Labels We Love – CTI

Chet Baker / Jim Hall / Hubert Laws – Studio Trieste

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  • This surprisingly good sounding collaboration finally arrives on the site with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER throughout
  • Three-dimensional space and ambience, with Tubey Magic by the boatload – guaranteed to be one of the better sounding Chet Baker albums you’ve heard, and probably the best of his later period
  • Another triumph for Rudy Van Gelder and his “live-in-the-studio” jazz sound – like most of his recordings (at least those from the ’60s on), this album still sounds fresh today, even after 38 years
  • 4 stars: “For what would be his final CTI date, he was matched with guitarist Jim Hall, flutist Hubert Laws and a fine rhythm section for two jazz standards… Throughout, Sebesky’s charts favorably showcase Baker’s lyrical trumpet, making this a recommended LP…”

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Wes Montgomery – A Day In The Life

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  • You’ll find KILLER sound on both sides of this jazz favorite — Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the first side and solid Double Plus (A++) sound on the second
  • Another triumph for Rudy Van Gelder and his unerring skill at getting all the musical elements to work together
  • The first album Creed Taylor produced for A&M was A Day in the Life with Wes Montgomery, just days after the release of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper (and which Wes never heard before recording this album!)
  • “There is a notable quality that each Wes recording seems to retain – they just seem to be getting better as the years go by.” – Pat Metheny

This superb album includes Montgomery’s great cover of A Day In The Life on side one and killer tracks like Eleanor Rigby, Willow Weep for Me, Windy and The Joker on side two!

It’s damn near impossible to find decent sounding early pressings, but the sound here is very good. There are plenty of dull, lifeless, overly compressed copies out there. That sound becomes especially offensive when the strings come in, most notably in the climactic middle section of “A Day In The Life.”

Fortunately for everyone who loves this kind of guitar-led jazz, our Hot Stampers have the warm, rich sound that let you enjoy this wonderful music without causing your ears to bleed. (more…)

Kenny Burrell – God Bless The Child

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  • Amazing sound from start to finish on this Shootout Winning TRIPLE TRIPLE (A+++) copy
  • One of our favorite CTI albums, and surely one of the best sounding, especially on this pressing
  • Credit goes to Rudy Van Gelder once again for the huge space that the superbly well-recorded orchestra occupies
  • AMG raves “This is Burrell at his level best as a player to be sure, but also as a composer and as a bandleader. Magnificent.”

God Bless The Child is one of our favorite orchestra-backed jazz records here at Better Records. A few others at the top of my list would be Wes Montgomery’s California Dreaming (1966, and also Sebesky-arranged), Grover Washington’s All the King’s Horses (1973) and Deodato’s Prelude (also 1973, with brilliant arrangements by the man himself).

What’s especially notable is how well-recorded the strings are. They have just the right amount of texture and immediacy without being forced or shrill. They’re also very well integrated into the mix. I wouldn’t have expected RVG to pull it off so well — I’ve heard other CTI records where the orchestration was abominable — but here it works as well as on any album I know of.

The bass is deep and defined; the tonality of the guitar and its overall harmonic richness are beautifully rendered. The piano has the weight and heft of the real thing.

This kind of warm, rich, Tubey Magical analog sound is gone forever. You have to go back to 1971 to find it. (more…)

Bill Evans – Montreux II

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  • This epic live jazz recording finally returns to the site with two excellent Double Plus (A++) sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • A killer pressing, with a very strong bottom end, lovely richness and warmth, real space and separation between the instruments and wonderful immediacy throughout
  • Recorded at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland, this 1970 release showcases Evans stylings alongside the brilliant talents of Eddie Gomez and Marty Morell
  • “Bill Evans’ second recording at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1970 was a highly anticipated concert, finding the pianist in peak form, accompanied by bassist Eddie Gómez and drummer Marty Morell.”

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Gabor Szabo – Rambler

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Yet another brilliant pop jazz recording from RVG in 1973 – he was plenty hot in the ’70s too. 

We had this to say about another favorite RVG recording from 1973:

The really good RVG jazz pressings sound shockingly close to live music — uncompressed, present, full of energy, with the instruments clearly located and surrounded by the natural space of the studio. As our stereo has gotten better, and we’ve found better pressings and learned how to clean them better, his “you-are-there” live jazz sound has begun to impress us more and more.

For those of you who have not been on our site for long, the record we are referring to is Grover Washington Jr.’s All The King’s Horses, one of RVG’s triumphs and a record we have offered Hot Stamper pressings of practically from the start. On big speakers at loud volumes the sound is glorious. (more…)

Gabor Szabo – Mizrab – Not Recommended

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Music Grade: D (at best)

Not recommended, a weak effort from CTI in 1972. Neither the music nor the sound, at least on the copies we played, is worth your time. 

This has been a public service review from the record loving audiophiles here at Better Records.

Chet Baker – She Was Too Good To Me

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame

We guarantee you have never heard this album — or any later Chet Baker album — sound as good as this one does.

There’s so much life in these grooves. The sound jumps out of the speakers right into your lap. This kind of warm, rich, Tubey Magical analog sound is gone forever. You have to go back to 1974 to find it!

The early ’70s were a good time for Van Gelder, the engineer for these sessions. Grover Washington Jr.’s All the King’s Horses from 1973 is an amazing Demo Disc for large group. We could easily name-check a dozen others on CTI recorded by RVG that we’ve done shootouts for. 

But any album only sounds good on the copies that it sounds good on, on the pressings that were mastered, pressed and cleaned right, a fact that seems to have eluded most jazz vinyl aficionados interested in good sound but axiomatic (if not tautological) here at Better Records.

The extended song structures, ranging from four to seven minutes in length, leave plenty of room for the band to stretch out.

And of course Chet sings the title track beautifully. (more…)

Grover Washington Jr. – Inner City Blues – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

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

TWO A+++ SIDES ON QUIET VINYL, making this the best copy of Inner City Blues we’ve found! This copy trounced the other ones we played, giving us the kind of open, transparent sound that brings out the best in this music. The overall sound is very clean and clear with lots of weight down low and extension up top. I don’t think you could find a better sounding copy no matter what you did. 

The lineup here is absolutely stellar, with players including Ron Carter, Idris Muhammed, Richard Tee, Airto and Eric Gale, among many others.

Yer Average Copy

The typical sound we find on most pressings is full of heavy compression as well as the kind of high frequency restriction that prevents the top end from extending naturally. The result: Grover’s horn takes on a slightly sour quality — not a fun way to hear this kind of music. (more…)

Grover Washington Jr. – All The King’s Horses – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

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

Side one of this original Kudu pressing is OUT OF THIS WORLD. The sweetness and transparency of Grover Washington Jr.’s breathy sax went beyond any copy we’ve ever played. Who knew it could sound like this? We sure didn’t!

I’ve been a big fan of this record since I first heard it all the way back in High School. I only found out later that this is not what most people would consider “real” jazz — it’s CTI jazz, more in the pop jazz or soul jazz vein. But I love the music more with each passing year and would not hesitate for a moment to recommend it to any jazz lover or audiophile. If the first track doesn’t knock you out, this album may not be for you. Without a doubt, in my book it’s the best thing Grover Washington ever did.

The really good RVG jazz pressings sound shockingly close to live music — uncompressed, present, full of energy, with the instruments clearly located and surrounded by the natural space of the studio. As our stereo has gotten better, and we’ve found better pressings and learned how to clean them better, his “you-are-there” live jazz sound has begun to impress us more and more.

Obviously the credit must go to Rudy Van Gelder for recording and mastering the album so well.

The early ’70s were a good time for Van Gelder. All the King’s Men from 1973 is an amazing Demo Disc for large group. But it only sounds good on the copies that it sounds good on, on the pressings that were mastered, pressed and cleaned right, a fact that has eluded most jazz vinyl aficionados interested in good sound.

But not us. We’ve played the very special pressings that prove the album can sound amazing. (more…)

Grover Washington – Mister Magic – Our Shootout Winner from 2014

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

The typical pressing is murky, overly smooth and lacks energy. Many copies also suffer from serious congestion and veiling. No such problems here! You get tons of space and energy, along with balanced tonality and great presence.

A 4 1/2 star album in the All Music Guide. Washington is backed here by excellent players including Bob James, Phil Upchurch, Harvey Mason, Ralph MacDonald, Eric Gale and many more. (more…)