Top Artists – Art Pepper

Mel Torme With The Marty Paich Dek-tette

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More With The Marty Paich Dek-tette

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  • A KILLER copy with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the first side and solid Double Plus (A++) sound on the second; exceptionally quiet vinyl too!
  • Both sides here are incredibly rich and smooth with wonderfully breathy vocals and a solid bottom end
  • “Mel Tormé with the Marty Paich Dek-tette is a vocal masterpiece, an extremely satisfying record achieved only by a fusion of an excellent voice, an excellent band, and excellent material.” – All Music, 5 Stars

This vintage Bethlehem pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely 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. (more…)

Art Pepper – Landscape

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Most Landscape

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  • You’ll find excellent Double Plus (A++) grades, or close to them, on this 1979 Art Pepper classic 
  • One of the few copies of Landscape to hit the site in a very long time – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • George Cables, Art’s longtime collaborator on piano, is nothing less than amazing on this record – this is the best I’ve ever heard him play
  • 4 1/2 Stars: “Altoist Art Pepper was in inspired form during this Tokyo concert. This particular LP features Pepper on memorable versions of “True Blues,” “Sometime” (during which Pepper switches to clarinet), “Landscape” and “Over the Rainbow.” Pepper’s intensity and go-for-broke style are exhilarating throughout.”

Recorded in Japan in 1979, this is a really interesting album for Art Pepper. If you know much about his body of work, you know there are a lot of stinkers in the Art Pepper catalog from this era. Acoustic Sounds released a few of them on 180 gram as a matter of fact, with their notoriously bad sound (notorious around these parts anyway). What a waste of good vinyl. (more…)

Dinah Washington – Unforgettable

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  • An outstanding vintage mono pressing with Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • Big, rich and full-bodied with lovely breathy vocals – this All Tube Mastered pressing has the right sound for this music
  • Although this is a stereo recording, the goofy stereo mix sticks Dinah way out in one channel, ruining any sense of being in her presence as a performer, so our early mono here is the only way to go
  • “The songs focus on love, and they’re distinguished by Washington’s ability to mingle loss and resignation with the promise of the future and a steely determination to make it happen. Ultimately Washington’s art is the romance of experience itself, its enduring truths and possibilities etched in her unforgettable voice. — Stuart Broomer

This ’60s LP has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern pressings barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing any sign of coming back. (more…)

Art Pepper + Eleven – The Originals Are Better, Right?

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Nope. It’s just another Record Myth.

We used to get the original Contemporary pressings in all the time, but so few are mastered right practically none ever make it to the site. Some are pure muck; others have bass that’s so bloated it’s hard to tell if it’s electric or acoustic. And where’s the presence? We dropped the needle on a few Black Label copies of this title and were entirely  

Don’t buy into that record collecting / audiophile canard that Original Equals Better. It’s complete bullshit. Records just don’t work that way, and anyone with two good ears, two good speakers and a decent-sized record collection should know better. (The fact that a minority of audiophiles or record collectors do understand these things is a sad commentary on the state of reproduction in the home. But that’s a subject we’ve discussed at some length on the site already and see no need to belabor further here.) (more…)

Art Pepper – Today – Phil DeLancie Digital or George Horn Analog?

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Art Pepper Today

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Another in our ongoing series of Random Thoughts on issues concerning (usually old) records.

We’ve wanted to do Art Pepper Today for more than a decade, but the original Galaxy pressings were just too thick and dark to earn anything approaching a top sonic grade. Thirty years ago on a very different system I had one and liked it a lot, but there was no way I could get past the opaque sound I was now hearing on the more than half-dozen originals piled in front of me.

So, almost in desperation we tried an OJC reissue from the ’90s. You know, the ones that all the audiophiles on the web will tell you to steer clear of because it had been mastered by Phil DeLancie and might be sourced from digital tapes.

Or digitally remastered, or somehow was infected with something digital somehow.

Well, immediately the sound opened up dramatically, with presence, space, clarity and top end extension we simply could not hear on the originals. Moreover, the good news was that the richness and solidity of the originals was every bit as good. Some of the originals were less murky and veiled than others, so we culled the worst of them for trade and put the rest into the shootout with all the OJCs we could get our hands on. (more…)

Art Pepper – Smack Up

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More Smack Up

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  • You’ll find Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound on both sides of this Contemporary Stereo Pressing – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Rich, smooth and Tubey Magical, this pressing has a lovely musical quality that’s missing from most copies
  • This is a classic from Pepper – all the songs were written by saxophonists and he tears into them with gusto and naked emotion (the two hallmarks of his playing style)
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Pepper is very much on top of his game throughout, ably demonstrating a capacity for precision and intimidating passion. Nowhere is proof more readily available than on these sides, which project Pepper at the peak of his craft.”

The horns are really jumpin’ out of the speakers here, but they never get hard or squawky like they do on some pressings. This combination of clarity and fullness is not easy to come by, but it lets the music flow in glorious waves of All Tube 1960 analog. With the always wonderful Jack Sheldon on trumpet, this is a great date from the Golden Age of Jazz Recordings. (more…)

Chet Baker, Art Pepper, Phil Urso – Picture Of Heath – A Killer Copy from 2005

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame

This is an exceptionally nice original Pacific Jazz Black Label Mono LP with SUPERB SOUND. Pure Pleasure just did a 180g reissue of this album, but the real thing is THE REAL THING! This copy has the PRESENCE, the DYNAMICS and the LIFE of real jazz. I can’t think of a more fun west coast jazz session that sounds as good outside of the best Contemporary records. This one gets a top recommendation. 

Picture Of Heath – Pure Pleasure Reviewed

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Sonic Grade: D

Putatively remastered from the original analogue master tapes by that notorious hack Ron McMaster at Capitol Studios, this pressing is dramatically flatter and less musical than any original pressing (or Japanese pressing!) that we have ever played. The CD may very well be better.

Check out our Heavy Vinyl Scorecard to read all about the latest winners and losers.

Since we here at Better Records never tire of beating long-dead horses, let’s lay into a couple of our favorites: Heavy Vinyl reissues and CDs. When we play these “Shadows of the Real Thing”, so lacking in life and the analog magic of the best pressings, the one thing we can say about them consistently is that they’re a drag. They’re just no fun. They don’t give you the thrill this wonderful music is supposed to give you — can give you and does give you — if you have the right vinyl pressing. 

 

 

Art Pepper – Living Legend – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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

SUPERB SOUND AND MUSIC! Art Pepper’s saxophone sound is Right On The Money, breathy and airy with clearly audible leading edge transients. The lineup on this LP is stellar, with Hampton Hawes on piano and keys, Shelly Manne on drums, and the great Charlie Haden on bass guitar.   

We’ve mentioned plenty of times what big fans we are of Contemporary Label Jazz LP’s and this record is another sonic triumph for engineer Roy DuNann. The sound is warm and lively, with superb clarity and virtually no distortion. The top end is wonderfully extended, allowing you to really appreciate some fantastic cymbal work by Shelly Manne.

Hampton Hawes is wonderful on this album. On the track “What Laurie Likes,” he switches over to an electric piano, giving the sound a very cool ’70s jazz-rock feel. It’s too bad these guys didn’t record more material in this vein — they really nail it. 

TRACK LISTING

Ophelia 
Here’s That Rainy Day
What Laurie Likes 
Mr. Yohe 
Lost Life 

AMG Review

Art Pepper, one of the major bop altoists to emerge during the ’50s, started his comeback with this excellent set, Living Legend. After 15 years filled with prison time and fighting drug addiction, Pepper was finally ready to return to jazz. Accompanied by three of his old friends (pianist Hampton Hawes, bassist Charlie Haden and drummer Shelly Manne), Pepper displays a more explorative and darker style than he had previously. He also shows a greater emotional depth in his improvisations and was open to some of the innovations of the avant-garde in his search for greater self-expression.

Art Pepper – Gettin’ Together

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More Gettin’ Together

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  • Insanely good sound throughout, just shy of our shootout winner with nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound – quiet vinyl too
  • We love the amazingly natural, uncolored, un-hyped sound Roy DuNann and Howard Holzer were able to achieve at Contemporary back in the day
  • You will hear as we did playing this very copy that there’s simply nothing between you and the musicians
  • “Pepper utilizes Davis’ sidemen on this 1960 near-classic… as usual, Pepper brings something very personal and unique to his playing; he sounds like no one else.” – 4 1/2 Stars, All Music 

This album, and this copy in particular, deliver some serious Art Pepper Contemporary Magic. We’re big fans of Pepper and this label, and we love the sound Roy DuNann and Howard Holzer were able to get out of these guys. On the best pressings, such as this one, there’s just nothing between you and the music. You will have a very hard time finding a much better sounding jazz record than either side of this copy, anywhere.

Superb sound from Contemporary — better than just about any other Pepper disc they recorded IMHO. We played a bunch of copies and few can compare to this one! (more…)