Top Artists – Count Basie

The Recordings of Count Basie – These Four Didn’t Make the Grade

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More That Didn’t Make the Grade

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These are just some of the recordings by Count Basie that we’ve auditioned recently and found wanting. Without going into specifics we’ll just say these albums suffer from poor performances, poor sound, or both, and therefore do not deserve a place in your collection, and may even belong in our Hall of Shame

Free Service provided to the Audiophile Public, courtesy of Better Records. 

Count Basie Albums with Hot Stampers

Count Basie Albums We’ve Reviewed

Count Basie – Chairman of the Board – The Reissues that Beats the Originals (and of course the Classic Records Remaster)

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  • A Shootout Winning copy with Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the first side and Double Plus (A++) sound on the second
  • From first note to last, this copy is big, clear, rich and lively, with huge amounts of space around the band
  • Forget the honky, hard-sounding Roulette originals, and of course the second-rate Classic Records pressing – this reissue is the way to go
  • 4 1/2 stars: “This 1958 date for Roulette was a rare chance for the orchestra to perform on its own, and listeners to hear how powerful the band could be when its concentration was undiverted… The record is admittedly heavy on the blues, but it’s a brassy, powerful vision of the blues… A dynamic date, it shows the ‘new testament’ edition of Basie’s orchestra in top form.”

This reissue is spacious, open, transparent, rich and sweet. It’s yet another remarkable disc from the Golden Age of Vacuum Tube Recording Technology, with the added benefit of mastering using the more modern cutting equipment of the ’70s. We are of course here referring to the good modern mastering of 30+ years ago, not the dubious and too often disastrous modern mastering of today. 

The combination of old and new works wonders on this title as you will surely hear for yourself on these superb sides. We were impressed with the fact that these pressings excel in so many areas of reproduction. What was odd about it — odd to most audiophiles but not necessarily to us — was just how rich and Tubey Magical the reissue can be on the right pressing.

This leads me to think that most of the natural, full-bodied, lively, clear, rich sound of the album is on the tape, and that all one has to do to get that vintage sound on to a record is simply to thread up the tape on the right machine and hit play. (more…)

Ellington and Basie – The Count Meets the Duke

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First Time – The Count Meets the Duke

 

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  • Shootout Winning sound quality – both sides earned our top grade of Triple Plus (A+++) or close to it
  • Huge amounts of three-dimensional space and ambience, and rich Tubey Magic by the boatload – this 30th Street recording shows just how good Columbia’s engineers were back then 
  • Quiet throughout – good luck finding a Six Eye Stereo pressing this nice on your own, they sure don’t grow on trees
  • “… a very successful and surprisingly uncrowded encounter… Ellington and Basie both play piano (their interaction with each other is wonderful) and the arrangements allowed the stars from both bands to take turns soloing.” – 4 1/2 Stars

What the best sides of this wonderful collaboration between two jazz giants have to offer is not hard to hear:

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes back in 1961
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments of this large group of players having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space
  • No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the above

Production and Engineering

Teo Macero was the producer, Fred Plaut or Ray Moore were probably the engineers for these sessions — we cannot find the credits to know one way or the other — in Columbia’s glorious sounding 30th Street Studio. It’s yet another remarkable disc from the Golden Age of Vacuum Tube Recording. (more…)

Basie’s Farmers Market Barbecue – First Among Equals, or The Best Pablo Ever?

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Musically FMB is a Top Basie Big Band title in every way. This should not be surprising: many of his recordings for Pablo in the ’70s and early ’80s display the talents of The Count and his band of veterans at their best.

Sonically it’s another story. Based on our recent shootout for this title, in comparison to the other Basie titles we’ve done lately we would have to say that FMB is the best Basie big band title we’ve ever played. Since so many Basie big band recordings are so good, we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves; after all, we haven’t done shootouts for all of his Pablo large group recordings. To be safe we’ll just call this one First Among Equals.

The following are some general guidelines as to What to Listen For (WTLF) while you critically evaluate any of the Basie Big Band Pablo recordings (or any other big band recordings for that matter). 

Simply put, we offer here a short list of qualities that we’ve come to appreciate on the best of the Basie Big Band pressings, qualities that we find are often in short supply on lesser LPs (and, as a rule, those that have been remastered onto Heavy Vinyl). (more…)

Sinatra At The Sands – My Introduction to Audiophile Sound

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  • This superb 2 LP set boasts excellent Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on all four sides! 
  • Truly one of the greatest live albums of all time, recorded late at night in the big room at the Sands Hotel in Vegas
  • This is Basie and Sinatra in their natural habitat and in their prime, putting on the show of a lifetime – quiet vinyl too
  • “Basie and the orchestra are swinging and dynamic, inspiring a textured, dramatic, and thoroughly enjoyable performance from Sinatra … the definitive portrait of Frank Sinatra in the ’60s.” – AMG

This double album presents Sinatra and Basie at the height of their powers, in a setting especially conducive to both men’s music, the big room at the Sands Hotel in Vegas. If you missed it — and I’m sure most all of us did — here’s your chance to go back in time and be seated with the beautiful people front row center. This two disc all tube-mastered analog set is practically the only way you’ll ever be able to hear the greatest vocalist of his generation — in his prime no less — fronting one of the swingingest big bands of the time.

You Are There

The presence and immediacy here are staggering. Turn it up and Frank is right between your speakers, putting on the performance of a lifetime. (more…)

Ella Fitzgerald & Count Basie – On the Sunny Side of the Street on Heavy Vinyl

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Sonic Grade: D

A weak outing from Speakers Corner and a Hall of Shame pressing.

Their 180 gram copy suffers from the standard reissue MO — brighter is not necessarily better, and definitely not when you have a big band and a vocalist, as is the case here. 

 

 

Basie & Peterson – Probably Bad Sounding on Heavy Vinyl, But Who Really Knows?

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More on The Timekeepers

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Analogue Productions remastered this longtime favorite of ours, The Timekeepers, on 45 RPM vinyl. Considering their dismal track record — an unbroken string of failures, scoring not a single winner with which I am familiar — I’m guessing the Hot Stamper we offered here would have blown the doors off their version as well as any other Basie album they will ever do on vinyl. (more…)