Older Reviews – Jazz

Oscar Peterson Trio – The Trio – Live From Chicago – Our Shootout Winner from 2009

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

Boy, these original Strobe Label (and T label) Verve pressings are sure all over the map. If there’s one jazz label that gets an F for consistency, it’s Verve. And they typically get an F (or at best a D) for mastering as well, since good sounding Verve pressings are few and far between. I guess that should not come as much of a surprise to many of our long time customers, but to hear how bad some of these pressings are mastered is nevertheless pretty shocking. One of the Strobe label copies we played had such a boosted top end it was positively distorted. (The RIAA curve does not allow that kind of top end boost without causing serious problems.)  

Lucky for you, dear reader, we found a copy that had the tubey magic and transparency that really lets this live jazz album transport you back in time to a small club in Chicago in the ’60s. (Some of the talking patrons won’t even shut up for the likes of Oscar Peterson!)

As we mentioned above, some copies are poorly mastered, so poorly that Ray Brown’s bass all but disappears from the trio! Other copies made Thigpen’s snare sound hard and too forward in the mix. This is obviously just a mastering EQ problem, since the good copies, such as this one, get all those elements to balance beautifully. (more…)

Herbie Hancock – Maiden Voyage

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises.

Freddie Hubbard on this album is nothing short of astonishing. I remember playing around with the stereo one day, listening for different effects as I made minor changes to the tracking weight, the VTA, adjustments to the Hallographs and the like, and at one point I noticed that the ensemble seemed to be really coherently connected, each of the players balanced with all the others. 

It was a striking effect and it made me realize that musical values can often be overlooked while chasing after audiophile effects of one kind or another. Hearing the ensemble come together made me appreciate this album even more.

Tony Williams on the drums here deserves a special nod. His cymbal work on the first track is original and spontaneous in the best tradition of jazz improvisation. (more…)

Art Pepper – So In Love

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So In Love

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

Baker Bigsby, one of our favorite engineers, recorded about half the album at Kendun right here in LA, specifically the songs Blues For Blanche, So In Love and Stardust. Is there a difference in the sound of those tracks compared to the others on the album? We’ll leave that little game to be played by those of you who are so inclined.  (more…)

Gerry Mulligan & Stan Getz – Gerry Mulligan Meets Stan Getz – Reviewed in 2011

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

This is a very nice looking Verve Trumpeter Label Mono LP from 1957. Side one is wonderful and has the better sound here. It has more extension up top; the baritone sax is especially well reproduced.

Both sides of course have somewhat tubby bass, the type that characterizes all tube recordings from the ’50s and ’60s. Side two is a bit more veiled. The midrange is as musical as it is on side one but has less top end and therefore comes across as kind of dull. Musical and involving, but not as lively as it could be.

Supposedly the stereo pressings of this album are full of added echo, which is the reason Steve Hoffman chose to release the mono version of the album on gold CD for DCC back in the day. It’s one of our favorite DCC CDs; Steve did his usual top quality mastering on it.

Sonny Rollins – Rollins (2 LPs) – Our Shootout Winner from 2008

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

[We used to like this record a whole lot more than we do now. Based on what we heard last time we played it, I would not recommend it.]

This Prestige Two-Fer Double LP boasts EXCELLENT SOUND, right up there with some the best sounding copies we’ve played. Three sides out of four sounded surprisingly good, which is three good sides more than the average copy can claim. Oddly enough, the stampers are identical. Sample to sample variation? Fresh off the stamper transparency? Who’s to say? I can’t explain it, but I know a better record when I play one. This copy is clearly more transparent, no pun intended. It’s also been through our extensive cleaning process, which as you can imagine helps the sound immeasurably.  (more…)

Freddie Hubbard – Hub-Tones – Reviewed in 2007

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

This Blue Note reissue LP has SUPERB SOUND AND QUIET VINYL! Freddie’s trumpet sounds Right On The Money — breathy and full-bodied with clearly audible leading edge transients. The overall sound is tonally correct with extended highs and super low distortion. It’s open and spacious and wonderfully dynamic. I don’t think there’s anything you could do to this music to make it sound much better than this!

The reason this copy has such transparency and such an extended top end compared with other copies is due, to some degree, to better cutting equipment. I’ve never heard an original with this kind of resolution, these leading edge transients, this kind of bass definition, and on and on. Collectors pay big bucks for original copies that don’t sound nearly as good as this one. 

AMG Review

“Trumpeter Freddie Hubbard teams up on record with James Spaulding (who doubles on alto and flute) for the first time on this excellent set, with the assistance of pianist Herbie Hancock, bassist Reggie Workman, and drummer Clifford Jarvis. The quintet performs four of the trumpeter’s originals (including “Lament for Booker” and the title cut) plus an advanced version of the standard “You’re My Everything.” John Coltrane’s modal music was starting to influence Hubbard’s conception and his own playing was pushing the modern mainstream ahead without really entering the avant-garde.”

Miles Davis – Sketches of Spain – Mono Shootout Winner in 2008

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

This Mono Six Eye Columbia original pressing is the WINNER and [not-at-all] CURRENT CHAMPION of our Sketches of Spain shootouts. This record always sounded so thin and aggressive, with Miles’ horn always somewhat pinched and sour, but now it sounds wonderful. Who knew this record could sound so good?

Harry Pearson put this record on his TAS List of Super Discs.

Let’s talk about this mono copy. It is clearly more transparent, with less distortion, than any other copy we heard (and this means out of more than twenty!) There may be better sounding pressings out there, but I would be surprised to find one that would be more than a marginal improvement over what I’m hearing on this copy — and that goes for both sides. (more…)

Hampton Hawes – Everybody Likes Hampton Hawes

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

This hard-to-find ’70s Contemporary reissue pressing of the 1956 mono recording has EXCELLENT sound, with both sides earning grades of A+ to A++. We don’t run into Hawes’ LPs the way we used to, so it was indeed a delight to find enough copies of this album to do a shootout.

Note how correct the sound of the instruments is on both sides. This is the unquestionably the hallmark of any Contemporary recording: correct instrumental timbre.

Side One

A+ to A++, with correct mids and bass but lacking some top end. As the record plays, however, the top comes into play, an effect we notice more and more often these days.

If you have a “tubey” system this record will be a knockout. It needs some of that sound to work its magic.

Side Two

A+ to A++, and not that different from side one. This side could use more top and it lacks the last word in transparency. Notice how at the beginning the piano sounds slightly thin, but when the bass comes in under it everything balances out correctly. (more…)

Sonny Rollins Quintet – Rollins Plays For Bird – Live and Learn

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Rollins Plays For Bird

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Previously we had written:

“This is one of the BEST Sonny Rollins records around! Nobody seems to know anything about it but let me tell you, this is Rollins at his BEST. The sound is also EXCELLENT.”

Recently we played the OJC pictured here and did not care for the sound in the least, too thin and lacking in the Tubey Magic of the earlier pressings.

Live and learn! (more…)

Lee Morgan – Search For The New Land – Reviewed in 2008

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

This QUIET, hard-to-find Blue Note Blue Label LP has EXCELLENT SOUND AND MUSIC! It’s transparent, open and spacious with deep, tight bass. The piano has nice weight to it and the trumpet has the right amount of bite.

The lineup here is fantastic, including Grant Green, Herbie Hancock, Billy Higgins, Wayne Shorter, and Reginald Workman.