Genre – Jazz – Trumpet / Trombone

Freddie Hubbard – Red Clay

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  • With Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides, we guarantee you’ve never heard Red Clay sound remotely as good as it does here
  • It’s one of our Five Favorite CTI albums – Red Clay is Hubbard’s Soul Jazz Masterpiece, and it’s a record that belongs in every audiophile’s jazz collection
  • Lenny White drums up a storm on this album – with sound this good, he is playing right in the room with you
  • 5 Stars: “This may be Freddie Hubbard’s finest moment as a leader, in that it embodies and utilizes all of his strengths as a composer, soloist, and frontman. [It] places the trumpeter in the company of giants such as saxophonist Joe Henderson, pianist Herbie Hancock, bassist Ron Carter, and drummer Lenny White… This is a classic, hands down.”

Hubbard was a master of funky jazz, and the song Red Clay is arguably the funkiest jazz track he ever committed to tape. At 12 minutes in length it is a transcendentally powerful experience — and the bigger your speakers and the louder you turn them up the more moving that experience is going to be!

The intro to Red Clay begins with a stylized free-form jam, sounding like a bop-jazz band of old, then takes form and solidifies into a groove of monstrous proportions. Ron Carter’s bass playing is stellar! We rated this side Single to Double Plus. It’s big and lively with tons of presence and energy.

Like many of our funky favorites, this one was eventually sampled for a popular hip-hop song. That may not mean much to you, but it definitely means that nice copies of this album get swiped up quickly by young DJs and producers. (more…)

Miles Davis – Sorcerer

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  • An outstanding pressing of Sorcerer, with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it from start to finish
  • Sorcerer demonstrates the big-as-life, spacious and unerringly accurate 30th Street Studio Sound Fred Plaut was justly famous for
  • 4 1/2 stars: “The emphasis is as much on complex, interweaving chords and a coolly relaxed sound as it is on sheer improvisation, though each member tears off thoroughly compelling solos. Still, the individual flights aren’t placed at the forefront the way they were on the two predecessors — it all merges together, pointing toward the dense soundscapes of Miles’ later ’60s work.”

We played a bunch of these recently and this was one of the better copies we heard! It’s got more energy, more presence, and more body than many copies we heard. Drop the needle anywhere and listen to how open, transparent and spacious it is. The soundfield is HUGE — big, wide and deep! Everything sounds natural, balanced and correct. The bass has texture, the piano has weight, the brass has the right amount of bite and so on.

We had a big stack of copies for this shootout, including a bunch of 360 originals and some later Red Label pressings. You can find great sound on either label but it will probably take you quite a few copies to get there, and you’d need a serious stack to have any hope of finding two sides this good on vinyl that plays well.

And by the way, copies of classic Miles Davis albums from the ’60s are neither easy to find nor are they cheap. Hit the jazz bins at your local store and I’m sure you’ll have the same experience we’ve been having — tons of pricey modern reissues but not too many clean vintage pressings. (more…)

Miles Davis – Decoy

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  • STUNNING sound throughout with both sides earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or very close to them
  • Fans of Bitches Brew will find much to like here, and at least in most ways, this is actually a better sounding album
  • Exceptionally quiet vinyl throughout — Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
  • “Mr. Davis has made tasteful creative use of synthesizers, drum machines and other modern gizmos, voicing them with saxophone, guitar and other traditional instruments without letting them dominate the music.” – NY Times

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Benny Carter – Swingin’ the ’20s

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  • With superb sides rating Double Plus (A++) or BETTER, this Contemporary pressing was one of the best we played in our shootout
  • These excellent sides are so much bigger and more open, with more bass and energy – the saxes and trumpets are immediate and lively
  • Mr. Earl Hines himself showed up, a man who knows this music like nobody’s business – Leroy Vinnegar and Shelly Manne round out the quartet
  • “Great musicians produce great results, and most of the LP’s tracks were done in one or two takes. The result is ‘a spontaneous, swinging record of what happened’ when Carter met Hines ‘for the first time. . . .'”

For us audiophiles both the sound and the music here are enchanting. If you’re looking to demonstrate just how good a 1959 All Tube Analog recording can sound, this killer copy will do the trick. (more…)

Jackie McLean Quintet/Bill Hardman – Jackie’s Pal

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  • A superb copy of Jackie’s Pal with nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound on both sides – just shy of our Shootout Winner – exceptionally quiet vinyl too, with a true Mint Minus side one
  • Dynamic, transparent, spacious and musical throughout – you won’t believe how good this Jazz Classic from 1956 sounds
  • Another top jazz recording from Rudy Van Gelder – big, bold and lively, just the right sound for this music
  • “… no one could execute complex melodic lines with the speed and precision of Bill. He was a human “bebop machine,” a player who could improvise for hours on a single chord and not run out of ideas…”

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Bob Brookmeyer – Bob Brookmeyer And Friends

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  • This original Black Print 360 pressing was one of the best we played in our recent shootout, earning Double Plus (A++) grades on both sides and playing quietly
  • Stan Getz is the real standout on this album, a very pleasant surprise for us since his exceptionally good recordings of his music are so hard to find
  • Another example of the phenomenal sound quality found on so many recordings made at CBS’s 30th street studios in New York
  • “Stan Getz, known for his ‘lyrical’ style, is in top form throughout and brings out the best of his cohorts, including two young musicians, Gary Burton on vibes and Herbie Hancock on keyboards…” 

If you like the sound of relaxed, tube-mastered jazz — and what red blooded audiophile doesn’t — you can’t do much better than Bob Brookmeyer And Friends. The warmth and immediacy of the sound here are guaranteed to blow practically any jazz septet record you own right out of the water.

Getz and Burton have always been magical together. Their work on Getz Au Go Go is legendary. Every time I play that record I am astonished at how good it is, one of those very special jazz recordings that are easy to get lost in. (more…)

Picture Of Heath – Pure Pleasure Reviewed and Found Wanting

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Sonic Grade: D

Remastered from the original analogue master tapes (or say they would have you believe) by that notorious hack Ron McMaster at Capitol Studios, this pressing is dramatically flatter and less musical than any original pressing (or Japanese pressing!) that we have ever played. The CD may very well be better.

Check out our Heavy Vinyl Scorecard to read all about the latest winners and losers.

Since we here at Better Records never tire of beating long-dead horses, let’s lay into a couple of our favorites: Heavy Vinyl reissues and CDs. When we play these “Shadows of the Real Thing”, so lacking in life and the analog magic of the best pressings, the one thing we can say about them consistently is that they’re a drag. They’re just no fun. They don’t give you the thrill this wonderful music is supposed to give you — can give you and does give you — if you have the right vinyl pressing. 

Miles Davis – Miles Ahead in Glorious 1957 Mono

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  • Miles Ahead finally arrives on the site with STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound throughout – exceptionally clean condition too
  • A nearly impossible record to find in this condition, it’s the quietest, best sounding copy by far we have ever played
  • This album forged the dynamic collaboration between Davis and Gil Evans that eventually led to Porgy and Bess and Sketches of Spain
  • 5 stars: ” Evans’ arrangements in particular are well-suited to the format, and he and Davis formed a deep and close partnership where ideas were swapped back and forth, nurtured, and developed long before they were expressed in the studio… an album that gave a hint of the greatness that would come as Evans and Davis fine-tuned their partnership over the course of the next several years.”

Vintage covers for this album are hard to find in clean shape. Most of them will have at least some amount of ringwear, seam wear and edge wear. We guarantee that the cover we supply with this Hot Stamper is at least VG, and it will probably be VG+. If you are picky about your covers please let us know in advance so that we can be sure we have a nice cover for you.


Quick Notes for Side One

Track three is super dynamic, horns have bite and body, textured and lively, tons of space!

Quick Notes for Side Two

The first three tracks are big, solid and open, with great space, tubey and musical.

That’s hitting all the right notes in our book. (more…)

Jack Sheldon – Jack Sheldon And His All-Star Band Comes with Many Covers

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If you like the sound of relaxed, tube-mastered jazz — and what red-blooded audiophile doesn’t — you can’t do much better than Jack Sheldon And His All-Star Band. The warmth and immediacy of the sound here are guaranteed to blow practically any Big Band record you own right out of the water.

This is a wonderful example of the kind of record that makes record collecting FUN.

If you large group swinging West Coast Jazz is your thing — think Art Pepper Plus Eleven — you should get a big kick out of this one.

Both sides of this very special pressing are huge, rich, tubey and clear. As soon as the band got going we knew that this was absolutely the right sound for this music. There was practically nothing that could beat it, in any area of reproduction. (more…)

Chet Baker – It Could Happen To You – Reviewed in 2010

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This is a very nice looking RARE original Riverside LP. Side one has good sound but side two really shows you how WONDERFUL this record is. The sound on side two is rich, full and transparent, with lots of tubey magic. Hard to imagine it could get much better.