Top Artists – Shelly Manne

Barney Kessel – Let’s Cook

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

We were simply blown away by this Yellow Label pressing, which earned an A+++ for side one and an A++ for side two in a recent shootout. The transparency and clarity are SUPERB, and the amount of tubey magic is unbelievable! Folks, if you like guitar jazz, do not miss out on this album. I guarantee you will be absolutely knocked out by the sound of this pressing, not to mention the fantastic music!  (more…)

Andre Previn & His Pals’ West Side Story – Our Shootout Winner

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

This superb sounding Black Label Stereo Contemporary pressing has close to Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound on side two. Side one earned a Double Plus, which makes this by far the best copy to ever hit the site and a great way to hear this classic piano trio swingin’ in 1959. This is yet another Demo Disc for Contemporary, more brilliant work from house engineer Roy Dunann. 

One of Previn’s best piano trio records, this album was recorded in 1959 by Roy Dunaan when he was at the height of his engineering powers. You will not find many piano trio records with sound better than this.

Note on the vinyl condition: it’s rare to find any Black Label original in audiophile playing condition, and almost none will play better than the Mint Minus Minus this one plays.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Something’s Coming 
Jet Song 
Tonight 
I Feel Pretty

Side Two

Gee, Officer Krupke! 
Cool 
Maria 
America

AMG Review

The last of a series of showtune albums recorded by the trio of pianist Andre Previn, bassist Red Mitchell and drummer Shelly Manne finds the all-star group focusing on the music of West Side Story. As usual, the melodies are treated respectfully yet swingingly, and Andre Previn in particular excels in this setting. Recommended.

Julie London – About The Blues

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  • About The Blues with KILLER Triple Plus (A+++) sound from first note to last; we rarely have this title on the site 
  • Julie’s lilting vocals are clear, breathy, Tubey Magical, and sweet, like practically nothing you’ve ever heard
  • This copy is about as quiet as we can find these 1957 Turquoise original mono pressings, Mint Minus Minus* throughout
  • 4 stars: “About the Blues … may just be her best orchestral session. Since downbeat torch songs were London’s specialty, the album features an excellent selection of nocturnal but classy blues songs that play to her subtle strengths…”

Rich, smooth, sweet, full of ambience, dead-on correct tonality — everything that we listen for in a great record is here.   (more…)

The Poll Winners Straight Ahead – Their Best Album? We Think So

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

This is a Minty looking Contemporary Records LP with SUPERB MUSIC AND SOUND! We pulled together enough copies to do a small shootout, and this copy was the champion for BOTH SIDES! The sound is very clean and clear, yet tubey magical. 

You almost never hear cymbals sound this good on an RVG Blue Note, that’s for sure. The bass definition on this record is amazing — you can really hear Ray Brown pulling and bending the strings of the instrument. He’s tearing it up.

Musically, this is my favorite Poll Winners record! These guys got back together for this album and wanted to prove to the world that they still had their youthful excuberance!

They play with more spunk here than on any other album I’ve ever heard. And you have to love those ’70s leisure suits they’re wearing on the cover. I remember my commentary when this record was around mentioned that Roy DuNann, the famous recording engineer, had lost none of this skill in the intervening years either. This is a very dynamic recording, one of his best.

Ray Brown / Barney Kessel

Sonny Rollins – Alternate Takes – It’s a Long Story

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

An absolutely killer pressing of one of our favorite jazz albums! The album is comprised of alternate takes from the Way Out West and Sonny Rollins and the Contemporary Leaders sessions, and as such there is a bit of sonic variation between these tracks and the ones on the actual albums. The best-sounding songs here, particularly the material from Way Out West, sound amazing!  (more…)

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.

Andre Previn & His Pals – West Side Story on MoFi Reviewed

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Sonic Grade: B-

Another MoFi LP reviewed.

I played this record a while back — it’s one of the Mobile Fidelity’s I remember liking from the old days — and sure enough it still sounds good. It does not have the phony boosted bottom and top that most MoFis do. Since it’s such a well recorded album, the sound is very impressive. Also the music is great. This is one of Previn’s best piano trio records. And Shelly Manne drums up a storm here. 

Shelly Manne – Sounds Unheard Of! – Another Analogue Productions Disaster

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Sonic Grade: F

A Hall of Shame pressing and another Analogue Productions LP debunked.

Remember the ’90s Acoustic Sounds Analog Revival series mastered by Stan Ricker? This was one of the titles they did, and completely ruined of course. Ricker boosted the hell out of the top end, as is his wont, so all the percussion had the phony MoFi exaggerated spit and tizzyiness that we dislike so much around here at Better Records, the phony top that many audiophiles do not seem bothered by to this day. 

The whole series was an audio disaster, but funnily enough, I cannot remember reading a single word of criticism in the audiophile press discussing the shortcomings of that series of (badly) half-speed mastered LPs — outside of my own reviews of course. Has anything in audio really changed?  (more…)

The Three – Liner Notes and a Rave Review

 

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The Three – The Three

Excerpts from the Liner Notes

On a windy and unusually cold night in Los Angeles, each of the three musicians arrived before the session start time of 10 PM on November 28, 1975. At exactly 10 PM, The Doobie Brothers session that was going on since morning ended. Two assistants immediately started setting up for the session. The Steinway concert grand piano, delivered the previous day, was wheeled in to the center of the room and got tuned. Shelly Manne’s drum kit was assembled in a makeshift “booth.” Microphones were set up, checked and positions adjusted. (more…)

What We Listen For – Timbre, Richness, Tubey Magic and Freedom from Artificiality

More of Our Favorite Contemporary Jazz Recordings

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This Home Audio Exercise entry was inspired by the wonderful qualities of the Contemporary recording you see pictured, qualities brought to our attention while doing a shootout of various pressings of the album in early 2009. 

We addressed a number of issues in our commentary: first and foremost what we were listening for on the album (and what we were hearing). A bit of mono versus stereo (in this case both can be good). This is followed by some Audiophile Equipment bashing.

We highly recommend you make every effort to find yourself a copy of this album and use it to test your own equipment. The right pressing can be both a great Demo Disc and a great Test Disc. (more…)