Genre – Jazz – Large Group

What We Listen For – Timbre, Richness, Tubey Magic and Freedom from Artificiality

More of Our Favorite Contemporary Jazz Recordings

More Barney Kessel

 

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This Home Audio Exercise entry was inspired by the wonderful qualities of the Contemporary recording you see pictured, qualities brought to our attention while doing a shootout of various pressings of the album in early 2009. 

We addressed a number of issues in our commentary: first and foremost what we were listening for on the album (and what we were hearing). A bit of mono versus stereo (in this case both can be good). This is followed by some Audiophile Equipment bashing.

We highly recommend you make every effort to find yourself a copy of this album and use it to test your own equipment. The right pressing can be both a great Demo Disc and a great Test Disc. (more…)

Sonny Rollins – Alfie

More Sonny Rollins

More Alfie

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  • This Sonny Rollins classic boasts killer Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides
  • Though I’ve been playing this album for more than 25 years, for some reason this is only the third copy to ever hit the site 
  • A triumph for Rudy Van Gelder, a Top Impulse title, and as much a showcase for Oliver Nelson (+11) as it is for Sonny Rollins
  • 4 1/2 Stars: “Rollins attempts to capture the textures of life through his incisive and energetic playing, his coherent improvisations, and variations on musical themes.”

This album is on the TAS Superdisc list, which is probably what first alerted me to it. I know I was listening to this album 25 years ago, just from the memory of hearing it in the condo I used to live in. It sounded great back then and it sounds even better now! It may just be my personal favorite of all his work.

What makes this album so great? For starters, great players. Kenny Burrell is wonderful as always. Interestingly, I never realized that Roger Kellaway is the pianist on these sessions. I saw him live years ago with Benny Carter (who was 90 at the time) and he put on one of the most amazing performances at the piano I have ever seen. For some reason, he was never able to make it as a recording artist, but the guy is a genius at the keyboard.

Of course, any orchestration by Oliver Nelson is going to be top flight and this is no exception. Two of his records are Must Owns, in my book: Jimmy Smith’s Bashin’ and his own The Blues and the Abstract Truth. No jazz collection without them can be taken seriously. (more…)

Marty Paich Big Band – What’s New

Our White Hot Shootout Winner

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  • With seriously good Double Plus (A++) sonic grades on both sides, this copy has Tubey Magical Big Band sound to die for
  • If you large group swinging West Coast Jazz is your thing – think Art Pepper Plus Eleven – you will really get a kick out of this one
  • With All Tube 1957 engineering from the legendary Bones Howe at Radio Recorders, this record’s audiophile credentials are fully in order
  • Amazon 5 Stars: “…there’s a wonderful, almost nostalgic, fifties West Coast Jazz vibe warmly glowing throughout.”

See all of our Marty Paich albums in stock

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. (more…)

Oliver Nelson’s Masterpiece – Better Sounding on the (Right) Reissue

See all of our Oliver Nelson albums in stock

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For those of you who still cling to the idea that the originals are better, this record will 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…)

Vivid and Accurate Timbre for Reeds and Percussion

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This is one of the most phenomenal sounding records I have ever heard in my life. Take the best sound you ever heard from the best authentic Mercury classical record (not that Heavy Vinyl BS) and translate it into pop arrangements for clarinets, flutes, saxes, oboes, bassoons, and what do you have? Sound that leaps out of the speakers with absolutely dead on tonality.

But what is most shocking of all is how vivid and accurate the timbre of every instrument is.

Yes, it’s multi-miked, and sometimes the engineers play with the channels a bit much (especially at the start of the first track).

That said, if you have the system for it, it’s very possible you have never heard most of these instruments sound this real, as if you were standing right in the studio with them. It’s that crazy good.

Which brings up a question: Who but Better Records is finding incredible Demonstration Quality recordings like these nowadays?

Harry Pearson used to. Jim Mitchell did back in the ’80s.

Are the Audiophile Reviewers of today picking up the baton that the giants of the past have dropped at their feet.

I see little evidence of it. In fact I see none.

(more…)

Bob Florence – Here And Now – and Tough to Find in Stereo

Some sections on our site are hard to find. Here’s one with lots of cool records in it:

Forgotten Jazz Classics

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Bob Florence – Here And Now

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

A Five Star Album in the All Music Guide!

This lively big band LP has excellent sound!

At 32, Florence already largely had his writing style together. He utilized top L.A. studio players for this set including such soloists as altoist Bud Shank, the tenors of Bill Perkins and Bob Hardaway, and trombonist Herbie Harper, but it is the tricky charts on the four originals and four standards (including “The Song Is You” and “Straight No Chaser”) that make this an LP worth searching for.” – AMG

More recordings engineered by Bones Howe

Michel Legrand – After the Rain

Some sections on our site are hard to find. Here’s one with lots of cool records in it:

Forgotten Jazz Classics

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Michel Legrand – After the Rain

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

This album is PURE MAGIC! I know of no other jazz album like it. It’s lyrical and moody, yet comes to life at a moment’s notice when the horn players start to feel the spirit. If you’re familiar with the music he wrote for The Thomas Crown Affair (he won an Academy Award for “Windmills of Your Mind”), you may have a good feel for subtle, impressionistic, often moody quality of After the Rain . Or check it out on youtube (while trying to imagine the sound being at least one million times better).

More Michel Legrand

Michel’s idea was to assemble a group of his favorite musicians, especially those who were ordained in the lyrical persuasion, to record his next album.

With Zoot Sims and Phil Woods trading off stylistically opposed solos within the gentle, subtly “French” atmosphere, aided by guitar, trumpet, Michel’s piano, and rhythm, you have something new, even unique.

Phil Woods doubles on clarinet, and his lead work on Martina is the one of the finest examples of jazz clarinet I’ve ever heard. (Art Pepper is another guy who can really swing on the clarinet without sounding dated.)

What to Listen For (WTLF)

Check out how smooth and sweet the trumpet sounds on the second track, After the Rain. The balance on this side is hard to fault.

Further Reading

…along these lines can be found below.

Check out our new section containing many of the best sounding jazz records we’ve ever played: The Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.

We also have a section for many of the worst records we have auditioned: The Better Records Hall of Shame.

We have a section for all the Heavy Vinyl Rock and Jazz Records we have reviewed on the site to date.

Charles Mingus – Mingus Revisited – 25 Guys in a Big Room Playing Live

Some sections on our site are hard to find. Here’s one with lots of cool records in it:

Forgotten Jazz Classics

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Charles Mingus – Mingus Revisited

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

This copy sounds like a big room full of musicians (25 in all!) playing live, which it surely was. The Tubey Magical richness of this 1960 recording is breathtaking – no modern record can touch it. Allmusic gives it 4 stars and we think it’s maybe even a better than that.

On both sides the best sound can be heard starting with the second track, but on side one the first track was very spacious and had a fuller sounding piano than practically any other we played. (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.
(more…)

Count Basie – Basie Plays Hefti

Some sections on our site are hard to find. Here’s one with lots of cool records in it:

Forgotten Jazz Classics

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Count Basie – Basie Plays Hefti

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

This is the followup to the smash Basie album The Atomic Mr. Basie, an album we would love to make available if we could ever find a clean, good sounding copy to play.

Side one is rich, tubey and lively, right up there with some of the best pressings we played.

Side two tends to start out a bit hot but by the second track it’s fuller, smoother, and every bit as dynamic as anything on the album. The sound just keeps getting better from there, with the next track coming across especially big and clear.

More Count Basie

. Superb Super Hot Stamper sound on both sides – what a great Basie album this is!
. Basie Plays Hefti catches Basie’s band at the peak of their powers in 1958
. Rich, tubey, dynamic and clear, we know of no better vintage Basie album than this
. “The Count Basie Orchestra was in top form for this set of Neal Hefti                       arrangements.”|

The liner notes tell the story of this album well; go to the bottom of this listing to read them.

Not Your Typical Vintage Basie Album

Basie was recording like a madman back in the late ’50s and even all through the ’60s. In 1958, the year of this release, he put out seven (7!) albums on the Roulette label. We’ve played quite a number of them over the years and found relatively few with audiophile quality sound.

Including the original Roulette pressing of this very title. We’ve only heard a few, and had only one for our shootout, but it was awful enough to make us swear off buying more, especially considering the prices vintage jazz albums are going for these days. Hard and sour brass, no real top or bottom, it’s the sound of a poorly mastered Old Jazz Record, fine for the consoles of the day, not so good on today’s advanced stereo systems. Emus seems to be the only way to go.

And of course we absolutely loved the music. I had a chance to see the Basie Big Band perform not long ago at Disney Hall and a fairly large chunk of the music and arrangements they play these days are Neal’s, practically half I would venture to guess. Meaning simply that Hefti’s music has clearly stood the test of time. Play this album and you’re sure to see what I mean.