Labels We Love – Prestige

The Search for Lush Life – We Broke Through in 2016

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More Breakthrough Pressing Discoveries

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We’ve been searching for years trying to find just what kind of Lush Life pressing — what era, what label, what stampers, mono or stereo, import or domestic — had the potential for good sound.

No, scratch that. We should have said excellent sound. Exceptional sound. We’ve played plenty of copies that sounded pretty good, even very good, but exceptional? That pressing had eluded us — until a few months ago.

Yes, it was only a few months ago, early in 2016 in fact, that we chanced upon the right kind of pressing — the right era, the right label, the right stampers, the right sound. Not just the right sound though. Better sound than we ever thought this album could have. (more…)

Joe Newman Quintet / Jive At Five – Killer Trumpet Jazz from 1960

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More of Our Best Jazz Trumpet Recordings

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

  • Jive At Five arrives on the site with killer Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • This hard to find Prestige Swingville LP is big, spacious, swinging with energy and absolutely jumping out of the speakers
  • 4 stars: “…[this music] is very much in the Count Basie vein. That fact is not too surprising when one considers that the quintet includes three members of Basie’s men: trumpeter Joe Newman, tenor saxophonist Frank Wess and bassist Eddie Jones. Joined by the complementary pianist Tommy Flanagan and drummer Oliver Jackson, Newman and his friends swing their way through four vintage standards and a couple of the leader’s original blues…”

Jive at Five is one of my all-time favorite jazz trumpet albums. This Shootout Winning Prestige reissue might very well turn you into a big fan as well.

I highly recommended this album back in the day. Hearing it now as a much older man, having played thousands of jazz records in the ensuing decades, and thankfully being able to hear it on much better equipment than I had back then, I realize both the music and sound (can’t forget that!) have stood the test of time very well indeed.

This is what a good jazz trumpet album should sound like, miles from the squawky, muted microphone-distorted horn sound so many audiophiles seem to revere. I’m guessing you know who I’m referring to. Miles Davis was surely a genius and a brilliant innovator, but his horn sound from the sixties on was never as relaxed, smooth and natural as it is on this wonderful Joe Newman Quintet album from 1960.

Joe was one of Basie’s long-time band members, a fiery soloist with an unerring sense of swing. This album ably demonstrates those qualities. The guy is passionate but he never gets lost in his own solos; he keeps the melodies and the swing front and center. (more…)

John Coltrane – Black Pearls

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More Jazz Recorded by Rudy Van Gelder

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  • Black Pearls returns to the site with STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from first note to last
  • It takes us years to find a copy that plays as quietly as this one, and since this is the only one that took Top Honors, it will be quite a while before another of its kind comes our way
  • It’s big, lively, tubey, present and very transparent – nothing we played could compete with it
  • A great Rudy Van Gelder recording that hits a whole ‘nother level on a copy that was mastered and pressed as well as this one
  • 4 stars: “. . . Black Pearls indeed captures Coltrane at the height of perfecting the intense volley that would garner the name “sheets of sound.”

A killer copy of this wonderful 1958 Coltrane recording (released in 1964), unbeatable on either side! We heard one that blew us away a few years big, so we picked up a bunch more and finally had the chance to evaluate them. The music was always enjoyable, but on a copy like this things really get going. Coltrane is joined here by Donald Byrd, Red Garland, Paul Chambers and Art Taylor — a top lineup, the same crew behind the great Lush Life.

The sound here is wonderfully natural and clear. You get incredible presence, impressive transparency, real size and space between the players. It’s also amazingly rich and full-bodied with lots of energy. Most of the copies we’ve collected didn’t come close, so if you’re looking for some late ’50s Coltrane magic, this is the hot ticket right here! (more…)

Miles Davis – Green Haze (‘The Musings of Miles’ and ‘Miles’)

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More Recordings by Rudy Van Gelder

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  • An outstanding pressing with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on all FOUR sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Spacious, sweet and positively dripping with ambience – talk about Tubey Magic, the liquidity of the sound here is positively uncanny
  • This Prestige Two-Fer simply combines two complete Miles Davis titles recorded by Rudy Van Gelder in 1955 – ‘The Musings of Miles’ and ‘Miles’
  • 4 stars: “… it is for the excellent rhythm sections and the playing of Miles Davis that this two-fer is highly recommended.”

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…)

Red Garland Trio – Groovy

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What makes this vintage piano trio album in mono so special? Allow me to quote a review from a few years back for a pair of recordings that Red Garland made with Miles Davis back in the mid-’50s: Workin’ And Steamin’.

To the Jazz Fans of the World, we here present one of the BEST sounding jazz recordings we have ever had the PRIVILEGE to place on a turntable. I cannot ever recall hearing a better sounding Rudy Van Gelder recording, and I have a theory as to why this tape is as good as it is: it’s MONO. It also sounds like it’s recorded completely LIVE in the studio, direct to one track you might say. As good a recording as Kind of Blue is, I think the best parts of this album are more immediate and more real than anything on KOB.

The size, the weight, the solidity, the clarity, the energy, the rhythmic drive – it’s all here and more. We’ve never heard the record sound better, and that’s coming from someone who’s been playing the album since 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.

Based on what I’m hearing my feeling is that most of the natural, full-bodied, smooth, sweet sound of the album is on the master tape, and that all that was needed to transfer that vintage sound correctly onto vinyl disc was simply to thread up the tape on a high quality machine and hit play.

The fact that nobody seems to be able to make an especially good sounding record these days — certainly not as good sounding as this one — tells me that in fact I’m wrong to think that such an approach would work. Somebody should have been able to figure out how to do it by now. In our experience that is simply not the case today, and has not been for many years, if not decades. (more…)

Coleman Hawkins – Coleman Hawkins All Stars

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  • This vintage pressing of Hawkins’ 1960 release boasts Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • If you want to hear the Tubey Magic, size and energy of this wonderful session from 1960 recorded by none other than Rudy Van Gelder, this very pressing is the way to go
  • “Hawkins proves again and again why his sound is not only the epitome of jazz, but forever timeless… The demonstrative yet subtle Hawkins is in full flight here, with the equally elegant Thomas and naturally subdued Dickenson in lock step. What a joy they must have been to hear together at a club or concert date, if in fact it happened in this small-group setting.”

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Donald Byrd – House of Byrd

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  • Two rare Donald Byrd albums in one, both with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on all sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • The Tubey Magic is fully intact, making these two albums sound just the way 1956 RVG jazz should
  • Composed of two superb LPs, 2 Trumpets and The Young Bloods, these wonderful pressings capture some of Byrd’s best sound
  • “Art and Donald are in fine form, and if there is any competition it serves only to increase the musical yield.”
  • “… These blowing sessions (typical of Prestige’s albums of the 1950s) have their enjoyable moments with Farmer and Woods taking overall solo honors.

This reissue is spacious, open, transparent, rich and sweet. It’s yet another remarkable disc from the Golden Age of Vacuum Tube Recording Technology, with the added benefit of mastering using the more modern cutting equipment of the ’70s in this case. We are of course here referring to the good modern mastering of 40+ years ago, not the generally opaque, veiled and lifeless mastering so common today. (more…)

Eric Dolphy – Copenhagen Concert

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  • Dolphy’s superb 1961 live release returns to the site with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on all FOUR sides
  • Rich, smooth, sweet, and wonderfully natural, this is the sound we love here at Better Records
  • I’ve known about Dolphy’s legendary Copenhagen Concert for close to thirty years. When an audiophile hears a bass clarinet reproduced the way it is on this record, he is very unlikely to forget it
  • Dolphy stretches out on the flute and the bass clarinet as well as his alto sax here
  • “Eric Dolphy’s tour of Europe is one of the best documented periods of his much-too-short career… a must for Dolphy collectors.”

Rarely have I heard a string bass sound better than it does here. The flute is equally gorgeous. They could record a live jazz concert this well in 1961? Apparently.

The sound of the bass clarinet is so real it will take your breath away. No pop or rock record has this kind of fidelity, ever. The resolution is amazing, you can hear the keys clacking away as he plays. (more…)

Jimmy Witherspoon – Blues For Easy Livers

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  • Blues for Easy Livers finally returns to the site with outstanding Double Plus (A++) stereo sound from start to finish
  • BIG and spacious with wonderful presence – the transparency of this vintage pressing is superb, and yet one more reminder of the sound modern records consistently fail to achieve
  • This is one of the better sounding Male Vocal LPs to hit our turntable in recent months and I bet the same will hold true for you if you take this copy home
  • “Witherspoon’s one of the masters of closing-time bluesy jazz, and he doesn’t let anyone down on that account on this relaxed (but not sleepy) session.”

You’ll find surprisingly natural sound on this great Jazz / Blues / Male Vocal album.

We’ve been picking these up when we find ’em clean — no mean feat, I assure you — and this copy had the sound we’ve been looking for. (more…)

Miles Davis – Workin’ And Steamin’

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  • An outstanding Double Album with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it on all four sides
  • The best sounding tracks here can hold their own with ANY Miles Davis vinyl we’ve ever heard, and that’s a whole lot of Mile Davis albums
  • 5 Stars: “This two-LP set combines a pair of classic albums by the Miles Davis Quintet of 1956, the group that also featured John Coltrane, Red Garland, Paul Chambers and Philly Joe Jones. …the music has plenty of variety and does not sound rushed. Davis’s beautiful muted statements made these two of his most popular albums.”

*NOTE: On sides one and two, a bubble makes 6 very soft thumps on Track 1, It Never Entered My Mind (side one), and Trane’s Blues (side two). On side four, a mark makes 15 light stitches at the beginning of Track 3, When I Fall In Love.

You might be surprised that a reissue can beat the originals, but one play of this pressing should be enough to remove all doubt.

To the Jazz Fans of the World, we here present one of the BEST sounding jazz recordings we have ever had the PRIVILEGE to place on a turntable. I cannot ever recall hearing a better sounding Rudy Van Gelder recording, and I have a theory as to why this tape is as good as it is: it’s MONO. It also sounds like it’s recorded completely LIVE in the studio, direct to one track you might say. As good a recording as Kind of Blue is, I think the best parts of this album are more immediate and more real than anything on KOB. (more…)