Older Reviews – Jazz

The Ray Brown Trio – Soular Energy

This Concord Jazz LP has excellent sound.

There is also a half-speed mastered audiophile version of this record cut by Stan Ricker himself.

Now hold on: half-speed mastering by its very nature causes a dramatic loss of bass definition, not to mention the fact that much of the deep bass usually goes completely missing. This is a record built around the sound of Ray Brown’s double bass. Do you really want the lowest octave of bass to disappear and the bass above it to turn to mud on a record that features a bass player as its leader? It’s crazy, right?

I’ve never heard the half-speed and don’t plan to track one down in order to audition it, but I guarantee you that this “full-speed” mastered version will blow the doors off any version mastered by Stan Ricker.

There is plenty of commentary on the website about his incompetent mastering and I recommend you take a moment to read some of it before you buy any half-speed mastered record. (We of course do not offer such records, with the exception of John Klemmer’s Touch, which is a half-speed mastered record that actually does sound good, superb in fact.)

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Milt Jackson & Wes Montgomery / Bags Meets Wes!

More Wes Montgomery

More Jazz Recordings Featuring the Guitar

These two guys were made for each other; they have the same musical sensibilities.

Credit must also go to Wynton Kelly; his every solo is a thing of beauty. The three principals here are at the tops of their games and the sound will have you drooling. Good luck finding a more involving and enjoyable jazz record with this kind of sound — they just aren’t out there. That’s why, even with some surface problems, we think you are getting your money’s worth and more with this one.

If you’re a jazz fan, this Must Own Title from 1962 belongs in your collection

The complete list of titles from 1962 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.


This is an Older Jazz Review.

Most of the older reviews you see are for records that did not go through the shootout process, the revolutionary approach to finding better sounding pressings we developed in the early 2000s and have since turned into a fine art.

We found the records you see in these older listings by cleaning and playing a pressing or two of the album, which we then described and priced based on how good the sound and surfaces were. (For out Hot Stamper listings, the Sonic Grades and Vinyl Playgrades are listed separately.)

We were often wrong back in those days, something we have no reason to hide. Audio equipment and record cleaning technologies have come a long way since those darker days, a subject we discuss here.

Currently, 99% (or more!) of the records we sell are cleaned, then auditioned under rigorously controlled conditions, up against a number of other pressings. We award them sonic grades, and then condition check them for surface noise.

As you may imagine, this approach requires a great deal of time, effort and skill, which is why we currently have a highly trained staff of about ten. No individual or business without the aid of such a committed group could possibly dig as deep into the sound of records as we have, and it is unlikely that anyone besides us could ever come along to do the kind of work we do.

The term “Hot Stampers” gets thrown around a lot these days, but to us it means only one thing: a record that has been through the shootout process and found to be of exceptionally high quality.

The result of our labor is the hundreds of titles seen here, every one of which is unique and guaranteed to be the best sounding copy of the album you have ever heard or you get your money back.

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Benny Carter / Meets Oscar Peterson – A Pablo We Liked Back in the Day

We used to like this record back in the day. Have not played it in 15 years so it’s hard to say what we would think of it now. Probably still pretty good, somewhere in the B range.

“Benny Carter had recorded with pianist Oscar Peterson back in the early ’50s for Norman Granz’s Verve label. More than 30 years, later he teamed up with Peterson again, this time for Granz’s Pablo company. There was no sign of decline or disillusionment in either of the co-leaders’ playing; in fact, if anything, they had improved with age. Joined by guitarist Joe Pass, bassist Dave Young and drummer Martin Drew, Carter and Peterson are both in a joyous mood and in typically swinging form on six standards and a blues.” — AMG (more…)

Tsuyoshi Yamamoto / Misty – Stick with the Real Japanese Pressings

More of Our Best Audiophile Recordings with Actual Audiophile Quality Sound

This is a highly recommended Three Blind Mice LP. We don’t like most Three Blind Mice albums, or jazz played by practically anyone who is not American. (Ever played Jazz at the Pawnshop? If so, did you enjoy your nap?)

But we like the music of Yamamoto well enough to recommend some of it. Midnight Sugar might actually be his most enjoyable album of them all.

The Heavy Vinyl versions are not as good, although the 45 RPM pressing probably comes the closest to the real Japanese pressing we review here. Anything pressed at RTI is rarely better than second rate and should be avoided if at all possible.

We almost never like records Made In Japan that were not recorded in Japan. There are of course a few exceptions.

This was the first Three Blind Mice recording I ever heard, over 20 [now close to 40] years ago. A fellow audiophile who went on to become sort of an audio guru for me (George Louis) played me this recording to demonstrate his stereo. It had to be the most dynamic piano recording I had ever heard in my life. 

Yamamoto likes to tinkle the keys very softly, and then really pound them. And the Three Blind Mice engineers were able to capture both the quiet tinkling because of the Japanese vinyl, and the full-on pounding because of the audiophile recording equipment they used. It was an ear-opening experience.

Over the course of the next year or two, I sold off my Fulton Premiers and my Audio Research Electronics, because no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get Misty to sound like it did at George’s house. I realized that it takes better equipment than those companies were making back then to get the sound of that record right, and that put me on, to quote Cat Stevens, ”the road to find out.” (more…)

Andre Previn, Roy DuNann and Howard Holzer Were Hard to Beat in 1957

More Jazz Recordings Featuring the Piano

Contemporary Jazz Records Available Now

The piano sounds uncannily lifelike right from the start, a beautiful instrument in a natural space, tonally correct from top to bottom. I can’t think of many records off the top of my head that get a better piano sound than this one.

Both sides are rich and Tubey Magical in the right way, because they’re still clear and reproduce the space of the room.

Warmth turned out to be key to the sound of the best copies.

When the piano sounds warm and smooth everything else in the recording seems to fall into place.

That was the problem with the OJC pressing we played — like so many of the OJC pressings we have played over the years, we found it to be somewhat thin tonally, with a brittle top end, not remotely the right sound for a vintage Contemporary recording.

With tight, deep bass and an extended top, both sides are analog at its best.

Like we said, ROY DUNANN and HOWARD HOLZER in 1957 are hard to beat.

This is an Older Jazz Review.

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Harry Edison – ’S Wonderful

This date features a couple of my personal favorite all-stars: Shelly Manne and Zoot Sims. Together with Edison they whip up quite a storm, ably supported by Monty Budwig on bass and Mike Wofford on piano.  

AMG  Review

This out-of-print Pablo LP (which will certainly be reissued on CD in the future) is from the later days of the label. Trumpeter Harry “Sweets” Edison was just beginning to fade around this period but he still sounds in fine form, teamed up wtih Zoot Sims (who plays tenor on three and soprano on one of the six selections), pianist Mike Wofford, bassist Monty Budwig and drummer Shelly Manne. They perform the leader’s “Elegante” plus five standards with the highlights including “Centerpiece” (Sweets’ famous blues line) and “Sunday.” Fine swinging mainstream jazz.

Joe Sample / Rainbow Seeker – Live and Learn

A classic case of Live and Learn

Reviews and Commentaries for Mobile Fidelity Records

[This commentary is about fifteen years old.]

Hot Stampers discovered! It took years, decades even, but it FINALLY happened. This copy has a side one with all the sound I always knew must be on the tape but somehow never seemed to make it to the vinyl. This copy has that sound!

Let me backtrack a bit. I’ve been recommending the MOFI for as long as I can remember, because it has always been the only copy that didn’t sound like a bad cassette.

The domestic pressings and imports I had run into over the years had no top end whatsoever, no bass below 50 or 60 cycles, and enough veils over the midrange to cover an entire harem.

The sound was Pure Compressed Cardboard.

The best MOFI copies had an actual top end; a real bottom too. (Not a tight or deep one but that’s MOFI for you.) I’ve always loved the music, so even though the sound was somewhat washed out and lifeless, you could listen to the MOFI and enjoy it for what it was: not perfect, but a whole lot better than the alternatives. (The CD was hopeless by the way, no surprise there.)

Ah, but all that changed this week. I had just picked up a sealed original copy at a local store and was considering putting it up on the site, sealed of course. Then a thought went through my mind. I’ve always loved this record. What if this copy is The One? So I did the unthinkable. I cracked it open, and soon enough the needle was in the groove on my favorite track, Fly With Wings of Love.

To my surprise it had the BEST SOUND I had EVER heard for that song. When all was said and done, when all the copies in the backroom had been disc doctored, along with my three MOFI copies, and each carefully evaluated, sure enough this is the side two that turned out to be the King. I give it an A with Two Pluses. The typical domestic copy gets an F.

Wait, there’s more. So with all our copies cleaned and ready to play, it was now time to play all the side ones. Even more shocking and surprising, one copy had a side one that was OUT OF THIS WORLD. Master tape sound, As Good As It Gets, perfection.

That’s this copy. Side two is pretty good, maybe a B+ or so. Better than average, but no Hot Stamper.

Since this is one of my favorite pop-jazz albums, I can’t recommend this album highly enough. It may not be deep — for real piano trio jazz check out Sample’s The Three — but it’s not trying to be. It is what it is — sophisticated, melodic, well-crafted piano-based easy-going jazz. With the awesome Eric Gale on guitar too.


FURTHER READING on Half-Speeds

The best place to start is here:

How come you guys don’t like Half-Speed Mastered records?

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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…)

Ben Webster And ’Sweets’ Edison – An Old Review from 2007

This is a Minty looking Columbia 360 Label LP.

As good as the now out of print Classic Records version was, my guess is that this pressing will be clearly superior in terms of warmth, richness, and sweetness. It’s been years since I’ve seen a copy of this album, but I remember liking it very much back in the days when the Classic version was in print.

I’ve also had a chance to go back and listen to lots of early Columbias like this one and I have been extremely impressed with the naturalness of the sound. I picked up a copy of Time Out recently that was as good as it gets on side one. No heavy vinyl reissue ever sounded like that. (more…)

Doc Evans – Traditional Jazz

If you’re a fan of Traditional Jazz, what normally would be referred to nowadays as Dixieland Jazz, you will have a very hard time finding a record that sounds as good as this one. The energy, the size, the dynamic power of every instrument is captured with such fidelity it will put the lie to most of what passes for Modern Good Sounding Jazz.

This is the real Audiophile Label, not just some label that’s making records to appeal to audiophiles, and there is a world of difference between the two.

At first we thought side one of this copy was As Good As It Gets, a real White Hot stamper pressing. It was doing everything we expected it to, and more to be honest.

Then we started to do side two, and surprisingly enough this very copy had a side two with more extension up top, more space and even more clarity and transparency. True, only slightly more, but if you compare the two sides carefully you should have no trouble hearing it. (more…)