Labels We Love – Blue Note

Herbie Hancock – Maiden Voyage – Our Shootout Winner from 2008

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Maiden Voyage

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

We just finished a big Maiden Voyage shootout, and while we didn’t come up with too many winners, we did manage to find this one KILLER copy. Side two has A+++ MASTER TAPE SOUND — it can’t be beat! You won’t believe how clean, clear, open, and transparent it is. Most importantly, the energy factor is OFF THE CHARTS, and the dynamics are INCREDIBLE. Too many copies we played left us cold and bored; this one kept us engaged throughout. It’s got the silkiest highs and the breathiest brass we’ve ever heard for this album. Most copies we played this against couldn’t even come close to the richness, sweetness, and warmth we heard here.

Side one is wonderful as well, the best we played this time around at A++. The piano has real weight, the sax has a nice bite, and the trumpet sounds great. The top end is smooth and sweet but lacks just a bit of extension compared to side two.

One Of The Great Blue Notes

This is one of the greatest Blue Note jazz records of all time — 5 big stars in the All Music Guide, which should surprise no one. Freddie Hubbard on this album is nothing short of astonishing. I remember one time playing around with the stereo, listening for different effects as I made minor changes in the tracking weight, the VTA, adjustments to the Hallographs, and the like, and at one point, I noticed that the ensemble seemed to be really coherently connected. Each of the players was balanced with the others. It was a striking effect and it made me realize that musical values can often be overlooked while chasing after audiophile effects of one kind or another. When I heard the ensemble come together, it made me appreciate this album even more. Tony Williams on drums deserves a special nod. His cymbal work on the first track is completely original and spontaneous in the best jazz tradition.  (more…)

Horace Silver Quintet – The Tokyo Blues

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  • Stunning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish making this the best copy to hit the site in years
  • Both sides here are rich, Tubey Magical and present with a huge three-dimensional soundstage and tons of bottom end weight
  • “Silver’s Tokyo-influenced compositions fit right in with the subtle cross-cultural but very American hard bop he’d been doing all along… [his] compositions have a light, airy feel, with plenty of space, and no one used that space better at these sessions than Cook, whose tenor sax lines are simply wonderful, adding a sturdy, reliable brightness.” – All Music, 4 Stars

This Blue Note LP has PHENOMENAL Triple Plus (A+++) sound throughout We’ve played quite a few of these over the years, and both sides here are as good as we’ve ever heard. It is an excellent recording, but it’s NOT easy to find a properly-mastered copy. Both sides here are out of this world, with the kind of of space and musicality this music demands! (more…)

Lee Morgan – The Rumproller

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

No copy we played against it nor any copy we can remember ever hearing sounded any better to us. Both musically and sonically, this is Blue Note at its best!  

There’s LIFE and PRESENCE the likes of which you almost never hear on ANY jazz record. The sound is rich and full, from the extended top end all the way down to the deepest bass.

The trumpet on this album is NEAR PERFECTION! It sounds just right to us — tonally correct with lots of texture and wonderful leading edge transients. The drums, played superbly by Billy Higgins, sound amazing as well. Just listen to the ride cymbal to hear how extended the top end is. The bottom end is Right On The Money as well — deep, punchy, and well-defined. (more…)

Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers – Free For All

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Free For All

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  • Insanely good sound throughout for this Blue Note New York label pressing with both sides earning shootout winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound 
  • This LP was simply bigger, richer and clearer, with more Tubey Magic, less smear and distortion, and on and on down the list 
  • A Van Gelder recording from 1964 is hard to beat for you-are-there immediacy, and this pressing delivers that qualitiy like no other copy you’ve heard – we guarantee it
  • “Free for All is a high point in drummer Art Blakey’s enormous catalog. This edition of the Jazz Messengers had been together since 1961 with a lineup that would be hard to beat: Freddie Hubbard on trumpet, Wayne Shorter on tenor sax, Curtis Fuller on trombone, Cedar Walton on piano, and Reggie Workman on bass.”

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Joe Henderson – Page One

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

EXCELLENT SOUND ON SIDE ONE of this Highly Recommended Blue Note classic! This ’70s pressing has sound that’s sure to beat the pants off most other copies out there. Just listen to the sound of the percussion; on the earlier pressings it tends to be smeary, but that’s certainly not the case here! The overall sound is open and transparent with incredible presence. Turn up the volume and you’ll have a smokin’ jazz quintet tearing it up right there in your living room! I don’t think Henderson made a better album than this one, and I doubt it’ll be easy tol find another copy that sounds this good!   (more…)

The Ornette Coleman Trio – At The Golden Circle Vol. 1

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

This is a Blue Note LP with EXCELLENT sound! We didn’t have enough clean copies to do a shootout, but you can be sure that each side rates at least an A+ for sound.

Side one has tons of energy, gorgeous highs and a nice deep bottom end. Side two is rich and full-bodied with wonderfully textured brass. This is a superb copy with sound that does this complex music justice. 

Whether you’ll like the music or not is another question — this is free form jazz; not everybody’s into it, that’s for sure. Ornette Coleman, though, is undeniably one of the masters of this genre. If you have a taste for adventurous, avant garde jazz, this is an excellent record for you both musically and sonically. (more…)

Dexter Gordon – One Flight Up

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  • You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on both sides of this vintage Blue Note pressing
  • With its presence, clarity, space and timbral accuracy, this is guaranteed to be one of the best sounding jazz records you’ve heard in a very long time
  • One of our very favorite Blue Note recordings for both music and sound, a Dexter Gordon Classic of soulful hard bop
  • Turn it up good and loud and it’s as if you are right up front at one of the best ’60s jazz concerts imaginable

Both the sax and the trumpet sound unbelievably good — airy and breathy with lots of body and clearly audible leading edge transients.

It’s hard to find a Blue Note where the horns aren’t either too smooth or too edgy, but here they have just the right amount of bite. The overall sound is open, spacious, tonally correct from top to bottom and totally free from distortion. (more…)

Some Amazing Jazz Piano Recordings Currently on the Site

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Triple Plus on side one, Double Plus on side two, this is the best copy of Silver’s 1957 classic we’ve ever heard

The last copy to hit the site went up in 2006 – clean Horace Silver records in stereo with the right stampers and good sound are hard to find!

Rich and solid, this is the kind of sound that makes us sit up and take notice – Thanks RVG!

“All of Silver’s Blue Note quintet recordings are consistently superb and swinging…”

I chanced upon a clean copy of this album in a store last year. When I got home with it I found I loved the music and loved the sound. I then went about buying them up as fast as I could, returning something on the order of half the copies I was sent: some for scratches, some for the wrong labels, some for being mono — you never know what you’re going to get when you order records online! (Except from us of course. Unless something goes terribly wrong you will always get a good sounding record from us.) (more…)

Somethin’ Else – Setting the Record for Straight Ahead Jazz

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COMMENTS TAKEN FROM A RECENT HOT STAMPER SHOOTOUT

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.

Setting the Record for Straight Ahead Jazz

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). (more…)