Labels We Love – Riverside

Thelonious Monk – The Riverside Trios

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  • This Milestone 2 LP set has outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on all four sides
  • We know of no better way to hear these legendary mono recordings – these are by far the best sounding pressings of both these albums we’ve yet to play
  • 4 1/2 stars: “When Thelonious Monk first signed with Riverside Records in 1955, producer Orrin Keepnews thought that it would be a good idea for the unrecognized giant to record an album of Duke Ellington compositions and follow it up with a set of standards so as to discount his eccentric and forbidding image. The results were quite satisfying, trio performances that made Monk’s playing seem more accessible to the regular jazz audience without watering down his style.”

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Sonny Rollins – The Sound of Sonny – Reviewed in 2007

Riverside White and Blue original 2 Mic Label Mono LP. Side one sounds like a typical old Riverside jazz record, but side two sounds EXCELLENT! I don’t know when I’ve heard an early Sonny Rollins record sound better. His horn is really full-bodied and dynamic and has amazing IMMEDIACY on some tracks. It makes side one sound sick in comparison.

The surfaces for old jazz records are always the problem. This one plays M– to EX++ and has some groove damage in the inner grooves — nothing too serious, but it’s definitely there. We played all the marks and only a few of them repeat, and not for long. I’ve never seen a clean quiet copy of a record like this in my life. I’m sure they exist, but I don’t come across them, at any price.  (more…)

Wes Montgomery – California Dreaming

More Wes Montgomery

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  • This excellent Wes Montgomery title returns to the site for the first time in two years with a Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) side one and outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on side two
  • Both sides here are OUT OF THIS WORLD, incredibly big, bold, clear, rich and dynamic – this is DEMO DISC Quality Big Production Guitar-led Jazz
  • Credit goes to Rudy Van Gelder once again for the huge space that the superbly well-recorded group occupies
  • Forget the critics, this is one of Wes’s Best Albums of All Time I tell you!

This White Hot Stamper has the REAL Wes Montgomery/ Creed Taylor/ Rudy Van Gelder MAGIC in its grooves. You will not believe how big, rich and full-bodied this pressing is. Since this is one of Wes’s best albums, hearing this incredible White Hot copy was a THRILL for us and we’re sure it will be as big a thrill for you too.

As Good As It Gets Sound

So natural, transparent and clear. Listen to all the space around the guitar. (On the Cisco you might hear 20% of that space. That’s Heavy Vinyl for you. What a load of crap.)

Beware any and all imitations (even the one I used to like somewhat, the Cisco version). They barely BEGIN to convey the qualities of the real master tape the way this pressing does. This White Hot Stamper exhibits huge amounts of ambience and spaciousness, with far more energy and the kind of “see into the studio” quality that only the real thing ever seems to have. (more…)

Cannonball Adderley – African Waltz

More Cannonball Adderley

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  • With a seriously good Double Plus (A++) side one and a side two that’s close to it, this early Black Label stereo pressing has plenty of analog magic in its grooves
  • 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
  • “The surging, compelling, thoroughly earthy sound of this orchestra, led by CANNONBALL ADDERLEY and including as impressive a roster of jazz stars as has ever been assembled, has already been responsible for a major breakthrough on the musical front… Quickly and enthusiastically accepted by a wide public, it leaped almost overnight into the bestseller category.

Vintage original covers for this album are hard to find in clean shape. Most of them will have at least some amount of ringwear, seam wear and edge wear. We guarantee that the cover we supply with this Hot Stamper is at least VG, and it will probably be VG+. If you are picky about your covers please let us know in advance so that we can be sure we have a nice cover for you. (more…)

Wes Montgomery – In The Wee Small Hours (aka Fusion! Wes Montgomery with Strings)

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  • Montgomery’s wonderful 1963 release finally makes its Hot Stamper debut here with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it throughout
  • Exceptionally spacious and three-dimensional, as well as relaxed and full-bodied, this reissue pressing had better sound than any original
  • As you can imagine, harmonically rich, clear, clean strings (or the lack of them) separated the winners from the losers pretty quickly
  • 4 stars: “As with his later albums, Montgomery’s guitar solos here are brief and melodic but the jazz content is fairly high even if the emphasis is (with the exception of “Tune Up”) on ballads.”

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Charlie Byrd – Latin Impressions

More Charlie Byrd

More Bossa Nova

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  • An incredible sounding copy with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from the first note to the last; exceptionally quiet vinyl too!
  • These sides are doing everything right — clean, clear and spacious with tons of space around all of the players and a lovely bottom end
  • “Having been a major part of Stan Getz’s very popular Jazz Samba album, it was only fitting that guitarist Charlie Byrd would start recording his own bossa nova records… Byrd and his trio are augmented on some selections by strings, extra percussion, plus horns. In reality the background musicians are not needed since Byrd was at the top of his form in those days.”

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Kenny Dorham / Cannonball Adderley – Blue Spring

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  • Dorham and Adderley’s 1959 collaboration finally arrives on the site with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on side two with an outstanding Double Plus (A++) side one 
  • This superb recording is huge and lively with startling dynamics and in-the-room-presence like nothing you’ve heard
  • The trumpet and saxophone are so full-bodied and Tubey Magical you won’t believe it – where is that sound today?
  • 4 stars: “The set features plenty of Dorham’s varied and sophisticated horn work and four of his top-drawer originals. The theme is spring… Essential listening for Dorham fans.”

*CONDITION NOTES:

  • On side two, A mark makes 10 moderately light to light ticks three-quarter inches into track 3, Passion Spring.

To find a clean, 1959 Riverside pressing on the early Blue Label with vinyl any quieter and no groove damage whatsoever strikes us as practically impossible. This is the first pressing in audiophile playing quality we have ever seen, and we may never see its like again.

Jack Higgins was the engineer for these sessions. He recorded Chet Baker’s brilliant Chet album the same year, as well as another favorite of ours here at Better Records, Wynton Kelly’s wonderful (and very good sounding on ’80s OJC) Kelly Blue. (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…)

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.”

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Charlie Byrd – Byrd at the Gate – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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

This is a nice Early Riverside pressing with excellent sound! It’s also a title Mobile Fidelity ruined, and having just played this record, I can see hear how they did it.

First of all, the guitar and the drums are tonally right on the money. Mobile Fidelity of course brightened up both and the results are a phony sounding guitar and a phony sounding drum kit, with tizzy cymbals. (The Wes Montgomery MoFi title has many of the same faults, but it’s not quite as bad as this one.)   

The other reason the Mobile Fidelity is such a joke is that this recording inherently has a lot of ill-defined bass. Since Half-Speed mastering causes a loss of bass definition, their pressing is even WORSE in this respect.

Mobile Fidelity rarely understood what an acoustic guitar was supposed to sound like. They blew it on all the Cat Stevens masterpieces, brightening up the guitar which emphasized the “picking” at the expense of the resonating guitar body and vibrating string harmonics.

What makes Byrd At The Gate a good record is the natural acoustic guitar tone. Once you screw that up, what’s left?

An audiophile record. For audiophiles who like phony sounding guitars. Riverside cut this record, and they knew how to cut it right.