Top Arrangers – Neal Hefti

Count Basie – Basie Plays Hefti

  • The first copy to hit the site in years and boy does our Shootout Winner here have STUNNING sound – it earned Triple Plus (A+++) grades from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • If all you’ve ever heard is the Roulette original (or the wacky MoFi, or whatever current Heavy Vinyl pressing is being made, this LP is guaranteed to be a REVELATION
  • Basie Plays Hefti catches Basie’s band at the peak of their powers in 1958, and in this All Tube Recording you get every bit of the magic they made in the studio
  • “The Count Basie Orchestra was in top form for this set of Neal Hefti arrangements. Hefti had been one of the main architects of the new Basie sound of the ’50s… “Cute” (heard here in its initial recording) became a standard.”

This is the followup to the smash Basie album The Atomic Mr. Basie, an album we would love to make available if we could ever find a clean, good sounding copy to play. The liner notes tell the story of this album well. Click on the tab above to read them.

Basie was recording like a madman back in the late ’50s and even all through the ’60s. In 1958, the year of this release, he put out seven (7!) albums on the Roulette label. We’ve played quite a number of them over the years and found relatively few with audiophile quality sound.

Including the original Roulette pressing of this very title. We’ve only heard a few, and had only one for our shootout, but it was awful enough to make us swear off buying more, especially considering the prices vintage jazz albums are going for these days. Hard and sour brass, no real top or bottom, it’s the sound of a poorly mastered Old Jazz Record, fine for the consoles of the day, not so good on today’s advanced stereo systems. Emus seems to be the only way to go.

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.

And of course we absolutely loved the music. I had a chance to see the Basie Big Band perform not long ago at Disney Hall and a fairly large chunk of the music and arrangements they play these days are Neal’s, practically half I would venture to guess. Meaning simply that Hefti’s music has clearly stood the test of time. Play this album and you’re sure to see what I mean. (more…)

Tony Bennett – The Movie Song Album

More Tony Bennett

More Vintage Hot Stamper Pressings on Columbia

  • Tony Bennett’s 1966 album of movie songs arrives on the site with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • The sound on this superb pressing is full-bodied and lively, with the kind of Tubey Magic Columbia still knew how to get on analog tape
  • Musical Director Johnny Mandel partnered with Neal Hefti and Quincy Jones, arranging and conducting their own compositions, including “Girl Talk,” from Harlow, and “Emily,” from The Americanization of Emily
  • Some of the songs that Bennett could hardly have sung any better are “Days Of Wine And Roses,” “The Shadow Of Your Smile” and “The Second Time Around,” the last two previously recorded by Frank Sinatra, and we leave it to you to judge who comes off better


Frank Sinatra / Sinatra and Swingin’ Brass – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

This nearly White Hot side two showed us just how good sounding this original Tri-Color Reprise original pressing could sound. Don’t get me wrong; they have their share of problems, but the better copies are as musical and enjoyable as many of the best Capitol releases from Sinatra’s prime period. (Most of which sound dreadful by the way, due to Capitol’s awful mastering. Just play an early Beatles album to hear what I’m talking about.)

This very side two was the most tonally correct and musically enjoyable of any second side we played. We call it A++ to A+++. (If we could find ten more clean originals we could probably come up with a Triple Plus side two, but considering how many years it took us to find the copies we had on hand to do our shootout, that is probably not in the cards.)

Check out the great material on the album, with lively, fun (even goofy) arrangements by Neil Hefti: Goody Goody; They Can’t Take That Away from Me; I’m Beginning to See the Light; I Get a Kick Out of You; Tangerine; Serenade in Blue. This is the kind of material Sinatra can really sink his teeth into! (more…)

Count Basie – On My Way & Shoutin’ Again

  • Incredible shootout winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it from start to finish – relatively quiet vinyl too
  • Both sides here are clear, present, and energetic, with plenty of Tubey Magic, befitting this All Tube Recording on Verve from 1962
  • “A solid and worthwhile album that has been out of print for far too long, this will be a welcome addition to any Basie lover’s collection, and comes highly recommended to anyone even mildly interested in excellent large-ensemble mainstream jazz.” 

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

Della Reese – Della in Living Stereo


  • Both sides here are rich and smooth with a big bottom end and a lovely musical quality that’s missing from the average copy
  • Plays Mint Minus Minus on side one and even quieter on side two — Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
  • “Recorded in 1959, this excellent album finds Reese backed by an orchestra that Neal Hefti arranged and conducted.” – All Music

If you’re a fan of vintage female vocals – the kind with no trace of digital reverb – you may get quite a kick out of this one.

Tubey Magic Is Key

This early Living Stereo pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records cannot even BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.

What to Listen For (WTLF)

Copies with rich lower mids and nice extension up top did the best in our shootout, assuming they weren’t veiled or smeary of course. So many things can go wrong on a record! We know, we heard them all. (more…)