Labels We Love – Blue Note

Donald Byrd – Stepping Into Tomorrow

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  • Donald Byrd’s 1975 release makes its Hot Stamper debut with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from top to bottom 
  • Byrd’s trumpet sounds wonderful here, with just the right amount of bite – credit must go to Val Garay and Dave Hassinger (among others), two of our favorite engineers working at The Sound Factory
  • 4 stars: “… maybe some of those who sniffed at the straightforward nature of some of the rhythms and riffing were won over by the supreme layering of the many components (the way in which “Think Twice” lurches forward, peels back, and gathers steam is nothing short of heavenly), not to mention some deeply evocative playing from Byrd himself.”

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Stanley Turrentine – Jubilee Shouts – Reviewed in 2005

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

Two Minty looking Blue Note LPs of two previously unreleased sessions featuring the great tenor saxophonist with Tommy Turrentine, Kenny Burrell, Horace Parlan, Sonny Clark and others.

If you want to hear Turrentine at his best, skip right to track two, the beautiful ballad Then I’ll Be Tired Of You, featuring his brother Tommy on trumpet. The music is powerful and the sound is excellent.

Stanley Turrentine – Another Story – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

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

A very dynamic recording by Rudy Van Gelder that really jumps on a copy like this. Needless to say, you will have a very hard time finding a better sounding funky Soul Jazz record. (more…)

The 3 Sounds – Moods – Our Shootout Winner from 2008

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

This Blue Note LP has GREAT SOUND. The top end is Right On The Money and the drums sound wonderful — punchy with lots of ambience. The piano is full-bodied and weighty allowing you to really appreciate the percussive qualities of the instrument. The bass is deep but not quite as tight as the very best sounding copies.

Those of you who are familiar with Yamamoto’s playing, especially on albums like Midnight Sugar, should have fun with the second track on side two, Li’l Darlin’. I think this is where Yamamoto “found” a lot of his style. It’s actually even slower than his arrangements of similar material, and I’d be tempted to say it works even better on this album.

Gene Harris, the piano player here, is one of my favorite jazz pianists. I saw him live with Ray Brown a few years back and he was wonderful. Most of his albums are long out of print and very hard to come by, so this is a real find, one that gets a Top Recommendation from Better Records.

Dexter Gordon – Our Man In Paris

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  • Both sides of this vintage RVG-mastered Deep Groove pressing earned Shootout Winning Triple Plus grades (A+++) on this Dexter Gordon classic from 1963
  • The sound of the saxophone is so full-bodied and Tubey Magical you won’t believe it – where is that sound today?
  • The top opens up nicely and there is plenty of space in the studio, giving all the players room to breathe
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Gordon is at the very top of his game here. His playing is crisp, tight, and full of playful fury. Powell, who at this stage of his life was almost continually plagued by personal problems, never sounded better than he does in this session.”

The cover is exceptionally nice on this copy by the way.

The sound here is lively and energetic with plenty of low end weight. These sides have the whomp that you don’t hear on too many Blue Note LPs! The sound of the saxophone is captured beautifully – it’s breathy with clearly audible leading-edge transients.

The bluesy version of Willow Weep For Me on side one is wonderful. Scrapple From The Apple (also on side one) has a silky top end anchored by deep, well-defined bass.

It was not that many years ago that we didn’t care a fig about Dexter Gordon. After finding Crazy Hot copies of One Flight Up and now this amazing record, we’re counting ourselves ardent members of his fan club.

If you’re looking for an original stereo pressing — and good luck finding one in audiophile playing condition — this is not the copy for you. If you’re looking for an exceptionally good sounding stereo pressing, regardless of label, one that plays reasonably quietly for a 50+ year old record, this simply cannot do better than this very LP. (more…)

Jimmy Smith – Prayer Meetin’

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  • The wonderful Prayer Meetin’ makes its Hot Stamper debut here with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from first note to last
  • Rich, smooth and Tubey Magical, this pressing was simply more ALIVE and musically involving than the others we played
  • Turrentine is one of our favorite bluesy sax players – just play Kenny Burrell’s Midnight Blue to hear him at this best, and he is especially good here too
  • Credit must go to Rudy Van Gelder once again for the huge space this superbly well-recorded quartet occupies
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Prayer Meetin’ is a delight from start to finish. Forming a perfect closure to Smith’s trio of albums with Turrentine… The blues roots are obvious here, and the Smith-penned title track might even be called jazz-gospel…

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Lou Donaldson – Sophisticated Lou

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  • Lou Donaldson’s 1973 release makes its Hot Stamper debut with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from first note to last 
  • Punchy and present, open and transparent – only the best Blue Note pressings let Donaldson’s soulful energy come through the way it did here
  • “Supported by a lush string section, Donaldson plays sensitive, pretty versions of such familiar items as ‘Stella By Starlight,’ ‘What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life,’ ‘Autumn in New York’ and ‘Time After Time,’ plus a new reading of his ‘Blues Walk’ and a cover of Stevie Wonder’s ‘You Are the Sunshine of My Life.’ … a nice change of pace after several albums of funky soul-jazz.”

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Booker Ervin – The In Between

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  • Booker Ervin makes his long-awaited site debut with this 1968 release, boasting a Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) side two and an outstanding Double Plus (A++) side one – exceptionally quiet vinyl too 
  • The sound here is wonderful – big, lively, textured, open and clear with Tubey Magical richness that brings out the best in this jazzy hard bop sound
  • Credit must go to Rudy Van Gelder once again for the huge space this superbly well-recorded quintet occupies
  • 4 stars: “Every song on The In Between is an Ervin original designed to challenge the musicians… it’s edgy, volatile hard bop that comes from the mind as much as the soul… The result is a satisfying, cerebral set of adventurous hard bop that finds Booker Ervin at a creative peak.

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Donald Byrd – Fancy Free

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  • Fancy Free makes its Hot Stamper debut here with STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from top to bottom
  • The overall sound here is Tubey Magical, lively and clear, with three-dimensionality that will fill your listening room from wall to wall
  • Credit must go to Rudy Van Gelder once again for capturing the jazz energy and performance space of this superbly sympathetic ensemble
  • “1969’s Fancy Free marked the beginning of Donald Byrd’s move away from hard bop, staking out fusion-flavored territory… the rare Donald Byrd album that holds appeal for rare-groove fanatics and traditionalists alike.”

*NOTE: On side one, a tiny mark makes 2 moderately dull pops at the end of track 1, Fancy Free.

If you’re ready to take a mindblowing jazz fusion trip with sonics to match, you should definitely check this one out. (more…)

Art Blakey – At The Jazz Corner of the World, Vol. 1

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  • An outstanding copy of this superb live album, with solid Double Plus (A++) sound from the first note to the last
  • Both sides here have big, full-bodied master tape sound – huge, Tubey Magical and lively
  • The presence is astonishing — turn it up loud and it’ll be as if you were right there at the Jazz Corner of the World with Blakey and the boys
  • 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…)