Top Artists – Ben Webster

Billie Holiday / Songs for Distingue Lovers – Classic Records Reviewed

Sonic Grade: B?

Probably a fairly good jazz vocal album from Classic Records.

Back in the day we noted that: “This is one of the best Billie Holiday records around” and we stand by that statement, at least until another copy of the Classic comes our way and we have a chance to play it.

By the way, we have never had a Hot Stamper pressing of the album on the site. We simply cannot find enough clean copies with which to do a shootout! Not sure we’ve even found one that played quietly and sounded good.

For thirty bucks the price of this Heavy Vinyl pressing has to be seen as a bargain.

But…

Who the hell thought that the label below was better looking than the ones Verve used?

Classic Records was run by some of the most clueless audiophiles there ever were, and this label is a good example of a pitifully poor choice they made in the design of the labelling. (The Shaded Dog “shading” was all wrong but hey, it didn’t seem to bother too many people.)

A self-inflicted wound, and for no reason. Nobody could figure out how to make an authentic looking vintage Verve stereo label? I’m pretty sure it’s been done.

What was the point of this one? It’s ugly and modern. Who wants to collect classic albums with ugly modern labels?

The shiny jackets are bad enough. Now they have to ruin the labels too?


Down Beat’s West Coast editor John Tynan gave this a four star review, remarking that it is “loose, utterly relaxed, a top flight solo work.”

The great Lady Day is backed by Harry Edison’s trumpet, Ben Webster on tenor sax, Jimmy Rowles on Piano, Barney Kessel on guitar, Red Mitchell on bass and Alvin Stoller on drums.

Benny Carter / Jazz Giant – Is the OJC Really 100x Worse?

More of the Music of Benny Carter

Contemporary Jazz Records Available Now

The OJC versions of Contemporary Records are typically thin and somewhat opaque, as well as tizzy up top, the kind of sound one often hears on CDs (and that CD lovers for some reason never seem to notice).

Some OJC pressings, however, can be excellent when you chance upon the right copy. The pressings that were mastered and put out by Contemporary in the mid-’70s (until they were bought by Fantasy) are almost always superior to the OJCs, but these rules of thumb break down so badly and so often that the only workable approach is just to play as many different copies of the album as you can get your hands on and simply let them sort themselves out sonically.

This of course is exactly how we conduct our shootouts. We make a lot of mistakes, but when all is said and done, we rarely fail to come up with the goods, the goods being phenomenal sounding pressings of important music, pressings that are dramatically superior to any others.

Although we’ve liked the OJC of Jazz Giant in the past, last time around the OJC versions were quite a bit smaller and less energetic than our “real” Contemporary stereo pressings. They were a big step down from our killer shootout winner.

The notes read “100x better” if that tells you anything (!)

A clear case of Live and Learn.

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Ben Webster / Meets Oscar Peterson on Speakers Corner

Hot Stamper Jazz Recordings Featuring the Saxophone

Reviews and Commentaries for the Recordings of Ben Webster

This is a Speakers Corner 180g LP. Years ago we wrote:

“Superb music and sound! This one gets a Top recommendation. This recording captures an intimate Webster session. Ben is at his best in this sort of setting. (He’s at his worst when called upon to “battle” with a gang of loud, frantic exhibitionists.)”

I doubt we would like it as much now as we did then, but if you can get one for cheap, and can stand the typical faults of most Heavy Vinyl pressings being made these days, we say go for it.

Liner Notes

The sensitive, alert and propulsive Peterson Trio frames his stories and statements handsomely, and contributes many notable statements of its own. Pianist Peterson, inspired perhaps by Ben, is in a fine, funky frame of mind (his Kansas City heritage.)

The artists take a bunch of strong, standard songs and personalize them — to say the least. With wonderful humor, Ben can take a sophisticated show tune like This Can’t Be Love (Rodgers and Hart) or Ray Noble’s romantic The Touch of Your Lips and turn it into an earthy finger-poppin’ affair. Or he can paint a picture of profound sadness in his tender, moody When Your Lover Has Gone, or that one-time Sinatra soliloquy, In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning.


FURTHER READING

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Speakers Corner – Jazz

Here are some of our reviews and commentaries concerning the many Heavy Vinyl pressings we’ve played over the years, well over 200 at this stage of the game. Feel free to pick your poison.

Heavy Vinyl Commentaries

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Barney Kessel – Hard Left, Hard Right Staging “Problems”

We hear complaints from time to time about hard-left/ hard-right staging, but the right pressing, properly cleaned, then played on the right equipment and all the rest, will allow you to hear the ROOM in the middle, the real space the musicians are in.

It’s the same with The Beatles twin track stereo stuff — there is a room there. The sounds may be stuck in the speakers at your house, but over here that music is floating in the real space of the studio, left to right and including the middle.

This Kessel record really doesn’t have a problem with hard right hard left sound, but some Contemporary titles do and I just thought I would get that off my chest. Modest equipment (as well as not so modest equipment, especially if it’s modern, if my experience is any guide) has one helluva time finding the ambient information on most recordings, just one more reason why we don’t recommend cheap tables and inexpensive phono stages.

A Top Kessel Title

Barney Kessel comes out SWINGIN’ on this 1962 album — he is up for this gig! The energy you hear in his playing is partly the Hot Stamper pressing of course. When you get a record that has all of its dynamics and transients intact, the musicians just come alive in a way that the typically compressed, dead-as-a-doornail Heavy Vinyl reissue cannot begin to communicate. We HATE that reissue sound; it’s the main reason we stopped carrying them.

Where is the life of the music you ask? It’s on the kind of Hot Stamper pressings you are reading about right now. The band is cookin’, and because the pressing is so transparent, so open and spacious, you can hear each and every player’s contribution clearly and effortlessly. The cool air of the studio surrounds every instrument. They’re in a nice-sized room and you can really hear the sound bouncing around, just as you would if you were sitting in with the band.

And what would a good Contemporary be without Tubey Magic, especially on the guitar. Man, we love that sound. And check out the deep bass while you’re at it. No half-speed mastered audiophile pressing EVER had bass like this.

Contemporary Jazz Records Available Now

Reviews and Commentaries for Contemporary Jazz

Reviews and Commentaries for the Recordings of Roy DuNann

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Barney Kessel / Let’s Cook – What a Guitar Sound!

  • Tubey Magic, richness, sweetness, dead-on timbres from top to bottom — this is a textbook example of Contemporary Stereo sound at its best
  • For some reason, the guitar sound from this era of All Tube Chain Recording is seems to have died out with the times – it can only be found on the best of these vintage pressings, and the better the guitar sounds, the more likely it is that the record will win our shootout
  • For those of you who appreciate what Roy DuNann were able to achieve in the ’50s at Contemporary Records, this LP is a Must-Own
  • “[A]n excellent session from guitarist Barney Kessel…matched with vibraphonist Victor Feldman, pianist Hampton Hawes, bassist Leroy Vinnegar, and drummer Shelly Manne.”

We were simply blown away by this pressing. 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!

Barney Kessel comes out SWINGIN’ on this album — he is up for this gig! The energy you hear in his playing is partly the Hot Stamper pressing, of course. When you get a record that has all of its dynamics and transients intact, the musicians just come alive in a way that the typically compressed, dead-as-a-doornail Heavy Vinyl reissue cannot begin to communicate. We HATE that reissue sound; it’s the main reason we stopped carrying them.

Where is the life of the music you ask? It’s on the kind of Hot Stamper pressings you are reading about right now. The band is cookin’, and because the pressing is so transparent, so open and spacious, you can hear each and every player’s contribution clearly and effortlessly. The cool air of the studio surrounds every instrument. They’re in a nice-sized room and you can really hear the sound bouncing around, just as you would if you were sitting in with the band.

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Ben Webster – Soulville

  • Unlike the Speakers Corner version from a few years back, this is the real thing, mastered by real pros, not audiophiles
  • This reissue combines the albums Soulville and Ben Webster Meets Oscar Peterson
  • With rave reviews for both albums, AMG lauds Soulville is, “one of the highlights of that golden ’50s run,” and notes the collaboration as “one of the jazz legend’s all-time great records.”

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Ella Fitzgerald – The Duke Ellington Songbook, Vol. 2

More Ella Fitzgerald

Ella Fitzgerald Albums We’ve Reviewed

  • A stunning sounding copy with Triple Plus (A+++) sound on ALL FOUR SIDES!
  • Forget the originals – like so many of the early songbook pressings, they suffer from painfully hard and honky mastering EQ (and gritty sounding vinyl)
  • We know whereof we speak when it comes to early Ella records – we’ve played plenty of them and found that most just don’t sound very good
  • Exceptionally quiet vinyl throughout* — Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
  • “Duke’s spectacular catalog dazzles, and his sprightly, lush textures are transfigured under Fitzgerald’s warm-timbred voice and elegant, precise delivery… each tune as familiar as it is delightful to hear in this new context.”

This mono reissue is the only way to find the MIDRANGE MAGIC that’s missing from modern records. As good as the best of those pressings may be, this record is going to be dramatically more REAL sounding.

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Jimmy Witherspoon – Witherspoon Mulligan Webster At The Renaissance

More Jimmy Witherspoon

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This is an original Hi-Fi Records Mono LP from 1959. Jimmy is joined on stage by Gerry Mulligan and Ben Webster, with support from Mel Lewis, Leroy Vinnegar and Jimmy Rowles. Now that is some group of top jazz talent.

The sound is decent, but the music is the real thing, as you can imagine from the list of players. There’s also some slight groove distortion which is almost unavoidable on vintage pressings such as this.

Ben Webster – Ben Webster and Associates

Hot Stamper Jazz Recordings Featuring the Saxophone

Reviews and Commentaries for the Recordings of Ben Webster

This Mono Black Label Verve LP from 1959 gets 4 1/2 Stars from AMG!

The sound quality is nothing special but the music is classic Webster.

“This summit meeting turned out to be a tribute to another tenor master of the same generation, Lester Young, who had died less than four weeks before this session. The chosen rhythm section of Jimmy Jones on piano, Les Spann on guitar, Ray Brown on bass, and Jo Jones on drums equally matches the performance of the featured horns… ” — AMG

FURTHER READING

We have four categories of sound for the thousands of records we’ve auditioned over the years.

The Ben Webster record above went into our Middling Sound Quality section. It’s not a bad sounding record, but not a very good one either. Although music lovers will be pleased, audiophiles looking for top quality sound are advised to look elsewhere.

These categories are not quite as definitive as they sound, as there could be a Hot Stamper pressing — perhaps a reissue of some kind — of the album that would better fit in the Excellent Sound Quality category.

Pressings with Mind-Blowing Sound Quality

Pressings with Excellent Sound Quality 

Pressings with Middling Sound Quality 

Pressings with Weak Sound Quality or Music 

Ben Webster And ’Sweets’ Edison on Classic Records – Reviewed in the ’90s

More of the Music of Ben Webster

More of the Music of Harry ’Sweets’ Edison

Sonic Grade: B?

Probably a fairly good  Classic Records jazz album. Both the music and sound are excellent.

The right Columbia pressing will kill it, but it’s probably a fairly good value if you can get one for the 30 bucks we used to charge. 

OUR HOT STAMPER REVIEW FROM WAY BACK

This is a Minty looking Columbia 360 Label LP. As good as the now out of print Classic Records version was, my guess is that this pressing will be clearly superior in terms of warmth, richness, and sweetness. It’s been years since I’ve seen a copy of this album, but I remember liking it very much back in the days when the Classic version was in print.

I’ve also had a chance to go back and listen to lots of early Columbias like this one and have been extremely impressed with the naturalness of the sound. I picked up a copy of Time Out recently that was as good as it gets on side one. No heavy vinyl reissue ever sounded like that!

FURTHER READING

Classic Records – Classical

Classic Records – Jazz 

Classic Records – Rock and Pop 

Heavy Vinyl Commentaries

Heavy Vinyl Disasters 

Heavy Vinyl Mediocrities 

Heavy Vinyl Winners 

and we can’t forget this one

Bad Sounding Audiophile Records – The Complete List (273)