Genre – Jazz – Piano & Vibes

McCoy Tyner – Expansions – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

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Expansions

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

Both sonically and musically, this is THE BEST McCoy Tyner album that we can recall ever playing! Expansions has long been a favorite around here — it’s got a great lineup (including Wayne Shorter and Ron Carter) and the most interesting set of songs that we’ve heard on a Tyner album.

Drop the needle on the last song, I Thought I’d Let You Know, for the best sound on the album. It’s rich and sweet with a BIG bottom end and a wonderful sounding cello. McCoy’s playing a lot like Bill Evans at his best on this song.

This is another album that’s frequently scooped right out of the bins by DJs and producers who like to sample the funky grooves. We almost never see this one and when we do they don’t usually sound like this, so if you like this kind of music you should jump on it! (more…)

Bill Evans – I Will Say Goodbye

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  • Bill Evans’ 1980 release makes its Hot Stamper debut with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last
  • Rich, smooth, sweet, and wonderfully natural, this is the sound we love here at Better Records
  • 4 stars: ” For his final Fantasy album, Evans, bassist Eddie Gómez, and drummer Eliot Zigmund perform memorable renditions of such songs as Herbie Hancock’s “Dolphin Dance”… Fine post-bop music from an influential piano giant.

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Horace Silver – Song For My Father

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  • You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on this Blue Note Jazz classic
  • The piano is clear and clean here, with much more weight and solidity than one would expect from an RVG recording
  • This copy was obviously cut with super-low distortion mastering equipment, and boy does it help the sound
  • 5 Stars: “Horace Silver’s signature LP and the peak of a discography already studded with classics. Silver was always a master at balancing jumping rhythms with complex harmonies for a unique blend of earthiness and sophistication, and Song for My Father has perhaps the most sophisticated air of all his albums…”

The leading edge transients on the horns here are excellent, with the pinched quality you hear on some tracks kept to a minimum. The whole of the ensemble is transparently clear. (more…)

Herbie Hancock – My Point of View

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More My Point of View

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

TWO KILLER SIDES, dramatically better sounding than the other copies we played it against. Both sides here are incredible — rich and warm with a huge bottom end and lots of space around the instruments. About as quiet as they come, Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus throughout.

We’ve been saving up copies of this album for years in hopes we could find a top copy to put on the site; we were pleasantly surprised to find one this good on an early label with decent vinyl.

This is a great album, with a killer lineup that includes Grant Green, Donald Byrd, Tony Williams, Hank Mobley and more. If you’re a fan of Herbie’s debut album Takin’ Off, you’ll find much to like here. The typical pressing leaves much to be desired though — many copies we’ve played sounded a bit hollow and flat. Hot Stamper copies give you richer, fuller sound and more energy, qualities that really help this music shine. (more…)

Bill Evans – The Paris Concert: Edition One

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  • An outstanding copy of this live album, with solid Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last – reasonably quiet vinyl for this kind of quiet piano music
  • These sides are doing pretty much everything right – as befits a live concert, there’s an overall unprocessed quality to the sound and good space around all three players
  • 4 1/2 stars: “With bassist Marc Johnson and drummer Joe La Barbera, Evans had one of the strongest trios of his career… The close communication between the players is reminiscent of Evans’ 1961 unit with Scott LaFaro and Paul Motian.”

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Oscar Peterson Trio – The Trio – Live From Chicago – Our Shootout Winner from 2009

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

Boy, these original Strobe Label (and T label) Verve pressings are sure all over the map. If there’s one jazz label that gets an F for consistency, it’s Verve. And they typically get an F (or at best a D) for mastering as well, since good sounding Verve pressings are few and far between. I guess that should not come as much of a surprise to many of our long time customers, but to hear how bad some of these pressings are mastered is nevertheless pretty shocking. One of the Strobe label copies we played had such a boosted top end it was positively distorted. (The RIAA curve does not allow that kind of top end boost without causing serious problems.)  

Lucky for you, dear reader, we found a copy that had the tubey magic and transparency that really lets this live jazz album transport you back in time to a small club in Chicago in the ’60s. (Some of the talking patrons won’t even shut up for the likes of Oscar Peterson!)

As we mentioned above, some copies are poorly mastered, so poorly that Ray Brown’s bass all but disappears from the trio! Other copies made Thigpen’s snare sound hard and too forward in the mix. This is obviously just a mastering EQ problem, since the good copies, such as this one, get all those elements to balance beautifully. (more…)

Herbie Hancock – Maiden Voyage

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises.

Freddie Hubbard on this album is nothing short of astonishing. I remember playing around with the stereo one day, listening for different effects as I made minor changes to the tracking weight, the VTA, adjustments to the Hallographs and the like, and at one point I noticed that the ensemble seemed to be really coherently connected, each of the players balanced with all the others. 

It was a striking effect and it made me realize that musical values can often be overlooked while chasing after audiophile effects of one kind or another. Hearing the ensemble come together made me appreciate this album even more.

Tony Williams on the drums here deserves a special nod. His cymbal work on the first track is original and spontaneous in the best tradition of jazz improvisation. (more…)

Horace Silver Quintet – Blowin’ The Blues Away

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  • A KILLER sounding copy with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it throughout – reasonably quiet vinyl too
  • Another triumph for Rudy Van Gelder – he refined a “live-in-the-studio” jazz sound that still sounds fresh to this day, even after 60 years
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Blowin’ the Blues Away is one of Horace Silver’s all-time Blue Note classics, only upping the ante established on Finger Poppin’ for tightly constructed, joyfully infectious hard bop… one of Silver’s finest albums, and it’s virtually impossible to dislike.”

The really good RVG pressings (often on the later labels) sound shockingly close to live music — uncompressed, present, full of energy, with the instruments clearly located on a wide and often deep soundstage, surrounded by the natural space and cool air of his New Jersey studio. As our stereo has improved, and we’ve found better pressings and learned how to clean them better, his “you-are-there” live jazz sound has come to impress us more and more. (more…)

Thelonious Monk – It’s Monk’s Time – Getting the Balance Right

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More It’s Monk’s Time

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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 It’s Monk’s Time.

There are three main elements that comprise the sound of It’s Monk’s Time: piano, sax and drums. You need all three to be balanced and correct. The mix is perfection on the best copies, with the piano, sax and drums clearly audible and in musically correct proportion to each other. 

As we played the sides we noted how each of them fared.

PIANO. Clear, present and lively. Very high-rez.

SAX. Smooth, rich and tubey, with no RVG squawk to be found.

DRUMS (and BASS). Big drums in a big room. Listen to how solid that kick is. The standup bass is tight and note-like.

Surprisingly side two sounded just like side one. We could find no fault with it. It doesn’t happen very often but it happened on this copy. (more…)

Bill Evans – At The Montreux Jazz Festival

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  • Evan’s Classic Live album from the Montreux Jazz Festival returns to the site with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from first note to last
  • A killer Verve stereo pressing, with lovely richness and warmth, real space and wonderful immediacy throughout
  • Recorded live in 1968, this superb release pairs Evans’ unique piano improvisations with bandmates Eddie Gomez and Jack DeJohnette
  • 4 stars: “Evans, famous for a soft-spoken pianistic touch, seems driven to new vistas on this album. He experiments more with harmonic dissonance and striking rhythmical contrasts, making this his most extroverted playing since his freshman release, New Jazz Conceptions.”

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