Genre – Jazz – Piano & Vibes

Count Basie & Oscar Peterson – Yessir, That’s My Baby

More Count Basie

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  • Both sides of this wonderful Basie/Peterson record boast outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Jazz records don’t get a whole lot bigger, clearer or more full-bodied – man, this is the glorious sound of ANALOG
  • “The two pianists (backed by bassist John Heard and drummer Louis Bellson) play five standards and three blues with predictable swing, finding much more in common with each other than one might have originally suspected.”

Another in the series of collaborations between Basie and Peterson, this time along with Louis Bellson & John Heard. There were four as I recall, some involving electric as well as acoustic pianos as this one does.

There was not a trace of smear on the piano, which is unusual in our experience, although no one ever seems to talk about smeary pianos in the audiophile world (except for us of course). (more…)

Thelonious Monk – Monk’s Dream

More Thelonious Monk

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  • A great sounding copy with Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound from start to finish – this one was nearly as good as our Shootout Winner, hence the Nearly Triple Plus grades
  • These sides are rich, spacious, big and Tubey Magical, with virtually none of the smear on the piano that holds so many other copies back
  • Here’s proof that the sound found on these early Columbia 360 Label Stereo pressings is absolutely the right one for Monk’s music
  • 5 stars: “Although he would perform and record supported by various other musicians, the tight — almost telepathic — dimensions that these four shared has rarely been equalled in any genre… Monk’s Dream is recommended, with something for every degree of Monk enthusiast.”

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The Monty Alexander 7 / Jamento – Listening for Speed and Smear

What to Listen For – Smear

What to Listen For – Speed

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Clear piano notes, first and foremost. Any smear or loss of speed (a problem with hi-fi equipment since the beginning of time) detracts from the fun. 

Next, the tonality of the best copies is rich and solid; accept nothing less.

And, finally, the proper reproduction of the percussion instruments is critically important to the energy and drive of the music. The better you hear them — without losing the weight and richness of the piano — the more you will enjoy your copy of the record.

No two copies will reproduce all these elements equally well. On high quality equipment with the volume turned up good and loud the winners are easily separated from the losers. (more…)

George Shearing and the Montgomery Brothers – The Best Sounding George Shearing Record We’ve Ever Played

More Wes Montgomery

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  • This superb collabration makes its Hot Stamper debut here with STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish on this early Jazzland stereo pressing
  • With a rich, lively, present piano, as well as dead-on timbral accuracy for everyone else, this is by far the best sounding George Shearing record we have ever played
  • “… features a rich blend of sound between piano, guitar and vibes all firmly supported by Monk Montgomery’s formidable bass work and Walter Perkins’ solid drumming.”
  • 4 stars: “Pianist George Shearing meets up with guitarist Wes, vibraphonist Buddy, and bassist Monk Montgomery on this enjoyable if slightly lightweight outing… some fine soloing by the principals.”

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Vince Guaraldi – A Bloated Mess at 45 RPM from Acoustech

More Bad Sounding Pressings from Analogue Productions

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We played an amazing Hot stamper copy that got the bottom end on this album as right as we’ve ever heard. The contribution of the bass player was clear and correctly balanced in the mix, which we soon learned to appreciate was fundamentally important to the rhythmic drive of the music.

The bass was so tight and note-like you could see right into the soundstage and practically picture Monte Budwig plucking and bowing away.

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.
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Count Basie – Kansas City 5

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  • Presenting yet another amazingly well recorded Count Basie album, with STUNNING Triple Plus (A+++) sound throughout
  • It’s bigger, richer, more Tubey Magical, with more extension on both ends of the spectrum than every other other copy we played
  • A different sound for Basie, a small group setting with two of his favorite players at his side: Milt Jackson on vibes and Joe Pass on guitar
  • “The predictably excellent group performs spirited versions of some of Basie’s “hits” (including “Jive at Five” and “One O’Clock Jump”), some blues and a few standards. It is always interesting to hear Basie in a hornless setting like this one where he gets opportunities to stretch out on the piano.”

Only recently did I become familiar with this record, released in 1981 from sessions recorded in 1977. We pick up all the Pablo Basie titles we can get our hands on these days. When we dropped the needle on a copy of the album we were amazed at the sound. Don’t know much about the engineer — Geoff Sykes — but he did a great job working at Kendun for this session.

This was the first of a series of smaller ensemble recordings under the heading of Kansas City. We have more coming, including the superb Kansas City piano trio album entitled “For the Second Time” with Louis Bellson and Ray Brown, a record that can have superb sound on the Pablo pressing (but steer clear of the OJC which is thin and opaque, the opposite of the sound you want).

With such a small group and no horn players there is much more room for interplay between Basie and either Pass or Jackson. As the liner notes make clear, both vets quickly adapted their playing styles to the laidback Count Basie approach to the blues. If you are in the market for some smooth Basie grooves with exceptionally good sound, this one should be right up your alley. (more…)

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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