- 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.
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:
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.
After playing the above four, what would possess us to ever play another?
Now to the letter.
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.
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.
- This outstanding Columbia Red Label copy of Ah Um boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides
- An amazing 30th Street Studio recording by the legendary Fred Plaut – if you like Kind of Blue, here’s another album with that sound (same year, same studio, same engineer)
- The rich, sweet, spacious sound of the vintage tubes used to record the session is reproduced faithfully here – without that sound, it would just not be Ah Um
- 5 stars: “Mingus Ah Um is a stunning summation of the bassist’s talents and probably the best reference point for beginners… Mingus’ compositions and arrangements were always extremely focused, assimilating individual spontaneity into a firm consistency of mood, and that approach reaches an ultra-tight zenith on Mingus Ah Um”
We, as audiophiles, mostly do not, as long as the record was originally recorded in stereo.
This is a good example of a record that sounds dramatically better in stereo than it does in mono.
The mono is rich and tonally correct, but so small and compressed that it makes a mockery of the energy and huge space found on the original stereo tape.
This record sounds best this way:
Which simply means that the 6 Eye label domestic stereo pressings win our shootouts, in this case without exception. (more…)
This album is findable on the OJC pressing from the ’80s, but we found the sound of the OJC pressings we played seriously wanting. They were thinner and brighter than even the worst of the ’70s LPs we had auditioned. They did not make the cut for our shootout. That is not our sound. It’s not the sound Roy DuNann was famous for, so why should we like it either?
Some OJC pressings are great — including even some of the new ones — some are awful, and the only way to judge them fairly is to judge them individually, which requires actually playing a large enough sample.
Since virtually no record collectors or audiophiles like doing that, they make faulty judgments – OJC’s are cheap reissues sourced from digital tapes, run for the hills! – based on their biases and inadequate sample sizes.
You can find those who subscribe to this approach on every audiophile forum there is. The methods they have adopted do not produce good results, but as long as they stick to them they will never have to worry about discovering that inconvenient truth. (more…)
- A STUNNING copy of the group’s 1956 release with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides – fairly quiet vinyl too
- The clarity and transparency on this vintage pressing are wonderful, but more importantly it’s the unerringly correct tonality that’s most impressive when you play these real Contemporary pressings against the competition
- Yet another amazing All Tube Contemporary recording from Roy DuNann and Lester Koenig at the beginning of the stereo era
- 4 1/2 stars: “During 1956-1957, bassist Curtis Counce led an excellent Los Angeles-based hard bop quintet… All of Counce’s recordings are well-worth getting by collectors [and especially audiophiles] interested in 1950s straight-ahead jazz [with top quality sound].”
Jack Sheldon is absolutely amazing and completely original on trumpet here. Check out his stellar work on the first track, Landslide. Not only that, but the sound of his instrument is wonderful — you’ll never hear a trumpet sound so rich and full on a Rudy Van Gelder recording, that’s for sure!
Both sides are over twenty minutes, giving you a lot of well-played West Coast Jazz for your money. (more…)
- You’ll find excellent sound on this original Limelight LP – both sides play exceptionally quietly too
- This copy sounds like a big room full of musicians (25 in all!) playing live, which is exactly what it was
- The Tubey Magical richness of this 1960 recording (released in 1961) is breathtaking – no modern record can touch it
- Allmusic gives it 4 stars and we think it’s maybe even a bit better than that
- Two tracks are contrapuntal arrangements of two swing era pieces, whereby “Take the “A” Train” (left channel) is paired with a simultaneous “Exactly Like You” (right channel), and likewise “Do Nothin’ Till You Hear From Me” with “I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart”.
This copy has the original bound-in booklet with pictures and background on the recording, which was “directed” by none other than Leonard Feather. The original cover is not in great shape, so we are including a reissue cover from the ’70s as well.
The best copies recreate a live studio space the size of which you will not believe (assuming your room can do a good job of recreating their room). The sound is tonally correct, Tubey Magical and above all natural. The timbre of each and every instrument is right and it doesn’t take a pair of golden ears to hear it -so high-resolution too.
If you love ’50s and ’60s jazz you cannot go wrong here. Mingus was a genius and the original music on this record is just one more album’s worth of proof of the undeniability of that fact. (more…)
These two sides offer bigger brass, more transparency and more presence than every other side we played save one!
This may become one of your favorite big band albums to demo or test with. Or you can just enjoy the hell out of it if you prefer. So transparent and tonally correct, this is a killer sounding copy. We put this one right up there with the best of the Verve jazz titles we’ve done to date.
This album sounds like a big room full of musicians playing live, which it surely was. The Tubey Magical richness of the 1962 recording is breathtaking – no modern record can touch it.
The best copies recreate a live studio space the size of which you will not believe. (more…)
This Concord Jazz LP has excellent sound. There is a half-speed mastered audiophile version of this record cut by Stan Ricker himself.
Now hold on: half-speed mastering by its very nature causes a dramatic loss of bass definition, not to mention the fact that much of the deep bass usually goes completely missing. This is a record built around the sound of Ray Brown’s double bass. Do you really want the lowest octave of bass to disappear and the bass above it to turn to mud on a record that features a bass player as its leader? It’s crazy, right?
I’ve never heard the half-speed and don’t plan to track one down in order to audition, but I guarantee you that this “full-speed” mastered version will blow the doors off any version mastered by Stan Ricker.
There is plenty of commentary on the website about his incompetent mastering and I recommend you take a moment to read some of it before you buy any half-speed mastered record. (We of course do not offer such records, with the exception of John Klemmer’s Touch, which is a half-speed mastered record that actually does sound good, superb in fact.)
- Insanely good sound throughout for this Contemporary Yellow Label pressing with both sides earning nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) grades, just shy of our Shootout Winner
- These sides are superb — clean, clear, full-bodied and dynamic with tons of energy
- Counce is a wonderful bassist and here he’s joined by Jack Sheldon, Harold Land, Carl Perkins and Frank Butler; I think you’ll be very impressed with how good this music from the late ’50s still sounds today
- “Bassist Curtis Counce led one of the finer West Coast-based groups of the 1950s, a quintet that was greatly underrated… This excellent music falls somewhere between hard bop and cool jazz.” – All Music, 4 1/2 Stars