Older Reviews – Jazz

Chet Baker – It Could Happen To You – Reviewed in 2010

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This is a very nice looking RARE original Riverside LP. Side one has good sound but side two really shows you how WONDERFUL this record is. The sound on side two is rich, full and transparent, with lots of tubey magic. Hard to imagine it could get much better. 

Horace Silver Quintet – Doin’ The Thing

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

This Minty Blue Note LP has EXCELLENT LIVE JAZZ SOUND! It’s rich, full, and tonally correct from top to bottom. Just listen to the cymbals on the track Doin’ The Thing — you’ll hear how wonderfully extended the top end is.

“This live set (recorded at the Village Gate) finds pianist/composer Horace Silver and his most acclaimed quintet (the one with trumpeter Blue Mitchell, tenor saxophonist Junior Cook, bassist Gene Taylor and drummer Roy Brooks) stretching out on four selections, including his new song Filthy McNasty… [An] enjoyable and always funky hard bop session.” (more…)

Eiji Kitamura – Swing Sessions – One of Our Favorite Direct Discs

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This is a SUPER RARE IMMACULATE RCA Japanese Import Direct-to-Disc LP with Virtually No Sign Of Play (VNSOP). If you’re a fan of clarinet-led swing jazz, you’ll have a hard time finding a better record than this. The music is absolutely wonderful. Not only that, but it has DEMO DISC sound as well.

Direct-to-Disc Recording recorded live at Iruma City Auditorium, Saitama, Japan on April 21, 1978. Eiji Kitamura and His Allstars include Eiji on clarinet, Ichiro Masuda on vibraphone, Yoshitaka Akimitsu on piano, Yukio Ikezawa on bass, Hiroshi Sunaga on drums and Judy Anton provides vocals on “What a Little Moonlight Can Do.”

This album was recorded by the Direct-to-Disc recording method, to capture the natural reverberation of 1,200 seat concert hall. Various kinds of recording equipment were brought in parts to the backstage of the hall for the recording then reassembled and adjusted. Two whole days were spent adjusting all the equipment. (more…)

Horace Silver – Horace-Scope

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

The really good RVG pressings (often on the later labels) sound shockingly close to live music — uncompressed, present, full of energy, with the instruments clearly located on a wide and often deep soundstage, surrounded by the natural space and cool air of his New Jersey studio. As our stereo has improved, and we’ve found better pressings and learned how to clean them better, his “you-are-there” live jazz sound has come to impress us more and more.

Side One

Present, clear, natural and balanced, with no smear on the piano (or anything else), this side was doing pretty much everything right. RVG has never had the best sounding piano in his studio but it sounds right on the Blue Note for a Blue Note.

Side Two

Perhaps even a bit better, this side is big, lively and clear. If you can bring a bit more Tubey Magic to the sound so much the better. (more…)

Horace Silver Quintet – The Tokyo Blues – Reviewed in 2009

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

This QUIET Blue Note ’70s issue LP has a PHENOMENAL SIDE ONE and a GREAT SIDE TWO! It’s one of the better sounding Blue Notes we’ve heard over the last few months.

I’ve played quite a few of these over the years and I’ve NEVER heard a side one this good. (We did hear a slightly better side two earlier this year.) The sound is full-bodied and shockingly transparent with real depth to the soundfield. The brass has a nice bite and the piano sound is superb — you can very clearly hear the sound of the little hammers hitting the strings inside! Piano jazz almost never sounds this good.

Side two is very transparent with lots of ambience, but not quite as good as side one. The piano sounds excellent, but there’s a touch of grit and grain at times that doesn’t show up on side one.

We sometimes prefer the sound on the later Blue Note issues to the sound of the New York and Liberty label pressings. Modern cutting equipment allows for improved clarity, more weight to the bottom, and less grit and grain up top.

Of course, many of the later pressings are just plain awful, and some originals are mindblowingly good. If there was an easier way to know what copies sounded good than cleaning them and playing them, our work would be a heckuva lot easier.

I wish we could find more copies of Song For My Father that sounded this good! (more…)

Stanley Turrentine – Jubilee Shouts – Reviewed in 2005

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

Two Minty looking Blue Note LPs of two previously unreleased sessions featuring the great tenor saxophonist with Tommy Turrentine, Kenny Burrell, Horace Parlan, Sonny Clark and others.

If you want to hear Turrentine at his best, skip right to track two, the beautiful ballad Then I’ll Be Tired Of You, featuring his brother Tommy on trumpet. The music is powerful and the sound is excellent.

Gabor Szabo with Gary McFarland – Gypsy ’66

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One of the qualities that we don’t talk about on the site nearly enough is the SIZE of the record’s presentation. Some copies of the album just sound small — they don’t extend all the way to the outside edges of the speakers, and they don’t seem to take up all the space from the floor to the ceiling. In addition, the sound can often be recessed, with a lack of presence and immediacy for the instruments or vocals in the center.

Other copies — my notes for these copies often read “BIG and BOLD” — create a huge soundfield, with the music positively jumping out of the speakers. They’re not brighter, they’re not more aggressive, they’re not hyped-up in any way, they’re just bigger and clearer.

And most of the time those very special pressings have much more energy. When you hear a copy that does all that, it’s an entirely different listening experience.

Heavy Vinyl

Speakers Corner did a very good version of this album on Heavy Vinyl back in 2002, which we recommended at the time.

Our Hot Stamper pressings will of course be dramatically more transparent, open, clear and just plain REAL sounding, because these are all the areas in which heavy vinyl pressings fall short, with very few exceptions. (more…)

Gabor Szabo – Dreams – Our Shootout Winner from 2009

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

This original Black Label Skye LP has an EXCELLENT SIDE TWO backed with a pretty good side one.

Szabo has made a number of mediocre albums, some of which are poorly recorded, but thankfully this is not one of them. In fact, this is some of the best sound and music he produced for Skye. Side two is open and spacious with a HUGE three-dimensional soundfield that really allows you to hear into the music.

Side one is pretty darn good as well. While not quite as three-dimensional as side two it still retains some of that quality. Listen to all the crazy studio recording effects on the first track. (more…)

Stanley Turrentine – Sugar

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

The best copies seem to have more space and are even more clear while at the same time keeping the sound rich and tonally correct from top to bottom. That sound is exactly what you will hear on this side two! It won our shootout because it gave us the feeling that we were hearing everything that was being recorded in the studio exactly the way Rudy, Stanley and his jazz buds wanted us to. In those long ago sessions at Van Gelder Studios in November of 1970, this is how it went down. 

And don’t forget to check out some of the most soulful sax playing Stan the Man ever committed to tape: the solos he plays on Kenny Burrell’s Midnight Sugar. We simply cannot recommend a jazz album any more highly than Kenny’s landmark album for Blue Note from 1963. To this day it blows my mind. (more…)

Stanley Turrentine – Another Story – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

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

A very dynamic recording by Rudy Van Gelder that really jumps on a copy like this. Needless to say, you will have a very hard time finding a better sounding funky Soul Jazz record. (more…)