Genre – Jazz – Piano & Vibes

Oscar Peterson, et al. – Oscar Peterson + Harry Edison + Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson

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More Jazz Recordings of Interest

  • With STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the second side and solid Double Plus (A++) sound on the first, this original Pablo pressing has some of the BEST sound we have ever heard for this title – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Surprisingly spacious and three-dimensional for a recording from 1986
  • 4 1/2 stars: “The strictly instrumental set has many fine solos on appealing tunes such as ‘Stuffy,’ ‘Broadway’ and the lengthy blues ‘Slooow Drag.’ This boppish session gave Vinson a rare chance to really stretch out and he was up for the challenge.”

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Vince Guaraldi – Jazz Impressions of Black Orpheus

Reviews and Commentaries for Vince Guaraldi

More Jazz Recordings Featuring the Piano

    • An outstanding copy of this classic audiophile favorite with Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last – fairly quiet for a vintage vinyl pressing on Fantasy Deep Groove 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
    • If you made the mistake of buying any pressing made in the last forty years, on any label, here is your chance to finally hear this wonderful music sound the way it was meant to
    • And if this strikes you as too much money to spend on the album, don’t buy an LP, buy Hoffmann’s Gold CD, it’s wonderful
    • 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.”
    • An absolute Must Own – for sound and music, this is our pick for The Best Vince Guaraldi Album of All Time

This album checks off a number of important boxes for us here at Better Records:

    1. It’s a Jazz Demo Disc (on the right stereo pressings)
    2. It’s the Best Sounding Vince Guaraldi album we know of
    3. It’s a Jazz Masterpiece, and, lastly,
    4. It’s a Personal Favorite of yours truly

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 Brazillian 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.”

If you happen to have a friend with that title in his collection, ask to take a peek at it. I’ll bet it’s pristine. Bad records don’t get played much. Some audiophiles have complained that we spend too much time bashing Heavy Vinyl, but if ever a record deserved it, it’s that one. It’s a failure as a remastering and an insult to the analog buying audiophile public at large. Searching the web, I am glad to see that no one seems to have anything nice to say about it, as of this writing. No one should, but that has not deterred the reviewers and forum posters in the past.

The piano is solid, mostly clear and not hard. Not many copies present the piano this way — correctly in other words. The amazing snare of Colin Bailey in the right channel is LIVELY and fun like you’ve never heard before.

There is no sacrifice in fullness, richness or Tubey Magic in the presentation, and that is the right sound for this music.

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Miles Davis / Thelonious Monk – Miles & Monk at Newport

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More Thelonious Monk

  • This original 360 Stereo pressing boasts stunning Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) live jazz sound from first note to last, just shy of our Shootout Winner – remarkably quiet vinyl too
  • Exceptionally spacious and three-dimensional, as well as relaxed and full-bodied – this pressing was a big step up over practically every other copy we played
  • The energy and presence are wonderful – Monk’s piano has real weight and the brass sounds just right
  • “[The Miles Davis Sextet’s] rapid version of ‘Ah Leu Cha’ is thunderous and ‘Straight No Chaser’ swings like mad.”

Of special note on the Monk side is the excellent work of Frankie Dunlap on drums, and of course Charlie Rouse is always interesting. Add to those top players someone you wouldn’t normally associate with Monk — Pee Wee Russell on clarinet, here proving that he’s every bit the bop jazz musician that these other guys are.

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The Three on Inner City – By Far the Best Way to Get All Six Tracks

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More Jazz Recordings Featuring the Piano

  • A Demo Disc quality pressing of this wonderful recording, with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • The transients are uncannily lifelike – listen for the huge amounts of kinetic energy produced when Shelly whacks the hell out of his cymbals
  • My favorite Jazz Piano Trio Album of All Time; every one of those six tracks is brilliantly arranged and performed (if you have the right takes of course; more about that later)
  • 4 stars: “One of Joe Sample’s finest sessions as a leader” – with Shelly Manne and Ray Brown, we would say it’s clearly his finest session, as a leader or simply as the piano player in a killer trio

If you want to hear the full six tunes recorded by The Three at that famous Hollywood session (which ran all day and long into the night, 4 AM to be exact), these 33 RPM pressings are the best way to go. The music is so good that I personally would not want to live without the complete album. The Three is, in fact, my favorite Piano Trio Jazz Album of All Time; every one of those six tracks is brilliantly arranged and performed (if you have the right takes of course; more about that later). (more…)

Dave Grusin – Discovered Again!

  • This Sheffield Direct to Disc pressing boasts outstanding  sound from first note to last
  • After critically listening to this record good and loud, I have to award the album The Greatest Direct to Disc Recording of All Time
  • The songs, the players, the arrangements, the sound – this is a record that will reward hundreds of plays for decades to come
  • Side one of this copy is OUT of polarity, one of the few we found that way, and not a copy you should be if you can’t switch
  • “Everything about this project is just right from the gentle contemporary feel of the music to the superb sound of the [album] itself.”

We are on record as being big fans of this album. Unlike most Direct to Disc recordings, Discovered Again actually contains real music worth listening to. During our all-day shootout, the more we played the record, the more we appreciated it. These are top quality players totally in the groove on this material. When it’s played well, and the sound is as good as it is here, there’s nothing dated about this kind of jazz. Hey, what can we say — it works.

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Count Basie & Oscar Peterson – Two Pianos and No Smear on Either?

More of the Music of Count Basie

More of the Music of Oscar Peterson

There was not a trace of smear on the pianos, which is unusual in our experience, although no one ever seems to talk about smeary pianos in the audiophile world other than us.

With 176 keys on hand, this recording presents the audiophile with a great piano test.

The Piano

If you have full-range speakers, some of the qualities you may recognize in the sound of the piano are WEIGHT and WARMTH. The piano is not hard, brittle or tinkly. Instead the best copies show you a wonderfully full-bodied, warm, rich, smooth piano, one which sounds remarkably like the ones we’ve all heard countless times in piano bars and restaurants.

In other words like a real piano, not a recorded one. This is what we look for in a good piano recording. Bad mastering can ruin the sound, and often does, along with worn out stampers and bad vinyl. But some copies survive all such hazards.

They manage to reproduce the full spectrum of the piano’s wide range (and of course the wonderful performance of the pianist) on vintage vinyl, showing us the kind of sound we simply cannot find any other way.

Analogue Productions Heavy Vinyl

AP did another one of the Basie Peterson collaborations on vinyl, a longtime favorite of ours, The Timekeepers. Considering their dismal track record — an unbroken string of failures, with not one success of which I am aware — I’m quite sure the Hot Stamper we are offering here will blow the doors off anything they will ever do on vinyl.

AMG Review

From the same week that resulted in Night Rider and Timekeepers, this is the fifth album that documents the matchup of Count Basie and Oscar Peterson. 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.


Further Reading

More Reviews and Commentaries for Pablo Recordings

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Count Basie

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Oscar Peterson

John Lewis – The Wonderful World Of Jazz

More John Lewis

More Jazz Recordings Featuring the Piano

  • This Atlantic reissue was doing just about everything right, with both sides earning solid Double Plus (A++) grades or BETTER – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Bigger, richer, more Tubey Magical, with more extension on both ends of the spectrum and more depth, width and height than most other copies we played
  • An outstanding (and very hard-to-find) Jazz LP – a Better Records Top Recommendation from decades ago, and we are pleased to report that the music and the sound still hold up
  • 4 1/2 stars: “This is one of pianist John Lewis’ most rewarding albums outside of his work with the Modern Jazz Quartet. Three numbers (including a remake of ‘Two Degrees East, Three Degrees West’) showcase his piano in a quartet with guitarist Jim Hall, bassist George Duvivier, and drummer Connie Kay.”

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Dave Brubeck Quartet – Time Further Out

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Reviews and Commentaries for Time Further Out

  • This vintage Columbia 6-Eye Stereo pressing has some of the best sound we have heard for the album, with both sides earning STUNNING Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) grades – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • It’s bigger, richer, more Tubey Magical, and has more extension on both ends of the spectrum than practically all the other copies we played
  • It’s also graded just one half plus lower on each side than our Shootout Winner, and it has no audible marks, so you might just find that this is the best way to go for Time Further Out
  • This copy demonstrates the big-as-life Fred Plaut Columbia Sound at its best – better even than Time Out(!)
  • 4 1/2 stars: “The selections, which range in time signatures from 5/4 to 9/8, are handled with apparent ease (or at least not too much difficulty) by pianist Brubeck, altoist Paul Desmond, bassist Eugene Wright, and drummer Joe Morello on this near-classic.”

Time Further Out is consistently more varied and, dare we say, more musically interesting than Time Out.

If you want to hear big drums in a big room these Brubeck recordings will show you that sound better than practically any record we know of. These vintage recordings are full-bodied, spacious, three-dimensional, rich, sweet and warm in the best tradition of an All Tube Analog recording. (more…)

Hampton Hawes – Everybody Likes Hampton Hawes, Vol. 3: The Trio

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More Contemporary Label Jazz Recordings

  • We have been big fans of Hampton Hawes for many years – it’s records like this that impressed the hell out of us back in the day and they only get better with age
  • This side one is rich, clear, undistorted, open, spacious, and has jazz trio energy to rival the best recordings you may have heard, and side two is not far behind in all those areas
  • This is a textbook example of Contemporary sound at its best, thanks to the engineering brilliance of Roy DuNann and producer Lester Koenig
  • “The third of three Hampton Hawes trio dates with bassist Red Mitchell and drummer Chuck Thompson is on the same high level as his first two…. [Hawes] comes up with consistently creative ideas throughout this swinging bop date.”
  • If you’re a fan of jazz piano trios playing live-in-the-studio, this Contemporary from 1956 surely belongs in your collection
  • The complete list of titles from 1956 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here

We don’t run into Hawes’ LPs the way we used to, so it was indeed a delight to find enough copies of this album to do a shootout recently.

Note how correct the sound of the instruments is on both sides. This is the unquestionably the hallmark of any Contemporary recording: correct instrumental timbres.

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Shelly Manne & His Friends – Bells Are Ringing

Contemporary Jazz Records Available Now

Reviews and Commentaries for Contemporary Jazz

  • Outstanding solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER throughout this Black Label original on vinyl that’s about as quiet as they ever play
  • The piano sounds lifelike right from the start, a beautiful instrument in a natural space, tonally correct from top to bottom
  • This copy makes it clear that this is a Demo Disc Quality Recording for Contemporary, and that’s saying a lot
  • It’s also our favorite jazz piano performance by Andre Previn on record
  • Only a handful of copies of this title have made it on the site in the last few years – finding them in audiophile condition is getting harder (and more expensive) than ever these days
  • “Previn’s piano is the lead voice and his virtuosity, good taste, melodic improvising, and solid sense of swing are chiefly responsible for the music’s success.”

I have a very long history with this album, going back decades. My friend Robert Pincus first turned me on to the CD, which, happily for all concerned, was mastered beautifully. We used it to test and tweak all the stereos in my friends’ systems.

Playing the original stereo record, which I assumed must never have been reissued due to its rarity (I have since learned otherwise), all I could hear on my ’90s all tube system was blurred mids, lack of transient attack, sloppy bass, lack of space and transparency, and other shortcomings too numerous to mention that I simply attributed at the time to vintage jazz vinyl.

Well, things have certainly changed. I have virtually none of the equipment I had back then, and I hear none of the problems with this copy that I heard back then on pressing I owned. This is clearly a different LP (I sold off the old one years ago) but I have to think that much of the change in the sound was a change in cleaning, equipment, tweaks and room treatments, all the stuff we prattle on about endlessly on the site.

In other words, if you have a highly-resolving modern system and a good room, you should be knocked out by the sound of this record. I sure was.

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