Genre – Jazz – Big Band

Charles Mingus – Mingus Ah Um

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More Vintage Columbia Pressings

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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 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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More Count Basie

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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…)

Count Basie – 88 Basie Street

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  • With KILLER Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from first note to last, this copy was getting the sound of this big band right
  • This is a Top Basie Big Band title in every way — musically, sonically, you name it, 88 Basie Street has got it going on!
  • With 18 pieces in the studio this is a real powerhouse – the sound is is rich, full and HUGE
  • 4 stars: “One of Basie’s final albums, the very appealing title cut seems to sum up his career, a lightly swinging groove with a strong melody. Two small-group performances with guest Joe Pass on guitar add variety to a particularly strong set.”

With 18 pieces in the studio this album can be a real powerhouse — if you have the right copy — and this White Hot pressing can show you just how lively and dynamic this music can be. It’s a real Demo Disc, no doubt about it.

Both sides here are excellent, with real strength down low, nice extension up top, and incredible clarity and transparency. Play this one good and loud and put yourself front and center for a rip-roarin’ performance led by the king Bill Basie!

We’ve become huge fans of these Basie Big Band records. Allen Sides knew just how to record this stuff by the time Basie came around to Pablo — on the best pressings you can hear that this is big band music recorded just right. The sound is clean and clear with excellent transparency and the kind of separation between the instruments that lets you appreciate the contributions of each player. (more…)

Original Is Better? Sez Who?

Which albums sound better on the right vintage reissue pressing?

These do

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Don’t be put off by the title; these are not some sleepy old-fashioned waltzes. This is swingin’ West Coast jazz at its best. Of course, the arrangements are done in waltz time, but that doesn’t keep them from swingin’.

And the amazingly good sound? Credit Bones Howe, a man who knows Tubey Magic like practically no one else in the world. The Association, The Mamas and the Papas, The Fifth Dimension, and even Tom Waits — all their brilliant recordings are the result of Bones Howe’s estimable talents as producer and engineer.

Original Vs. Reissue

The original Reprise pressing, whether in mono or stereo, has never sounded very good to us. The mono is quite a bit worse than the stereo – no surprise there – but both must be considered poor reflections of the master tape.

We sold one many years ago, describing it this way: “Beautiful Original with decent sound — rich, smooth and sweet.” Which it was, but from us that’s little more than damning it with faint praise.

The Discovery pressing is so much bigger, clearer and livelier it’s almost hard to imagine it and the 1962 Reprise original were both made from the same tape. Something sure went wrong the first time around — I think it’s safe to say at least that much. (more…)

Duke Ellington – Selections From Peer Gynt Suites Nos. 1 and 2

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  • This superb copy of Duke Ellington’s 1961 release boasts Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) from top to bottom – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • The sound is gloriously ANALOG – smooth, relaxed and full-bodied – almost no other copy in our shootout had this kind of exceptionally natural sound
  • Wall to wall, floor to ceiling, room-filling All Tube Radio Recorders Studio sound like nothing you have ever heard
  • One of Ellington’s most enjoyable classic collaborations with Billy Strayhorn
  • “All in all, it’s one of Ellington’s most focussed large-scale efforts… It ends on a swinging Ray Nance solo (on violin, yet!), miles away from the politesse of Grapelli. I’ve heard only one other violinist (and not a jazz violinist, surprisingly) swing this hard.”

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