Labels We Love – Blue Note

Donald Byrd – Electric Byrd

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  • Incredible sound throughout for this later Blue Note pressing with both sides earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades
  • Both of these sides are clean, clear and natural sounding with a lovely bottom end and lots of space around all of the players
  • Exceptionally quiet vinyl throughout — Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
  • Donald Byrd’s transitional sessions from 1969-1971 are actually some of the trumpeter’s most intriguing work, balancing accessible, funky, Davis-style fusion with legitimate jazz improvisation. Electric Byrd, from 1970, is the best of the bunch, as Byrd absorbs the innovations of Bitches Brew and comes up with one of his most consistent fusion sets of any flavor… indisputably challenging, high-quality fusion.” – 4 1/2 Stars

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Art Blakey – At The Jazz Corner Corner of the World, Vol. 2

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  • With two seriously good Double Plus (A++) sides, this was one of the better sounding copies we played in our recent shootout – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • The presence is superb — turn it up good and loud and you’ll be right there at the Jazz Corner of the World with Blakey and the boys, circa 1960  
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Mixing up standards and favored originals from peer group composers, the band is, in the vernacular of the era, cooking… this band was as definitive a modern jazz ensemble as there ever was, and the immaculately chosen repertoire elevates this to one of the greatest live jazz session ever, and belongs on the shelf of all serious jazz listeners.”

There’s lots of deep, note-like bass to go a long with plenty of extension up top. The transparency is mindblowing — you can really hear the sound of the musician’s breath moving through the horns. (more…)

Donald Byrd – Royal Flush

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  • A superb sounding copy of Royal Flush, with both sides earning solid Double Plus (A++) grades or very close to them 
  • Remarkable Tubey Magical richness, as well as the kind of immediacy and transparency that few copies have – all qualities essential to reproducing both the trumpet and the baritone sax with exceptional fidelity
  • Byrd’s trumpet sounds wonderful here, with just the right amount of bite
  • “Donald Byrd was at his peak as a straight-ahead hard bop band leader in the early ’60s, turning a series of remarkably solid, enjoyable sessions for Blue Note. Royal Flush is no exception to the rule.”

If you like your jazz to sound BIG, BOLD and DYNAMIC, this is the record for you my friend. This one’s got that jumpin’-outta-the-speakers quality — but never in a forced or phony way — that we love so much about the better copies of Dexter Gordon’s One Flight Up.

Play Shangri-La on side two and prepare to be blown away. Billy Higgins is busting out some seriously heavy staccato snare drum work, and on a copy with superb presence like this one, those big snare thwacks are gonna hit you right in the gut and leave you begging for mercy.

I defy anyone to find a Heavy Vinyl Blue Note reissue with this kind of life and energy. (more…)

Donald Byrd – The Cat Walk

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  • This pressing of Donald Byrd’s brilliant 1962 release boasts outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • Credit must go to Rudy Van Gelder once again for capturing the jazz energy of this superbly sympathetic ensemble
  • These sides are lively and fun, with the kind of sound RVG managed pretty consistently to get on tape
  • 4 stars: “Donald Byrd and baritone saxophonist Pepper Adams worked together on several recordings between 1958 and 1961, and The Cat Walk (released on LP in 1962) is among the best. Byrd’s playing throughout is typically sleek and lyrical, and Adams’ sturdy, husky baritone sound is the perfect counterbalance, making The Cat Walk an essential Byrd purchase.”

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Freddie Hubbard – Sky Dive – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.

With a sonic grade of A+++ this White Hot Stamper original CTI pressing has a side two that won Top Honors in our recent shootout. It’s CLEARLY the best sounding side we have ever offered of this funky jazz classic, but it has serious condition issues, including a mark that plays at the end of track one all the way into track two. If you can live with that mark you will hear some amazing sound and music on side two. And if you buy this copy and realize you can’t, feel free to send it back for a full refund.

We ran into lots of condition problems with this album; perhaps your experience has been the same. Not many played anything close to Mint Minus, including this one. (more…)

Freddie Hubbard – Ready For Freddie – Reviewed in 2006

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.

This is a QUIET Blue Note ’70s pressing with wonderful music and pretty good sound. The trumpet here sounds excellent with lots of breath and just the right amount of bite. The track Crisis on side two should particularly appeal to audiophiles — just check out that well-recorded bass and all the cool little drum breaks.  

We hardly ever see clean copies of this album, so we don’t imagine we’ll ever have the resources to do a proper shootout. I don’t imagine that you’ll find a much better sounding copy of this album that plays this quietly.

The reproduction of the trumpet on practically every track is nothing less than superb. It jumps out of the speakers front and center and forces you to listen to it. (more…)

Lee Morgan – The Cooker

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.

Both sides are open, spacious and transparent, with a lovely and quite extended top end. Just listen to the trumpet solo on ’A Night In Tunisia’; you can really hear the leading edge transients. The baritone sax played by the estimable Pepper Adams also sounds particularly nice throughout the record.  

Side One – Record One

Big, open and rich, with tight bass and a huge baritone sax, we found this side Hard To Fault.

Side two of this copy badly lacked warmth, which is a deal killer for us. That “clean” Heavy Vinyl sound drives us up a wall. (more…)

McCoy Tyner – Expansions – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

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Expansions

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

Both sonically and musically, this is THE BEST McCoy Tyner album that we can recall ever playing! Expansions has long been a favorite around here — it’s got a great lineup (including Wayne Shorter and Ron Carter) and the most interesting set of songs that we’ve heard on a Tyner album.

Drop the needle on the last song, I Thought I’d Let You Know, for the best sound on the album. It’s rich and sweet with a BIG bottom end and a wonderful sounding cello. McCoy’s playing a lot like Bill Evans at his best on this song.

This is another album that’s frequently scooped right out of the bins by DJs and producers who like to sample the funky grooves. We almost never see this one and when we do they don’t usually sound like this, so if you like this kind of music you should jump on it! (more…)

Ornette Coleman – Love Call – Reviewed in 2013

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.

EXCELLENT A++ SOUND and QUIET VINYL for both sides of this great Ornette Coleman Blue Note album. Ornette’s music clearly isn’t for everyone, but you’ve got to hand it to the guy when it comes to getting good sound on his records. We’ve heard a number of Ornette records that had excellent sound, the trick is finding the ones that sound good and aren’t so crazy musically that there’s still appeal to the average audiophile. This one’s a bit out there for sure, but we enjoyed it — the excellent sound throughout helped the music make sense.  

Of course, good recordings don’t always get you good sounding records, and this 2-pack helps prove that point. Each of these copies had one great sounding side backed with a flip that was much more typical. Fortunately, we ended up with an A++ side one and an A++ side two, which allowed us to pair them up. If you want to see just what the Super Hot Stampers give you that the average copy lacks, it’s as easy as flipping either record over and playing the side that didn’t earn a Hot Stamper grade. And as always, if you want to leave the tedium of playing mediocre sounding vinyl to the guys who sit through stacks of it every day (that’s us, natch), don’t worry — there won’t be a quiz at the end!

The sound on the A++ sides is bigger and livelier with more presence, better clarity and more extension up top. You get tighter bass with more weight, and more air and texture to the brass. If you’ve got a taste for free jazz, I think you’ll be very impressed with the winning sides. (more…)

Horace Silver – Song For My Father

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  • You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on this Blue Note Jazz classic
  • The piano is clear and clean here, with much more weight and solidity than one would expect from an RVG recording
  • This copy was obviously cut with super-low distortion mastering equipment, and boy does it help the sound
  • 5 Stars: “Horace Silver’s signature LP and the peak of a discography already studded with classics. Silver was always a master at balancing jumping rhythms with complex harmonies for a unique blend of earthiness and sophistication, and Song for My Father has perhaps the most sophisticated air of all his albums…”

The leading edge transients on the horns here are excellent, with the pinched quality you hear on some tracks kept to a minimum. The whole of the ensemble is transparently clear. (more…)