Labels We Love – Pablo

Duke Ellington – Up In Duke’s Workshop

More Duke Ellington

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  • Stunning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) Ellington Big Band sound or very close to it, taken from 1969-1972 recordings, can be found on both of these outstanding sides
  • Pablo has here compiled some of Ellington’s best later music and mastered and pressed it wonderfully – you will not be disappointed with this one
  • “At first listen it is rougher, seems to be less evolved than his earlier easier-to-notice stylistic approach. If you give this a couple of plays, you will find it totally mesmerizing.”
  • “Duke Ellington was the most important composer in the history of jazz as well as being a bandleader who held his large group together continuously for almost 50 years.”

On every copy we played, the first track on side two is not quite up to the standard set by some of the other pieces. The top end is a little boosted and you can hear it most clearly on the cymbals. But by track two all is well sound-wise. (more…)

Count Basie Big Band – Farmers Market Barbecue

More Count Basie

More Big Band Jazz

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  • Stunning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from beginning to end on this famous Pablo, one we consider The Best Basie Big Band Record We’ve Ever Played
  • Both sides are exceptionally clear, rich, and full of Tubey Magic, with a solid bottom end and huge amounts of three-dimensional studio space
  • Demo Disc sound – guaranteed to beat the pants off of any Heavy Vinyl pressing, at any speed, of any title
  • Allmusic: “This was an excellent outing by the Count Basie Orchestra during its later years.”

Musically FMB is a Top Basie Big Band title in every way. This should not be surprising: many of his recordings for Pablo in the mid- to late-’70s through the early ’80s display the talents of The Count and his band of veterans at their best. Sonically it’s another story. Based on our recent shootout for this title, in comparison to the other Basie titles we’ve done lately, we would have to say that FMB is the best Basie big band title we’ve ever played. Since so many Basie big band recordings are so good, we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves — after all, we haven’t done shootouts for all of his Pablo large group recordings. To be safe we’ll just call this one First Among Equals.

And when you hear it sounding as good as it does here, it truly qualifies as a Big As Life DEMO DISC. (more…)

Count Basie / Kansas City 3 – For The Second Time

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Super Hot Stamper sound on both sides of this killer piano trio recording. It’s a joy to hear Basie perform as a frontman, stretching out on tunes that were no doubt dear to him. Veterans of hundreds of sessions, Ray Brown and Louis Bellson are just as interesting as Basie, high praise. Recorded by the legendary engineer Ed Greene (Stan Getz/Charlie Byrd – Jazz Samba) – that accounts for the exceptional sound.

Naturally we pick up all the Pablo Basie titles we can get our hands on these days, having had very good luck with a great many of them. When we dropped the needle on a copy of this one a few years back we were amazed at the sound. My post-it, still on the record, reads “SUPERB DEMO DISC.” It certainly is. (more…)

Oscar Peterson + Harry Edison + Eddie Cleanhead Vinson

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UPDATE 10/2020

The last time I played this album in preparation for the shootout, sometime in early 2020, I was not thrilled with either the sound or the music.

I found the lack of ambience and overall artificiality of the recording not to my liking. In the old days — the review below was probably from the early 2000s — my system was not remotely as good as it is now. Now I can play the space in a recording much better than I could then, and the lack of natural space now bothers me when before it did not.

Live and Learn we say!

Take the following with a very large grain of salt and don’t pay too much for this album if you see one around.

This is a long out of print Pablo LP with AMAZING sound and music. It’s one of those superb Allan Sides engineered recordings at Ocean Way, like Basie 88 Street. Demo disc quality sound is the result! With players like these, the music is every bit as good as any jazz record I know of. In other words, I really like this album.

Dizzy Gillespie’s Big 4 – Dizzy Gillespie’s Big 4

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  • Dizzie Gillespie’s Big 4 makes its Hot Stamper debut here, with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on both sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • The size, clarity, presence and energy of this obviously live-in-the-studio recording are off the charts – plenty of Tubey Magic to boot
  • AMG 4 1/2 stars – on a copy this natural, clean and clear, the spontaneous interplay among these four jazz luminaries is laid out for all to hear
  • “…one of [Gillespie’s] best ensemble performances… his playing is superb and he is in command of the material… the musicians play off each other well and do a great job of supporting Gillespie. A big 4, indeed.”

(more…)

Joe Pass – Portraits Of Duke Ellington

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.

Maybe it’s the fact that there are only three instruments playing, live in the studio, that accounts for the amazing recording quality. Nobody knows, certainly not us, but the one thing we can say for sure is that you will have a very hard time finding a guitar trio album that sounds remotely as good as this one does.

And the music is by The Duke himself. How great is that? Can’t fault the song choices in any way; they’re all classics: Satin Doll; Sophisticated Lady; I Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good); In A Mellowtone; Don’t Get Around Much Anymore; Do Nothin’ ‘Till You Hear From Me and more.

Watch for more Joe Pass albums coming to the site. After hearing this album, and enjoying the hell out of it, we’re hunting down everything we can get our hands on to audition. I’d be surprised if we find another album with sound this good, but in the land of records you just never know.

Count Basie – Kansas City 5

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.

Another amazingly well recorded Count Basie album, and this one is killer with Triple Triple grades. It’s bigger, more solid and rich, with extension on both ends of the frequency spectrum that no other copy could match. First time on the site – a great session with a fresh sound for Basie, with Milt Jackson on vibes and Joe Pass on guitar.

I was not familiar with this record until recently. We pick up all the Pablo Basie titles we can get our hands on, and when we needle dropped a copy of this album we were amazed at the sound. Don’t know much about the engineer but he did a great job at Kendun for this session. 

This was the first of a series of smaller ensemble recordings under the heading of Kansas City. We have more coming, including the superb Kansas City piano trio album entitled “For the Second Time” with Louis Bellson and Ray Brown, a record that can have superb sound on the Pablo pressing (but steer clear of the OJC which is thin and opaque, the opposite of the sound you want). (more…)

Zoot Sims – Passion Flower – Our Shootout Winner from 2014

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.

One of the all time great Pablo sleepers. Why is no one else writing about records like these? The music is wonderful and the sound is top drawer on the best copies. If you’ve tried and failed with other Pablo Zoot Sims records, fear not: this title is one of his best, musically and sonically. 

If you want to hear the Duke’s music swing in top sound, get this album.

This is a big group, probably at least a dozen pieces at any given time, and all that energy is captured on the best copies with tremendous engineering skill. The lively arrangements are by none other than Benny Carter, a man who knows his jazz. His career started in the ’20s(!) and lasted into this century if you can believe it. I consider myself fortunate to have seen him play locally when he was more than 90 years old. He stlll had it, kind of. (more…)

Benny Carter – Meets Oscar Peterson – Reviewed in 2007

More Benny Carter

More Meets Oscar Peterson

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.

“Benny Carter had recorded with pianist Oscar Peterson back in the early ’50s for Norman Granz’s Verve label. More than 30 years, later he teamed up with Peterson again, this time for Granz’s Pablo company. There was no sign of decline or disillusionment in either of the co-leaders’ playing; in fact, if anything, they had improved with age. Joined by guitarist Joe Pass, bassist Dave Young and drummer Martin Drew, Carter and Peterson are both in a joyous mood and in typically swinging form on six standards and a blues.” — AMG  (more…)