Genre – Jazz – Large Group

Duke Ellington – Ellington Indigos

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

This 6-Eye Stereo pressing blew us away with its superbly well recorded romantic big band jazz, of which Ellington was a master. Both sides of this pressing are huge, rich, tubey and clear. This is absolutely the right sound for this music. A near-perfect demonstration of just how good 1958 All Tube Analog sound can be – no modern record can hold a candle to a pressing as good as this one. If you like your jazz ballads performed with deep feeling, by a road-tested group of virtuoso players, this record is for you.

If you like the sound of relaxed, tube-mastered jazz, you can’t do much better than Ellington Indigos. Many of the other Six Eye copies we played suffered from blubbery bass and transient smearing, but the clarity and bass definition here are surprisingly good. The warmth and immediacy of the sound here may just blow your mind. (more…)

Oliver Nelson’s Big Band – Live From Los Angeles

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  • An incredible sounding copy and the first to ever hit the site; Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the first side, Double Plus (A++) on the second
  • If you love the swinging sounds of Oliver Nelson’s Big Band arrangements behind Jimmy Smith, Frank Sinatra, Monk and others, you can’t go wrong here
  • Fairly quiet throughout with both sides playing Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
  • “Here’s a driving high flying record from start to finish. It’s jazz at it’s exciting best as Nelson’s arranging conducting and zippy sax work lead real quality playing…” – Billboard 

What do we love about these vintage pressings? The timbre of every instrument is Hi-Fi in the best sense of the word. The unique sound of every instrument is reproduced with remarkable fidelity. That’s what we at Better Records mean by “Hi-Fi,” not the kind of Audiophile Phony BS Sound that passes for Hi-Fidelity these days. There’s no boosted top, there’s no bloated bottom, there’s no sucked-out midrange.

This is Hi-Fidelity for those who recognize The Real Thing when they hear it. I’m pretty sure our customers do, and whoever picks this record up is guaranteed to get a real kick out of it. (more…)

Michel Legrand – After the Rain – A Personal Favorite

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).

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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.) (more…)

Michel Legrand – Legrand Jazz

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

This album is more common in mono than stereo, but we found the sound of the mono pressing we played seriously wanting. It’s dramatically smaller and more squawky and crude than even the worst of the stereo pressings we played. 

We had a copy we liked years ago but that was years ago. We don’t have that copy anymore and we don’t have a stereo that sounds the way our old one did either. Here are some other records that we don’t think sound very good in MONO. (more…)

Duke Ellington – Masterpieces By Ellington

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Masterpieces By Ellington

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

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…)

Duke Ellington – At the Bal Masque

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

This Super Hot 2-pack has the Tubey Magical richness we love about vintage Columbia recordings. The “bad” sides here are proof that no two sides sound the same – they suck. More superb sound from the legendary CBS 30th street studios in New York. The size and power of a jazz orchestra in glorious all ANALOG sound.

If you want to know what it was like to attend an Ellington supper club concert, this record will do the trick (even though the album was recorded in the studio and the applause added later). Ellington’s magic is on display for everyone to hear.

Old and New Work Well Together

Duke Ellington At the Bal Masque is yet 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 ’70s. (We are of course here referring to the good modern mastering of 30+ years ago, not the bad modern mastering of today.) (more…)

Deodato – Prelude

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  • This killer pressing earned solid Double Plus (A++) grades on both sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • The brass and percussion are amazing on 2001 (and every other track) – thanks RVG
  • We had no idea there was space this huge in the recording until we heard the best copies
  • “Also Sprach Zarathustra (2001),” won the 1974 Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Performance

Both sides are surprisingly sweet and Tubey Magical, nice qualities for a CTI record to have since so many of them are aggressive and edgy to the point of distraction.

Listen to the trumpet on the second track on side one — it’s so immediate, it’s practically JUMPING out of the soundfield, just bursting with energy. Rudy can really pull off these big productions on occasion, and this session was clearly one of them. If you have the kind of stereo that’s right for this music (the bigger the better) you could easily find yourself using this record as a demonstration disc. It’s very unlikely your audiophile friends have ever heard anything like it. (more…)

Ry Cooder – Jazz – Transparency Is Key

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of Jazz. 

The best copies realistically convey the live-in-the-studio quality of the sound. This is a tight ensemble working at the top of their game, no surprise there; Ry surrounds himself with nothing but the best.

But the better copies have such amazingly transparent sound you can’t help feeling as though you really are in the presence of live human beings You really get the sense of actual fingers plucking those guitar strings. You hear mouths blowing air through horns and woodwinds. (more…)

Grover Washington Jr. and All The King’s Horses

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Without a doubt the best album Washington ever made, a desert island disc and a true Must Own

Both sides of this original Kudu pressing are OUT OF THIS WORLD. The sweetness and transparency of Grover Washington Jr.’s breathy sax went beyond any copy we’ve ever played. Who knew it could sound like this? We sure didn’t!

It’s spacious and full of life with virtually no distortion. Of special note, this copy has amazingly articulate bass which brings out the undeniable funkiness of the music in a way that no other copy did. There’s so much life in these grooves. The sound jumps out of the speakers right into your lap.

The early ’70s were a good time for Van Gelder. All the King’s Men from 1973 is an amazing Demo Disc for large group. But it only sounds good on the copies that it sounds good on, on the pressings that were mastered, pressed and cleaned right, a fact that has eluded most jazz vinyl aficionados interested in good sound.

But not us. We’ve played the very special pressings that prove the album can sound amazing.

I’m a Big Fan

I’ve been a big fan of this record since I first heard it all the way back in High School. I only found out later that this is not what most people would consider “real” jazz — it’s CTI jazz, more in the pop jazz or soul jazz vein. But I love the music more with each passing year and would not hesitate for a moment to recommend it to any jazz lover or audiophile. If the first track doesn’t knock you out, this album may not be for you. Without a doubt, in my book it’s the best thing Grover Washington ever did.

The really good RVG jazz pressings sound shockingly close to live music — uncompressed, present, full of energy, with the instruments clearly located and surrounded by the natural space of the studio. As our stereo has gotten better, and we’ve found better pressings and learned how to clean them better, his “you-are-there” live jazz sound has begun to impress us more and more.

Obviously the credit must go to Rudy Van Gelder for recording and mastering the album so well.

Yer Average Copy

The sound we most often find on original pressings (the only ones that ever sound any good; the later pressings are awful) is full of heavy compression, and suffers as well from the kind of high frequency restriction that prevents the top end from extending in a harmonically correct way. The result: Grover’s horn often will take on a somewhat sour quality. Our better Hot Stampers are both uncompressed and open up top.

 

 

 

Ray Charles – Genius + Soul = Jazz

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  • With stunning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides and Count Basie backing up The Genius himself, this copy is As Good As It Gets! 
  • Most of this album is Ray stretching out with “some pretty mean and lean, cut-to-the-heart-of-the-matter B-3 Hammond organ licks.”
  • Big and rich, clear and Tubey Magical, the 1962 sound of this vintage stereo pressing is just right; quiet vinyl too!
  • Allmusic notes: “…one of those instrumentals, a cover of the Clovers’ “One Mint Julep,” would give Charles one of his most unpredictable (and best) early-’60s hits.”.

This album has long been a personal favorite of mine. It features Ray on the organ playing with every bit as much soul as he sings with, and who sings with more soul than Ray Charles?

Both sides here are open and transparent with HUGE amounts of room-filling bass. (more…)