Genre – Jazz – Piano & Vibes

Thelonious Monk – Monk.

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  • This wonderful Black Print 360 Columbia pressing impressed us, earning outstanding Double Plus (A++) grades or better on both sides and playing about as quietly as any stereo original we’ve found
  • Columbia records produced by Teo Macero in the early ’60s have consistently open, natural sound – this one from 1964 is no exception
  • The piano has real weight, the bass definition is wonderful, Rouse’s sax is full-bodied, and the overall sound is Columbia to a “T”: warm, sweet, and rich
  • The Thelonious Monk Quartet of 1964 is well featured on this excellent set… Easily recommended to Monk fans, this set is just further proof that he never made an unworthy recording.”

*The last track on this side gets a little crackly and plays Mint Minus Minus to EX++.

We’re big Monk fans here at Better Records and we wish we could get more records like this up on the site. Unfortunately, clean, vintage pressings of Monk’s music have become increasingly difficult to find, and even when you can track them down, they rarely play as quietly as this one, and of course, this being a Hot Stamper, they rarely sound as good as this one. (more…)

Gene Harris Big Band – Tribute to Count Basie – A Concord Record that Isn’t Mediocre (!)

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Since when did Concord learn to make a record that sounds as good as this one, with inspired, energetic performances from this solid group of veterans of the jazz wars no less.

Where is the typical Concord sub-gen, opaque, closed-in, compressed and lifeless sound we’ve been hearing all our lives? This is one jazz label that has done almost nothing of any real interest from the very start, and yet somehow they not only managed to get Gene Harris and his band of All Stars to play with tremendous enthusiasm and skill, they actually managed to capture, with considerable fidelity I might add, the prodigious big band energy they produced onto a reel of analog tape. I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t heard it with my own two ears.

Not only is the sound EXCELLENT, but the big band really swings. They pull out all the stops. Gene Harris, one of my favorite pianists, leads an all star crew on a series of tracks performed in the spirit of Count Basie. Not a slavish recreation, but an inspired performance in his style. This has to be one of the best sounding Concord records I’ve ever heard. Without a doubt one of the real sleepers from that label. (more…)

The Jacques Loussier Trio – Brandenburg Concerto No. 5

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  • This jazzy, innovative interpretation of three of Bach’s most famous works boasts Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound throughout – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Baroque genius meets jazz pioneer in this unique confluence of musical conventions
  • Full-bodied and warm, exactly the way you want your vintage analog to sound – the piano is surprisingly real here, solid and dynamic
  • Born from his love of classical works and improvisation, Loussier “loved to play the music, but add my own notes, expanding the harmonies and playing around with that music,” and the results should be interesting to fans of jazz and classical music alike

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Lionel Hampton – Silver Vibes

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  • Hampton’s superb 1960 release makes its Hot Stamper debut with STUNNING Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both of these original stereo sides
  • Three-dimensional space and ambience, Tubey Magic by the boatload – this All Tube recording shows just how good Columbia’s engineers were back then
  • Comprising mostly standards (Skylark, What’s New, Speak Low) performed in a mellow mood, Hampton, his bandmates, and the engineers provide an immersive, enchanting listening experience of very high quality
  • “Although a number of prominent musicians are present, the focus is almost exclusively on the leader in each of the ten brief arrangements… While this record may be a bit low-key, it is still very enjoyable.”

This vintage Columbia Six Eye Stereo pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely even BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound. (more…)

Dave Brubeck – Jazz Impressions Of Japan

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  • A KILLER sounding copy and the first to ever hit the site! Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it on both sides
  • These sides are incredibly clean, clear, spacious and full-bodied with tons of Tubey Magic and a solid bottom end
  • “Thirteen years into their tenure, the Dave Brubeck Quartet was still able to mine the creative vein for new means of expression… The sketches Brubeck and Desmond created all invoke the East, particularly the folk melodies of Japan directly, while still managing to use the Debussian impressionistic approach to jazz that kept them riding the charts and creating a body of music that, while playing into the exotica craze of the moment, was still jazz composed and played with integrity.” – All Music

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Dave Brubeck – Anything Goes!

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  • With two Triple Plus (A+++) Shootout Winning sides, this original stereo copy simply could not be beat, and it plays as quietly as these 360 stereo pressings ever do
  • This is a Must Own for fans of the later Brubeck albums (the ones in standard time signatures) or simply for those who want to hear these marvelous Cole Porter songs played with style and verve by musicians of consummate skill
  • “The Quartet performs eight of Cole Porter’s most famous songs on this enjoyable outing. Few surprises occur but the music often swings hard, pianist Brubeck and altoist Paul Desmond take several excellent solos and bassist Eugene Wright and drummer Joe Morello really push the group.”

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The 3 Sounds – Moods – Our Shootout Winner from 2008

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.

This Blue Note LP has GREAT SOUND. The top end is Right On The Money and the drums sound wonderful — punchy with lots of ambience. The piano is full-bodied and weighty allowing you to really appreciate the percussive qualities of the instrument. The bass is deep but not quite as tight as the very best sounding copies.

Those of you who are familiar with Yamamoto’s playing, especially on albums like Midnight Sugar, should have fun with the second track on side two, Li’l Darlin’. I think this is where Yamamoto “found” a lot of his style. It’s actually even slower than his arrangements of similar material, and I’d be tempted to say it works even better on this album.

Gene Harris, the piano player here, is one of my favorite jazz pianists. I saw him live with Ray Brown a few years back and he was wonderful. Most of his albums are long out of print and very hard to come by, so this is a real find, one that gets a Top Recommendation from Better Records.

Wynton Kelly Trio & Sextet – Kelly Blue

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  • Wynton Kelly’s hard-to-find second album finally makes its debut, with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • A superb pressing, with lovely richness and warmth, good space and separation between the instruments and real immediacy throughout
  • Kelly brings in jazz greats Nat Adderley, Bobby Jaspar, and Benny Golson, as well as several of his bandmates from Miles Davis’ sextet, including Paul Chambers and Jimmy Cobb
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Kelly was renowned as an accompanist, but as he shows on a set including three of his originals and four familiar standards… A fine example of his talents.”
  • “Wynton Kelly demonstrates once again why he has been a major influence in the history of jazz piano.”

Jack Higgins was the engineer for these sessions. He recorded Chet Baker’s brilliant Chet album the same year, as well as many other albums for Riverside in New York in the ’50s and ’60s. (more…)

Tsuyoshi Yamamoto – Misty – Reviewed in 2010

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This is a Factory Sealed 33 RPM Three Blind Mice 180g LP which comes highly recommended! This was the first Three Blind Mice recording I ever heard, over 20 years ago. A fellow audiophile who went on to become sort of an audio guru for me (George Louis) played me this record to demonstrate his stereo. It had to be the most dynamic piano recording I had ever heard in my life. 

Yamamoto likes to tinkle the keys very softly, and then really pound them. And the Three Blind Mice engineers were able to capture both the quiet tinkling because of the Japanese vinyl, and the full-on pounding because of the audiophile recording equipment they used. It was an ear-opening experience.

Over the course of the next year or two, I sold off my Fulton Premiers and my Audio Research Electronics, because no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get Misty to sound like it did at George’s house. I realized that it takes better equipment than those companies ever produced to get the sound of that record right, and that put me on, to quote Cat Stevens, ”the road to find out’.’ (more…)

Phineas Newborn, Jr. Trio – The Newborn Touch

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  • Newborn’s wonderful 1966 release makes its Hot Stamper debut with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish
  • The timbre of the instruments in this brilliant jazz trio is so spot-on it makes all the hard work and money you’ve put into your stereo more than pay off
  • This vintage Contemporary pressing boasts exceptionally natural piano sound (courtesy of Howard Holzer) and live-in-the-studio jazz energy
  • 4 1/2 stars: “As is usual on his Contemporary recordings, the pianist explores superior jazz compositions… Newborn’s remarkable control of the piano was still unimpaired, and he is heard giving Oscar Peterson a run for his money.”

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