Labels We Love – Impulse

McCoy Tyner – Plays Ellington

More McCoy Tyner

More Jazz Recordings Featuring the Piano

xxxxx

  • Superb sound throughout with both sides earning solid Double Plus (A++) grades; exceptionally quiet vinyl too! 
  • With a lively and present piano, clarity, space and timbral accuracy, this is guaranteed to be one of the better sounding jazz records you’ve heard
  • Credit goes to Rudy Van Gelder once again for the huge space this superbly well-recorded ensemble occupies (the ensemble being a piano trio with two percussionists, but it works!)
  • 4 stars: “An interesting project that works quite well… This is an excellent outing that displays both Tyner’s debt to the jazz tradition and his increasingly original style.”

(more…)

John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman

More John Coltrane

xxxxx

  • An outstanding copy of this classic Jazz Vocal album, with superb Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • The sound is huge and spacious with richness and Tubey Magic like nothing you’ve heard
  • I defy you to find a Male Vocal record produced in the last thirty years that can hold a candle to this one, sonically or musically
  • A wonderful collaboration between a horn player and a singer, perhaps the greatest one of all time
  • 5 stars: “John Coltrane’s matchup with singer Johnny Hartman works extremely well. Hartman was in prime form on the six ballads, and his versions of ‘Lush Life’ and ‘My One and Only Love’ have never been topped. Classic, essential for all jazz collections”

This could very well be the greatest collaboration between a horn player and a singer in the history of music. I honestly cannot think of another to rank with it. Ella and Louis has the same feel — two giants who work together so sympathetically it’s close to magic, producing definitive performances of enduring standards that have not been equaled in the fifty plus years since they were recorded. And, on the better copies, or should we say the better sides of the better copies, RVG’s sound is stunning. (His mastering, not so much.)

Hats off to Rudy Van Gelder! Here’s an album that justifies his reputation. Not all of them, you know, or should know, but try telling that to the average jazz-loving audiophile. (more…)

Gil Evans – Out Of The Cool

More Gil Evans

xxxxx

  • Insanely good Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it throughout
  • 4 stars on Allmusic: “The music here is of a wondrous variety, bookended by two stellar Evans compositions in “La Nevada,” and “Sunken Treasure”… This set is not only brilliant, it’s fun.”

This is an incredibly well-recorded big band jazz album from 1961 with excellent music, and copy like this one gives you WONDERFUL SOUND. We’ve been collecting these for ages trying to get this shootout going, but it’s difficult to find reasonably quiet copies that sound like this!

Both sides have big punchy bass, loads of tubey magic, amazing transparency and lots of space and openness. There’s real depth to the instruments and space around the players, so it’s easy to make sense of everything that happens. The clarity is wonderful as well, and you can clearly hear the transients to the horns.

Big band jazz records are almost always difficult to record and master properly. We’ve struggled through a number of shootouts for large jazz groups and found that most of the time it’s just not worth the trouble. This album is an entirely different story, however. These guys did a great job of capturing all the various instruments and giving them their own sense of space. Peek inside the gatefold cover and you’ll find a key to where each player and microphone was located. On a copy as transparent and open-sounding as this one, you can really get a sense of how everything unfolds, and it’s easy to picture the studio setup as the music plays. (more…)

Gil Evans Orchestra / Out Of The Cool – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

More Gil Evans

xxxxx

This is an incredibly well-recorded big band jazz album from 1961 with excellent music, and a Hot Stamper pressing like this one gives you WONDERFUL SOUND. We’ve been collecting these for ages trying to get this shootout going, but it’s difficult to find copies that sound like this. We went through a ton of expensive copies and only found a few that were fit to list on the site. This one fared very well, earning an A++ for side one and an A+ on side two.

Big band jazz records are almost always difficult to record and master properly. We’ve struggled through a number of shootouts for large jazz groups and found that most of them time, it’s just not worth the trouble. This album is an entirely different story, however. These guys did a great job of capturing all the various instruments and giving them their own sense of space. Peek inside the gatefold cover and you’ll find a key to where each player and microphone was located. On a copy as transparent and open-sounding as this one, you can really get a sense of how everything unfolds, and it’s easy to picture the studio setup as the music plays.

Side one has big punchy bass, loads of tubey magic, amazing transparency and lots of space and openness. There’s real depth to the instruments and space around the players, so it’s easy to make sense of everything that happens. The clarity is wonderful as well, and you can clearly hear the transients to the horns. We gave side one an A++.

Side two, at A+, has some of that tubey quality but doesn’t have all side one’s clarity and spaciousness. (more…)

Shelly Manne – 2-3-4

More Shelly Manne

xxxxx

  • This superb 1962 release boasts outstanding Double Plus (A++) stereo sound from first note to last
  • Huge, Tubey Magical and lively, with solid weight for Manne’s kick and lots of space around all the other instruments, this Van Gelder recording is guaranteed to fill your listening room with brilliant modern jazz music
  • Shelly Manne is one of our favorite drummers – here he reunites with the great Coleman Hawkins, as well as Hank Jones, Eddie Costa and George Duvivier
  • 4 stars: “This unusual set has five selections from a date featuring the great tenor Coleman Hawkins, pianist Hank Jones, bassist George Duvivier, and drummer Shelly Manne… A very interesting set with more than its share of surprises.”

For us audiophiles both the sound and the music here are wonderful. If you’re looking to demonstrate just how good a 1962 All Tube Analog Impulse recording can sound, this killer copy will do the trick. (more…)

Coleman Hawkins – Today and Now

More Coleman Hawkins

xxxxx

  • You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last on this superbly engineered recording by Rudy Van Gelder
  • This vintage Impulse stereo LP has plenty of Tubey Magic and driving energy – we expect nothing less from RVG in 1962, and this pressing delivers
  • Tommy Flanagan on piano provides fine support for Mr. Hawkins’ breathy stylings – both Down Beat and Allmusic awarded Today and Now 4 Stars!

We love the Tubey Magical breathy/reedy style of Coleman Hawkins and Ben Webster. It seems that only the best early vinyl pressings manage to reproduce it properly. The CDs we’ve played over the years have had a tough time finding the richness in the sound; they end up being at least somewhat dry and hard, and that is simply not the right sound for this music.

Although we have a tough time finding clean copies of their 50+ year old albums (this is the first copy we’ve offered in more than 3 years), the sound Rudy Van Gelder managed to get on tape almost always makes it more than worth our while to play their records. There are literally hundreds of classic jazz records from the early ’60s that are as good as this one, if only we could find them in audiophile playing condition. We’re certainly glad we found this one. There’s not a false note or a bad track on it.

This is one of the better sounding Hawkins albums we’ve played in a while. Some of the reasons why:

Note the clear, extended top end right from the get-go on side one. The second track, a ballad, is where Coleman Hawkins really shines. (more…)

Gary McFarland & Co./Clark Terry – Tijuana Jazz

xxxxx

  • Tijuana Jazz finally arrives on the site with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last – mostly quiet vinyl too
  • The superb eclectic jazz sound here is big and rich, yet still clean, clear and open with good energy, space, and ambience
  • Terry and McFarland combine the Mexican milieu and jazz with warmth and whimsy – Toots Thielemans on harmonica is a nice addition to the festivities
  • “Marimbas, sexy rhythms, perfectly buffered horn arrangements cover this album, and the results are like sitting by a fire on a dark night, cold outside but comforted, completely snug, and watching the flames dance.”

(more…)

Sonny Rollins – Alfie

xxxxx

  • This Sonny Rollins classic boasts killer Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides
  • Though I’ve been playing this album for more than 25 years, for some reason this is only the third copy to ever hit the site 
  • A triumph for Rudy Van Gelder, a Top Impulse title, and as much a showcase for Oliver Nelson (+11) as it is for Sonny Rollins
  • 4 1/2 Stars: “Rollins attempts to capture the textures of life through his incisive and energetic playing, his coherent improvisations, and variations on musical themes.”

This album is on the TAS Super Disc list, which is probably what first alerted me to it. I know I was listening to this album 25 years ago, just from the memory of hearing it in the condo I used to live in. It sounded great back then and it sounds even better now! It may just be my personal favorite of all his work.

What makes this album so great? For starters, great players. Kenny Burrell is wonderful as always. Interestingly, I never realized that Roger Kellaway is the pianist on these sessions. I saw him live years ago with Benny Carter (who was 90 at the time) and he put on one of the most amazing performances at the piano I have ever seen. For some reason, he was never able to make it as a recording artist, but the guy is a genius at the keyboard.

Of course, any orchestration by Oliver Nelson is going to be top flight and this is no exception. Two of his records are Must Owns, in my book: Jimmy Smith’s Bashin’ and his own The Blues and the Abstract Truth. No jazz collection without them can be taken seriously. (more…)

John Coltrane – Sun Ship

xxxxx

  • Coltrane’s final album finally arrives on the site with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER throughout – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • Huge space, size and clarity, with Tubey Magical richness befitting the 1965 recording date of this session at RCA studios
  • Released posthumously, this superb release captures one of the last recording dates for the Classic Quartet: drummer Elvin Jones, pianist McCoy Tyner, and bassist Jimmy Garrison
  • 4 stars: “While a summation for this quartet, Sun Ship is also an exciting if unfinished prelude to Coltrane’s final period of transformation.”

(more…)

Gabor Szabo with Gary McFarland – Gypsy ’66

xxxxx

  • With excellent Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it on both sides, this copy is getting the sound of Gabor Szabo’s music right from first note to last
  • This copy plays on exceptionally quiet Impulse vinyl, Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus throughout
  • The credit must go to one of, if not THE Greatest Jazz Engineers of all time, Mr. Rudy Van Gelder
  • “Szabo’s original sound, the unusual instrumentation (two or three guitars, Sadao Watanabe on flute, Gary McFarland on marimba, bass, drums and percussion) and McFarland’s clever arrangements uplift the music.”

(more…)