Labels We Love – Impulse

Sonny Rollins / Alfie – Rollins and Nelson Are Hard to Beat in ’66

More of the Music of Sonny Rollins

More Music and Arrangements by Oliver Nelson

More Recordings by Rudy Van Gelder

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. 

This album is on the TAS Superdisc 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! You will have a hard time finding a better Sonny Rollins record, sonically or musically. It may just be my personal favorite of all his work.

Great players of course. 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.

For audiophiles who are looking for one of the best sounding jazz recordings ever made, this is it. (more…)

Gabor Szabo – The Best of Gabor Szabo

More Gabor Szabo 

More Jazz Recordings Featuring the Guitar

  • This Impulse pressing boasts superb Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • Clean, clear, full-bodied and present with tons of Tubey Magic and right-on-the-money instrumental timbres, the originals may be a bit better sounding, but both are they expensive these days and rarely can be found in audiophile playing condition
  • For some reason, the guitar sound from this era of recording seems to have died out with the times – it can only be found on the better copies of these vintage pressings


Clark Terry – The Happy Horns of Clark Terry

More Clark Terry

More Jazz Recordings

  • Clark Terry’s three horn lineup album returns to the site with superb Double (A++) sound on both sides of this Impulse LP
  • It’s simply bigger, more transparent, less distorted, more three-dimensional and more REAL than most of what we played
  • Credit goes to Rudy Van Gelder once again for the huge space this superbly well-recorded ensemble occupies
  • 4 stars: “This all-star LP has plenty of memorable moments… The lively music is quite enjoyable.”

We dropped the needle on a copy of the album a couple of years ago and immediately we knew it would be a record worthy of a shootout — the sound was big and lively in the best tradition of Rudy Van Gelder’s recordings from the mid-’60s. His sound is the right sound for this style of music, that’s for damn sure.


Pee Wee Russell and Oliver Nelson – The Spirit of ’67

More Oliver Nelson

More Jazz Recordings

  • This vintage Impulse! / ABC pressing boasts excellent Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • Both sides here are big and lively, key elements for any album arranged by the-bigger-the-better Oliver Nelson
  • This is fun, swinging Sixties Jazz with top quality sound (from an unknown engineer) — we knew as soon as we dropped the needle on a copy a few years back that this was a record that deserved a shootout, and finally, here it is
  • Problems in the vinyl is sometimes the nature of the beast with these early pressings – there simply is no way around it if the superior sound of vintage analog is important to you
  • 4 Stars: “…joined by a big band arranged by Oliver Nelson…the charts are colorful and complement Russell well during what would be his swan song.”


Duke Ellington – Duke Ellington Meets Coleman Hawkins

More Duke Ellington

  • You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A+++) sound on both sides of this Impulse stereo pressing
  • Once again Rudy Van Gelder delivers the sound that audiophiles and jazz fans alike thrill to
  • Impulse took it upon themselves to reissue this title on Heavy Vinyl many years ago — (I admit I used to sell them, mea culpa) — and it was as mediocre as you might expect, with little of the magic of The Real Thing found on the vintage pressings we offer in Hot Stamper form
  • 5 stars: “This set documents a historic occasion. Although Coleman Hawkins had been an admirer of Duke Ellington’s music for at least 35 years at this point and Ellington had suggested they record together at least 20 years prior to their actual meeting in 1962, this was their first (and only) meeting on record. High points include an exuberant “The Jeep Is Jumpin’,” an interesting remake of “Mood Indigo,” and a few new Ellington pieces. This delightful music is recommended…”
  • A Jazz Classic from 1963 that should appeal to any fan of the work of Ellington or Hawkins
  • The complete list of titles from 1963 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.


Johnny Hartman / I Just Dropped By To Say Hello – A Forgotten Vocal Classic

More Pop and Jazz Vocals

Reviews and Commentaries for More Male Vocal Albums


Folks, the later Stereo Impulse pressing of this classic Hartman album we dropped the needle on recently was so Tubey Magical, RICH yet CLEAR, and above all shockingly natural, it would be hard to imagine a Male Vocal record produced in the last thirty years that could hold a candle to it (outside of the Coltrane-Hartman record from the year before of course).

The Bennett-Evans record we love so much here at Better Records would qualify as a contender, but that album was recorded in 1975. And it doesn’t have half the Tubey Magic this Hartman album from 1963 does.

RVG Knocks Another One Out of the Park

Our hats are off to Rudy Van Gelder once again! Here’s an album that justifies his reputation. If only more of them did…


Paul Gonsalves – Tell It The Way It Is!

More Saxophone Jazz

More Recordings Engineered by Bob Simpson


  • You’ll find solid Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides of this outstanding copy of Tell It The Way It Is!
  • The sound is huge and spacious with richness and Tubey Magic like nothing you’ve heard
  • Engineered by the great Bob Simpson, this album has it going on – musically and sonically
  • Gonsalves was Ellington’s tenor man, and his wonderfully expressive tone is what makes many of Ellington’s recordings the joy they are to this day


McCoy Tyner – Plays Ellington

More McCoy Tyner

More Jazz Recordings Featuring the Piano

  • 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.”


John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman

More John Coltrane

  • 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


  • 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…)