Labels We Love – CTI

Deodato / Prelude – Our Shootout Winner from 2017

More Deodato

Yet Another Well Recorded Album that Should Be More Popular with Audiophiles

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Listen to the trumpet on the second track on side one — it’s so immediate, it’s practically JUMPING out of the soundfield, just bursting with energy. Rudy can really pull off these big productions on occasion, and this session was clearly one of them. If you have the kind of stereo that’s right for this music (the bigger the better) you could easily find yourself using this record as a demonstration disc. It’s very unlikely your audiophile friends have ever heard anything like it.

Both sides are especially full and rich. The congas are present in the mix and very full-bodied — this allow them to really drive the rhythmic energy of the music. We know this because the copies with congas that were veiled or thin never seemed to get up go. The bass on these two sides was some of the best we heard as well.

The top is most often the problem with these CTI pressings. Both sides here seem to give you all the top end that was on the tape.

There is wonderful transparency and openness to the soundstage, as well as less congestion in the loudest parts. Also Sprach (2001) is on side one of the album and it is KILLER here.

Both sides are also surprisingly sweet and Tubey Magical, nice qualities for a CTI record to have since so many of them are aggressive and edgy to the point of distraction. (more…)

Freddie Hubbard – First Light

More Freddie Hubbard

More Jazz featuring the Trumpet

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  • This vintage pressing of First Light has outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it on both sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Features an outstanding lineup including Herbie Hancock on keys, Ron Carter on bass, George Benson on guitar, Airto on percussion, and Jack DeJohnette on the drums.
  • 4 1/2 stars: “The result is a masterpiece of textured sound, gorgeously far-flung charts, sweet, tight grooves, a subtle mystic feel, and some of Hubbard’s most exciting playing ever. While Red Clay [a Better Records favorite] and Straight Life are both fine albums, First Light is the one that connects on all levels — and it did with the jazz-buying public as well. A masterpiece.”

This is more of a mainstream jazz record than Red Clay or Straight Life. Hubbard was a master of funky jazz, and this pressing was one of the few in our shootout with the kind of high quality mastering that can do justice to his uniquely energetic, lightning fast jazz style. (more…)

Johnny Hammond / Wild Horses Rock Steady

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You’ll find Super Hot Stamper sound on this side one, with a side two nearly its equal, making it a Top Copy of one of our most recent CTI/Kudu “discoveries”. Who knew that so many of these CTI records were recorded so well? Does anyone in the audiophile community bother to talk about superb original pressings such as this other than us? Does music that’s currently not available on a heavy vinyl reissue simply cease to exist? I remember a time not that long ago when reviewers for the audiophile mags encouraged their readers to seek out wonderful records such as this. That time has long since passed, and more’s the pity.

With Rudy Van Gelder at the board, Bob James doing the arrangements, and supporting players such as Airto, Billy Cobham, Ron Carter (who has played on more than 2500 albums!), George Benson, Eric Gale, Grover Washington, Jr., Snooky Young and Pepper Adams, you’re sure to have another funky jazz winner on your hands.

And if you have a copy that sounds as good as this one, you definitely do!

If you love the sound of the Hammond B-3 and want to hear what somebody other than Jimmy Smith can do with it in a large group setting, this album should be right up your alley. (By the way, Smith’s Bashin’ is one of our all time favorite jazz albums, one that belongs in your collection.) (more…)

Paul Desmond – Pure Desmond

More Paul Desmond

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  • Paul Demond’s superb 1975 release makes its Hot Stamper Debut with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it throughout
  • Huge amounts of three-dimensional ambience, along with boatloads of Tubey Magic
  • Credit goes to Rudy Van Gelder once again for the huge space that the superbly well-recorded group occupies
  • 4 stars: ” Paul Desmond reverted back to the relaxed quartet format that suited him well in the past… [this album] sparked a Desmond renaissance where he regained a good deal of the witty spark and erudite cool of his collaborations with Hall…

CTI is better known for the funky grooves of artists like Stanley Turrentine, Ron Carter and Deodato, but this album features mature adult jazz from Dave Brubeck’s former sideman, Paul Desmond.

It’s a lovely album, but if your pressing doesn’t have all the magic we could forgive you for not giving the music the credit it deserves. Unless your copy has a lot of energy and good amounts of richness and fullness, you probably wouldn’t give the music a second thought.

When you hear a copy like this, it’s an entirely different story. Fans of Contemporary label jazz are sure to get a lot out of this one. (more…)

Astrud Gilberto – Gilberto With Turrentine

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  • This outstanding copy of Gilberto’s 1971 collaboration with Turrentine boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • It’s rich, warm and natural with wonderful transparency, loads of ambience and – this is key – plenty of Tubey Magic
  • Rudy Van Gelder did an outstanding job as usual engineering these 1971 sessions – his live-in-the-studio approach is tough to beat
  • “The real treasures of this album though are the outstanding arrangements by Eumir Deodato, who once again proves he is the master of this type of music. Nearly every track is full of interesting, complex, yet beautiful instrumentation. He blends mellow low strings with lots of Fender Rhodes electric piano, plenty of electric and acoustic guitar, and a wide variety of Brazilian percussion instruments.”

This vintage CTI pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely even BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound. (more…)

George Benson – White Rabbit

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  • You’ll find SUPERB nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound on both sides of this CTI pressing of Benson’s Must Own Masterpiece – just shy of our Shootout Winner – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Open and transparent throughout, with wonderfully full-bodied guitars, solid bass and huge amounts of swingin’ jazz energy
  • Superb engineering by Rudy Van Gelder – White Rabbit features jazz legends Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, Billy Cobham, Airto, and more
  • 4 stars: “For George Benson’s second CTI project, producer Creed Taylor and arranger Don Sebesky successfully place the guitarist in a Spanish-flavored setting full of flamenco flourishes, brass fanfares, moody woodwinds and such… In this prime sample of the CTI idiom, everyone wins.”

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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…)

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…)