- This outstanding Columbia Red Label copy of Ah Um boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides
- An amazing 30th Street Studio recording by the legendary Fred Plaut – if you like Kind of Blue, here’s another album with that sound (same year, same studio, same engineer)
- The rich, sweet, spacious sound of the vintage tubes used to record the session is reproduced faithfully here – without that sound, it would just not be Ah Um
- 5 stars: “Mingus Ah Um is a stunning summation of the bassist’s talents and probably the best reference point for beginners… Mingus’ compositions and arrangements were always extremely focused, assimilating individual spontaneity into a firm consistency of mood, and that approach reaches an ultra-tight zenith on Mingus Ah Um”
Some jazz lovers and record collectors prefer their vintage jazz in mono.
We, as audiophiles, mostly do not if the record was originally recorded in stereo.
This is a good example of a record that sounds dramatically better in stereo than it does in mono. The mono is rich and tonally correct, but so small and compressed that it makes a mockery of the energy and huge space found on the original stereo tape.
This record sounds best this way:
Which simply means that the 6 Eye label domestic stereo pressings win our shootouts, in this case without exception. (more…)
- This outstanding copy of Mingus Moves boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last
- This vintage pressing is well balanced, yet big and lively, with such wonderful clarity in the mids and highs as well as deep punchy bass and a big open and spacious soundfield
- 4 stars: “Together this excellent quintet performed seven recent compositions… Only three of the pieces are by Mingus but all of the music is greatly influenced by his searching and unpredictable style.”
- An incredible sounding copy with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from the first note to the last
- These sides are KILLER — clean, clear and full-bodied with a big bottom end and lots of space around all of the players
- Robert Christgau called it the best composed bebop he’d heard in 1977; if you’re a bebop fan, we’re sure you’ll agree!
- You’ll find excellent sound on this original Limelight LP – both sides play exceptionally quietly too
- This copy sounds like a big room full of musicians (25 in all!) playing live, which is exactly what it was
- The Tubey Magical richness of this 1960 recording (released in 1961) is breathtaking – no modern record can touch it
- Allmusic gives it 4 stars and we think it’s maybe even a bit better than that
- Two tracks are contrapuntal arrangements of two swing era pieces, whereby “Take the “A” Train” (left channel) is paired with a simultaneous “Exactly Like You” (right channel), and likewise “Do Nothin’ Till You Hear From Me” with “I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart”.
This copy has the original bound-in booklet with pictures and background on the recording, which was “directed” by none other than Leonard Feather. The original cover is not in great shape, so we are including a reissue cover from the ’70s as well.
The best copies recreate a live studio space the size of which you will not believe (assuming your room can do a good job of recreating their room). The sound is tonally correct, Tubey Magical and above all natural. The timbre of each and every instrument is right and it doesn’t take a pair of golden ears to hear it -so high-resolution too.
If you love ’50s and ’60s jazz you cannot go wrong here. Mingus was a genius and the original music on this record is just one more album’s worth of proof of the undeniability of that fact. (more…)
- This outstanding copy of Blues & Roots boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it on both sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
- Superb space and immediacy, rich and smooth and oh-so-Tubey-Magical – this is exactly the right sound for this bluesy collection
- A barrage of “churchy, blues, singing, earthy” music that returns Mingus to his soulful roots
- 5 stars: “Blues and Roots, isn’t quite as wildly eclectic as usual, but it ranks as arguably Mingus’ most joyously swinging outing… perhaps the most soulful in Mingus’ discography.”
The letter below sheds some light on a vitally important mastering issue: specifically the answer to the question, Which are better sounding, originals or reissues? The letter finishes this way.
Incidentally, just a couple of days ago I conducted my own shootout between the Red Label “Mingus Ah Um” I bought from you a few weeks back and my pristine, Six Eye White Label Promo original. To my surprise, you were absolutely right about the greater clarity of the former (starting with the snare drum on the first track).
If I had to choose between them when selecting half a dozen “desert island” LPs (and “Mingus Ah Um” would definitely be one), the Red Label version would be the pick. Much obliged for the edification.
We of course could not agree more. We wrote back:
Once you hear the sound of “old school mastering” and get to know it, you can recognize it for what it does right and what it too often does wrong. Then, and only then, can you appreciate what is really happening when switching from newer to older pressings, what is being gained and what is being lost. It’s the kind of Home Audio Exercise we constantly talk about on the site. And there’s a good reason for that.
As we never tire of saying, hearing is surely believing. (more…)
These are just some of the Charles Mingus’s recordings 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.
A Free Service provided to the Audiophile Public, courtesy of Better Records.
A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.
If you hear something that sounds like Frank Zappa’s music circa Waka Jawaka don’t be surprised, we heard it too. Mingus and Zappa were both eccentric geniuses so it only makes sense that they arrived at some of the same musical ideas as they evolved as composers.
Side one is big, rich, Tubey Magical and natural. The saxophone that solos is front and center and lively. Above all the music works on this side.
Side two is especially rich and tubey. It will sound thick and dark unless you get the volume up to the level it wants to be for the mix to work (which simply means that the album was balanced at louder levels to sound correct at louder levels). A little more top end extension would be nice but the music sounds right on the copy the way it is. (more…)
- This stunning sounding original copy has amazing Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides – it’s guaranteed to blow your mind
- The sound here is vintage Living Stereo at its best – big, rich and Tubey Magical like you will not believe
- These Black Label originals can rarely be found any quieter than this one – it plays Mint Minus Minus for the most part
- 5 stars: “Mingus at the time said that this was his greatest recording, and it certainly ranks near the top.”
NOTE: There are a few very light, barely audible marks on side one that play intermittently. There are four light pops at the start of track one and three light pops at the end of the track. There are also seven very soft pops near the middle of track 2.
This is the way it must have sounded in 1957, when legendary RCA engineers BOB SIMPSON and RAY HALL were sitting behind the board in the New York studios where it was recorded. (more…)