Labels We Love – Pablo

Harry Edison – ’S Wonderful

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This date features a couple of my personal favorite all-stars: Shelly Manne and Zoot Sims. Together with Edison they whip up quite a storm, ably supported by Monty Budwig on bass and Mike Wofford on piano.  

AMG  Review

This out-of-print Pablo LP (which will certainly be reissued on CD in the future) is from the later days of the label. Trumpeter Harry “Sweets” Edison was just beginning to fade around this period but he still sounds in fine form, teamed up wtih Zoot Sims (who plays tenor on three and soprano on one of the six selections), pianist Mike Wofford, bassist Monty Budwig and drummer Shelly Manne. They perform the leader’s “Elegante” plus five standards with the highlights including “Centerpiece” (Sweets’ famous blues line) and “Sunday.” Fine swinging mainstream jazz.

Count Basie & Oscar Peterson – Yessir, That’s My Baby

More Count Basie

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  • Both sides of this wonderful Basie/Peterson record boast outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Jazz records don’t get a whole lot bigger, clearer or more full-bodied – man, this is the glorious sound of ANALOG
  • “The two pianists (backed by bassist John Heard and drummer Louis Bellson) play five standards and three blues with predictable swing, finding much more in common with each other than one might have originally suspected.”

Another in the series of collaborations between Basie and Peterson, this time along with Louis Bellson & John Heard. There were four as I recall, some involving electric as well as acoustic pianos as this one does.

There was not a trace of smear on the piano, which is unusual in our experience, although no one ever seems to talk about smeary pianos in the audiophile world (except for us of course). (more…)

Count Basie – Basie Big Band

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  • An insanely good copy with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on side one married with an outstanding Double Plus (A++) side two
  • Basie Big Band is a Top Basie Big Band title in every way — musically, sonically, you name it, this album has got it going on
  • Guaranteed to be dramatically livelier and more dynamic than any Basie title you’ve heard – if you like your brass big, rich and powerful, you came to the right place
  • Lots of tight, deep, note-like bass and unerringly correct timbre for the brass throughout

*NOTE: On side one, a mark on the edge makes 10 light to very light ticks during the intro to Track 1, Front Burner. On side two, a mark makes 9 light to moderate pops in the middle of Track 2, Give ‘M Time.

More Basie Big Band ANALOG Magic, this time from his 1975 debut for Pablo.

With 18 pieces in the studio (five trumpets!, four trombones!, five saxes!) this album can be a real powerhouse — if you have the right copy, and both sides here show you just how lively and dynamic this music can be. It’s got real Demo Disc qualities, no doubt about it.

When you get this record home, pay special attention to how natural and correct the timbre of the brass is. This is the hallmark of a well recorded album — it sounds right. (more…)

The Monty Alexander 7 / Jamento – Listening for Speed and Smear

What to Listen For – Smear

What to Listen For – Speed

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Clear piano notes, first and foremost. Any smear or loss of speed (a problem with hi-fi equipment since the beginning of time) detracts from the fun. 

Next, the tonality of the best copies is rich and solid; accept nothing less.

And, finally, the proper reproduction of the percussion instruments is critically important to the energy and drive of the music. The better you hear them — without losing the weight and richness of the piano — the more you will enjoy your copy of the record.

No two copies will reproduce all these elements equally well. On high quality equipment with the volume turned up good and loud the winners are easily separated from the losers. (more…)

Harry “Sweets” Edison & Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis / Simply Sweets – A Sleeper from Pablo

Another Record We’ve Discovered with (Potentially) Excellent Sound…

and One We Will Probably Never Shootout Again

Some records never justified the time and money required to find Hot Stamper pressings of them in order to make it worth our while to do them again. This is one such album, and the link above will take you to many more.

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  • This outstanding copy of Simply Sweets boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides and relatively quiet vinyl too 
  • The sound of this superb jazz quintet is big, lively, open and clear with Tubey Magical richness
  • The legendary engineer Val Valentin put this one on tape, brilliantly – he’s the man behind some of our All Time Pablo favorites
  • “Trumpeter Harry ‘Sweets’ Edison and tenor saxophonist Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis always made a potent pair. They both possessed immediately identifiable sounds, were veterans of Count Basie’s Orchestra and never had any difficulty swinging.” — Allmusic

Both sides of this outstanding pressing are big, rich, tubey and clear. Few other copies in our shootout held this kind of sound.

Titles such as this one are the reason we put so much time and money into hunting down and auditioning every Pablo jazz record we can get our hands on — because some of them sound like this one. Who else was recording jazz this good in the late ’70s and well into the ’80s?

And don’t say Concord. There are maybe five great sounding records on that label. Pablo has ten or twenty times that many, and that’s a conservative estimate. We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to Norman Granz for starting the Pablo label and keeping the quality as high as he did. (more…)

Zoot Sims – Zoot Sims Plays Johnny Mandel: Quietly There – Reviewed in 2010

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This Minty looking Pablo LP, engineered by the brilliant Allen Sides, has very good sound. Which is to be expected from this amazing engineer, responsible for recordings like 88 Basie Street and Kenny Burrell’s Heritage album. 

This is one of the best Zoot Sims records as well. He plays beautifully. This melodic, smooth material is what he excels at. His breathy saxophone style will remind you of Coleman Hawkins and Ben Webster. This recording captures that sound perfectly.

It also gets the sound of his reed. The recording is so transparent you can clearly hear the contribution his reed makes to his sound.

The overall impression one gets of this recording is BIG. Big stage and full size instruments — this is Cinerama sound, wall to wall and floor to ceiling. (more…)

Count Basie – 88 Basie Street

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  • With KILLER Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from first note to last, this copy was getting the sound of this big band right
  • This is a Top Basie Big Band title in every way — musically, sonically, you name it, 88 Basie Street has got it going on!
  • With 18 pieces in the studio this is a real powerhouse – the sound is is rich, full and HUGE
  • 4 stars: “One of Basie’s final albums, the very appealing title cut seems to sum up his career, a lightly swinging groove with a strong melody. Two small-group performances with guest Joe Pass on guitar add variety to a particularly strong set.”

With 18 pieces in the studio this album can be a real powerhouse — if you have the right copy — and this White Hot pressing can show you just how lively and dynamic this music can be. It’s a real Demo Disc, no doubt about it.

Both sides here are excellent, with real strength down low, nice extension up top, and incredible clarity and transparency. Play this one good and loud and put yourself front and center for a rip-roarin’ performance led by the king Bill Basie!

We’ve become huge fans of these Basie Big Band records. Allen Sides knew just how to record this stuff by the time Basie came around to Pablo — on the best pressings you can hear that this is big band music recorded just right. The sound is clean and clear with excellent transparency and the kind of separation between the instruments that lets you appreciate the contributions of each player. (more…)

Count Basie – Kansas City 5

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  • Presenting yet another amazingly well recorded Count Basie album, with STUNNING Triple Plus (A+++) sound throughout
  • It’s bigger, richer, more Tubey Magical, with more extension on both ends of the spectrum than every other other copy we played
  • A different sound for Basie, a small group setting with two of his favorite players at his side: Milt Jackson on vibes and Joe Pass on guitar
  • “The predictably excellent group performs spirited versions of some of Basie’s “hits” (including “Jive at Five” and “One O’Clock Jump”), some blues and a few standards. It is always interesting to hear Basie in a hornless setting like this one where he gets opportunities to stretch out on the piano.”

Only recently did I become familiar with this record, released in 1981 from sessions recorded in 1977. We pick up all the Pablo Basie titles we can get our hands on these days. When we dropped the needle on a copy of the album we were amazed at the sound. Don’t know much about the engineer — Geoff Sykes — but he did a great job working 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).

With such a small group and no horn players there is much more room for interplay between Basie and either Pass or Jackson. As the liner notes make clear, both vets quickly adapted their playing styles to the laidback Count Basie approach to the blues. If you are in the market for some smooth Basie grooves with exceptionally good sound, this one should be right up your alley. (more…)

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…)