Genre – Jazz – Saxophone

Standard Coltrane – If You’re Looking for the Best Sound…

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

As you may have guessed by now, remastered is a bit of a dirty word around these parts. Most remastered records we play, from The Beatles to John Coltrane to ZZ Top, sound to us like pale imitations of the real thing, whether the real thing is an original or a reissue from back in the day.

But only a fool could fail to appreciate how correct and lively the best copies of this remastered record sound, and we’re no fools here at Better Records. We judge records by one and only one criterion: how they sound. We pay no mind to labels, record thicknesses, playback speeds, mastering speeds or anything else you can read about on audiophile websites.

We’re looking for the best sound. We don’t care where it comes from.

On that basis we awarding side two of this copy the award for The Best Sound on Standard Coltrane. No other pressing of the album could do what this side two was doing. And the good news is that side one was nearly as good, making this the first and best copy to ever hit the site.

Side One

So dynamic, present and lively, with a rich sax and clear, solid piano. Great energy.

Side Two

Even better, with tighter, bigger bass. Let’s give RVG a hand, the tonality on this side is HTF: Hard To Fault. Not many remastered records can make that claim in our experience.

The New OJC Reissues (more…)

Thick and Dull – Not Our Sound!

See all of our John Coltrane albums in stock
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John Coltrane – Giant Steps

Rhino 45 RPM 2 Disc Set Debunked

Sonic Grade: F

The sound of the 45 RPM 2 disc version cut by Bernie Grundman does not exactly tickle our fancy. It sounds thick and dull, much like the Deja Vu Bernie remastered years ago for Classic Records.

As is the case with so many of the Heavy Vinyl reissues released these days, the studio ambience you hear on these pressings is a pitiful fraction of the ambience the real pressings are capable of revealing, the ones mass-produced by Atlantic, original and reissue alike.

Rhino bills their releases as being pressed on “180 gram High Performance Vinyl.” However, if they are using “performance” to refer to sound quality, we have found the performance of their vinyl to be quite low, lower than the average copy one might stumble upon in the used record bins.

Check out our Heavy Vinyl Scorecard to read all about the latest winners and losers.

Coop! The Music Of Bob Cooper

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  • With two seriously good Double Plus (A++) sides, this copy was one of the best we played in our recent shootout  
  • These guys are playing live in the studio and you can really feel their presence on every track — assuming you have a copy that sounds like this one
  • An amazing 1958 All Tube Live-in-the-Studio Jazz recording by the legendary Roy DuNann
  • “Tenor saxophonist Bob Cooper’s only Contemporary album is a near-classic and one of his finest recordings … This set is an underrated gem.”

This is a superb sounding Contemporary recording from 1958. Cooper is joined by top West Coast musicians like trombonist Frank Rosolino, vibraphonist Victor Feldman, pianist Lou Levy, bassist Max Bennett, and drummer Mel Lewis. On some parts of the Jazz Theme the group grows to be ten pieces. Normally this might present a problem for a recording engineer, but Roy DuNann is up to the task! If you want to hear the sound of brass recorded properly, Roy is your man.

Both sides are Tubey Magical, rich, open, spacious and tonally correct. These guys are playing live in the studio and you can really feel their presence on every track — assuming you have a copy that sounds like this one.

What do the better Hot Stampers pressings like this one give you?

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks for the horns and drums, not the smear and thickness so common to most LPs.
  • Tight, note-like bass with clear fingering — which ties in with good transient information, as well as the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the players.
  • Then: presence and immediacy. The musicians aren’t “back there” somewhere, way behind the speakers. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt — Roy DuNann — would have put them.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

Based on what I’m hearing my feeling is that most of the natural, full-bodied, smooth, sweet sound of the album is on the master tape, and that all that was needed to get that vintage sound correctly on to disc was simply to thread up that tape on a reasonably good machine and hit play. (more…)

John Coltrane’s Giant Steps – Another in a Very Long Line of Disappointing Rhino Remasters

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Sonic Grade: D

Mastered by Kevin Gray, this record has what we like to call ”modern” sound, which is to say it’s clean and tonally correct for the most part, but it’s missing the Tubey Magic the originals and the good reissues both have plenty of.

Any properly mastered, properly pressed ’70s copy on the red and green label will be richer, fuller, sweeter, and just plain more enjoyable than this 180 gram version. It’s below average, which means it merits a D.

That said, “Giant Steps” is not an easy record to find in good condition, because any serious jazz lover would have played it plenty. It is inarguably one of John Coltrane’s greatest achievements.  (more…)

Cannonball Adderley In San Francisco in 1959

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  • Amazing Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the first side and Double Plus (A++) on the second for this groundbreaking live jazz album 
  • The sound of this wonderful reissue pressing is big and full-bodied with good live club space and plenty of Tubey Magic
  • Cannonball joins forces here with his brother, cornetist Nat Adderley, at The Jazz Workshop in San Francisco to create an album Orrin Keepnews lauded as, “the birth of contemporary live recording”
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Both Cannonball and Nat Adderley play with stunning, bluesy brilliance here… Outside of Somethin’ Else, Adderley’s 1958 masterpiece, In San Francisco may be the saxophonist’s defining moment.”

Classic Jazz – How Can You Go Wrong?

What the best sides of this Classic Jazz Album have to offer is clear for all to hear: (more…)

Paul Desmond’s Take Ten – Living Stereo Tubey Magical Sound from 1963

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  • Paul Desmond’s 1963 Cool Jazz Classic arrives with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on side one, mated with an outstanding Double Plus (A++) side two
  • The brilliant Ray Hall engineered – anyone hearing this copy will understand exactly why we love to find his fabulous ’60s recordings here at Better Records
  • Desmond joins forces here with Jim Hall, whose guitar stylings perfectly complement Paul’s velvety sax tone 
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Everyone wanted Desmond to come up with a sequel to the monster hit “Take Five”; and so he did, reworking the tune and playfully designating the meter as 10/8. Hence “Take Ten,” a worthy sequel… There is not a single track here that isn’t loaded with ingeniously worked out, always melodic ideas.”

For us audiophiles both the sound and the music here are enchanting. If you’re looking to demonstrate just how good 1963 All Tube Analog sound can be, this killer copy will do the trick.

This vintage pressing is spacious, sweet and positively dripping with ambience. Talk about Tubey Magic, the liquidity of the sound here is positively uncanny. This is vintage analog at its best, so full-bodied and relaxed you’ll wonder how it ever came to be that anyone seriously contemplated trying to improve it. (more…)

A Killer Illinois Jacquet Two-Fer from the ’70s

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  • This superb Prestige Two-Fer boasts Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on side two and outstanding double plus (A++) sound on the other three
  • Compiled from four Jacquet albums released in 1968 and 1969, including favorites like “Bottoms Up,”The Blues; That’s Me”, and “The King”
  • Jacquet’s one of the creators of the big, soulful tenor sax sound – I know of no one who does it better 
  • “… a fine sampler to Jacquet’s music… it features Illinois in a variety of settings (ranging from a quartet to a mini-big band)…” — Allmusic

The album combines material from four different Illinois Jacquet albums (Bottoms Up, The King, The Soul Explosion, and The Blues; That’s Me!). The sound is AMAZING and Jacquet plays with wonderful emotion and skill throughout.

Check out the man’s bassoon playing on ‘Round Midnight, the last track on side four — now there’s a sound you don’t hear too often on a jazz record!

As a bonus, they selected only about half the material from each of these classic albums, turning over to each of them about one side of these two discs. Which simply means that the quality and variety are consistently high on all four of these sides. No unreleased material or alternate takes; in other words, no filler. (more…)

Coleman Hawkins – Hawkins! Alive! on Classic Records

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Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame pressing and another Classic Records LP debunked.

The copy of the Classic I auditioned back in 1995 had Hawkin’s horn sounding squawky and sour. We never carried it.

I liked many of their other jazz titles — they did a better job with jazz than any other kind of music — but this was not their finest hour. Unless I got a bad copy, always a possibility.

Check out our Heavy Vinyl Scorecards to read all about the latest winners and losers.

We have two: one for Classical Music on Heavy Vinyl, and another for Rock and Jazz.

 

 

Illinois Jacquet on Classic Records – “Liked” in the ’90s

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Sonic Grade: C or Better

My guess is this is still a fairly good Classic Records jazz album. Years ago we wrote the following:

“This is actually one of the best Classic Jazz albums they released back in the ’90s. Both the music and sound are excellent. Jacquet is one of the creators of the big soulful tenor sax sound. I don’t know of anyone who does it better.”

We can’t be sure that we would still feel the same way. My guess is that this is still a good record if you can get one for the 30 bucks we used to charge.

Sonny Rollins – 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…)