Top Artists – Art Pepper

Mel Torme – Swings Shubert Alley – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

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

The first Hot Stamper copy of this great album to hit the site in many, many years! We are HUGE fans of this album at Better Records, but it’s taken us a long time to pull together enough clean copies to make this shootout happen. Boy, was it worth all the trouble!   

The presence and immediacy here are staggering. Turn it up and Mel is right between your speakers, putting on the performance of a lifetime! One of our very favorite male vocal albums, and this copy will show you why — the sound and music are the tops.

The sound is big, open, rich and full. The highs are extended and silky sweet. The bass is tight and punchy. And this copy gives you more life and energy than most, by a long shot. Very few records out there give you the kind of realistic, lifelike sound you get from this pressing, particularly on side two. (more…)

Art Pepper – Saturday Night At The Village Vanguard

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  • KILLER sound throughout with both sides earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades – exceptionally quiet vinyl too  
  • This is Art Pepper at its best, and if anyone can capture the realism of a live jazz club, it’s the engineers and producers at Contemporary, in this case Bob Simpson and Lester Koenig
  • One of the man’s most enjoyable albums – the sound here was bigger and livelier than any other – above all it’s balanced, avoiding many of the problems we heard on other pressings
  • 4 1/2 stars: “The great altoist was clearly excited to be playing at the famous New York club, and his rhythm section — pianist George Cables, bassist George Mraz and drummer Elvin Jones — consistently stimulates his imagination.”

This album features the great Elvin Jones on drums, plus Geoge Cables on piano and George Mraz on bass.

We played all four volumes of Art Pepper’s Village Vanguard series recently, and this copy was one of the best of the bunch. It features an intense live version of Pepper’s tune The Trip, from the wonderful album of the same title, as well as extended versions of the tunes You Go To My Head and Cherokee. (more…)

Art Pepper – The Trip – Our Shootout Winner from 2007

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

This Autographed copy of The Trip has WONDERFUL SOUND AND MUSIC! The title ain’t lying — this album is a TRIP! We dropped the needle on this Contemporary Yellow Label pressing and immediately stopped listening critically and began just enjoying the music and the sonics. That’s the sign of a truly exceptional album. The sound on this album is so alive and so real, you’ll feel like there’s a West Coast Jazz quartet in your living room. (more…)

Art Pepper – At The Village Vanguard Vol. 4 – Our Shootout Winner from 2007

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At The Village Vanguard Vol. 4

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

This Minty Contemporary Demo LP has WONDERFUL SOUND AND MUSIC! The highlight of this pressing is the well-defined DEEP bass — all the intricacies really come to life. The sound is rich and sweet! And holy crap, that piano sounds really nice. On More for Les, Pepper switches from sax to clarinet and the result is a wonderful, bluesy track that is completely original. The clarinet sounds like it is in the room with you. 

If I had to find a fault with this album, the sax can be a bit honky. The top end has its problems, but there are elements, like that piano, that REALLY COOK!

Overall, I’d say this is one of the better sounding live jazz albums you could hope to find from the late ’70s.

This album features the great Elvin Jones on drums, plus Geoge Cables on piano and George Mraz on bass.

Art Pepper – Friday Night At The Village Vanguard – Our Shootout Winner from 2007

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Friday Night At The Village Vanguard

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

This Original Contemporary LP has EXCELLENT MUSIC AND SOUND! The real highligh of this volume is the version of Caravan — just listen to Art playing both alto AND tenor! There’s also a great version of Pepper’s bossa-influenced track Labyrinth. The sound is rich and full-bodied. Listen to the cymbal crashes to hear how extended the top end is. The piano has real weight to it, but the sax sounds a little bit compressed and the bass could be a bit tighter.

Art Pepper – Smack Up – Our Shootout Winner from 2009

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Smack Up

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

WOW — the first Smack Up Hot Stamper to hit the site in over two years! We love this album and wish we could find more great copies, but it sure ain’t easy. Here’s a Contemporary Yellow Label pressing that’s very good on side one and INCREDIBLE on side two. The first track on side one doesn’t sound quite as good as the rest of the material, but by the second track this thing is SMOKIN’.

You’re going to flip out over this side two, mark my words. The sound is lively and dynamic with a powerful bottom end. The saxophone sounds just right — breathy, full-bodied and realistic. This side has all the tubey magic of the best black label originals, without their bad vinyl and bloated bass. I get black label original Contemporary pressings in all the time, but few of them are mastered right and most never make it to the site. Some are pure muck. Some have bloated bass that is hard to believe.  (more…)

Art Pepper – …The Way It Was – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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…The Way It Was (2010)

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

This Contemporary Yellow Label LP has WONDERFUL SOUND AND MUSIC ON BOTH SIDES! It’s airy, open, and spacious with superb clarity and an extended top end. The beautiful reading of Autumn Leaves on side two is DEMO DISC QUALITY!

Side one of this album is made up of unreleased material Art recorded with Warne Marsh, the tenor It’s great to hear Art play against another sax man. Fans of straight ahead mainstream jazz will find much to enjoy here. Of course the Contemporary studio sound is wonderful — it’s yet another triumph for one of our favorite engineers, Roy DuNann. (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…)

Art Pepper – One September Afternoon – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

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One September Afternoon

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

AN EXCELLENT A++ SIDE TWO for this album — this is an excellent recording from 1980, one of the best of the later Art Pepper period during which Art was signed with Galaxy and was devoting his remaining years to playing and recording as much as possible. The album is engineered by Baker Bigsby, as is Art Pepper Today (1978), my personal favorite Art Pepper album and amazing sounding if you can find the right pressing (we’re working on it!).  (more…)

Art Pepper – Straight Life

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Straight Life

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

This Jazz Classic boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound, or close to it, from first note to last. The two long ballads, “September Song” at over ten minutes, and “Nature Boy” at just under ten, give Art and the boys a chance to stretch out and take it to another level.

Art Pepper’s saxophone sound is just right – present, breathy and airy with clear leading edge transients. The lineup on this LP is truly stellar, especially for 1979, with the legendary Tommy Flanagan on piano, Billy Higgins on drums, and the great Red Mitchell on bass.  (more…)