Masterpieces of Jazz

Mose Allison – Mose Alive!

Hot Stamper Pressings that Sound Their Best on the Right Early Pressing

Records We’ve Reviewed that Sound Their Best on the Right Early Pressings

  • An outstanding copy of this wonderful live album, with solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • This copy is full-bodied and natural, with a nicely extended top end, plenty of space around the instruments, and relatively few of the problems that plague many of the pressings we played
  • “Allison was one of the finest songwriters in blues of the 20th and early 21st centuries.” – All Music Bio

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Grover Washington, Jr. – All The King’s Horses

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More Jazz Recordings Featuring the Saxophone

  • Washington’s sophomore release finally returns to the site with STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides
  • There’s so much life in these grooves – the sound jumps out of the speakers right into your lap
  • Credit must go to Rudy Van Gelder for recording and mastering this album so well, and to Bob James for his brilliant big group arrangements
  • We cannot recommend this album highly enough – if you have the big speakers a big group of musicians need to perform live in your listening room, his record is going to be nothing less than a thrill
  • 4 stars: “. . . this set has assumed its proper place in Washington’s catalog: as one of his more ambitious and expertly performed sessions.”
  • If you’re a Grover Washington fan, this is a Must Own Classic from 1972 that belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1972 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

Both sides of this original Kudu pressing are OUT OF THIS WORLD. The sweetness and transparency of Grover Washington Jr.’s breathy sax went beyond any copy we’ve ever played. Who knew it could sound like this? We sure didn’t!

It’s spacious and full of life with virtually no distortion. Of special note, this copy has amazingly articulate bass which brings out the undeniable funkiness of the music in a way that no other copy did.

The early ’70s were a good time for Rudy Van Gelder. All the King’s Men from 1973 is an amazing Demo Disc for a large group. But it only sounds good on the copies that it sounds good on, on the pressings that were mastered, pressed and cleaned right, a fact that has eluded most jazz vinyl aficionados interested in good sound.

But not us. We’ve played the very special pressings that prove the album can sound amazing. (more…)

Sonny Rollins – Saxophone Colossus

  • An incredible sounding copy and one that we rarely have on the site — rich, full-bodied, Tubey Magical and super dynamic with tight note-like bass and a lovely clear and natural top end
  • About as quiet a vintage copy as we are ever likely to find – this pressing plays Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus, which in our experience is practically a miracle
  • 5 Stars: “Sonny Rollins recorded many memorable sessions during 1954-1958, but Saxophone Colossus is arguably his finest all-around set… Essential music”

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Paul Quinichette – On The Sunny Side, a Wonderful OJC Pressing from the ’80s

Here Are Some Not Very Good Sounding OJC Pressings

  • Both sides of this long out of print OJC title boast lively, big and clear Double Plus (A++) sound quality
  • With three saxophones and a trombone, this is a fresh combination that really brings out the best in all the players during this Prestige jam session, a format for which they are justly famous
  • I raved about this album when it was in print many years ago – it’s solidly swinging jazz that belongs in your collection
  • Allmusic 4 Stars: “Waldron’s three originals (highlighted by “Cool-Lypso”) allow plenty of room for swinging, and Quinichette (who also performs “On the Sunny Side of the Street”) sounds comfortable interacting with the younger musicians. An enjoyable and underrated release.”

As I wrote years ago, back in the days when we regularly sent out catalog mailings:

When we discover a record like this, a record with no reputation either in the jazz world or the audiophile world, we try to bring it to people’s attention, usually with some success. Some of my customers called me up to tell me what a great record this is.

Based on what I’m hearing my feeling is that most of the lively, natural, full-bodied, sound of the album is on the master tape, and that all that was needed to get that vintage sound correctly on to disc was simply to thread up that tape on a reasonably good machine and hit play.

The fact that nobody seems to be able to make an especially good sounding record — certainly not as good sounding as this one — these days 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.

George Horn was doing brilliant work for Fantasy all through the ’80s. This album is proof that his sound is the right sound for this music. (more…)

Cannonball Adderley / Somethin’ Else

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More Miles Davis

Reviews and Commentaries for Somethin’ Else

  • A triumph for Rudy Van Gelder, a Top Blue Note title, and as much a showcase for Miles Davis as it is for Cannonball
  • The best sides of this album had as much energy, presence, dynamics and three-dimensional studio space as any jazz recording we have ever played
  • 5 stars: “Both horn players are at their peak of lyrical invention, crafting gorgeous, flowing blues lines.”
  • “…signs of Milesian influence are the calm, conversational delivery of the title track and the newfound lyricism in Adderley’s playing that followed from his nightly experience at the trumpeter’s side.”

The music here is simply amazing, but the good news for us audiophiles is that it’s also one of the BEST SOUNDING BLUE NOTE ALBUMS we know of, if not The Best. (more…)

Milt Jackson Quintet – That’s The Way It Is

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

  • You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound and fairly quiet vinyl on both sides of this is a killer live jazz album from Shelly’s Manne-Hole
  • Big, rich and real, with the kind of relaxed Tubey Magical sound that not many live albums achieve
  • Wally Heider engineered and he knocked it out of the park – You Are There, and even better, it’s 1969
  • “This is not experimental jazz. It’s beyond that, or as they say in New York, outside that. This is solid, rooted, sweet-smelling earth of an enduring style, as played by masters.”

We dropped the needle on a copy of this record last year and could hardly believe how good it sounded. So rich, so tubey, so big and clear – this is one of the best Impulse records we have played in a very long time.

It’s clearly another “sleeper” discovered by your friends here at Better Records. Who else is finding vintage albums with this kind of sound and music? (more…)

Carlos Montoya – From St. Lous to Seville

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Living Stereo Titles Available Now

  • . A stunning Triple Plus side one backed with a better than Double Plus side two
    . Flamenco Meets Jazz in this extraordinary recording, and it works
    . The Three-Dimensional space and Tubey Magic are jaw-dropping on this copy
    . An amazing Webster Hall Living Stereo All Analog recording from 1958 – nothing else sounds like it

Ed Begley is the engineer here and he knocked this one out of the park. What an amazing sounding Living Stereo recording. Need a refresher course in tubey magic after playing too many modern recordings or remasterings? This record is overflowing with it. Rich, clear, natural, sweet, overflowing with space and ambience, absolutely correct tonality — it’s all here.

The Rhythm Accompaniment is made up of three top players from New York. Sally Montoya noted at the time: “Carlos just recorded the first Flamenco jazz record for Victor, with Osie Johnson and Milt Hinton and Barry Galbraith on electric guitar. A most relaxed and informal session. The other musicians said it was unique in their experience.”

It’s certainly a unique record in my experience, with mind-blowingly good sound and engaging music. (more…)

Weather Report – Heavy Weather

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More Fusion Jazz

  • With outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it from start to finish, you will not believe how BIG and BOLD this copy is
  • Birdland on this pressing has some of the most dynamic, wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling, jam-packed sound ever committed to vinyl
  • Joe Zawinul and Jaco Pastorius are both here and at the absolute peak of their creative powers – this is a work of GENIUS
  • 5 stars: ”Birdland’ is a remarkable bit of record-making, a unified, ever-developing piece of music that evokes, without in any way imitating, a joyous evening on 52nd St. with a big band.”

The hottest of the hot stamper pressings demonstrate that this is a truly amazing recording, with some of the most dynamic, wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling jam-packed sound ever committed to vinyl. The grit, grain and grunge of most pressings is nowhere to be found on these killer sides, and that alone puts them in a very special league indeed. (more…)

John Klemmer – Touch

  • With excellent Double Plus (A++) grades on both sides, this is an outstanding copy of the best MoFi title to ever hit the site – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Musically and sonically this is the pinnacle of Klemmer’s smooth jazz – we know of none better
  • The best sounding Smooth – But Real – Jazz Album ever made, and the only vintage MoFi we know of that deserves a place in your collection
  • “Klemmer sets up the mellow grooves that we have come to associate with smooth jazz. But there are no cliche blues licks, none of the crap that players in this genre try to foist upon as “hip.””

This wonderful copy of Touch is probably the best sounding record Mobile Fidelity ever made, and the only record of theirs I know of that can’t be beaten by a standard real-time mastered pressing.

We’re talking Demo Disc quality sound here. The spaciousness of the studio and the three-dimensional placement of the myriad percussion instruments and bells within its walls make this something of an audiophile spectacular of a different kind — dreamy and intensely emotional.

Shocking as it may be, Mobile Fidelity, maker of some of the worst sounding records in the history of audio, is truly the king on this title.

Klemmer says pure emotion is what inspired the album’s creation. Whatever he tapped into to find the source of that inspiration he really hit paydirt with Touch. It’s the heaviest smooth jazz ever recorded. Musically and sonically, this is the pinnacle of Klemmer’s smooth jazz body of work. I know of none better. (If you want to hear him play more straight-ahead jazz try Straight from the Heart on Nautilus.) (more…)

Jimmy Smith / Bashin’ – The Unpredictable Jimmy Smith

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  • An outstanding copy of this Big Band Jazz classic led by Jimmy Smith with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER throughout
  • If you own only one Jimmy Smith album, make it this one – with Oliver Nelson’s arrangements ferociously blasting away, at good loud levels the first side here has the power to swing like you will not believe
  • 5 stars: “On the first half of the program, Smith was for the first time joined by a big band. Oliver Nelson provided the arrangements, trumpeter Joe Newman and altoist Phil Woods have a solo apiece, and “Walk on the Wild Side” became Smith’s biggest hit up to that point.”

This is tube mastering at its finest. Not many vintage tube-mastered records manage to balance all the sonic elements as correctly as this copy does.

For us audiophiles both the sound and the music here are enchanting. If you’re looking to demonstrate just how good 1962 All Tube Analog sound can be, this killer copy will do the trick. (more…)