Genre – Jazz – Large Group

Barney Kessel / Carmen – A Great Disc for Testing Transparency

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Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Barney Kessel

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We highly recommend you make every effort to find yourself a copy of this album and use it to test your system. The right pressing can be both a great Demo Disc and a great Test Disc.

Transparency Is Key

The best Hot Stamper Original pressings have the Tubey Magic we’ve come to expect from Contemporary circa 1958, with that warm, rich, full-bodied sound that RVG often struggles to get on tape. However, some pressings in our shootout managed to give us an extra level of transparency and ambience that most original pressings rarely did.

There’s a room around this drum kit. So many copies don’t show you that room, not if they have the full sound that a copy like this does.

It’s amazing all the detail you can hear in a leaned-out record, but what good is that? The sound is all leaned out.

If you like that sound, buy the OJC or the CD. Leave these originals to those of us who are after this sound. (more…)

In 2005, I Fell Into a Common Audiophile Trap – This Is the Album that Helped Me Find My Way Out

Reviews and Commentaries for Michel Legrand

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This 2005 commentary discusses how easy it is to be fooled by tweaks that seem to offer more transparency and detail at the expense of weight and heft.

The brass on this wonderful Six Eye Mono pressing of the album set me straight. [Since that time I have not been able to find mono pressings that sounded as good as I remember this one sounding. That sh*t happens.]

I was playing this record today (5/24/05) after having made some changes in my stereo over the weekend, and I noticed some things didn’t sound quite right. Knowing that this is an exceptionally good sounding record, albeit a very challenging one, I started playing around with the stereo, trying to recapture the sound as I remembered it from the last copy that had come in a few months back.

As I tweaked and untweaked the system around this record I could hear immediately what was better and what was worse, what was more musical and what was more Hi-Fi. The track I was playing was Night In Tunisia, which has practically every brass instrument known to man, in every combination one can imagine. Since this is a Mono pressing I didn’t have to worry about silly issues like soundstaging, which can be very deceptive. I was concerned with tonality and the overall presentation of the various elements in the recording.

To make a long story short, I ended up undoing all the things that I had done to the system over the weekend! In other words, what improvements I thought I had made turned out not to be improvements at all. And this is the album that showed me the error of my ways.

Brass instruments are some of the most difficult to reproduce, especially brass choirs. You have to get the leading edges so that the instruments have “bite”. You can’t have too much harmonic distortion or smearing, because harmonic distortion and smearing are very obvious on brass instruments.

But the one thing above all that is intolerable when trying to reproduce brass is a lack of weight or heft. There is nothing worse than thin sounding brass. It becomes hard, shrill, sour and altogether unpleasant. This is another reason why I don’t like small speakers: they have trouble reproducing the weight of brass instruments, in both jazz and classical music. (more…)

Grover Washington, Jr. – Mister Magic

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More 5 Star Albums

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  • Mister Magic makes its Hot Stamper debut on the new site with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • We guarantee the sound is dramatically bigger, richer, fuller, and livelier than any pressing you have ever heard
  • We’re big fans of Rudy Van Gelder’s work in the early- to mid-70s, and it’s records like this (and All the King’s Horses) that make our case
  • 5 stars: “This is one of Grover Washington, Jr.’s best-loved recordings and considered a classic of R&Bish jazz. . . Highly recommended.”

Most pressings are murky, overly smooth, and lack energy. Often they also suffer from serious congestion and veiling. Our job is to find you the copy that has none of those problems, and that is precisely what we have done with this Shootout Winner. You get tons of space and energy, along with balanced tonality and great presence.

Washington is backed by excellent players including Bob James, Phil Upchurch, Harvey Mason, Ralph MacDonald, Eric Gale and many more.

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Grover Washington, Jr. – All The King’s Horses

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More Jazz Recordings Featuring the Saxophone

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  • Washington’s sophomore release finally returns to the site with STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides
  • There’s so much life in these grooves – the sound jumps out of the speakers right into your lap
  • Credit must go to Rudy Van Gelder for recording and mastering this album so well, and to Bob James for his brilliant big group arrangements
  • We cannot recommend this album highly enough – if you have the big speakers a big group of musicians need to perform live in your listening room, his record is going to be nothing less than a thrill
  • 4 stars: “. . . this set has assumed its proper place in Washington’s catalog: as one of his more ambitious and expertly performed sessions.”

Both sides of this original Kudu pressing are OUT OF THIS WORLD. The sweetness and transparency of Grover Washington Jr.’s breathy sax went beyond any copy we’ve ever played. Who knew it could sound like this? We sure didn’t!

It’s spacious and full of life with virtually no distortion. Of special note, this copy has amazingly articulate bass which brings out the undeniable funkiness of the music in a way that no other copy did.

The early ’70s were a good time for Rudy Van Gelder. All the King’s Men from 1973 is an amazing Demo Disc for a large group. But it only sounds good on the copies that it sounds good on, on the pressings that were mastered, pressed and cleaned right, a fact that has eluded most jazz vinyl aficionados interested in good sound.

But not us. We’ve played the very special pressings that prove the album can sound amazing. (more…)

Bud Shank And the Sax Section – An Undiscovered Gem

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Another Record We’ve Discovered with (Potentially) Excellent Sound

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  • This stellar copy of Bud Shank’s 1966 release boasts Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides – open, lively and dynamic throughout
  • Full, rich, and spacious with tons of Tubey Magic and, better yet, never dry, hard or transistory — true DEMO DISC QUALITY sound 
  • An absolutely amazing recording engineered by none other than Bruce Botnick – the sound of multiple saxes playing these lively arrangements is music to our ears
  • “… the album works, largely because of Bob Florence’s arrangements and the shrewd doubling of the baritone and bass sax parts, which give the charts heft at the bottom… The overall sound remains wonderfully reedy and flighty.”

Bruce Botnick sure knew what he was doing on this session. He succeeded brilliantly in capturing the unique sound of each of the saxes. The album is really more of a West Coast pop jazz record than it is a “real” jazz record. The arrangements are very tight, the songs are quite short — none exceed three and a half minutes — so there is not a lot of classic jazz saxophone improvisational blowing going on.

Spacious and transparent with plenty of analog Tubey Magic to go around, this is a really wonderful way to hear the music. The sax sound is excellent — rich and full, with none of the hard, edgy quality we heard on the less than stellar pressings. For richness and Tubey Magic — with no sacrifice in clarity or dynamics — these sides just could not be beat. (more…)

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…)

Wes Montgomery – California Dreaming

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  • This excellent Wes Montgomery title returns to the site for the first time in two years with a Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) side one and outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on side two
  • Both sides here are OUT OF THIS WORLD, incredibly big, bold, clear, rich and dynamic – this is DEMO DISC Quality Big Production Guitar-led Jazz
  • Credit goes to Rudy Van Gelder once again for the huge space that the superbly well-recorded group occupies
  • Forget the critics, this is one of Wes’s Best Albums of All Time I tell you!

This White Hot Stamper has the REAL Wes Montgomery/ Creed Taylor/ Rudy Van Gelder MAGIC in its grooves. You will not believe how big, rich and full-bodied this pressing is. Since this is one of Wes’s best albums, hearing this incredible White Hot copy was a THRILL for us and we’re sure it will be as big a thrill for you too.

As Good As It Gets Sound

So natural, transparent and clear. Listen to all the space around the guitar. (On the Cisco you might hear 20% of that space. That’s Heavy Vinyl for you. What a load of crap.)

Beware any and all imitations (even the one I used to like somewhat, the Cisco version). They barely BEGIN to convey the qualities of the real master tape the way this pressing does. This White Hot Stamper exhibits huge amounts of ambience and spaciousness, with far more energy and the kind of “see into the studio” quality that only the real thing ever seems to have. (more…)

Jimmy Smith & Wes Montgomery – The Dynamic Duo

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More Wes Montgomery

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  • KILLER Triple Plus (A+++) grades or very close to it on both sides, this is a wonderful vintage stereo pressing of a classic jazz collaboration from 1966
  • Big, rich and lively, thanks to Oliver Nelson’s arrangements (and RVG’s engineering), this big group of top players is having a blast and we think you will too
  • 5 stars: “The romping, aggressive big band charts [represent] Oliver Nelson at his best… The results are incendiary — a near-ideal meeting of yin and yang… They are an amazing pair, complementing each other, driving each other, using their bop and blues taproots to fuse together a sound.”

The sound of this Verve stereo pressing is tonally correct and 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 ’60s jazz you cannot go wrong here. (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…)

Deodato / Prelude – Our Shootout Winner from 2017

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Yet Another Well Recorded Album that Should Be More Popular with Audiophiles

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Listen to the trumpet on the second track on side one — it’s so immediate, it’s practically JUMPING out of the soundfield, just bursting with energy. Rudy can really pull off these big productions on occasion, and this session was clearly one of them. If you have the kind of stereo that’s right for this music (the bigger the better) you could easily find yourself using this record as a demonstration disc. It’s very unlikely your audiophile friends have ever heard anything like it.

Both sides are especially full and rich. The congas are present in the mix and very full-bodied — this allow them to really drive the rhythmic energy of the music. We know this because the copies with congas that were veiled or thin never seemed to get up go. The bass on these two sides was some of the best we heard as well.

The top is most often the problem with these CTI pressings. Both sides here seem to give you all the top end that was on the tape.

There is wonderful transparency and openness to the soundstage, as well as less congestion in the loudest parts. Also Sprach (2001) is on side one of the album and it is KILLER here.

Both sides are also surprisingly sweet and Tubey Magical, nice qualities for a CTI record to have since so many of them are aggressive and edgy to the point of distraction. (more…)