Top Artists – Art Pepper

Art Pepper / Meets The Rhythm Section

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  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it from start to finish
  • The Contemporary stereo sound here is completely natural in all respects – rich, warm and smooth, the sound we love
  • Recorded in 1957 (the same year as Way Out West) by the legendary Roy DuNann, the sound is absolutely wonderful
  • 5 stars: “… this recording convinced [Pepper] that emotion was the paramount impulse of jazz performance… a diamond of recorded jazz history.”

Many consider this to be the best record Art Pepper ever made, along with Art Pepper + Eleven, and I agree completely.

This one has all the Tubey Magic of the best black label originals, without their bad vinyl and bloated bass. We get black label original Contemporary pressings in from time to 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. Don’t buy into that record collecting slash audiophile canard that Original Equals Better. That’s pure BS. It just doesn’t work that way, and anyone with two good ears, two good speakers and a decent-sized record collection should know better. (more…)

Art Pepper / Intensity – Thoughts on One of the Most Dynamic Contemporary Recordings

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A Classic Case of Audio Progress

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[This commentary was written in 2008.]

Intensity is right — this is some SERIOUSLY GOOD SOUNDING alto saxophone led quartet jazz. AMG was right to give this one 4 1/2 stars — the musicianship is top notch and Pepper’s playing is INSPIRED throughout. 

The real surprise was how well recorded this album from 1963 is. I can’t recall a more DYNAMIC Contemporary. Pepper’s sax gets seriously LOUD in some passages. This is very much a good thing. Not only is he totally committed to the music, but the engineers are getting that energy onto the record so that we at home can feel the moment to moment raw power of his playing.

(Pepper was famous for saying that his playing is best when he just plays whatever he feels in the moment, and this record is the best kind of evidence for the truth of that claim.)

Of course, since this is a Roy Dunann recording, all the tubey magical richness and sweetness are here as well, but what is surprising is how transparent, spacious and clear the sound is. Some of Roy’s recordings can sound a bit dead (recording in your stockroom is not always the best for spaciousness) and sometimes are a bit thick as well. Not so here. But it should be pointed out that we liked what we heard from a previous shootout too.

Last time around we wrote:

This record has superb sound: you can actually hear the keys clacking on the man’s alto. And that sort of detail does not come at the expense of phony brightness as it would with your typical audiophile recording. The tonality of the sax, drums, and bass are right on the money, exactly the way we expect Roy DuNann’s recording to be.

This time around we got more extension out of the cymbals. Either these copies are better, were cleaned better, or were helped quite a bit by our new Townshend SuperTweeters. (Probably the last two more than the first one.) (more…)

Art Pepper – Intensity

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  • Outstanding sound throughout for this Contemporary pressing with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on both sides
  • Intensity is right — this is some seriously good sounding alto saxophone led quartet jazz, thanks to Roy DuNann and Lester Koenig
  • The musicianship here is top notch and Pepper’s playing is inspired throughout.
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Pepper was just starting to show the influence of John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman in his style, freeing up his playing and displaying a greater intensity during his improvisations.”

An outstanding copy that reminded us just how great this album can be when you have a copy like this one!

I can’t recall a more DYNAMIC Contemporary. Pepper’s sax gets seriously LOUD in some passages. This is very much a good thing. Not only is he totally committed to the music, but the engineers are getting that energy onto the record so that we at home can feel the moment to moment raw power of his expression. (Pepper was famous for saying that his playing is best when he just plays whatever he feels in the moment, and this record is the best kind of evidence for the truth of that statement.) (more…)

Art Pepper – …The Way It Was

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  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • It’s airy, open, and spacious with superb clarity and an extended top end – the beautiful reading of Autumn Leaves on side two has demo disc quality sound
  • Included are three tracks left off some of Pepper’s best albums on Contemporary – Meets the Rhythm Section, Intensity and Gettin’ Together
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Despite his very erratic lifestyle, altoist Art Pepper never made a bad record. The first four titles team together Pepper with tenor-saxophonist Warne Marsh for generally intriguing explorations of four standards… this album finds Art Pepper in top form.”

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Art Pepper – So In Love

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  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • Big, rich and full-bodied sound was not that easy to find on the album, but this copy managed to pull it off
  • Full of classic material by the likes of Monk and Cole Porter, finally finishing with a very emotional rendition of Stardust
  • “…Pepper is in excellent form throughout the album, giving these songs heart-wrenching interpretations.”

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Art Pepper – Roadgame

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  • An incredible sounding copy with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish
  • Both of these sides are super rich, full-bodied and lively with plenty of extension on both ends
  • “Altoist Art Pepper’s 1981 appearances at Los Angeles’ now-obsolete Maiden Voyage club were fully documented, resulting in three LPs… Although only a year away from his death, the great Art Pepper was still very much in his prime for this memorable outing.” – All Music, 4 1/2 Stars

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Art Pepper Today, Finally

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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…)

Pepper, Klemmer, Griffin, et al. – Ballads By Four – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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Super Hot Stamper sound on BOTH sides of this wonderful Galaxy original pressing. There are four extended ballads, two on each side, and each of them is played with real passion and skill by this group of veteran horn men and their respective rhythm sections. The recording itself is one of the best I’ve heard on Galaxy, the other top Galaxy title being Art Pepper Today. Joe Henderson is the leader not mentioned in our listing title, so with his addition we have four of the best saxophone ballad players, backed by a top rhythm section, all performing material that has stood the test of time. This is the kind of record the world needs more of!  (more…)

Art Pepper + Eleven – Modern Jazz Classics

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  • A big, bold, lively stereo copy of this exceptional Art Pepper release from 1960 – Triple Plus (A+++) on side one and Double Plus (A++) on two – reasonably quiet vinyl too
  • If you buy only one Large Group Hot Stamper jazz record from us, make it this one – the music is swingin’ fun and the sound is going to be very impressive, especially if you own any modern reissue
  • Rich, warm and full-bodied, the brass is phenomenal on this pressing – here is the Tubey Magic of the originals without the problems that cause many originals to be opaque and uninvolving
  • A personal favorite – 5 stars: “This is a true classic. Essential music for all serious jazz collections.”

This Contemporary stereo LP has got that Modern Jazz Classics Magic. On a great copy such as this one you can really pick out each of the musicians and follow them throughout the course of the track. When you’re able to appreciate everyone’s contributions you really get a sense of how much work went into the making of this album. It’s nothing short of epic.

This is one DYNAMIC jazz record — drop the needle on any track and prepare yourself to be very impressed. The sound is full-bodied and energetic with tight bass, breathy brass, and lots of ambience. (more…)

Mel Torme – Back in Town – Reviewed in 2011

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

This is a nice looking Verve LP with relatively quiet vinyl and surprisingly good sound. Natural, smooth and sweet, I doubt there are copies out there that sound much better. The music itself is great fun. Hearing Mel sing with the female vocalists is really a treat. (more…)