Jazz

Shelly Manne and His Men / At The Blackhawk Vol. 1 – Live West Coast Jazz in 1960 Is Hard to Beat

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More Contemporary Label Jazz

  • This excellent Contemporary Yellow Label stereo pressing features Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides
  • This is West Coast Jazz at its best, and if anyone can capture the realism of a live jazz club, it’s the engineers and producers at Contemporary
  • Each instrument here sounds right – the piano is weighty and percussive; the drums are punchy; and the brass has lovely leading edge transients
  • If you’re a fan of live jazz, this Contemporary from 1960 belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1960 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

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Armstrong & Ellington / An Historic Recording Event

More Jazz Recordings Featuring the Piano

  • Lively, dynamic, transparent, spacious and musical throughout – you won’t believe how good this Jazz Classic from 1961 sounds
  • We guarantee there is dramatically more richness, fullness and presence on this copy than anything you have ever heard, and that’s especially true if you made the mistake of buying whatever godawful Heavy Vinyl pressing is currently on the market (or the Classic Records pressing, which sounded fine at the time, but up against the real thing, forget it
  • “The music resulting from Thiele’s inspired experiment is outstanding and utterly essential. That means everybody ought to hear this album at least once, and many will want to hear it again and again all the way through, for this is one of the most intriguing confluences in all of recorded jazz. Armstrong blew his horn with authority and sang beautifully and robustly.”

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George Benson – Breezin’

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More Jazz Recordings Featuring the Guitar

  • Breezin’ finally returns to the site with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it throughout
  • Tubey Magical richness and plenty of note-like bass are two of the important qualities that separate the winners from the also-rans, but smooth, grain-free, present vocals for Masquerade are a big part of the best pressings too, so make that three important qualities
  • This copy will blow the doors off your old copy or any MoFi pressing — guaranteed!
  • It’s got all the elements this smooth masterpiece needs to come to life today, almost 40 years later if you can believe it
  • There’s tons of energy, strong presence, excellent bass and a huge soundfield with real depth
  • You hear right into the music, something that is only possible on the most transparent copies
  • If like us you’re a fan of Jazz Guitar, this is a killer album from 1976 that belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1976 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

This album features the huge hit “This Masquerade” and lots of other strong material as well. Benson is at the top of his game, with blazing guitar lines accompanied by his scat vocals at many times. No one else ever did music like this so well again, in our humble opinion.

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Louie Bellson / Ray Brown / Paul Smith – Intensive Care

More Direct-to-Disc Recordings

More Jazz Piano Recordings

  • Stunning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it on both sides of this incredible Discwasher Direct-to-Disc Japanese import pressing
  • One of our all time favorite Direct-to-Discs; Piano Trio doesn’t get much better than this
  • Paul Smith is an underrated jazz player – most of his albums as a leader are forgettable (we should know, we’ve played a bunch of them), but on this album he swings and really makes music with his two bandmates
  • The playing is extremely energetic and involving, the sound is some of the best we’ve heard, and the engineering is by Phil Schier, who also recorded another favorite direct disc of ours, Friendship, and we recommend both albums highly
  • If you want a good jazz Direct-to-Disc, you would be hard pressed to find one better than this
  • If you’re a fan of Live Jazz Piano Trio recordings, recorded direct to disc or otherwise, this is a killer record from 1978 that belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1978 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

This record probably doesn’t have the reputation it deserves because it came out on the Discwasher label, which to my knowledge, only made one good record, this one. The same metalwork would have been used to make the version Pausa released, and that fairly common pressing may be virtually identical to this Discwasher pressing. (more…)

Leroy Vinnegar Sextet – Leroy Walks!

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More Contemporary Label Jazz

  • Leroy Vinnegar’s debut album finally arrives on the site with a KILLER Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) side two and a truly oustanding Double Plus (A++) side one 
  • The Contemporary LP stereo sound here is completely natural in every respect, yet still rich, warm and smooth
  • Roy DuNann and Howard Holzer engineered some of the best sounding records we have ever heard – here’s a textbook example of what the audiophiles at Contemporary were able to achieve in the studio
  • 4 stars: “…Vinnegar generously features his talented sidemen… A fine, straight-ahead session.”
  • Fans of exceptionally well-recorded West Coast jazz will find much to like on this recording from 1958.
  • The complete list of titles from 1958 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

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Ellington-Basie – First Time – The Count Meets the Duke

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  • With superb Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on both sides, this early Columbia 6-Eye pressing will be very hard to beat
  • Reasonably quiet vinyl too, considering its age – how many early ’60s Columbia Stereo pressings survived with audiophile playing surfaces the way this one did?
  • Huge amounts of three-dimensional space and ambience, along with boatloads of Tubey Magic – here’s a 30th Street recording from 1961 that demonstrates just how good Columbia’s engineers were back then
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Ellington’s elegance and unique voicings meet Basie’s rollicking, blues-based Kansas City swing, and it works gloriously. The Duke and his band accentuate their swinging dance band side, while Basie and company have never sounded as suave and exotic as when playing Billy Strayhorn arrangements. Everyone has a good time, and that joy infuses this album from start to finish.”
  • If you’re a fan of either or both of these jazz giants, this Classic from 1961 belongs in your collection
  • The complete list of titles from 1961 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here

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At Ease With Coleman Hawkins from 1960 – What to Listen For

This 1960 Saxophone Ballad session has to be seen as yet another recording triumph for Rudy Van Gelder. The best pressings of these OJC reissues from 1989 sound like the vintage jazz albums they emulate, and sometimes they even beat the originals at their own Tubey Magical game. They can be every bit as rich, sweet and spacious as their earlier-pressed brethren in our experience.

In the case of At Ease with Coleman Hawkins, we simply have never seen an original copy clean enough to buy, so we have no reference for what an original would sound like.

But, having critically auditioned literally hundreds and hundreds of vintage jazz records over the course of the last few years, we’re pretty confidant we know what they are supposed to sound like.

And they sound just like the best copies of this very pressing.

What to Listen For

The best copies are rich and tubey; many pressings were thin and modern sounding, and for that they would lose a lot of points. We want this record to sound like something RVG recorded in 1960, and the best copies give you that sound, without the surface noise and groove damage the originals doubtless have to offer.

Some copies have much more space; some are more present, putting the musicians right in the room with you; some are more transparent, resolving the musical information much better than others, letting you “see” everyone in the studio clearly. Some have more rhythmic drive than others. On some the musicians seem more involved and energetic than they do on the average pressing.

The copies that do all these things better than other copies are the ones that win our shootouts.

More Coleman Hawkins

More recordings by Rudy Van Gelder

Potentially Good Sounding OJC Pressings

Not Very Good Sounding OJC Pressings

John Coltrane / Lush Life – Should You Collect the Original Pressing on this Title?

No. Which means we was wrong about Lush Life.

A classic case of Live and Learn. Previously we had written:

“There are great sounding originals, but they are few and far between…”

We no longer believe that to be true. In fact we believe the opposite of that statement to be true. The original we had on hand — noisy but with reasonably good sound, or so we thought — was an absolute joke next to our best Hot Stamper pressings. Half the size, half the clarity and presence, half the life and energy, half the immediacy, half the studio space. It was simply not remotely competitive with the copies we now know (or at least believe, all knowledge being provisional) to have the best sound.

Are there better originals than the ones we’ve played? No doubt. If you want to spend your day searching for them, more power to you. And if you do find one that impresses you, we are happy to send you one of our Hot Copies to play against it. We are confident that the outcome would be clearly favorable to our pressing. Ten seconds of side one should be enough to convince you that our record is in an entirely different league, a league we had no idea even existed until just this year.

By the way, the mono original we played was by far the worst sound I have ever heard for the album.

By far.

Hot Stamper Pressings that Sound Their Best on the Right Reissue

Records We’ve Reviewed that Sound Their Best on the Right Reissue

(The operative word in the two sentences above is “right.”

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The Oscar Peterson Trio – Put On A Happy Face

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Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Oscar Peterson

  • INCREDIBLE Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides of this original Verve stereo pressing
  • The transparency of a killer analog pressing such as this has the power to transport you to the front row of a small ’60s jazz club – what a thrill!
  • These live sessions produced four LPs worth of material, with The Trio and The Sound of the Trio being the most famous of the four
  • “The Oscar Peterson Trio’s 1961 live sessions at Chicago’s London House are considered among their finest recordings… Essential Jazz Classics.”
  • If you’re a fan of Live Jazz Piano Trio recordings, this is a Verve from 1966 that belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1966 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

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Curtis Counce LP Testimonial – Wow, It Beat the Fantasy 45!

Many years ago, our good customer Victor sent us this note to tell us how much better his real Contemporary jazz album sounded compared to the Fantasy 45 180g pressing he owns.

We should point out that we sold him a sealed ’70s reissue, something (selling sealed records) we stopped doing a decade or so ago, and that we really have no way of knowing what the record actually sounded like. Given our experience with anything released on the consistently dreadful Analogue Productions label, what were the chances that they could actually beat the real thing? As a practical matter, the answer should be obvious: none, of course.

None? Too harsh you say? Here are two of their worst crimes against jazz-loving audiophiles, crimes they committed using 2 Heavy Vinyl discs mastered at 45 RPM for all the world to hear:

  1. Jazz Impressions Of Black Orpheus by the Vince Guaraldi Trio
  2. Sonny Rollins Plus 4

Yes, they had the temerity to charge money for their crappy, pointless reissues. The key takeway here is that any label that would release records that sound as bad as these cannot be trusted to do anything right.

Having played many of their remastered releases, we are still waiting for the record on AP that is not either a disaster or, at the very least, clearly worse sounding than many other pressings which are widely available.

And I will never tire of pointing out how bad the two albums linked below are, so bad that I wrote many hundreds of words about their astonishing awfulness.

  1. Steppenwolf – Gold: Their Great Hits
  2. Cat Stevens – Tea for the Tillerman

After playing the above four, what would possess us to ever play another?

Now to the letter.

Hi Tom,

Wanted to let you know I did a comparison between the yellow label Contemporary label Curtis Counce, Counceltation Vol. 2 (which I bought sealed from you) and a Fantasy 45 rpm from Analogue productions: Curtis Counce – You Get More Bounce With Curtis Counce – which is in fact the same album but with a different title and cover. 

Well I was very anxious to try this comparison, but was not expecting the results. The yellow label was so transparent and tonal weight to the Fantasy 45 rpm there was no contest. The 45 rpm sounded like someone turned on a high bypass filter. The yellow label was balanced throughout. Clean.

I am a subscriber of the Fantasy 45s and own all of them. Don’t get me wrong, there are some nice sounding ones in the series, but this is a prime example that not all records are as well mastered.

Regards,

Victor

Victor,

I had every confidence that the real Contemporary pressing would trounce that 180 gram reissue, 45 RPM 2 LP pressing or no 45 RPM 2 LP pressing. The more I play these Heavy Vinyl reissues the less I like them. As we say, the real thing just can’t be beat. Thanks for doing the shootout for us. You can be sure that our Hot Stamper Contemporary jazz pressings will make mincemeat of anything on that Fantasy 45 Series. We guarantee it.

More Contemporary Label Jazz

More Letters Comparing Hot Stamper Pressings to their Heavy Vinyl Counterparts