this original Impulse stereo pressing with each side earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • These sides are clean, clear, spacious and natural, yet overflowing with the rich, Tubey Magical sound of vintage ANALOG
  • There’s not a chance in the world the current 180 gram reissue can hold a candle to this early stereo pressing 
  • 5 stars: “The all-star group (which also includes Hawkins, altoist Phil Woods, Charlie Rouse on second tenor, pianist Dick Katz, guitarist John Collins, bassist Jimmy Garrison, and drummer Jo Jones) performs a particularly inspired repertoire. Carter’s charts, which allow Hawkins to stretch out on “Body and Soul,” give everyone a chance to shine. …Very highly recommended.”

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Wes Montgomery – A Day In The Life – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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

THE BEST SIDE ONE WE’VE EVER HEARD on quiet vinyl nonetheless, giving you White Hot A+++ sound for Montgomery’s great cover of A Day In The Life! This was the only copy that absolutely nailed it for that tough track — top end extension, tons of tubey magic, loads of energy, huge three-dimensional sound and more. The big orchestral ending, where most copies fall apart, sounds EXCELLENT here. The brass and winds sound KILLER. 

We listened to a bunch of different copies in our recent shootout and this one had a side two that could not be beat. It’s damn near impossible to find decent sounding early A&M pressings, but the sound here is gorgeous. Almost every copy we listened to was dull, lifeless, and overly compressed. This becomes especially offensive when the strings come in, most notably in the climatic middle section of “A Day In The Life”. It’s abrasive, nondescript junk! Fortunately, this Hot Stamper lets you enjoy this great music with warm, rich sound that won’t make your ears bleed.

Side two is MAGICAL on this copy. There’s tons of tubey magic to go along with excellent clarity, strong presence and a wonderfully punchy bottom end. The percussion sounds incredible and the guitar is Right On The Money. You get the top end extension that’s sorely lacking from most pressings, and the transparency is to die for! A+++ all the way.

Side one is very good but lacks a slight degree of extension up top. Other than that, the sound is hard to fault. The big orchestral ending to the title track actually works well on this copy. Most copies aren’t nearly this warm, rich or full-bodied. (more…)

Lincoln Mayorga & Distinguished Colleagues – Volume III – Our Shootout Winner from 2009

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

DEMO DISC QUALITY SOUND on both sides of this AMAZING Hot Stamper! This Limited Edition Sheffield Lab Direct Disc recording has some of the best sound we have ever heard for this title. The sound doesn’t get any better than this, with CLARITY and that JUMP OUT OF THE SPEAKERS quality we desire from a Hot Stamper. 

We just finished a big shootout of this album [in 2009!] and this Flower label pressing was the undisputed champion. Many copies of this album tend to sound a bit thin and somewhat bright. On this copy, the sound is rich, full, and tonally correct from top to bottom. The horns sound especially wonderful.

What do Hot Stampers give you for this album? It’s very simple. Most copies of this album are slightly thin and slightly bright. They give the impression of being very clear and clean, but some of the louder brass passages start to get strained and blarey. This copy is rich and full. The sound is balanced from top to bottom. You can play it all the way through without fatigue.

Trumpets, trombones, tubas, tamborines, big bass, drums — everything has the true tonality and the vibrancy of the real thing. The reason this record was such a big hit in its day because the recording engineers were able to capture that sound better than anybody else around. That’s also the reason this is a Must Own record today — the sound holds up!

Just listen to that amazing brass choir on Oh Lord, I’m On My Way. It just doesn’t get any better than that. If ever there was a Demo Disc, this is one! (more…)

Miles Davis – Birth of the Cool

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

Birth Of The Cool in White Hot Stamper form! We’ve been trying to find copies of this classic music from 1949-1950 that really delivered in an audiophile sense, but as you might imagine it was one tough task. We checked out Mono and Stereo copies, Originals and Reissues… basically anything we could get our hands on. It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t cheap, but we managed to find a pressing here that delivers excellent sound throughout. (more…)

Passion Flower Is Better Than For Duke

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This is one of the all time great Pablo sleepers.

Why is no one else writing about records like these? The music is wonderful and the sound is top drawer on the best copies. If you’ve tried and failed with other Pablo Zoot Sims records, fear not: this title is one of the best we have ever played, musically and sonically.
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Gerry Mulligan – And His Concert Jazz Band On Tour

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More And His Concert Jazz Band On Tour

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

White Hot on side two, nearly White on side one, this live album is crazy good sounding on this copy. Huge space, size and clarity, with Tubey Magical richness befitting its 1960 recording dates. On the second track of side two the swingin’ Zoot Sims is as immediate and real as any sax player can be. 

Even though this is an All Tube Vintage Jazz recording, some copies tended to get a bit dry and midrangy. Some of this no doubt has to do with the different venues the songs were recorded in.

The sound is not particularly wide — some of it sounds almost mono — but it is tall and deep, and certainly more than spacious enough. (more…)

Oliver Nelson – The Blues and the Abstract Truth

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  • Oliver Nelson’s masterpiece returns to the site with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides
  • Clean, clear and present with a solid bass foundation, as well as the big stage this big group of musicians needs
  • If all you know is Van Gelder’s original cutting, you will surely have your eyes and ears opened by this wonderful Hot Stamper
  • Allmusic calls this album “…his triumph as a musician for the aspects of not only defining the sound of an era… but on this recording, assembling one of the most potent modern jazz sextets ever.” 5 Stars (of course)

The sound is tonally correct, Tubey Magical and above all natural. The timbre of each and every instrument is right and it doesn’t take a pair of golden ears to hear it. So high-resolution too. If you love ’50s and ’60s jazz you cannot go wrong here.

For those record lovers who still cling to the idea that the originals are better, this record will hopefully set you straight.

Yes, we can all agree that Rudy Van Gelder recorded it, brilliantly as a matter of fact. Shouldn’t he be the most natural choice to transfer the tape to disc, knowing, as we must assume he does, exactly what to fix and what to leave alone in the mix?

Maybe he should be; it’s a point worth arguing.

But ideas such as this are only of value once they have been tested empirically and found to be true. (more…)