Genre – Jazz – Big Band

Duke Ellington – Piano In The Background on Six Eye Columbia Vinyl

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  • This original Six Eye boasts superb Triple Plus (A+++) sound on side one – this is As Good As It Gets, folks, and that’s very good indeed
  • Full-bodied and warm, exactly the way you want your vintage analog to sound
  • The piano is surprisingly real here, solid and dynamic
  • Classic Records remastered this title in the 2000s, as has Speakers Corner, but if you think either one of those pressings can hold a candle to the real thing from 1960, let us send you this record and disabuse you of that notion
  • 4 stars: “One of Ellington’s rarer studio sessions… Ellington’s solo abilities were always a bit underrated due to his brilliance in other areas, but this set shows just how modern he remained through the years as a player.”

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Duke Ellington – The Ellington Suites

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  • The Ellington Suites finally returns to the site with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it throughout
  • Lively, dynamic, transparent, spacious and musical throughout – you won’t believe how good this Jazz Classic from 1976 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
  • “Ellington devoted special attention to The Queen’s Suite, which in the end hewed closely to his original sketch. Its six episodes were inspired by natural phenomena encountered in his travels. . .”

I know of no other Pablo record with sound so rich, full, and warm. This one destroyed a big stack of copies we’d been collecting for years in order to do this shootout. Unless you have a good-sized batch, ten or more, you will have a tough time finding one with sound anywhere near this amazing.

The Queen’s Suite, which takes up side one, was recorded in 1959 and sounds amazing. As you can imagine, this has one of the best Ellington bands ever assembled, with players like Clark Terry, Paul Gonzalves, Harry Carney, Johnny Hodges… the list of jazz giants goes on and on. If you enjoy the classic albums by Mingus on Atlantic, you’re gonna love this work. The sound is excellent as well, spacious and transparent with tight bass and an extended top end.

Side two has material performed by Ellington in the early ’70s, which though not as good musically, is still very enjoyable. On this copy, it sounds amazing, with incredible transparency and immediacy. The overall sound is airy and open with lots of breathy texture to the horns and woodwinds.

1976 Grammy Award Winner for Best Jazz Performance by a Big Band! (more…)

Count Basie Big Band – Farmers Market Barbecue

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Labels We Love – Pablo

  • Stunning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from beginning to end on this famous Pablo, one we consider The Best Basie Big Band Record We’ve Ever Played
  • Both sides are exceptionally clear, rich, and full of Tubey Magic, with a solid bottom end and huge amounts of three-dimensional studio space
  • Demo Disc sound – guaranteed to beat the pants off of any Heavy Vinyl pressing, at any speed, of any title
  • Allmusic: “This was an excellent outing by the Count Basie Orchestra during its later years.”

Musically FMB is a Top Basie Big Band title in every way. This should not be surprising: many of his recordings for Pablo in the mid- to late-’70s all the way through the early ’80s display the talents of The Count and his band of veterans at their best.

Sonically it’s another story. Based on our recent shootout for this title, in comparison to the other Basie titles we’ve done lately, we would have to say that FMB is the best Basie big band title we’ve ever played.

On the best pressings, the horns are so present and high-rez, not to mention full-bodied, this could easily become a favorite big band album to demo or test with — or just to enjoy the hell out of.

Since so many Basie big band recordings are so good, we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves — after all, we haven’t done shootouts for all of his Pablo large group recordings. To be safe we’ll just call this one First Among Equals.

And when you hear it sounding as good as it does here, it truly qualifies as a Big As Life DEMO DISC. (more…)

Charles Mingus – Mingus Ah Um

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  • 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”

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Charles Mingus / Mingus Dynasty – Skip the Mono

Some jazz lovers and record collectors prefer their vintage jazz in mono.

We, as audiophiles, mostly do not if 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.

FURTHER READING

This record sounds best this way:

Mono or Stereo? Stereo! 

On Big Speakers at Loud Levels

On the Right Domestic Pressing 

On the Right Early Pressing

Which simply means that the 6 Eye label domestic stereo pressings win our shootouts, in this case without exception. (more…)

Duke Ellington / Ellington Indigos – Amazingly Spacious Sound

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  • With two outstanding sides rating a Double Plus (A++) for sound, this was one of the better copies in our most recent shootout
  • This original 6-Eye Stereo pressing blew us away with its superbly well recorded romantic big band jazz, of which Ellington was a true master
  • A near-perfect demonstration of just how good 1958 All Tube Analog sound can be – no modern record can hold a candle to a pressing as good as this one
  • If you like your jazz ballads performed with deep feeling, by a road-tested group of virtuoso players, this record is for you

If you like the sound of relaxed, tube-mastered jazz, you can’t do much better than Ellington Indigos. Many of the other Six Eye copies we played suffered from blubbery bass and transient smearing, but the clarity and bass definition here are surprisingly good. The warmth and immediacy of this sound may just blow your mind.

We played a handful of later pressings that didn’t really do it for us. They offer improved clarity, but can’t deliver the tubey goodness that you’ll hear on the best early pressings. We won’t be bothering with them anymore. It’s tubes or nothing on this album.

The key for vintage super-tubey recordings is balancing clarity with richness. The easiest way to test for those two qualities on this album is to find a track with clear, lively, loud trumpets that also includes rich trombones and other low brass. On side one that track is Where or When. If your copy has clear, lively trumpets and rich, full-bodied, Tubey Magical low brass, it is definitely doing something right. (more…)

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

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  • You’ll find Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides of this stunning Six Eye Stereo pressing of First Time!
  • Three-dimensional space and ambience, rich Tubey Magic by the boatload – this 30th Street recording shows 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.”

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J.J. Johnson – J.J.!

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  • J.J. Johnson makes his Hot Stamper debut with this SUPERB copy of J.J.! – Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish
  • The sound is big, lively, open and clear with Tubey Magical richness that only the best of the best vintage pressings can show you
  • Features a lineup of top-notch talent, including Clark Terry, Oliver Nelson, Hank Jones, as well as quite a few others – plenty of reeds, a French Horn, a tuba and more are here
  • 4 stars: “J.J.! is considered to be J.J. Johnson’s first big-band album, at least as a leader… The music is solidly played,… modern forward-looking mainstream jazz that features Johnson in excellent form.”

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Count Basie – Basie Big Band

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  • An insanely good copy with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on side one married with an outstanding Double Plus (A++) side two
  • Basie Big Band is a Top Basie Big Band title in every way — musically, sonically, you name it, this album has got it going on
  • Guaranteed to be dramatically livelier and more dynamic than any Basie title you’ve heard – if you like your brass big, rich and powerful, you came to the right place
  • Lots of tight, deep, note-like bass and unerringly correct timbre for the brass throughout

*NOTE: On side one, a mark on the edge makes 10 light to very light ticks during the intro to Track 1, Front Burner. On side two, a mark makes 9 light to moderate pops in the middle of Track 2, Give ‘M Time.

More Basie Big Band ANALOG Magic, this time from his 1975 debut for Pablo.

With 18 pieces in the studio (five trumpets!, four trombones!, five saxes!) this album can be a real powerhouse — if you have the right copy, and both sides here show you just how lively and dynamic this music can be. It’s got real Demo Disc qualities, no doubt about it.

When you get this record home, pay special attention to how natural and correct the timbre of the brass is. This is the hallmark of a well recorded album — it sounds right. (more…)

Charles Mingus – Mingus Revisited

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  • 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…)