Genre – Jazz – Big Band

Glenn Miller – The Direct Disc Sound of…

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  • An outstanding German pressing of a Century Direct to Disc recording, with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Great energy, but the sound is relaxed and Tubey sweet at the same time, never squawky, with plenty of extension on both ends — that’s analog for ya!
  • This is no sleepy over-the-hill Sheffield Direct to Disc (referring to the later Harry James titles, not the excellent first one) – these guys are the real deal and they play their hearts out on this live-in-the-studio recording

One of the all time GREAT Direct to Disc recordings. For sound and music this one is hard to beat. And the vinyl is as quiet as any you will find.

We went a bit overboard years ago when we wrote, “I don’t think you can find a better sounding big band record on the planet.” Well, we’ve heard plenty of amazing big band albums in the course of our Hot Stamper shootouts for the last five or ten years, albums by the likes of Basie, Zoot Sims, Ellington, Shorty Rogers, Ted Heath and others.

Not to mention the fact that the shockingly good Sauter-Finegan track “Song of the Volga Boatman” from the LP “Memories Of Goodman and Miller” is played regularly around these parts for cartridge setup and tuning, as well as general tweaking.

But that should take nothing away from this superb recording, made at the famously good sounding Capitol Records Studio A, with none other than Wally Heider doing the mix and Ken Perry manning the lathe.

We also noted that, “It absolutely murders all the Sheffield big band records, which sound like they were made by old tired men sorely in need of their naps. Way past their prime anyway,” which is mostly true.

The Glenn Miller Orchestra heard here was an actively touring band. They know this material inside and out, they clearly love it, and they’re used to playing the hell out of it practically every night.

If you like the tunes that Glenn Miller made famous — String of Pearls, In The Mood, Tuxedo Junction — you will have a very hard time finding them performed with more gusto, or recorded with anything approaching this kind of fidelity. (more…)

Ted Heath – Swings In High Stereo

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  • Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) DEMO DISC SOUND from the first note to the last; the best sound we heard for this album in our shootout all day
  • Kingsway Hall, Wilkinson and the Decca Tree add up to Audiophile Quality Big Band sound, on this copy anyway
  • Heath and his group play with all the energy and verve essential to this joyful Big Band music – he really does swing in high stereo
  • We consider Ted Heath’s early London recordings to be some of the best big band ever recorded

This album has DEMO DISC SOUND like you will not believe. Just listen to Heath’s arrangement of Big Ben, the second track on side two, for Audiophile Quality Big Band sound the likes of which you may have never heard. (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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Count Basie – Basie Plays Hefti – Original Versus Reissue

The original pressings are the best, right?

Not in our experience. It’s (probably) just another Record Myth.

Basie was recording like a madman back in the late ’50s and even all through the ’60s. In 1958, the year of this release, he put out seven (7!) albums on the Roulette label. We’ve played quite a number of them over the years and found relatively few with audiophile quality sound.

Including the original Roulette pressing of this very title. We’ve only heard a few, and had only one for our shootout, but it was awful enough to make us swear off buying more, especially considering the prices vintage jazz albums are going for these days.

Hard and sour brass, no real top or bottom, it’s the sound of a poorly mastered Old Jazz Record, fine for the consoles of the day, not so good on today’s advanced stereo systems. Emus seems to be the only way to go.

Don’t buy into that record collecting / audiophile canard that the originals are better. (more…)

The Glorious Sound of Triple Flutes

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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 Basie Big Band album.

Check out the triple flutes on the first track on side two – on a copy like this you will hear some shockingly Tubey Magical, breathy, sweet, natural flutes. And there are three of them! Even large classical orchestras rarely have three flutes. The sound is to die for.

Play any number of copies and listen for the tri-flute sound – some copies are tubier and a bit smeary, some are breathier and a bit thin, some are recessed, some are more present. On a resolving system no two pressings will have those flutes sounding exactly the same.

Don’t judge the whole side by just the flutes, they are only one element in a complex array. But they are a very strong clue as to what the rest of the sound is doing better or worse. One might even go so far as to say right and wrong.

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.

If you like your brass big, rich, powerful and dynamic, you came to the right place. In practically every way this copy is Hard To Fault.

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 White Hot Stamper sides here show you just how lively and dynamic this music can be. It’s got real Demo Disc qualities, no doubt about it. (more…)

Bob and Ray Throw a Stereo Spectacular – Our Favorite Record for Cartridge Setup

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Bob and Ray Throw a Stereo Spectacular just happens to be our favorite Test Disc, eclipsing all others in the areas of naturalness and difficulty of reproduction. Any tweak or new room treatment — we seem to do them almost weekly these days — has to pass one test and one test only — the Bob and Ray Test. 

This record has the power to help you get to the next level in audio like no other. Six words hold the key to better sound: The Song of the Volga Boatman.

For the purpose of mounting new carts, our favorite track is The Song of the Volga Boatman on Bob and Ray Throw a Stereo Spectacular (LSP 1773). It’s by far the most difficult record we know of to get to sound right.

There are about twenty places in the music that we use as tests, and the right setting is the one that gets the most of them to sound their best. With every change some of the twenty will sound better and some will sound worse. Recognizing when the sound is the biggest, clearest, and most balanced from top to bottom is a skill that has taken me twenty years to acquire.

It’s a lot harder than it looks. The longer you have been in audio the more complicated it seems, which may be counterintuitive but comports well with our day-to-day experience very well.

All our room treatments and tweaks must pass The Bob and Ray Test as well. It’s the one record we have relied on more than any other over the course of the last year or two.

Presenting as it does a huge studio full of brass players, no record we know of is more dynamic or more natural sounding — when the system is working right. When it’s not working right the first thirty seconds is all it takes to show you the trouble you are in.

If you don’t have a record like that in your collection you need to find one.

It will be invaluable in the long run. The copy we have is so good (White Hot, the best we have ever played), and so important to our operation here, that it would not be for sale at any (well, almost any) price.

The Bob and Ray Trombone / Trumpet Test

One of the key tests on Bob and Ray that keeps us on the straight and narrow is the duet between the trombone and the trumpet about half way through The Song of the Volga Boatman. I have never heard a small speaker reproduce a trombone properly, and when tweaking the system, when the trombone has more of the heft and solidity of the real instrument, that is a tweak we want to pursue. The trumpet interweaving with it in the right rear corner of the studio tests the transients and high frequency harmonics in the same section. With any change to the stereo, both of those instruments are going to sound better. For a change to be positive they must both sound better. (more…)

Miles Davis – Miles Ahead in Glorious 1957 Mono

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  • Miles Ahead finally arrives on the site with STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound throughout – exceptionally clean condition too
  • A nearly impossible record to find in this condition, it’s the quietest, best sounding copy by far we have ever played
  • This album forged the dynamic collaboration between Davis and Gil Evans that eventually led to Porgy and Bess and Sketches of Spain
  • 5 stars: ” Evans’ arrangements in particular are well-suited to the format, and he and Davis formed a deep and close partnership where ideas were swapped back and forth, nurtured, and developed long before they were expressed in the studio… an album that gave a hint of the greatness that would come as Evans and Davis fine-tuned their partnership over the course of the next several years.”

Vintage covers for this album are hard to find in clean shape. Most of them will have at least some amount of ringwear, seam wear and edge wear. We guarantee that the cover we supply with this Hot Stamper is at least VG, and it will probably be VG+. If you are picky about your covers please let us know in advance so that we can be sure we have a nice cover for you.


Quick Notes for Side One

Track three is super dynamic, horns have bite and body, textured and lively, tons of space!

Quick Notes for Side Two

The first three tracks are big, solid and open, with great space, tubey and musical.

That’s hitting all the right notes in our book. (more…)

Ted Heath – Shall We Dance – Absolutely Amazing Sound (and We Love the Music Too)

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One of the best sounding records we have ever played, the Gold Standard for Tubey Magical Big Band. Both sides are huge, rich, weighty and dynamic like few records you have ever heard. Three elements create the magic here: Kingsway Hall, Kenneth Wilkinson and the Decca “Tree” microphone setup.

More Big Band Jazz

Years ago we wrote in another listing “We had a copy of Heath’s Shall We Dance not long ago that had some of the biggest, richest, most powerful sound I have ever heard. Watch for Hot Stampers coming to the site soon.” Well, now they’re here, and this copy fulfills the promise of the album like no copy we have ever played.

DEMO DISC SOUND barely begins to do this one justice. This is Audiophile Quality Big Band sound to beat them all. The American big bands rarely got the kind of sound that the Decca engineers were able to achieve on records like this. For one thing they didn’t have Kingsway Hall, Kenneth Wilkinson or the Decca “Tree” microphone setup.

Unlike some of the American big band leaders who were well past their prime by the advent of the two-channel era, Heath is able to play with all the energy and verve required for this style of music. He really does “swing in high stereo” on these big band dance tunes. (more…)

Count Basie – April In Paris

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  • April in Paris makes its Hot Stamper debut with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound fon this vintage mono pressing
  • This pressing showed us the sound we were looking for – big, bold, full-bodied mono, the kind they knew how to record in 1957
  • Here is the MIDRANGE MAGIC that’s surely missing from whatever modern reissue has been made from the 60+ year old tapes (or, to be clear, a modern digital master copied from those tapes)
  • 5 stars: “April in Paris is one of those rare albums that makes its mark as an almost instant classic in the jazz pantheon… The title track has come to define elegance in orchestral jazz… Recorded in 1955 and 1956, April in Paris proved Count Basie’s ability to grow through modern jazz changes while keeping the traditional jazz orchestra vital and alive.”

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Duke Ellington – Masterpieces By Ellington

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We’ve known about this wonderful album for decades, since first got hold of a red label copy from the ’70s. Although not in the league with the best 6 eye pressings, even that late reissue had enough Columbia magic left in its grooves to impress the hell out of me.

And the fact that a jazz album recorded in 1950 was still in print more than twenty years later is testament to the lasting power of Ellington’s music. As Kenny Burrell would say, “Ellington Is Forever.” (more…)