Top Artists – Clark Terry

Ray Brown / Milt Jackson

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  • Outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on both sides of this early Verve stereo pressing
  • Both sides here are big and lively, both of which are key elements for any album arranged by the-bigger-the-better Oliver Nelson
  • A lot of Verve records from this era are poorly mastered, but this one sounds just right to us
  • Big sounding ’60s jazz with lively arrangements from Oliver Nelson and Jimmy Heath
  • Clark Terry’s trumpet and flugelhorn contributions play a major role in the festivities
  • This is cool, swinging ’60’s jazz at its best – the Allmusic Guide awards this album 4 1/2 stars, and that sounds about right to us
  • If you’re a fan of the jazz stylings of either Milt Jackson or Ray Brown, this is a Classic from 1965 that belongs in your collection. The complete list of titles from 1965 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

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Thelonious Monk / Brilliant Corners

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More Jazz Recordings Featuring the Piano

  • An outstanding copy of Brilliant Corners, with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it from start to finish – mostly quiet vinyl too
  • Rich, full-bodied and present yet still clear and spacious – we guarantee this copy sounds better than any pressing you’ve heard, and should beat the pricey originals hands down
  • With masterful horn playing from Sonny Rollins and Clark Terry, and a rhythm section that can actually keep up with Monk – made up of Max Roach, Oscar Pettiford and Paul Chambers – this is a Must Own for any music loving audiophile
  • 5 stars: “Brilliant Corners may well be considered the alpha and omega of post-World War II American jazz. No serious jazz collection should be without it.”
  • If you’re a fan of Mr. Monk, this All Tube Recording from 1957 belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1957 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.
  • We’ve recently compiled a list of records we think every audiophile should get to know better, along the lines of “the 1001 records you need to hear before you die,” but with less of an accent on morbidity and more on the joy these amazing audiophile-quality recordings can bring to your life. Brilliant Corners is a good example of a record most audiophiles probably don’t know well but should.

If you’re looking to demonstrate just how good a 1957 All Tube Analog recording can be, this superb copy should be just the record for you. Talk about Tubey Magic! The liquidity of the sound here is positively uncanny. This is vintage analog at its best, so full-bodied and relaxed you’ll wonder how it ever came to be that anyone seriously contemplated trying to improve it.

No recordings will ever be made like this again, and no CD will ever capture what is in the grooves of this record. There is of course a CD of the album, but those of us in possession of a working turntable could care less.

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Clark Terry – The Happy Horns of Clark Terry

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More Jazz Recordings

  • Clark Terry’s three horn lineup album returns to the site with superb Double (A++) sound on both sides of this Impulse LP
  • It’s simply bigger, more transparent, less distorted, more three-dimensional and more REAL than most of what we played
  • Credit goes to Rudy Van Gelder once again for the huge space this superbly well-recorded ensemble occupies
  • 4 stars: “This all-star LP has plenty of memorable moments… The lively music is quite enjoyable.”

We dropped the needle on a copy of the album a couple of years ago and immediately we knew it would be a record worthy of a shootout — the sound was big and lively in the best tradition of Rudy Van Gelder’s recordings from the mid-’60s. His sound is the right sound for this style of music, that’s for damn sure.

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Chico Hamilton – The Further Adventures of El Chico

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More of Our Favorite Records on Impulse

  • Insanely good Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish and the first copy to ever hit the site! 
  • These sides, recorded brilliantly by one of our favorite engineers, Bob Simpson, are big, full-bodied and present, with plenty of Tubey Magic and set on a a huge, three-dimensional soundstage
  • The record features the amazing Gabor Szabo along with other top players like Clark Terry and Ron Carter
  • Great pop jazz with excellent sound; if you’re a fan of Gabor Szabo, this music will be right up your alley

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Back In Bean’s Bag on Classic Records LP Sounds Pretty Good

More of the Music of Coleman Hawkins

More of the Music of Clark Terry

Sonic Grade: B

We’re not the least bit embarrassed to admit we used to like their version very much, and happily recommended it in our catalog back in the day.

Like many Classic Records, the master tapes are so good that even with their mediocre mastering — and pressing: RTI’s vinyl accounts for at least some of the lost sound quality, so airless and tired — the record still sounds great, at least until you get hold of the real thing and hear what you are missing.

What do you get with Hot Stampers compared to the Classic Heavy Vinyl reissue? Dramatically more warmth, sweetness, delicacy, transparency, space, energy, size, naturalness (no boost on the top end or the bottom, a common failing of anything by Classic); in other words, the kind of difference you almost ALWAYS get comparing the best vintage pressings with their modern remastered counterparts, in our experience anyway.

The Classic is a nice record, a Hot Stamper is a MAGICAL one.


FURTHER READING

Classic Records – Classical

Classic Records – Jazz 

Classic Records – Rock and Pop  (more…)

J.J. Johnson – J.J.!

  • J.J. Johnson makes his Hot Stamper debut with this SUPERB copy of J.J.! – Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish
  • The sound is big, lively, open and clear with Tubey Magical richness that only the best of the best vintage pressings can show you
  • Features a lineup of top-notch talent, including Clark Terry, Oliver Nelson, Hank Jones, as well as quite a few others – plenty of reeds, a French Horn, a tuba and more are here
  • 4 stars: “J.J.! is considered to be J.J. Johnson’s first big-band album, at least as a leader… The music is solidly played,… modern forward-looking mainstream jazz that features Johnson in excellent form.”

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Gary McFarland & Co./Clark Terry – Tijuana Jazz

  • Tijuana Jazz finally arrives on the site with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last – mostly quiet vinyl too
  • The superb eclectic jazz sound here is big and rich, yet still clean, clear and open with good energy, space, and ambience
  • Terry and McFarland combine the Mexican milieu and jazz with warmth and whimsy – Toots Thielemans on harmonica is a nice addition to the festivities
  • “Marimbas, sexy rhythms, perfectly buffered horn arrangements cover this album, and the results are like sitting by a fire on a dark night, cold outside but comforted, completely snug, and watching the flames dance.”

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Coleman Hawkins and Clark Terry – Back In Bean’s Bag

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  • With two nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sides, this copy is close to the BEST we have ever heard, right up there with our Shootout Winner
  • All Tube, Live in the Studio Columbia Sound from 1962 – sound like this makes a mockery of most jazz recordings, and don’t get me started on the sham Heavy Vinyl LPs flooding the market with one mediocrity after another
  • What a swingin’ group – there is simply not a false step to be found anywhere on either side of this wonderful record
  • “Hawkins teamed up with the personable trumpeter Clark Terry for this upbeat set of-of solid swing. Terry, in particular, is in exuberant form on “Feedin’ the Bean”… but Hawkins’s playing (particularly on the trumpeter’s ballad “Michelle”) is also in fine form.”

These Nearly White Hot Stamper pressings have top-quality sound that’s often surprisingly close to our White Hots, but they sell at substantial discounts to our Shootout Winners, making them a relative bargain in the world of Hot Stampers (“relative” meaning relative considering the kinds of prices we charge). We feel you get what you pay for here at Better Records, and if ever you don’t agree, please feel free to return the record for a full refund, no questions asked.


*NOTE: On side two, a mark makes 20 moderate to light ticks and pops one-half inch into Track 2.

For those of you who appreciate the remarkable sound quality that Columbia’s engineers were able to achieve in the ’50s and ’60s, this LP is a Must-Own.

This vintage “360 Sound” Columbia Stereo has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound. (more…)

Ed Thigpen – Out Of The Storm

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  • Ed Thigpen arrives on the site with this STUNNING copy of his debut album, boasting Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from start to finish
  • Lively, dynamic, transparent, spacious and musical throughout – you won’t believe how good this Jazz Classic from 1966 sounds
  • Superb engineering by Rudy Van Gelder – Out of the Storm features jazz legends Clark Terry, Kenny Burrell, Herbie Hancock, and Ron Carter
  • 4 stars: “Drummer Ed Thigpen’s first album as a leader… Although not soloing much, Thigpen wrote three of the seven selections and occasionally played tuned drums, which sound a little bit like timbales… the performances are enjoyable.”  

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Charlie Byrd – Byrd at the Gate

This is a nice Early Riverside stereo pressing (not as pictured) with excellent sound! It’s also a title Mobile Fidelity ruined, and having just played this record, I can see hear how they did it.

First of all, the guitar and the drums are tonally right on the money. Mobile Fidelity of course brightened up both and the results are a phony sounding guitar and a phony sounding drum kit, with tizzy cymbals. (The Wes Montgomery MoFi title has many of the same faults, but it’s not quite as bad as this one.)   

The other reason the Mobile Fidelity is such a joke is that this recording inherently has a lot of ill-defined bass. Since Half-Speed mastering causes a loss of bass definition, their pressing is even WORSE in this respect.

Mobile Fidelity rarely understood what an acoustic guitar was supposed to sound like. They blew it on all the Cat Stevens masterpieces, brightening up the guitar which emphasized the “picking” at the expense of the resonating guitar body and vibrating string harmonics.

What makes Byrd At The Gate a good record is the natural acoustic guitar tone. Once you screw that up, what’s left?

An audiophile record. For audiophiles who like phony sounding guitars.

Riverside cut this record, and they knew how to cut it right.


This is an Older Jazz Review.

Most of the older reviews you see are for records that did not go through the shootout process, the revolutionary approach to finding better sounding pressings we developed in the early 2000s and have since turned into a fine art.

We found the records you see in these older listings by cleaning and playing a pressing or two of the album, which we then described and priced based on how good the sound and surfaces were. (For out Hot Stamper listings, the Sonic Grades and Vinyl Playgrades are listed separately.)

We were often wrong back in those days, something we have no reason to hide. Audio equipment and record cleaning technologies have come a long way since those darker days, a subject we discuss here.

Currently, 99% (or more!) of the records we sell are cleaned, then auditioned under rigorously controlled conditions, up against a number of other pressings. We award them sonic grades, and then condition check them for surface noise.

As you may imagine, this approach requires a great deal of time, effort and skill, which is why we currently have a highly trained staff of about ten. No individual or business without the aid of such a committed group could possibly dig as deep into the sound of records as we have, and it is unlikely that anyone besides us could ever come along to do the kind of work we do.

The term “Hot Stampers” gets thrown around a lot these days, but to us it means only one thing: a record that has been through the shootout process and found to be of exceptionally high quality.

The result of our labor is the hundreds of titles seen here, every one of which is unique and guaranteed to be the best sounding copy of the album you have ever heard or you get your money back.


FURTHER READING

New to the Blog? Start Here

Helpful Advice on Cleaning Your Records

Helpful Advice on Doing Your Own Shootouts

What We’ve Learned from Record Experiments