Genre – Jazz – Saxophone/Clarinet

Grover Washington, Jr. – A Secret Place

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More Jazz Recordings Featuring the Saxophone

  • A Secret Place makes its Hot Stamper debut with KILLER Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or close to them throughout this original Kudu pressing
  • The sound is everything that’s good about Rudy Van Gelder‘s recordings – it’s present, spacious, full-bodied, Tubey Magical, dynamic and, most importantly, ALIVE in that way that modern pressings never are
  • You’d be hard-pressed to find a copy that’s this well balanced, big and lively, with wonderful clarity in the mids and highs and Washington’s sax front and center
  • 4 stars: “The bottom line on A Secret Place is that while the set did well commercially, it got nowhere near the critical praise of its predecessors. That’s a shame, because it is a truly fine album whose grooves and pleasures stand the test of time easily. It’s ripe for reappraisal.”
  • If you’re a Grover Washington fan, this title from 1976 is surely of interest, assuming you already have his best masterpiece, All the King’s Horses.

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Illinois Jacquet / How High the Moon – A Killer Two-Fer Thanks to David Turner

More Jazz Recordings Featuring the Saxophone

More Recordings by Rudy Van Gelder

  • This superb Prestige Two-Fer boasts Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on side two and outstanding double plus (A++) sound on the other three
  • Compiled from four Jacquet albums released in 1968 and 1969, including favorites like “Bottoms Up,”The Blues; That’s Me”, and “The King”
  • Jacquet’s one of the creators of the big, soulful tenor sax sound – I know of no one who does it better 
  • “… a fine sampler to Jacquet’s music… it features Illinois in a variety of settings (ranging from a quartet to a mini-big band)…”

The album combines material from four different Illinois Jacquet albums (Bottoms Up, The King, The Soul Explosion, and The Blues; That’s Me!). The sound is AMAZING and Jacquet plays with wonderful emotion and skill throughout.

Check out the man’s bassoon playing on ‘Round Midnight, the last track on side four — now there’s a sound you don’t hear too often on a jazz record!

As a bonus, they selected only about half the material from each of these classic albums, turning over to each of them about one side of these two discs. Which simply means that the quality and variety are consistently high on all four of these sides. No unreleased material or alternate takes; in other words, no filler. (more…)

Benny Carter – Jazz Giant

More of the Music of Benny Carter

Contemporary Jazz Records Available Now

  • Both sides of this superb Contemporary reissue earned excellent Double Plus (A++) sonic grades
  • If you still think that Analogue Productions is remastering records properly, you have definitely never heard a real Contemporary that sounds as good as this one does
  • The music of this Jazz Giant comes alive on this copy, with space, size, clarity and richness that few other pressings can match
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Benny Carter had already been a major jazz musician for nearly 30 years when he recorded this particularly strong septet session for Contemporary … This timeless music is beyond the simple categories of ‘swing’ or ‘bop’ and should just be called ‘classic.'”

If you like the sound of Contemporary Records, you won’t find a better example than this. Midrange magic doesn’t get anymore magical.

It’s been several years since our last shootout, but we hope the lucky buyer of this copy realizes it was more than worth it. To find a copy of Jazz Giant that sounds as good as this one is a very special event indeed.

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Cannonball Adderley / In the Land of Hi-Fi – A Very Good Speakers Corner Reissue

More of the Music of Cannonball Adderley

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Cannonball Adderley

Sonic Grade: B?

A fairly good Speakers Corner jazz album (we’re guessing). Years ago we wrote the following:

“Outstanding! Top recommendation!”

Hard to know what we would think of this pressing today, but for the thirty bucks you might pay for it, it’s probably worth a listen. 


FURTHER READING

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Reviews and Commentaries for Speakers Corner Heavy Vinyl

Here are some of our reviews and commentaries concerning the many Heavy Vinyl pressings we’ve played over the years, well over 200 at this stage of the game. Feel free to pick your poison.

Heavy Vinyl Commentaries

Heavy Vinyl Disasters

Heavy Vinyl Mediocrities

Heavy Vinyl Winners

And finally,

A Confession

One final note of honesty. Even as recently as the early 2000s we were still somewhat impressed with many of the better Heavy Vinyl pressings. If we had never made the progress we’ve worked so hard to make over the course of the last twenty plus years, perhaps we would find more merit in the Heavy Vinyl reissues so many audiophiles seem to prefer.

We’ll never know of course; that’s a bell that can be unrung. We did the work, we can’t undo it, and the system that resulted from it is merciless in revealing the truth — that these newer pressings are second-rate at best and much more often than not third-rate or worse.

Setting higher standards — no, being able to set higher standards — in our minds is a clear mark of progress. We know that many of our customers see things the same way.

Art Pepper – Which Is Better: Phil DeLancie Digital or George Horn Analog?

More of the Music of Art Pepper

More Jazz Recordings featuring the Saxophone

We’ve wanted to do Art Pepper Today for more than a decade, but the original Galaxy pressings were just too thick and dark to earn anything approaching a top sonic grade. Thirty years ago on a very different system I had one and liked it a lot, but there was no way I could get past the opaque sound I was now hearing on the more than half-dozen originals piled in front of me.

So, almost in desperation we tried an OJC reissue from the ’90s. You know, the ones that all the audiophiles on the web will tell you to steer clear of because it has been mastered by Phil DeLancie and might be sourced from digital tapes.

Or digitally remastered, or somehow was infected with something digital somehow.

Well, immediately the sound opened up dramatically, with presence, space, clarity and top end extension we simply could not hear on the originals. Moreover, the good news was that the richness and solidity of the originals was every bit as good. Some of the originals were less murky and veiled than others, so we culled the worst of them for trade and put the rest into the shootout with all the OJCs we could get our hands on.

Now, it’s indisputable that Phil DeLancie is credited on the jacket, but I see George Horn‘s writing in the dead wax of the actual record, so I really have no way of knowing whether Mr Delancie in fact had anything to do with the copies I was auditioning. They don’t sound digital to me, they’re just like other good George Horn-mastered records I’ve heard from this period.

And of course we here at Better Records never put much stock in what record jackets say; the commentary on the jackets rarely has much to do with the sound of the records inside them in our experience.

And, one more surprise awaited us as we were plowing through our pile of copies.

When we got to side two we found that the sound of the Galaxy originals was often competitive with the best of the OJCs. Which means that there’s a good probability that some of the original pressings I tossed for having bad sound on side one had very good, perhaps even shootout winning sound, on side two.

This is a lesson I hope to take to heart in the future. I know very well that the sound of side one is independent of side two, but somehow in this case I let my prejudice against the first side color my thinking about the second.

Of all the people who should know better…

The Gerry Mulligan Quartet – What Is There To Say?

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More Recordings on Vintage Columbia Vinyl

  • With superb Double Plus (A++) grades from top to bottom, this early 6-Eye stereo LP is doing just about everything right
  • The sound here is tubier, more transparent, more dynamic, with more of that “jumpin’ out of the speakers” quality that only The Real Thing ever has
  • With explosive dynamics and rich, full-bodied, Tubey Magical sax sound, it’s hard to imagine any reissue, vintage or otherwise, can hold a candle to the sound of this amazing record
  • Recorded at Columbia’s famous 30th Street studios, here is a record that sounds like Kind of Blue, Ah Um and Time Out, for the simple reason that all were recorded in the same studio using the same equipment (and perhaps even the same engineers)
  • 5 stars: “The last of the pianoless quartet albums that Gerry Mulligan recorded in the 1950s is one of the best … every selection is memorable…”

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Dexter Gordon / One Flight Up – A Dubby Mess on Cisco Heavy Vinyl

More of the Music of Dexter Gordon

More Hot Stamper Pressings on Blue Note

Sonic Grade: D

An Audiophile Hall of Shame pressing from Cisco / Impex /  Boxstar.

You will have a hard time finding any pressing that doesn’t sound better than this “dubby” Cisco LP. (The DMM reissues are worse — no Blue Note pressings could possibly be so ridiculously bad as they — but I can’t think of any others offhand that would be. The CDs, maybe, who really knows, but that’s a case of apples and oranges.)

If smeared transients and zero ambience are your kind of sound, this is the record for you! 


Grover Washington – Winelight

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More Bill Withers

  • Superb Double Plus (A++) sound throughout this wonderful Elektra pressing – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • Both sides here are rich, full-bodied and musical – this is the sound of Analog that we fell in love with all those years ago (57 and counting in my case)
  • We’ve called this album a Demo Disc for Bass and any Hot Stamper copy will show you why
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Winelight is one of his finest albums, and not primarily because of the Bill Withers hit “Just the Two of Us.” It is the five instrumentals that find Washington (on soprano, alto, and tenor) really stretching out…”

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Sonny Rollins – Taking Care Of Business (Work Time, Tenor Madness and Tour de Force)

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  • The complete Tenor Madness album is found here, with big, full-bodied, MONO jazz sound at its BEST, courtesy of the great one, Rudy Van Gelder
  • This is what classic ’50s jazz is supposed to sound like – they knew how to do these kinds of records forty years ago, and those mastering skills are in short supply nowadays, if not downright extinct
  • The transfers from 1978 by David Turner are in tune with the sound of these recordings – there’s not a trace of phony EQ on this entire record
  • “Tenor Madness was the recording that, once and for all, established Newk as one of the premier tenor saxophonists, an accolade that in retrospect, has continued through six full decades and gives an indication why a young Rollins was so well liked, as his fluency, whimsical nature, and solid construct of melodies and solos gave him the title of the next Coleman Hawkins or Lester Young of mainstream jazz.”

This Two-Fer includes all of Tenor Madness and most of Work Time and Tour De Force.

Top jazz players such as Ray Bryant, John Coltrane, Red Garland, Kenny Drew, Max Roach and Paul Chambers can be heard on the album.

If you want all the tubey magic of the earlier pressings, a top quality pressing of the real Tenor Madness album on Prestige is going to give you more of that sound. David Turner’s mastering setup in the ’70s has a healthy dose of tubes, but it can’t compete in that area with the All Tube cutting systems that were making records in the ’50s and ’60s.  Without one of those early pressing around to compare, we don’t think you’re going to feel you are missing out on anything in the sound with this killer copy.

And where can you find an early Prestige pressing with audiophile playing surfaces like these?   (more…)

John Coltrane – More Lasting Than Bronze

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  • This superb Prestige Two-Fer offer outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from top to bottom – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Compiled from two nearly complete Classic albums, Lush Life and Coltrane, this collection boasts masterful sound – thanks RVG!
  • Full-bodied, energetic, and tonally correct from top to bottom and, these pressings are guaranteed to bring Coltrane’s music to life
  • “Rarely does a single performance uncover the essence of an artist with such aptness. The well-crafted melody is treated above all with dignity, which may be part of the reason it remains flawless.”

The jackets for these Two-Fers tend to have some ringwear. We will of course put these two discs in the nicest cover we have available.

This is the kind of recording that makes people respect Rudy Van Gelder. And since he mastered these pressings, we have to give him even more credit for doing the transfer exceptionally well. I am on record as saying that some of his own transfers are problematical. Not this one. Since this has two of Coltrane’s greatest albums together, I can’t recommend this record any more highly.

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