Genre – Jazz – Saxophone

Red Mitchell Quartet – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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

TWO SUPERB SIDES on quiet vinyl. This stunning copy of this Better Records fave has some of the best upright bass sound we’ve heard; it’s welll-defined with texture and weight. It’s also unbelievable dynamic and lively. The clarity and transparency are mindblowing here. We went crazy over the huge soundfield on this copy — wall to wall, floor to ceiling, and then some.

We love the sound of Contemporary Records — it’s our favorite jazz label by a long shot. Roy DuNann always seemed to get The Real Sound out of the sessions he recorded — amazingly realistic drum sound; full-bodied, breathy horns; lots of top end extension; deep, note-like bass; weighty piano, studio ambience, three-dimensionality, and on and on.

The Sound of the Best Copies

Let’s face it: many reissues of this 1957 recording — this pressing is on the yellow ’70s label — have a veiled, dull quality to their sound. When they don’t, man, they can really beat the pants off even the best originals.

We get Black Label original Contemporary pressings in all the time, but few of them are mastered right and most never make it to the site. Some are pure muck. Some have bass so bloated that it’s hard to believe anyone would ever take that kind of sound seriously.

Don’t buy into that record collecting slash audiophile canard that Original Equals Better. That’s bullshit. Records don’t work that way, and anyone with two good ears, two good speakers and a decent-sized record collection should have learned that lesson a long time ago. The fact that a minority of audiophiles and record collectors actually do understand these things is a sad commentary on the state of reproduction in the home. But that’s another story for another day. (more…)

Stan Getz & Joao Gilberto – Getz-Gilberto #2

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  • A KILLER sounding copy with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) Live Jazz sound from start to finish 
  • This original stereo pressing is the first copy to make it to the site in years – boy are these hard to find in this kind of clean condition with top quality sonics
  • Rich, tubey and musical, the sound is wonderful for these live performances of two very different groups, one featuring Getz, the other Jobim 
  • 4 1/2 Stars: “Getz/Gilberto #2 holds its own with an appealing selection of fine jazz and bossa nova cuts.”

This original Verve Stereo pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records cannot even BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in a real jazz club, this is the record for you. It’s what Vintage Records are known for — this sound.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds. (more…)

John Coltrane – Giant Steps on Real Atlantic Vinyl

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

As you might expect, the original Blue and Green label pressings have — potentially — superb sound on Giant Steps, but somewhat surprisingly — assuming you’ve heard a White Hot original copy — the Red and Green label pressings can sound every bit as good.

The Tubey Magical richness and warmth carried over into the ’70s, at least on some copies of this title, and we’re very glad they did, as finding clean original Coltrane albums from the early ’60s is not so easy these days.

If you know anything about this music you know that Coltrane builds up a head of steam on practically every track on the album. He is blasting away here and it is a thrill to be sure. The soundfield opens up naturally, with real depth.

The clarity does not come at the expense of brightness or thinness of any kind. In fact, just the opposite is the case, the sound is so rich and tubey you will be practically bowled over by it.

The extension on both ends of the frequency spectrum is one of the qualities that often sets the better copies apart from the pack. All the top end and the deep bottom end weight and fullness that are so essential to the sound are simply not to be found on most pressings — but here they are.

Superb Engineering

The engineering duties were handled by Phil Iehle, a man who went on to record a few of Coltrane’s most iconic albums for Atlantic (My Favorite Things, Coltrane Jazz) and the venerable Tom Dowd, who also did Coltrane Jazz in 1961, Coltrane’s Sound in 1964 and many others.

Phil Iehle also helped engineer Buffalo Springfield’s Last Time Around, as well as albums by Mose Allison, Jerry Jeff Walker, Charles Mingus, the MJQ, Herbie Mann, Eddie Harris, Hank Crawford and dozens of others. Staff engineer at Atlantic? That’s my guess. But a supremely talented one nonetheless.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Giant Steps 
Cousin Mary 
Countdown 
Spiral

Side Two

Syeeda’s Song Flute 
Naima 
Mr. P.C

AMG 5 Star Rave Review

Giant Steps bore the double-edged sword of furthering the cause of the music as well as delivering it to an increasingly mainstream audience. Although this was John Coltrane’s debut for Atlantic, he was concurrently performing and recording with Miles Davis… He was, in essence, beginning to rewrite the jazz canon with material that would be centered on solos — the 180-degree antithesis of the art form up to that point. These arrangements would create a place for the solo to become infinitely more compelling. This would culminate in a frenetic performance style that noted jazz journalist Ira Gitler accurately dubbed “sheets of sound.” Coltrane’s polytonal torrents extricate the amicable and otherwise cordial solos that had begun decaying the very exigency of the genre — turning it into the equivalent of easy listening.

Coltrane’s Sound – Forget the Reissues

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  • Outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound, or close to it, on both sides of this early pressing of Coltrane’s Sound
  • An authentic Green and Blue Atlantic stereo pressing, the only version of the album that has the potential for Hot Stamper sound, which explains why this is only the second copy to hit the site since 2011
  • “This is one of the most highly underrated entries in Coltrane’s voluminous catalog. Although the same overwhelming attention bestowed upon My Favorite Things was not given to Coltrane’s Sound upon its initial release, both were actually recorded during the same three-day period in the fall of 1960… these recordings remain among Trane’s finest.”

This is yet another superb Tom Dowd recording of Coltrane in his prime, with support from the brilliant McCoy Tyner and Elvin Jones.

Advice

Forget the later Red and Green Atlantic pressings. Every one we’ve ever played was flat, dry, and thin. They sound like the cheap reissues that we Atlantic churned out in the ’70s. Don’t get me wrong; there are some good sounding records on the Red and Green label, but you really have to know what you are doing, or be really lucky, to find them.

We’ve played them by the score, and found relatively few winners among a slough of losers. If you want to take your chances on some, knock yourself out, more power to you, but expect to come up with nothing to show for your time and money almost every time. That’s been our experience anyway.

And be very thankful if you happen to run into one of these early Atlantic stereo pressings, especially if it plays as quietly as this one does. Few Classic Coltrane albums survived the jazz lovers of the day and their awful turntables. (more…)

Benny Carter – Jazz Giant on Contemporary

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

HUGE DEMO DISC QUALITY SOUND ON BOTH SIDES! This Contemporary LP sounds AMAZING — it has a wide and open soundfield that really allows you to hear into the music. Drop the needle on track three (Carter’s Own ’A Walkin’ Thing’) to hear these guys really swinging! The sound is so natural, and it really jumps out of the speakers. This knocked our original Stereo Records pressing out of the ballpark — it wasn’t even close.

Sometimes the OJC versions of Contemporary Records are excellent. Those tend to be the ones we sell. But most of the time the pressings that were mastered and put out by Contemporary in the mid-’70s (until they were bought by Fantasy) are superior. 

My understanding is that Bernie Grundman was cutting a lot of records for Contemporary in those days. If that’s true he was doing a great job because those are some wonderful sounding records.  

If you like the sound of Contemporary Records, you won’t find a better example than this! You may remember that Acoustic Sounds did a version back in the ’90s, which was a complete disaster. I haven’t heard the recent 45 RPM version, but I seriously doubt that it sounds like this.

TRACK LISTING

Old Fashioned Love 
I’m Coming Virginia 
A Walkin’ Thing 
Blue Lou 
Ain’t She Sweet 
How Can You Lose 
Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gives to Me

AMG Review

Benny Carter had already been a major jazz musician for nearly 30 years when he recorded this particularly strong septet session for Contemporary. With notable contributions from tenor saxophonist Ben Webster, trombonist Frank Rosolino and guitarist Barney Kessel, Carter (who plays a bit of trumpet on “How Can You Lose”) is in superb form on a set of five standards and two of his originals. This timeless music is beyond the simple categories of “swing” or “bop” and should just be called “classic.”

Art Pepper – Living Legend – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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

SUPERB SOUND AND MUSIC! Art Pepper’s saxophone sound is Right On The Money, breathy and airy with clearly audible leading edge transients. The lineup on this LP is stellar, with Hampton Hawes on piano and keys, Shelly Manne on drums, and the great Charlie Haden on bass guitar.   

We’ve mentioned plenty of times what big fans we are of Contemporary Label Jazz LP’s and this record is another sonic triumph for engineer Roy DuNann. The sound is warm and lively, with superb clarity and virtually no distortion. The top end is wonderfully extended, allowing you to really appreciate some fantastic cymbal work by Shelly Manne.

Hampton Hawes is wonderful on this album. On the track “What Laurie Likes,” he switches over to an electric piano, giving the sound a very cool ’70s jazz-rock feel. It’s too bad these guys didn’t record more material in this vein — they really nail it. 

TRACK LISTING

Ophelia 
Here’s That Rainy Day
What Laurie Likes 
Mr. Yohe 
Lost Life 

AMG Review

Art Pepper, one of the major bop altoists to emerge during the ’50s, started his comeback with this excellent set, Living Legend. After 15 years filled with prison time and fighting drug addiction, Pepper was finally ready to return to jazz. Accompanied by three of his old friends (pianist Hampton Hawes, bassist Charlie Haden and drummer Shelly Manne), Pepper displays a more explorative and darker style than he had previously. He also shows a greater emotional depth in his improvisations and was open to some of the innovations of the avant-garde in his search for greater self-expression.

Grover Washington – Feels So Good

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  • Killer Triple Plus (A+++) sound on side one and Double Plus (A++) on side two – who knew this was such a well recorded album?
  • So much like live music — uncompressed, present, full of energy, with the instruments clearly located and surrounded by the natural space of the studio
  • An RVG recording (and mastering) from 1975 that is a KNOCKOUT on a copy like this
  • “Its shimmering, soulful grooves refute the argument that smooth jazz is little more than mere ambience, combining expert playing and intricate songwriting to create music that is both compelling and comforting.” Allmusic 4 Stars

Can you believe that Feels So Good topped both the soul and jazz albums charts and peaked at number ten on the pop album charts in the 1975?! Quite an achievement for our man Grover here. He had earlier made an album with Bob James handling the arrangements for the very large group of musicians on hand, as well as playing playing keyboards, and that album has been a personal favorite of mine for more than forty years, All the King’s Men. (more…)

Art Pepper – Gettin’ Together

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  • Insanely good sound throughout, just shy of our shootout winner with nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound – quiet vinyl too
  • We love the amazingly natural, uncolored, un-hyped sound Roy DuNann and Howard Holzer were able to achieve at Contemporary back in the day
  • You will hear as we did playing this very copy that there’s simply nothing between you and the musicians
  • “Pepper utilizes Davis’ sidemen on this 1960 near-classic… as usual, Pepper brings something very personal and unique to his playing; he sounds like no one else.” – 4 1/2 Stars, All Music 

This album, and this copy in particular, deliver some serious Art Pepper Contemporary Magic. We’re big fans of Pepper and this label, and we love the sound Roy DuNann and Howard Holzer were able to get out of these guys. On the best pressings, such as this one, there’s just nothing between you and the music. You will have a very hard time finding a much better sounding jazz record than either side of this copy, anywhere.

Superb sound from Contemporary — better than just about any other Pepper disc they recorded IMHO. We played a bunch of copies and few can compare to this one! (more…)

Dave Brubeck Trio Featuring Gerry Mulligan – Compadres – What to Listen For

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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 the album, or any live album for that matter.

As is the case with most live albums, the sound of the crowd tells you a lot about the recording, and on this copy the crowd sounded exceptionally clear and natural.

Many live albums have crowds that are either too bright, or too loud between tracks, both of which can be very off-putting. When the crowd is recorded and mixed right — again, these are pros from Columbia Records who really know their jazz — you feel as if you are immersed right there with them in the audience. (more…)

The L.A. Four Going Home – Review

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

This East Wind Japanese Direct-to-Disc LP has AMAZING SOUND. The boys do a fantastic version of Greensleeves here, flawlessing switching idioms from swing to bossa nova to bop. 

AMG Biography

Altoist/flutist Bud Shank and Brazilian acoustic guitarist Laurindo Almeida first teamed up in the 1950s to create music that predated but strongly hinted at bossa nova. In 1974, they reunited to form the L.A. Four with bassist Ray Brown and drummer Chuck Flores. With Shelly Manne and later Jeff Hamilton replacing Flores on drums, the L.A. Four recorded eight albums for Concord through 1982, breaking up shortly afterward. Their mixture of cool-toned bop, Brazilian-oriented music, and ballads was quite attractive.