Genre – Jazz – Piano & Vibes

Ray Charles – The Best Of His Jazz Piano Performances

More Ray Charles

More The Best Of

xxxxx

  • An excellent sounding copy with solid Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides
  • This compilation gives you a taste of Ray’s great instrumental tracks, all in surprisingly good sound

Like any compilation the sound varies from track to track, but most of the material here sounds WONDERFUL!

You may have noticed that Tom Dowd, the recording engineer for these tracks, receives a fair amount of criticism on our site. We’re not always fans of his work on rock albums, but on jazz music he usually managed to do a great job. The sound is open, sweet, transparent, rich — all the stuff we like here at Better Records. (more…)

Thelonious Monk Plays Duke Ellington in 1955

More Thelonious Monk

More Plays Duke Ellington

xxxxx

  • Monk’s brilliant interpretations of Duke Ellington classics come to life with Double Plus (A++) grades or BETTER on both sides of this wonderful mono LP
  • Clear and open, with rock-solid bass and a present, full-bodied piano, this copy delivers 1955 piano trio magic in spades
  • One of our favorites by Monk, this album includes 8 Ellington classics such as “It Don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing),” “Sophisticated Lady,” “Mood Indigo” and quite a few more
  • 4 stars: “The delicacy and inherently intricate melodies that Duke Ellington is best known for are perfectly matched to Monk’s angular and progressive interpretations.” 

This album was originally released on Riverside in 1955, and was the first 12 inch disc the label chose to put out, in mono of course. As we all know, a mono recording only sounds right in mono. And this copy sounds very right indeed.

This copy has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that most modern records cannot even BEGIN to reproduce. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio, this is the record for you. It’s what good Analog is known for — this sound. (more…)

Vince Guaraldi – Jazz Impressions Of Charlie Brown from 1964

More Vince Guaraldi

More Jazz Impressions Of Charlie Brown

xxxxx

  • This superb pressing boasts Shootout-winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on side one and an excellent Double Plus (A++) side two
  • Guaraldi introduced the world to his unique, melodic, elegantly simple style with this very album – only a pressing this good does the timeless score justice
  • Not the quietest copy we’ve ever played, although finding one much quieter than this is simply not in the cards unless you’re willing to settle for much poorer sound quality
  • 5 stars: “The most remarkable thing, besides the high quality of Guaraldi’s whimsically swinging tunes, is that he did not compromise his art one iota for the cartoon world; indeed, he sounds even more engaged, inventive, and lighthearted in his piano work here than ever.”

On both sides, but especially on this Shootout Winning side one, the sound was jumpin’ out of the speakers. There was not a trace of smear on the piano, which is unusual in our experience, although no one ever seems to talk about smeary pianos in the audiophile world (except for us of course).

If you have full-range speakers, some qualities you may recognize in the sound of the piano on this recording are WEIGHT and WARMTH. The piano is not hard, brittle or tinkly. Instead the best copies show you a wonderfully full-bodied, warm, rich, smooth piano, one which sounds remarkably like the ones we’ve all heard countless times in piano bars and restaurants. (more…)

Previn Plays Up a Storm for Contemporary

 

mannebells_1603_1426521233

Bells Are Ringing

More Contemporary Records

 

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 that I simply attributed at the time to 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 pressing I owned. This is clearly a different LP, 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, 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…)

Milt Jackson & John Coltrane on Killer ’70s Reissue Vinyl

More Milt Jackson / More John Coltrane

More Bags & Trane

xxxxx

  • Stunning sound on this stereo pressing with both sides rating close to our Shootout Winner, just shy of Triple Plus (A++ to A+++)
  • One of Tom Dowd’s many outstanding recordings of John Coltrane at the height of his powers – the sound is to die for
  • Exceptionally quiet on both sides for a vintage jazz album such as this – it actually plays a true Mint Minus
  • 5 stars: “Vibraphonist Milt Jackson and tenor saxophonist John Coltrane make for a surprisingly complementary team on this 1959 studio session, their only joint recording.”

If all you have ever played is an original pressing or a modern reissue, you are in for a treat — this copy is going to murder them.

We found all of this out the hard way, by having some originals and some of the “wrong” reissues in our shootout. Of course, we didn’t know they were not going to be especially good sounding until we played them, but it didn’t take long to recognize there was one stamper and one stamper only that had the sonic goods. It was simply no contest. And it was not an original pressing.

Needless to say, this record has that stamper. (more…)

Hampton Hawes in 1964 – The Green Leaves of Summer

More Hampton Hawes

More The Green Leaves of Summer

xxxxx

  • This ’70s pressing was our Shootout Winner on side two for its clean, clear and lively sound, with lovely space around all of the instruments 
  • Not an easy title to find, and this one is quieter than most of what we played – Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
  • “Hawes had lost nothing of his swinging style while in prison, as can be heard on such numbers as “Vierd Blues,” “St. Thomas” and “Secret Love,” and he was just starting to hint at moving beyond bop. Recommended.” – All Music

This Contemporary Yellow Label LP has wonderful Contemporary All Tube sound, courtesy of the amazing engineering of Howard Holzer. The piano is right — weighty and percussive with a full-bodied tone. The bass definition is superb. The clarity and transparency here are nothing short of breathtaking.

Steve Ellington’s brush work on the snare is very clear on this copy, helping to push the music to the next level. On the great Sonny Rollins track, St. Thomas, Steve Ellington is doing some fancy playing on the rims of his drums — the ambience bouncing off the studio walls is amazing.

A major highlight here is the completely original interpretation of Blue Skies. Hawes gets going with some really complicated two-handed playing. With the superb clarity of this copy you won’t miss a note. (more…)

Herbie Hancock – Takin’ Off – A Cisco Record We Like

More Herbie Hancock

More Takin’ Off

xxxxx

Sonic Grade: B-

The sound is very good, with correct tonal balance and plenty of life. I was WAY TOO HARD on this album when it first came in. It’s playing right now and really swinging!

I just learned the secret to getting this one to sound right, and I am happy to share it with you. TURN IT UP!. When you get some volume going, the musicians really come to life on this album. It may sound crazy, but you need to play this one as loud as you would play your average rock record.

Billy Higgins whacks the hell out of his snare on the second track on side one. He really goes to town on that thing. Imagine you are sitting twenty feet from him in a jazz club; it would be plenty loud, right? Now find the equivalent volume setting on your preamp, drop the needle and get ready to FEEL the music, the way you would feel it if you were in that club. 

Robert Pincus and Kevin Gray did a great job on this one. I put it right up there with the very best jazz records on Heavy Vinyl being made today. The first track is a tiny bit lean for my taste, but things get better after that.

Of course, how many copies do you really see of an album like this that aren’t beat to death, or minty but hundreds of dollars? Mighty few in our experience, so this has to be seen as a welcome addition to any audiophile’s jazz collection.

 

 

Dave Brubeck – Time Out on Classic Records

More Dave Brubeck

More Time Out

xxxxx

Sonic Grade: D

When we did a shootout for this record way back in October of 2007 we took the opportunity to play the Classic Records 200 gram pressing. Maybe we got a bad one, who knows, but that record did not sound remotely as good as the real thing (6 eye or 360, both can be quite good). The piano sounded thin and hard, which was quite unexpected given the fact that we used to consider the Classic LP one of their few winners and actually recommended it.

As we said in our shootout: “We dropped the needle on the Classic reissue to see how it stacked up against a serious pressing. Suffice it to say, the real Time Out magic isn’t going to be found on any heavy vinyl reissue!”

 

 

Basie & Peterson – Probably Bad Sounding on Heavy Vinyl, But Who Really Knows?

More Count Basie

More on The Timekeepers

xxxxx

 

Analogue Productions remastered this longtime favorite of ours, The Timekeepers, on 45 RPM vinyl. Considering their dismal track record — an unbroken string of failures, scoring not a single winner with which I am familiar — I’m guessing the Hot Stamper we offered here would have blown the doors off their version as well as any other Basie album they will ever do on vinyl. (more…)

A 45 RPM Bloated Mess from Acoustech

guaraldi45

 

We played an amazing Hot stamper copy that got the bottom end on this album as right as we’ve ever heard. The contribution of the bass player was clear and correctly balanced in the mix, which we soon learned to appreciate was fundamentally important to the rhythmic drive of the music.

The bass was so tight and note-like you could see right into the soundstage and practically picture Monte Budwig plucking and bowing away.

This is precisely where the 45 RPM pressing goes off the rails. The bloated, much-too-heavy and poorly-defined bass of the Heavy Vinyl remaster makes a mess of the Brazillian and African rhythms inherent in the music. If you own that $50 waste of money, believe me, you will not be tapping your foot to Cast Your Fate to the Wind or Manha de Carnival.
(more…)