Genre – Jazz – Saxophone/Clarinet

At Ease With Coleman Hawkins from 1960 – What to Listen For

This 1960 Saxophone Ballad session has to be seen as yet another recording triumph for Rudy Van Gelder. The best pressings of these OJC reissues from 1989 sound like the vintage jazz albums they emulate, and sometimes they even beat the originals at their own Tubey Magical game. They can be every bit as rich, sweet and spacious as their earlier-pressed brethren in our experience.

In the case of At Ease with Coleman Hawkins, we simply have never seen an original copy clean enough to buy, so we have no reference for what an original would sound like.

But, having critically auditioned literally hundreds and hundreds of vintage jazz records over the course of the last few years, we’re pretty confidant we know what they are supposed to sound like.

And they sound just like the best copies of this very pressing.

What to Listen For

The best copies are rich and tubey; many pressings were thin and modern sounding, and for that they would lose a lot of points. We want this record to sound like something RVG recorded in 1960, and the best copies give you that sound, without the surface noise and groove damage the originals doubtless have to offer.

Some copies have much more space; some are more present, putting the musicians right in the room with you; some are more transparent, resolving the musical information much better than others, letting you “see” everyone in the studio clearly. Some have more rhythmic drive than others. On some the musicians seem more involved and energetic than they do on the average pressing.

The copies that do all these things better than other copies are the ones that win our shootouts.

More Coleman Hawkins

More recordings by Rudy Van Gelder

Potentially Good Sounding OJC Pressings

Not Very Good Sounding OJC Pressings

John Coltrane / Lush Life – Should You Collect the Original Pressing on this Title?

No. Which means we was wrong about Lush Life.

A classic case of Live and Learn. Previously we had written:

“There are great sounding originals, but they are few and far between…”

We no longer believe that to be true. In fact we believe the opposite of that statement to be true. The original we had on hand — noisy but with reasonably good sound, or so we thought — was an absolute joke next to our best Hot Stamper pressings. Half the size, half the clarity and presence, half the life and energy, half the immediacy, half the studio space. It was simply not remotely competitive with the copies we now know (or at least believe, all knowledge being provisional) to have the best sound.

Are there better originals than the ones we’ve played? No doubt. If you want to spend your day searching for them, more power to you. And if you do find one that impresses you, we are happy to send you one of our Hot Copies to play against it. We are confident that the outcome would be clearly favorable to our pressing. Ten seconds of side one should be enough to convince you that our record is in an entirely different league, a league we had no idea even existed until just this year.

By the way, the mono original we played was by far the worst sound I have ever heard for the album.

By far.

Hot Stamper Pressings that Sound Their Best on the Right Reissue

Records We’ve Reviewed that Sound Their Best on the Right Reissue

(The operative word in the two sentences above is “right.”

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Oscar Peterson + Harry Edison + Eddie Cleanhead Vinson – Not As Good As We Thought, Sorry!

The last time I played this album in preparation for a new shootout, which was some time in early 2020, I was not thrilled with either the sound or the music.

I found the lack of ambience and overall artificiality of the recording not to my liking. In the old days — the review below was probably from the early 2000s — my system was not remotely as good as it is now. I can play the space in a recording much better than I could then, and the lack of natural space now bothers me no end, when before it usually did not.

Live and Learn we say!

Many of Allen Sides‘ recordings suffer from a lack of ambience. The musicians do not seem to have much air around them to breathe. Many audiophile recordings, especially direct to disc recordings from the ’70s, are insufferable in this respect, with too much multi-miking and not enough studio space.

A good example of how some audiophiles with modern high-tech recording equipment but little in the way of experience or understanding end up producing records that are not remotely the equal of those that were commonly made twenty years before is this Bach recording by Virgil Fox for Crystal Clear.

Other records that are good for testing Ambience, Size and Space can be found all over this blog.

Two of the Worst

Of course, some of the most ambience-challenged records available today are on Heavy Vinyl. I could link to a hundred of them, but here are two that should get the point across well enough.

This album on DCC, like much of their dubious output, has very little of the breathing space of the vintage pressings we sell.

And the disgraceful label that released this title can be relied upon to press records that no audiophile with a decent stereo and two working ears should want anything to do with.

Our Old Review

Take the following review from decades ago with a very large grain of salt and don’t pay too much for this album if you see one around.

This is a long out of print Pablo LP with AMAZING sound and music. It’s one of those superb Allan Sides engineered recordings at Ocean Way, like Basie 88 Street. Demo disc quality sound is the result! With players like these, the music is every bit as good as any jazz record I know of. In other words, I really like this album.


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

More Grover Washington

More Jazz Recordings Featuring the Saxophone

  • 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.”
  • If you’re a Grover Washington fan, this is a Must Own Classic from 1972 that belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1972 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

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…)

Paul Desmond & Gerry Mulligan – Two Of A Mind

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More Living Stereo Recordings

  • Superb Double Plus (A++) sound from the first note to the last on this RCA pressing in glorious Living Stereo
  • Both sides here are tonally rich, and with killer Living Stereo sound, you hear both of these brilliant hornmen presented as solid and real in the soundfield as any you may have heard
  • If you’re looking to demonstrate just how good 1962 All Tube Analog sound can be, this vintage pressing may be just the record for you
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Altoist Paul Desmond and baritonist Gerry Mulligan always made for a perfect team during their infrequent collaborations. Both of the saxophonists had immediately distinctive light tones, strong wits, and the ability to improvise melodically. Highly recommended.”
  • If you’re a fan of the smooth jazz stylings of Paul Desmond, this is a Must Own Classic from 1962 that belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1962 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

THIS is the sound of Tubey Magic. No recordings will ever be made like this again, and no CD will ever capture what is in the grooves of this record. There actually IS a CD of this album, and YouTube videos of it too, but those of us with good turntables could care less.

And if you have an especially good turntable and the system that goes with it, we think you will find a world of difference in the sound of our Hot Stamper early pressing and any of the Heavy Vinyl records being produced of this very title.

They may be good — excellent even — but you won’t know what you are missing until you hear our record (or yours if you have an especially good one).

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Jackie McLean – A Long Drink of the Blues

More Jackie McLean

  • Shockingly good All Tube Mono Recording Chain sound from 1957 courtesy of Rudy Van Gelder, and the high-rez, tonally correct and wide-bandwidth mastering brings out even the most subtle nuances of the sound of this superb sextet
  • McLean’s sax is joined on the first side by Curtis Fuller on trombone and Webster Young on Trumpet
  • 4 stars: “Although not quite as intense as McLean’s later Blue Note dates, the ballad renditions show just how mature and original a soloist he was even at this early stage.” 
  • If you’re a fan of Jackie’s, this is a Top Title from 1957 that belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1957 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

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Ornette Coleman – Tomorrow Is The Question

More Ornette Coleman

Reviews and Commentaries for the Recordings of Roy DuNann

  • An outstanding copy of Coleman’s sophomore release, with solid Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last – reasonably quiet vinyl too
  • Our Contemporary Yellow Label Stereo LP here has have breathy, full-bodied brass and lots of tight, well-defined bass 
  • The top end is nicely extended, which results in excellent space, transparency and clarity
  • 4 stars: “…this is one of the things that came to define Ornette — his willingness to let simplicity and its bright colors and textures confound not only other players and listeners, but also him too.”
  • Another Must Own Title from 1959

The drum sound is OUT OF THIS WORLD — Roy Du Nann always seems to get amazing sound out of Shelley Manne’s kit.

Listen too for the interplay between Ornette and Don Cherry — they really drive each other to insane levels over the course of these nine tracks. (more…)

Jackie McLean – McLean’s Scene

More Jackie McLean

One of Our Favorite Titles from 1959

  • Surprisingly rich, lively and clear, with plenty of space for this exceptional group to occupy
  • Credit must go to Rudy Van Gelder once again for capturing the swinging energy of this superbly sympathetic ensemble
  • 4 stars: “McLean never really copied Charlie Parker and was one of the first in his generation to develop his own sound.”

Both sides are Tubey Magical, rich, open, spacious and tonally correct. These guys are playing live in the studio and you can really feel their presence on every track — assuming you have a copy that sounds like this one.

Based on what I’m hearing my feeling is that most of the natural, full-bodied, smooth, sweet sound of the album is on the master tape, and that all that was needed to transfer that vintage sound correctly onto vinyl disc was simply to thread up the tape on a high quality machine and hit play.

The fact that practically nobody seems to be able to make an especially good sounding record these days — certainly not as good sounding as this one — tells me that in fact I’m wrong to think that such an approach would work. Somebody should have been able to figure out how to do it by now. In our experience that is simply not the case today, and has not been for many years, if not decades. (more…)

Paul Quinichette – On The Sunny Side, a Wonderful OJC Pressing from the ’80s

Here Are Some Not Very Good Sounding OJC Pressings

  • Both sides of this long out of print OJC title boast lively, big and clear Double Plus (A++) sound quality
  • With three saxophones and a trombone, this is a fresh combination that really brings out the best in all the players during this Prestige jam session, a format for which they are justly famous
  • I raved about this album when it was in print many years ago – it’s solidly swinging jazz that belongs in your collection
  • Allmusic 4 Stars: “Waldron’s three originals (highlighted by “Cool-Lypso”) allow plenty of room for swinging, and Quinichette (who also performs “On the Sunny Side of the Street”) sounds comfortable interacting with the younger musicians. An enjoyable and underrated release.”

As I wrote years ago, back in the days when we regularly sent out catalog mailings:

When we discover a record like this, a record with no reputation either in the jazz world or the audiophile world, we try to bring it to people’s attention, usually with some success. Some of my customers called me up to tell me what a great record this is.

Based on what I’m hearing my feeling is that most of the lively, natural, full-bodied, sound of the album is on the master tape, and that all that was needed to get that vintage sound correctly on to disc was simply to thread up that tape on a reasonably good machine and hit play.

The fact that nobody seems to be able to make an especially good sounding record — certainly not as good sounding as this one — these days tells me that in fact I’m wrong to think that such an approach would work. Somebody should have been able to figure out how to do it by now. In our experience that is simply not the case today, and has not been for many years.

George Horn was doing brilliant work for Fantasy all through the ’80s. This album is proof that his sound is the right sound for this music. (more…)

Art Pepper – Roadgame

More Art Pepper

More Jazz Recordings featuring the Saxophone

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  • These sides are exceptionally low-distortion, lively, solid and dynamic – just what this live music needs
  • “Altoist Art Pepper’s 1981 appearances at Los Angeles’ now-obsolete Maiden Voyage club were fully documented, resulting in three LPs… Although only a year away from his death, the great Art Pepper was still very much in his prime for this memorable outing.” – All Music, 4 1/2 Stars

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