Genre – Jazz – Piano & Vibes

Duke Ellington – Up In Duke’s Workshop

More Duke Ellington

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  • Stunning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) Ellington Big Band sound or very close to it, taken from 1969-1972 recordings, can be found on both of these outstanding sides
  • Pablo has here compiled some of Ellington’s best later music and mastered and pressed it wonderfully – you will not be disappointed with this one
  • “At first listen it is rougher, seems to be less evolved than his earlier easier-to-notice stylistic approach. If you give this a couple of plays, you will find it totally mesmerizing.”
  • “Duke Ellington was the most important composer in the history of jazz as well as being a bandleader who held his large group together continuously for almost 50 years.”

On every copy we played, the first track on side two is not quite up to the standard set by some of the other pieces. The top end is a little boosted and you can hear it most clearly on the cymbals. But by track two all is well sound-wise. (more…)

Wynton Kelly Trio and Wes Montgomery – Smokin’ at the Half Note

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  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish, a tough record to find these days
  • These sides are doing pretty much everything right – they’re surprisingly rich, full-bodied and Tubey Magical yet still clean, clear and spacious
  • 5 stars: “Smokin’ at the Half Note is essential listening for anyone who wants to hear why Montgomery’s dynamic live shows were considered the pinnacle of his brilliant and incredibly influential guitar playing. Pat Metheny calls this “the absolute greatest jazz guitar album ever made…”

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Ray Charles – The Best of Ray Charles

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  • An outstanding copy with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it from start to finish – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • Like any compilation the sound varies from track to track, but most of the material here sounds WONDERFUL
  • This collection of instrumentals gives you a taste of Ray’s prowess at the piano, with surprisingly good sound to boot
  • All these recordings are from the late 50s, including a live performance from the Newport Jazz Festival

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. Ray Charles was a genius (it’s his nickname for heaven’s sake!) and the original music on this record is just one more album’s worth of proof of that fact.

You may have noticed that Tom Dowd, the recording engineer for these tracks, receives a fair amount of criticism on our site. We’re not always fans of his work on rock albums, but on jazz music he usually managed to do a great job. The sound is open, sweet, transparent, rich — all the stuff we like here at Better Records.

Just drop the needle on the first track, Hard Times. The brass is breathy and full-bodied, the piano has real weight, and the vocals sound Right On The Money. The extended solos by David Newman on tenor sax are especially brilliant.

If you want a good Blues based Jazz record, performed by men who were at the height of their powers, you can’t go wrong with this one. All these recordings are from the late 50s, including a live performance from the Newport Jazz Festival. (more…)

The Ramsey Lewis Trio – More Music From The Soil

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  • More Music From The Soil makes its Hot Stamper debut with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from first note to last on this early Argo stereo LP
  • This pressing stood head and shoulders above the pack, with the kind of big, present, full-bodied sound this top piano trio demands (which is precisely where the Modern Heavy Vinyl reissue fails so spectacularly, most notably in the areas of size and presence)
  • Hard to imagine we could find another copy with sound this good and vinyl this quiet – not many Ramsey Lewis records from this era did survived with audiophile quality playing surfaces the way this one did
  • “This is a typically enjoyable and accessible early Ramsey Lewis Trio recording. The pianist, bassist Eldee Young, and drummer Red Holt swing their way through…”

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Thelonious Monk – Underground

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  • An incredible copy with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Charlie Rouse – featured on many of the tracks here – is particularly wonderful on sax. His saxophone is full-bodied and natural with breathy texture and just the right amount of honk
  • So many copies just sound like an old jazz record, but this one lets you feel like you are right there as the music happens
  • 4 1/2 stars: “The instantly recognizable stride piano lines are delivered with the same urgency and precision that they possessed over two decades earlier…”

This is an outstanding Monk album from 1968. Thanks to Columbia’s state of the art engineering — still using tubes I’d wager, based on the sound – the recording really comes to life, or at least it does on a copy that sounds as good as this one does.

Monk’s piano comes through with powerful dynamics and real weight to the keys.

So many copies just sound like an old jazz record, but this one lets you feel like you are right there as the music happens. What more could you ask for?

Unlike a lot of Columbia jazz records, both the 360 originals and the early Red Label reissues can sound good on this title (more…)

Vince Guaraldi – Jazz Impressions of Black Orpheus

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  • An outstanding copy of this classic audiophile favorite, with solid Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • You’d be hard-pressed to find a copy that’s this well balanced, yet big and lively, with such wonderful clarity in the mids and highs
  • Sublime, practically magical jazz trio sound (and music!) that belongs in every audiophile’s collection – on vintage vinyl that’s as quiet as we can find
  • 5 stars: “Here is Vince Guaraldi’s breakthrough album — musically, commercially, in every which way… The whole album evokes the ambience of San Francisco’s jazz life in the 1960s as few others do.”

Great energy for this jazz classic. This quality cannot be emphasized enough, it’s critically important to the music.

The best copies really get the bottom right. They bring out the contribution of the bass player better, the bass being essential to the rhythm of the music. On these pressings, the bass is so tight and note-like, you can see right into the soundstage and practically watch Monte Budwig play.

This is precisely where the 45 RPM pressing goes off the rails. The bloated, much-too-heavy and poorly-defined bass of the Heavy Vinyl remaster makes a mess of the Brazilian and African rhythms inherent in the music. If you own that $50 waste of money, believe me, you will not be tapping your foot to Cast Your Fate to the Wind or Manha de Carnival. (more…)

Ray Bryant Trio – Con Alma

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  • This 6 Eye Stereo original copy of Bryan’s superb 1961 release offers outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides
  • Impossibly rare on the original label in stereo with audiophile playing surfaces, this superb Columbia 30th Street Studio recording has that “Time Out” sound we love, so spacious and natural
  • Full-bodied and warm, exactly the way you want your vintage analog to sound – the piano is surprisingly real here — solid and dynamic
  • “… one of pianist Ray Bryant’s favorite trio records. Supported by either Bill Lee or Arthur Harper on bass and drummer Mickey Roker, Bryant is typically soulful, swinging and reasonably explorative…”
  • “Ray Bryant ranks this album, along with his Prestige/New Jazz release Alone With The Blues, as his two favorites and who could argue with him: they are both great albums.”

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Horace Silver – Horace-Scope

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  • This superb pressing boasts nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound from start to finish – just shy of our Shootout Winner, with fairly quiet vinyl for a vintage Blue Note pressing
  • This shootout was years in the making – few copies survived in this kind of audiophile playing condition, and fewer still – far fewer still – sound as good as this one does (thanks RVG!), so Silver fans should get while the gettin’ is good
  • 4 stars: “…every selection is full of soulful grooves and well-honed group interplay, the qualities that made this band perhaps the top hard bop outfit of the early ’60s. Silver was in the midst of a hot streak that wouldn’t let up for another few years, and Horace-Scope is another eminently satisfying effort from that period.”

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Count Basie / Kansas City 3 – For The Second Time

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Super Hot Stamper sound on both sides of this killer piano trio recording. It’s a joy to hear Basie perform as a frontman, stretching out on tunes that were no doubt dear to him. Veterans of hundreds of sessions, Ray Brown and Louis Bellson are just as interesting as Basie, high praise. Recorded by the legendary engineer Ed Greene (Stan Getz/Charlie Byrd – Jazz Samba) – that accounts for the exceptional sound.

Naturally we pick up all the Pablo Basie titles we can get our hands on these days, having had very good luck with a great many of them. When we dropped the needle on a copy of this one a few years back we were amazed at the sound. My post-it, still on the record, reads “SUPERB DEMO DISC.” It certainly is. (more…)

Dave Brubeck – Time Out

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  • This outstanding Six Eye Stereo pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides
  • A wonderful copy of this Must Own Jazz Classic – big and open, with note-like bass and huge amounts of studio space
  • 5 stars on Allmusic, an audiophile favorite and a great example of what’s phenomenally good about 1959 All Tube Analog recordings
  • “Dave Brubeck’s defining masterpiece, Time Out is one of the most rhythmically innovative albums in jazz history, the first to consciously explore time signatures outside of the standard 4/4 beat or 3/4 waltz time.”

NOTE: *On side one, a small mark makes 3 light ticks, followed by 1 moderate pop at the beginning of track 1, Blue Rondo A La Turk. On side two, a mark makes 7 moderately light pops at the beginning of track 2, Kathy’s Waltz and a bubble makes 15 soft intermittent thumps at the end of track 3, Everybody’s Jumpin’ and beginning of track 4, Pick Up Sticks.

This may not be the quietest copy we’ve ever played, but it’s certainly one of the best sounding. If you can tolerate the problems on this pressing you are in for some amazing Dave Brubeck music and sound. If for any reason you are not happy with the sound or condition of the album we are of course happy to take it back for a full refund, including the domestic return postage.


Spacious and transparent, this copy has the big three-dimensional soundstage that makes this record such a joy to listen to. The piano has weight and heft, the drums are big and dynamic, and everything is relaxed and sweet — in short, this copy is doing pretty much everything we want a top quality Time Out to do.

Listen to the drums on Everybody’s Jumpin’. This album was recorded on a big sound stage and there is a HUGE room which can clearly be heard surrounding the drum kit. Add to that that some of the drums are in the left channel and some of the drums are in the right channel and you have one big drum kit — exactly the way it was intended to sound.

Early pressings of this album are now very tough to find in clean condition and they do not come cheap. If you want to hear Take Five and the other great songs here in stunning Demo Disc quality, you won’t want to miss out on this copy — it will likely be a while before we find another one with grades this high and vinyl this clean. (more…)