Labels We Love – Riverside

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.

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…)

Jimmy Heath – Swamp Seed

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  • Jimmy Heath makes his site debut here with this superb Riverside Black Label stereo pressing of his 1963 album, which boasts Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish
  • With Donald Byrd on trumpet and Herbie Hancock on piano (as well as French horns and a tuba!), this is a fun session with top players 
  • Based on what we’re heard, this is an outstanding recording – the top opens up nicely and there’s plenty of space in the studio, giving all the players room to breathe
  • “This is a delightful if underrated set… The multi-talented Jimmy Heath has many consistently rewarding and distinctive tenor saxophone solos..

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Wes Montgomery – California Dreaming – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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

This White Hot Stamper Shootout Winner 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 on side one! Since this is one of Wes’s best albums, hearing this side one was a THRILL for us and will no doubt be as big a thrill for you too.   

Beware any and all imitations (even the one I 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 spaciousnesss, with far more energy and the kind of “see into the studio” quality that only the real thing ever seems to have. 

Wall to Wall

Note especially how so much musical information is coming from the far sides of the soundfield. The Cisco reissue makes a mockery of that wall to wall sound, sucking it into the middle and flattening it into a single plane. Ugh.

To be fair — and I always am — the Cisco did beat and will beat the pants off of practically any copy you run across. There is a very simple explanation for this: Verve is probably the most poorly mastered label in the history of the world. No other label produced so many wonderful sounding recordings that were turned into lousy sounding LPs — I could list them for days. We rarely even pick up most Verves, having been burned so many times we just can’t face another badly mastered noisy LP. (more…)

Sonny Rollins – The Sound of Sonny – Reviewed in 2007

More Sonny Rollins

Sound of Sonny

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

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. (more…)

Wes Montgomery – Boss Guitar

More Wes Montgomery

More Boss Guitar

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

This is one of Wes Montgomery’s best albums from his prime ’60s period, if not THE best. Rich and full-bodied but clear and spacious, the 1963 All Tube Analog sound is perfect for Wes’s organ trio format.  (more…)

Wes Montgomery – The Alternative Wes Montgomery

More Wes Montgomery

More the Alternative Wes Montgomery

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

This Milestone Two-Fer LP with EXCELLENT sound has 14 unreleased alternate versions of songs recorded in a variety of settings by guitarist Wes Montgomery during his period with Riverside. In many cases, the versions here are dramatically different from the versions that appear on his original albums.  (more…)