Labels We Love – Original Jazz Classics (OJC)

Standard Coltrane – If You’re Looking for the Best Sound…

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As you may have guessed by now, remastered is a bit of a dirty word around these parts. Most remastered records we play, from The Beatles to John Coltrane to ZZ Top, sound to us like pale imitations of the real thing, whether the real thing is an original or a reissue from back in the day.

But only a fool could fail to appreciate how correct and lively the best copies of this remastered record sound, and we’re no fools here at Better Records. We judge records by one and only one criterion: how they sound. We pay no mind to labels, record thicknesses, playback speeds, mastering speeds or anything else you can read about on audiophile websites.

We’re looking for the best sound. We don’t care where it comes from. (more…)

Gene Ammons – Blue Gene – Soulful Jazz at Its Best

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  • This wonderful Prestige jazz classic boasts outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last – exceptionally quiet vinyl too 
  • One of the best sounding Ammons records we know of – it’s huge, rich and Tubey Magical, with a solid bottom end and energy to beat them all
  • Clean and clear and open are nice qualities to have, but rich and full are harder to come by on this record – this pressing has it all
  • “Some ballad performances in his oeuvre are a testament to an exceptional sense of intonation and melodic symmetry, powerful lyrical expressiveness, and mastery both of the blues and the bebop vernacular that can now be described as, in its own way, ‘classical.'”

For us audiophiles both the sound and the music here are wonderful. If you’re looking to demonstrate just how good a 1958 All Tube Analog Prestige recording by Rudy Van Gelder can sound, this killer copy will do the trick.

This pressing is super spacious, sweet and positively dripping with ambience. Talk about Tubey Magic, the liquidity of the sound here is positively uncanny. This is vintage analog at its best, so full-bodied and relaxed you’ll wonder how it ever came to be that anyone seriously contemplated trying to improve it. (more…)

Wynton Kelly Trio & Sextet – Kelly Blue

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  • Wynton Kelly’s hard-to-find second album finally makes its debut, with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • A superb pressing, with lovely richness and warmth, good space and separation between the instruments and real immediacy throughout
  • Kelly brings in jazz greats Nat Adderley, Bobby Jaspar, and Benny Golson, as well as several of his bandmates from Miles Davis’ sextet, including Paul Chambers and Jimmy Cobb
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Kelly was renowned as an accompanist, but as he shows on a set including three of his originals and four familiar standards… A fine example of his talents.”
  • “Wynton Kelly demonstrates once again why he has been a major influence in the history of jazz piano.”

Jack Higgins was the engineer for these sessions. He recorded Chet Baker’s brilliant Chet album the same year, as well as many other albums for Riverside in New York in the ’50s and ’60s. (more…)

Harold Land – West Coast Blues!

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  • Truly superb sound can be found on both sides of this Jazzland recording, with each earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades
  • Wally Heider, recording in San Francisco in 1960, captured the jazz excitement on tape, and George Horn took those tapes and mastered them faultlessly
  • “Tenor saxophonist Harold Land leads an all-star sextet that includes guitarist Wes Montgomery, trumpeter Joe Gordon, pianist Barry Harris, bassist Sam Jones and drummer Louis Hayes… The music is as well-played and swinging as one would expect from this superior bop group.”

This vintage Jazzland/OJC pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely 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…)

Blue Mitchell – Blue’s Moods

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  • A superb copy of Blue Mitchell’s 1960 Riverside classic with solid Double Plus (A++) sound – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Yet another remarkable disc from the Golden Age of Vacuum Tube Recording, with the added benefit of mastering using more modern cutting equipment from the ’70s and ’80s
  • (We are of course here referring to the good modern mastering of 35+ years ago, not the typically opaque, veiled and lifeless mastering of today)
  • “Of trumpeter Blue Mitchell’s seven Riverside recordings, only this set — along with three numbers on Blue Soul — feature Mitchell as the only horn. Joined by pianist Wynton Kelly, bassist Sam Jones, and drummer Roy Brooks, the trumpeter is typically distinctive, swinging, and inventive within the hard bop genre.”

(more…)

Benny Golson – Groovin’ with Golson

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  • Benny Golson makes his debut on the site with this STUNNING pressing of his 1959 release, with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • These sides show off Rudy Van Gelder’s engineering chops to full effect – they’re big, full-bodied and lively, with good studio space around all the players
  • “In this ’59 session, he stretches out on some simple blues patterns and one standard ballad. It’s all done at a swinging tempo that allows Fuller to shine on trombone with near perfect solos; the underrated Ray Bryant adds his impeccable piano touch (he’s as great as Kelly or Clark); Paul Chambers was never better on bass than here, both as accompanist and soloist; and the irrepressible drummer, Art Blakey, makes the whole session sparkle. Backed by this band, Golson is as smooth as butter in tone, and as dazzling in his virtuosity as any tenor player of the times.”

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Chet Baker – Chet

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame

Chet is one of the best sounding Chet Baker records we’ve ever played, although that’s not saying much because finding good Chet Baker records is like finding hen’s teeth these days. The albums he did for Pacific Jazz in the ’50s can be wonderful but few have survived in audiophile playing condition. The Mariachi Brass albums are as awful as everyone says — we know, we’ve played them too. The album he recorded for CTI in 1974, She Was Too Good To M, is excellent and will be coming to the site again soon I hope.

We’ve never heard the record sound better than in our most recent shootout, and that’s coming from someone who’s been playing the album since it was first reissued in the ’80s.

These guys are playing live in the studio and you can really feel their presence on every track — assuming you have a copy that sounds like this one. (more…)

Cannonball Adderley and His Orchestra – African Waltz

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame

This copy of Cannonball’s crazy-fun 1961 album offers outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or better. ALIVE with musical energy, there’s also plenty of space for the players to occupy, a quality vital to this big group’s big sound.

This vintage pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records cannot begin to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing any sign of coming back.

Having done this for so long, we understand and appreciate that rich, full, solid, Tubey Magical sound is key to the presentation of this primarily vocal music. We rate these qualities higher than others we might be listening for (e.g., bass definition, soundstage, depth, etc.). The music is not so much about the details in the recording, but rather in trying to recreate a solid, palpable, real Cannonball Adderley and his orchestra playing live in your listening room. The best copies have an uncanny way of doing just that. (more…)

Jackie McLean – A Long Drink of the Blues

More Jackie McLean

A Long Drink of the Blues

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  • Superb sound throughout with both sides earning solid Double Plus (A++) grades – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Shockingly good All Tube Mono sound from 1957 courtesy of Rudy Van Gelder, and the high-rez, tonally correct and wide-bandwidth mastering brings out even the most subtle nuances of the sound of this superb sextet
  • McLean’s sax is joined on the first side by Curtis Fuller on trombone and Webster Young on Trumpet
  • 4 stars: “Although not quite as intense as McLean’s later Blue Note dates, the ballad renditions show just how mature and original a soloist he was even at this early stage.” 

This vintage OJC/Prestige pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely 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…)

Thelonious Monk – Misterioso

More Thelonious Monk

More Misterioso

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  • Monk’s live 1958 release makes its Hot Stamper debut, with solid Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Big, lively, open and clear with Tubey Magical richness – just the right sound for this masterful quartet
  • Recorded live at the Five Spot Cafe in New York City, the energy here is palpable – according to Orrin Keepnews, Monk “played more distinctly here than on his studio albums in response to the audience’s enthusiasm during the performance”
  • 5 stars: “[The quartet’s] overwhelming and instinctual capacities directly contribute to the powerful swingin’ and cohesive sound they could continually reinvent.”

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