Labels We Love – Impulse

Coleman Hawkins – Today and Now

More Coleman Hawkins


  • 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


  • 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.”


Sonny Rollins – Alfie


  • 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


  • 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.”


Gabor Szabo with Gary McFarland – Gypsy ’66


  • 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.”


Gabor Szabo – The Sorcerer


  • With two nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sides, this original Impulse pressing is close to the BEST we’ve ever heard, right up there with our Shootout Winner – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Szabo’s best albums are full of Tubey Magic and dead-on-the-money instrumental timbres – this live one puts you smack dab in the middle of an intimate jazz club in 1967, your very own time machine
  • If you want to hear the warmth, size and energy of the tape, this vintage LP is the way to go
  • “Gabor Szabo’s quintet featuring Jimmy Stewart was one of the guitarist’s very best units. Live performances like this, recorded at Boston’s Jazz Workshop, document some of the excitement the group stirred in 1967-1968. The playing seems inspired, and the interplay within the group is something to behold…”


Pharoah Sanders – Thembi


  • Pharoha Sanders makes his Hot Stamper debut here with STUNNING Triple Plus (A+++) sound from first note to last
  • We guarantee there is dramatically more richness, fullness, and performance energy on this copy than others you’ve heard, and that’s especially true if you made the mistake of buying whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing is currently on the market
  • 4 stars: “Recorded with two different ensembles, Thembi was a departure from the slowly developing, side-long, mantra-like grooves Pharoah Sanders had been pursuing for most of his solo career… it’s rare to have this many different sides of Sanders coexisting in one place, and that’s what makes the album such an interesting listen.”


Gabor Szabo – Wind Sky and Diamonds – A Weak Effort


Music Grade: F

Not recommended, a weak effort by Impulse in 1967, with silly background vocals no less. Neither the music nor the sound, at least on the copies we played, will likely be worth your time.

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

John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman – Nothing Special on Heavy Vinyl



Sonic Grade: C (at best)

We were only slightly impressed with both the Speakers Corner pressing of this album and the earlier Impulse Heavy Vinyl edition from the ’90s. In our opinion neither one is worth pursuing.

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 — too 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.


They Say It’s Wonderful: Hartman and Coltrane, an Appreciation (more…)

Gabor Szabo – The Best of Gabor Szabo – Our Shootout Winner from 2010



This Minty looking Impulse LP has GREAT SOUND on both sides. We put this one through our extensive cleaning process and gave it a listen. Side one is clean and clear with lots of tubey magic and it’s not as drenched in echo as most of the originals. Side two is very lively with lots of presence and wonderfully silky highs. The originals from which these tracks are taken are practically impossible to find in anything resembling audiophile playing condition.