Masterworks of Jazz

Charles Mingus – Mingus Ah Um

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More Vintage Columbia Pressings

  • Don’t let the Columbia Red Label scare you off – this pressing boasts excellent Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides
  • Most of the later pressings sound as bad as you would expect, but if you know your stamper numbers, gems like this one will come your way eventually
  • A superb 30th Street Studio recording by the legendary Fred Plaut – if you like Kind of Blue, here’s another album with that sound (same year, same studio, same engineer)
  • The rich, sweet, spacious sound of the vintage tubes used to record the session is reproduced faithfully here – without that sound, it would just not be Ah Um
  • 5 stars: “Mingus Ah Um is a stunning summation of the bassist’s talents and probably the best reference point for beginners… Mingus’ compositions and arrangements were always extremely focused, assimilating individual spontaneity into a firm consistency of mood, and that approach reaches an ultra-tight zenith on Mingus Ah Um”

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Vince Guaraldi – Jazz Impressions of Black Orpheus

Reviews and Commentaries for Vince Guaraldi

More Jazz Recordings Featuring the Piano

  • An outstanding copy of this classic audiophile favorite with Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last – fairly quiet for a vintage vinyl pressing on Fantasy Deep Groove vinyl too
  • You’d be hard-pressed to find a copy that’s this well balanced, yet big and lively, with such wonderful clarity in the mids and highs
  • Sublime, practically magical jazz trio sound (and music!) that belongs in every audiophile’s collection
  • If you made the mistake of buying any pressing made in the last forty years, on any label, here is your chance to finally hear this wonderful music sound the way it was meant to
  • And if this strikes you as too much money to spend on the album, don’t buy an LP, buy Hoffmann’s Gold CD, it’s wonderful
  • 5 stars: “Here is Vince Guaraldi’s breakthrough album — musically, commercially, in every which way… The whole album evokes the ambience of San Francisco’s jazz life in the 1960s as few others do.”

Great energy for this jazz classic. This quality cannot be emphasized enough — it’s critically important to the music.

The best copies really get the bottom right. They bring out the contribution of the bass player better, the bass being essential to the rhythm of the music. On these pressings, the bass is so tight and note-like, you can see right into the soundstage and practically watch Monte Budwig play.

This is precisely where the 45 RPM pressing goes off the rails. The bloated, much-too-heavy and poorly-defined bass of the Heavy Vinyl remaster makes a mess of the Brazillian and African rhythms inherent in the music. If you own that $50 waste of money, believe me, you will not be tapping your foot to “Cast Your Fate to the Wind” or “Manha de Carnival.”

If you happen to have a friend with that title in his collection, ask to take a peek at it. I’ll bet it’s pristine. Bad records don’t get played much. Some audiophiles have complained that we spend too much time bashing Heavy Vinyl, but if ever a record deserved it, it’s that one. It’s a failure as a remastering and an insult to the analog buying audiophile public at large. Searching the web, I am glad to see that no one seems to have anything nice to say about it, as of this writing. No one should, but that has not deterred the reviewers and forum posters in the past.

The piano is solid, mostly clear and not hard. Not many copies present the piano this way — correctly in other words. The amazing snare of Colin Bailey in the right channel is LIVELY and fun like you’ve never heard before.

There is no sacrifice in fullness, richness or Tubey Magic in the presentation, and that is the right sound for this music.

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Gene Ammons – Blue Gene

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More Jazz Recordings Featuring the Saxophone

  • This wonderful Prestige jazz classic boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on both sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • One of the best sounding Ammons records we know of – it’s huge, rich and Tubey Magical, with a solid bottom end and bluesy jazz energy like no other
  • Clean and clear and open are nice qualities to have, but rich and full are harder to come by on this record – this pressing has it all
  • “Some ballad performances in his oeuvre are a testament to an exceptional sense of intonation and melodic symmetry, powerful lyrical expressiveness, and mastery both of the blues and the bebop vernacular that can now be described as, in its own way, ‘classical.'”

For us audiophiles, both the sound and the music here are wonderful. If you’re looking to demonstrate just how good a 1958 All Tube Analog recording by Rudy Van Gelder on Prestige can sound, this killer copy will do the trick.

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Shelly Manne and his Friends – My Fair Lady on the Black Label

  • The piano sounds lifelike right from the start – a beautiful instrument in a natural space, tonally correct from top to bottom
  • Here is the proof that this is an Demo Disc Quality Recording for Contemporary, which is saying a lot, considering how many great recordings this label can claim
  • Recorded entirely in one session, this album was the first jazz recording using only songs from a Broadway musical
  • 5 stars: “This trio set by Shelly Manne & His Friends… was a surprise best-seller and is now considered a classic…The result is a very appealing set that is easily recommended.”

This vintage Contemporary Stereo LP from has DEMO DISC QUALITY SOUND.

It’s all tube, live-to-two-track direct from the Contemporary studio. It’s pretty much everything you want in a recording from this era.

How can you beat a Roy DuNann piano trio recording? The timbre of the instruments is so spot-on it makes all the hard work and money you’ve put into your stereo more than pay off.

This Shelly Manne album marries Jazz with Broadway in an unexpected, yet sublime union.

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Art Pepper + Eleven – Modern Jazz Classics

Contemporary Jazz Records Available Now

Reviews and Commentaries for Contemporary Jazz

  • A superb vintage Contemporary stereo pressing of this exceptional Art Pepper release from 1960 with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • If you buy only one Large Group Hot Stamper jazz record from us, make it this one – the music is swingin’ fun and the sound is going to blow your mind
  • And that’s doubly true if you own any modern reissue (really, almost any reissue at all to be honest) – this is the kind of sound no later pressing from ANY era can compete with
  • Here is the Tubey Magic of the originals without the problems that too often cause the originals to be opaque and uninvolving
  • A personal favorite – 5 stars: “This is a true classic. Essential music for all serious jazz collections.”

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Benny Carter / Jazz Giant – Is the OJC Really 100x Worse?

More of the Music of Benny Carter

Contemporary Jazz Records Available Now

The OJC versions of Contemporary Records are typically thin and somewhat opaque, as well as tizzy up top, the kind of sound one often hears on CDs (and that CD lovers for some reason never seem to notice).

Some OJC pressings, however, can be excellent when you chance upon the right copy. The pressings that were mastered and put out by Contemporary in the mid-’70s (until they were bought by Fantasy) are almost always superior to the OJCs, but these rules of thumb break down so badly and so often that the only workable approach is just to play as many different copies of the album as you can get your hands on and simply let them sort themselves out sonically.

This of course is exactly how we conduct our shootouts. We make a lot of mistakes, but when all is said and done, we rarely fail to come up with the goods, the goods being phenomenal sounding pressings of important music, pressings that are dramatically superior to any others.

Although we’ve liked the OJC of Jazz Giant in the past, last time around the OJC versions were quite a bit smaller and less energetic than our “real” Contemporary stereo pressings. They were a big step down from our killer shootout winner.

The notes read “100x better” if that tells you anything (!)

A clear case of Live and Learn.

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The Mastersounds – Swinging With The Mastersounds

Potentially Good Sounding OJC Pressings

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

  • The Mastersounds’ 1960 release finally arrives on the site with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on side two and an outstanding Double Plus (A++) side one – exceptionally quiet Red Vinyl too   
  • These sides are doing everything right — full, clear, and solid, with the Tubey Magical Midrange that can only be found on recordings from this era
  • If you’re a fan of the Modern Jazz Quartet, you may feel as I do that the Mastersounds’ Montgomery brothers on vibes and bass play this kind of smooth jazz much better than the often-sleepy MJQ
  • “Swinging With the Mastersounds is accurately titled; its six tracks are all standards, and all are taken at a gentle, loping tempo and spin out sweetly…”

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 and ’80s. We are of course here referring to the good modern mastering of 35+ years ago, not the generally opaque, veiled and lifeless mastering so common today. (more…)

Charles Mingus – Pre-Bird

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More Jazz Recordings

  • You’ll find INSANELY GOOD Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound throughout this original Mercury Stereo LP, only the second time this pressing has made it to the site
  • We used to think the early Limelight pressing was impossible to beat, but this killer original Mercury showed us just how wrong we were – it takes the recording to another level
  • This copy sounds like a big room full of musicians (25 in all!) playing live, which is exactly what it was
  • The Tubey Magical richness of this 1960 recording (released in 1961, and again in 1965 as Mingus Revisited) is breathtaking – no modern record can touch it
  • Two tracks are contrapuntal arrangements of two swing era pieces, whereby “Take the “A” Train” (left channel) is paired with a simultaneous “Exactly Like You” (right channel), and likewise “Do Nothin’ Till You Hear From Me” with “I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart”.

The best copies recreate a live studio space the size of which you will not believe (assuming your room can do a good job of recreating their room). The sound is tonally correct, Tubey Magical and above all natural. The timbre of each and every instrument is right and it doesn’t take a pair of golden ears to hear it -so high-resolution too.

If you love ’50s and ’60s jazz you cannot go wrong here. Mingus was a genius and the original music on this record is just one more album’s worth of proof of the undeniability of that fact.

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Dave Brubeck Quartet – Time Further Out (Mono)

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Mono or Stereo? Both Can Be Good

  • With superb Double Plus (A++) sound throughout, this vintage 6-Eye Mono pressing will be very hard to beat – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • It’s extremely unlikely that any mono pressing will win a shootout, but just to keep us on our toes, we like to put some monos of famous albums in our shootouts from time to time to see how they measure up
  • This 2+ early pressing was the best of the bunch, and it’s guaranteed to beat the pants off any modern Heavy Vinyl pressing ever made
  • These sides are so Tubey Magical, rich, full-bodied and warm, yet clear, lively and dynamic
  • This copy demonstrates the big-as-life Fred Plaut Columbia Sound at its best – better even than Time Out(!)
  • 4 1/2 stars: “The selections, which range in time signatures from 5/4 to 9/8, are handled with apparent ease (or at least not too much difficulty) by pianist Brubeck, altoist Paul Desmond, bassist Eugene Wright, and drummer Joe Morello on this near-classic.”
  • Mono or Stereo? Both Can Be Good

Time Further Out is consistently more varied and, dare we say, more musically interesting than Time Out.

If you want to hear big drums in a big room, these Brubeck recordings will show you that sound better than practically any record we know of. These vintage recordings are full-bodied, spacious, three-dimensional, rich, sweet and warm in the best tradition of an All Tube Analog recording.

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Freddie Hubbard – Red Clay

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  • With Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides, we guarantee you’ve never heard Red Clay sound remotely as good as it does here
  • It’s one of our Five Favorite CTI albums – Red Clay is Hubbard’s Soul Jazz Masterpiece, and it’s a record that belongs in every audiophile’s jazz collection
  • The Shootout Winning pressings always have these stampers, but there was an acetate or metalwork problem that is audible on the second track of side one, heard as grittier sound and more ticky vinyl – a small price to pay for the best sound of such great music
  • Lenny White drums up a storm on this album – on this copy he is playing right in the room with you
  • 5 stars: “This may be Freddie Hubbard’s finest moment as a leader, in that it embodies and utilizes all of his strengths as a composer, soloist, and frontman. [It] places the trumpeter in the company of giants such as saxophonist Joe Henderson, pianist Herbie Hancock, bassist Ron Carter, and drummer Lenny White… This is a classic, hands down.”
  • We’ve recently compiled a list of records we think every audiophile should get to know better, along the lines of “the 1001 records you need to hear before you die,” but with less of an accent on morbidity and more on the joy these amazing audiophile-quality recordings can bring to your life. Red Clay is a good example of a record most audiophiles may not know well but should.
  • If you’re a Hubbard fan, or perhaps a fan of early-’70s Soul Jazz, this title from 1970 is surely a Must Own.
  • The complete list of titles from 1970 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here

Hubbard was a master of funky jazz, and the song Red Clay is arguably the funkiest jazz track he ever committed to tape. At 12 minutes in length it is a transcendentally powerful experience — and the bigger your speakers and the louder you turn them up the more moving that experience is going to be!

The intro to Red Clay begins with a stylized free-form jam, sounding like a bop-jazz band of old, then takes form and solidifies into a groove of monstrous proportions. Ron Carter’s bass playing is stellar! We rated this side Single to Double Plus. It’s big and lively with tons of presence and energy.

Like many of our funky favorites, this one was eventually sampled for a popular hip-hop song. That may not mean much to you, but it definitely means that nice copies of this album get swiped up quickly by young DJs and producers. (more…)