Genre – Jazz – Trumpet / Trombone

The Best Jazz Record Ever Made, or the Best Jazz Record We’ve Ever Played?

Reviews and Commentaries for Somethin’ Else

I ran across this listing for Cannonball Adderley’s Somethin’ Else today, a record we raved about after doing a shootout for it years ago. Notice the careful hedging in the phrases with newly added italics:

The music here is amazing — as I’m sure most of you know, this is as much a showcase for Miles Davis as it is for Cannonball himself — but the good news for audiophiles is that it’s also one of the BEST SOUNDING BLUE NOTE ALBUMS we know of. When you hear it on a copy like this, it’s just about As Good As It Gets.

After doing this shootout in 2015 I would like to amend the above remarks for being much too conservative. The current consensus here at Better Records is that this album deserves to hold three — count ’em, three — somewhat related titles:

One, The Best Sounding Blue Note record we have ever played.

Two, The Best Sounding Jazz Record we have ever played.

Three, Rudy Van Gelder’s Best Engineering (based on the copies we played).

Our shootout winners had more energy, presence, dynamics and three-dimensional studio space than any jazz recording we have ever heard. The sound was as BIG and BOLD as anything in our audio experience.

Add to that a perfectly balanced mix, with tonality that’s correct from top to bottom for every instrument in the soundfield and you may begin to see why we feel that the best copies of this album set a standard that no other jazz record we’re aware of can meet.

Have we played every Blue Note, every RVG recording, every jazz record?

Of course not. We would never make such a claim.

All Well and Good, But Bear This in Mind

In our defense, who could possibly claim to have critically evaluated the sound of more jazz records than we have?

There are multitudes of music experts in the world of jazz. For jazz sound quality the numbers must surely be orders of magnitude smaller, and here is where we’re [pretty sure we have more than a few critically valuable advantages, to wit:

  • better playback equipment,
  • better record cleaning technologies,
  • stacks of pressings of the same title,
  • a scientifically blinded approach and, most importantly of all,
  • a single-minded purpose. 

All our efforts are in service to only one end, to find the pressing with the ultimate in analog sound.

(Naturally we leave the sound of CDs and other digital formats to others. Although CDs often outperform their modern Heavy Vinyl pressing equivalent — here is a case in point — we know our lane and and are happy to stay within it.) (more…)

Miles Davis – Basic Miles

More Miles Davis

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  • Demo Disc Jazz sound for this wonderful collection, with both sides earning outstanding Double Plus (A++) grades
  • Opening side two, the 9 plus minutes of On Green Dolphin Street has some of the coolest jazz you will ever hear, on any record, at any price
  • If you want to know what the better copies of Kind of Blue sound like, this pressing will tell you, because it has that sound
  • And that means it is absolutely NOTHING like the MoFi 45 RPM 2 LP pressing that some audiophiles (and the reviewers who cater to them) seem to like so much
  • We’re talking Bill Evans, John Coltrane and Cannonball Adderley in their prime, 1958, with top 1958 sound to match

*NOTE: On side two, a mark makes light to moderate repeating pops on the first 20 seconds of Track 1, On Green Dolphin Street.

Want to know how good our Hot Stamper Kind of Blue pressings sound? Listen to this very record. If you play the tracks that were recorded in 1958, the year before Kind of Blue, you will hear practically the same lineup of musicians.

That means Stella By Starlight and Little Melonae on side one, and Green Dolphin Street and Fran-Dance (Put Your Little Foot Right Out) on side two. We’re talking Bill Evans, John Coltrane, and Cannonball Adderley in their prime, 1958, with top 1958 sound to match.

The nine-minute plus Green Dolphin Street that opens side two is nothing short of amazing, some of the coolest jazz you will ever hear. With Fran Dance on the same side, that gives you about 17 minutes of great-sounding jazz by Miles’ classic Kind of Blue lineup.

Side one has the same cats playing for more than 12 minutes. By my calculation, that’s close to another album’s worth of material from the group. The rest of the material on this compilation is best seen as gravy; maybe not essential, but never less than interesting. (more…)

Ben Webster And ’Sweets’ Edison on Classic Records – Reviewed in the ’90s

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More Harry ’Sweets’ Edison

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Sonic Grade: B?

Probably a fairly good  Classic Records jazz album. Both the music and sound are excellent. The right Columbia pressing will kill it, but it’s probably a fairly good value if you can get one for the 30 bucks we used to charge. 

OUR HOT STAMPER REVIEW

This is a Minty looking Columbia 360 Label LP. As good as the now out of print Classic Records version was, my guess is that this pressing will be clearly superior in terms of warmth, richness, and sweetness. It’s been years since I’ve seen a copy of this album, but I remember liking it very much back in the days when the Classic version was in print.

I’ve also had a chance to go back and listen to lots of early Columbias like this one and have been extremely impressed with the naturalness of the sound. I picked up a copy of Time Out recently that was as good as it gets on side one. No heavy vinyl reissue ever sounded like that!

FURTHER READING

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Donald Byrd – House of Byrd

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  • Two rare Donald Byrd albums in one, both with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on all sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • The Tubey Magic is fully intact, making these two albums sound just the way 1956 RVG jazz should
  • Composed of two superb LPs, 2 Trumpets and The Young Bloods, these wonderful pressings capture some of Byrd’s best sound
  • “Art and Donald are in fine form, and if there is any competition it serves only to increase the musical yield.”
  • “… These blowing sessions (typical of Prestige’s albums of the 1950s) have their enjoyable moments with Farmer and Woods taking overall solo honors.

This reissue is spacious, open, transparent, rich and sweet. It’s yet another remarkable disc from the Golden Age of Vacuum Tube Recording Technology, with the added benefit of mastering using the more modern cutting equipment of the ’70s in this case. We are of course here referring to the good modern mastering of 40+ years ago, not the generally opaque, veiled and lifeless mastering so common today. (more…)

Freddie Hubbard / Hub-Tones

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More Jazz Recordings Featuring the Trumpet

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  • This vintage Blue Note pressing boasts Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound on both sides – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • Freddie’s trumpet sounds Right On The Money — it’s breathy and full-bodied with clearly audible leading edge transients
  • Credit must go to Rudy Van Gelder once again for the huge space this superbly well-recorded ensemble occupies
  • 4 1/2 stars: “John Coltrane’s modal music was starting to influence Hubbard’s conception and his own playing was pushing the modern mainstream ahead without really entering the avant-garde.”

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Miles Davis – Quiet Nights

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  • You’ll find excellent Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides of this oh-so-spacious Miles Davis-Gil Evans classic
  • Fred Plaut engineered the sessions, and on this amazing early pressing the sound is rich, warm, smooth and clear
  • This copy plays about as quiet as we can find these early pressings, Mint Minus Minus throughout
  • In the Saturday Review, Quiet Nights received praise for Davis’ “wonderfully songful trumpet in a Latin-American vein”, set against “piercingly lustrous curtains of tone and discreet Caribbean rhythms.”

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Miles Davis – Miles In The Sky

Hot Stamper Pressings of Miles’ Albums Available Now

More Columbia 30th Street Studio Recordings

Reviews of Recordings Made at Columbia’s 30th Street Studio

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  • This outstanding Columbia pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) or close to it from first note to last
  • Excellent sound courtesy of Arthur Kendy’s and Frank Laico’s engineering at the famed Columbia Studio B in NYC
  • Miles here is backed by his classic ’60s All Star crew – Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Ron Carter & Tony Williams
  • “…Miles Davis explicitly pushed his second great quintet away from conventional jazz, pushing them toward the jazz-rock hybrid that would later become known as fusion… intriguing music…”

*NOTE: On side one, a mark makes 5 light ticks at the beginning of Track 2, Paraphernalia.

We just finished a big shootout for this superb Miles Davis album and this copy was dramatically better sounding than many. Both sides have excellent bass, correct sounding brass, wonderful transparency and loads of Tubey Magic.

Many copies didn’t have the kind of transparency or openness that we heard here, which made it harder to appreciate the contributions of the different players. This one puts plenty of separation between the various instruments, so you can make sense of what each of these heavy-hitters adds to the mix. You will have a very hard time finding a copy out in the bins that sounds as good as this one!

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds. (more…)

Harry “Sweets” Edison & Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis / Simply Sweets – A Sleeper from Pablo

Another Record We’ve Discovered with (Potentially) Excellent Sound…

and One We Will Probably Never Shootout Again

Some records never justified the time and money required to find Hot Stamper pressings of them in order to make it worth our while to do them again. This is one such album, and the link above will take you to many more.

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  • This outstanding copy of Simply Sweets boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides and relatively quiet vinyl too 
  • The sound of this superb jazz quintet is big, lively, open and clear with Tubey Magical richness
  • The legendary engineer Val Valentin put this one on tape, brilliantly – he’s the man behind some of our All Time Pablo favorites
  • “Trumpeter Harry ‘Sweets’ Edison and tenor saxophonist Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis always made a potent pair. They both possessed immediately identifiable sounds, were veterans of Count Basie’s Orchestra and never had any difficulty swinging.” — Allmusic

Both sides of this outstanding pressing are big, rich, tubey and clear. Few other copies in our shootout held this kind of sound.

Titles such as this one are the reason we put so much time and money into hunting down and auditioning every Pablo jazz record we can get our hands on — because some of them sound like this one. Who else was recording jazz this good in the late ’70s and well into the ’80s?

And don’t say Concord. There are maybe five great sounding records on that label. Pablo has ten or twenty times that many, and that’s a conservative estimate. We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to Norman Granz for starting the Pablo label and keeping the quality as high as he did. (more…)

Ben Webster And ’Sweets’ Edison – Reviewed in 2007

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This is a Minty looking Columbia 360 Label LP.

As good as the now out of print Classic Records version was, my guess is that this pressing will be clearly superior in terms of warmth, richness, and sweetness. It’s been years since I’ve seen a copy of this album, but I remember liking it very much back in the days when the Classic version was in print.

I’ve also had a chance to go back and listen to lots of early Columbias like this one and I have been extremely impressed with the naturalness of the sound. I picked up a copy of Time Out recently that was as good as it gets on side one. No heavy vinyl reissue ever sounded like that! (more…)

Chet Baker – Chet

More Chet Baker

More Jazz Recordings Featuring the Trumpet

  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • This wonderful album of ballads has Mile Davis’ rhythm section supporting Chet and other greats such as Kenny Burrell and Bill Evans
  • These guys are playing live in the studio and, on a copy that sounds this clear, you can really feel their presence on every track
  • This Chet Baker record belongs in any serious jazz collection, and for you audiophiles out there, prepare to be shocked when you play this copy against your Heavy Vinyl pressing
  • “…this Riverside issue captures the gifted but troubled trumpeter at his best. It might even qualify as Baker’s most satisfying and representative recording.”

Chet is one of the best sounding Chet Baker records we’ve ever played, although that’s not saying much because finding good Chet Baker records is like finding hen’s teeth these days.

The albums he did for Pacific Jazz in the ’50s can be wonderful but few have survived in audiophile playing condition.

The Mariachi Brass albums are as awful as everyone says — we know, we too have played them. The album he recorded for CTI in 1974, She Was Too Good To Me, is excellent and will be coming to the site again soon I hope.

We’d never heard the record sound better than in our most recent shootout, and that’s coming from someone who’s been playing the album since it was first reissued in the ’80s.

The less said about the awful Doug Sax remastering for Analogue Productions in the mid-’90s the better. What a murky piece of crap that was. Audiophile reviewers may have been impressed, but even way back then we knew a bad sounding record when we played one, and that pressing was very bad indeed.

One further note: the Heavy Vinyl pressings being made today, twenty-five years later, have a similar suite of shortcomings, sounding every bit as bad if not worse, and fooling the same audiophile reviewers and their followers to this very day. Nothing has changed, other than we have come along to offer the discriminating audiophile an alternative to the muddy messes these labels have been churning out. (more…)