Top Artists – Count Basie

Count Basie – Basie Plays Hefti – Original Versus Reissue

The original pressings are the best, right?

Not in our experience. It’s (probably) just another Record Myth.

Basie was recording like a madman back in the late ’50s and even all through the ’60s. In 1958, the year of this release, he put out seven (7!) albums on the Roulette label. We’ve played quite a number of them over the years and found relatively few with audiophile quality sound.

Including the original Roulette pressing of this very title. We’ve only heard a few, and had only one for our shootout, but it was awful enough to make us swear off buying more, especially considering the prices vintage jazz albums are going for these days.

Hard and sour brass, no real top or bottom, it’s the sound of a poorly mastered Old Jazz Record, fine for the consoles of the day, not so good on today’s advanced stereo systems. Emus seems to be the only way to go.

Don’t buy into that record collecting / audiophile canard that the originals are better. (more…)

Tony Bennett & Count Basie – In Person!

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  • This original Six-Eye stereo pressing has insanely good sound throughout with both sides earning shootout winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades
  • The sound here is incredibly big, rich and Tubey Magical yet still open, spacious and detailed with a lovely bottom end
  • “The drive of the Bennett vocals is excellently paced by the swingin’ Basie crew. Tunes are nicely paced and varied. It’s an exciting set that builds track after track” – Billboard

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The Glorious Sound of Triple Flutes

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your Basie Big Band album.

Check out the triple flutes on the first track on side two – on a copy like this you will hear some shockingly Tubey Magical, breathy, sweet, natural flutes. And there are three of them! Even large classical orchestras rarely have three flutes. The sound is to die for.

Play any number of copies and listen for the tri-flute sound – some copies are tubier and a bit smeary, some are breathier and a bit thin, some are recessed, some are more present. On a resolving system no two pressings will have those flutes sounding exactly the same.

Don’t judge the whole side by just the flutes, they are only one element in a complex array. But they are a very strong clue as to what the rest of the sound is doing better or worse. One might even go so far as to say right and wrong.

Basie Big Band is a Top Basie Big Band title in every way — musically, sonically, you name it, this album has got it going on.

If you like your brass big, rich, powerful and dynamic, you came to the right place. In practically every way this copy is Hard To Fault.

With 18 pieces in the studio (five trumpets!, four trombones!, five saxes!) this album can be a real powerhouse — if you have the right copy, and both White Hot Stamper sides here show you just how lively and dynamic this music can be. It’s got real Demo Disc qualities, no doubt about it. (more…)

Gene Harris Big Band – Tribute to Count Basie – A Concord Record that Isn’t Mediocre (!)

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Since when did Concord learn to make a record that sounds as good as this one, with inspired, energetic performances from this solid group of veterans of the jazz wars no less.

Where is the typical Concord sub-gen, opaque, closed-in, compressed and lifeless sound we’ve been hearing all our lives? This is one jazz label that has done almost nothing of any real interest from the very start, and yet somehow they not only managed to get Gene Harris and his band of All Stars to play with tremendous enthusiasm and skill, they actually managed to capture, with considerable fidelity I might add, the prodigious big band energy they produced onto a reel of analog tape. I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t heard it with my own two ears.

Not only is the sound EXCELLENT, but the big band really swings. They pull out all the stops. Gene Harris, one of my favorite pianists, leads an all star crew on a series of tracks performed in the spirit of Count Basie. Not a slavish recreation, but an inspired performance in his style. This has to be one of the best sounding Concord records I’ve ever heard. Without a doubt one of the real sleepers from that label. (more…)

Count Basie – April In Paris

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  • April in Paris makes its Hot Stamper debut with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound fon this vintage mono pressing
  • This pressing showed us the sound we were looking for – big, bold, full-bodied mono, the kind they knew how to record in 1957
  • Here is the MIDRANGE MAGIC that’s surely missing from whatever modern reissue has been made from the 60+ year old tapes (or, to be clear, a modern digital master copied from those tapes)
  • 5 stars: “April in Paris is one of those rare albums that makes its mark as an almost instant classic in the jazz pantheon… The title track has come to define elegance in orchestral jazz… Recorded in 1955 and 1956, April in Paris proved Count Basie’s ability to grow through modern jazz changes while keeping the traditional jazz orchestra vital and alive.”

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Mel Torme – I Dig The Duke – I Dig The Count

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  • Torme’s 1962 release makes its Hot Stamper debut here with STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish
  • This is not one of Mel’s better known albums, but we found it to be prime Velvet Fog, right up there with the best of his work auditioned to date – if you haven’t heard the man in his prime, this would be a great place to start
  • Val Valentin did the engineering – as he often did over the course of his long and storied career, he knocked this one out of the park
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Recorded with the Johnny Mandel Orchestra at sessions in Los Angeles, it includes one half Duke Ellington and one half Count Basie… With all these things going for it, how can Tormé do wrong?”

*NOTE: A small mark in the middle of track 3, I Like The Sunshine, makes 12 moderate pops.

Sometimes the copy with the best sound is not the copy with the quietest vinyl. The best sounding copy is always going to win the shootout, the condition of its vinyl not withstanding. If you can tolerate the problems on this pressing you are in for some killer Mel Torme music with exceptional sound. If for any reason you are not happy with the sound or condition of the album we are of course happy to take it back for a full refund, including the domestic return postage.


The sound of this superb jazzy ensemble is big, lively, open and clear, with Tubey Magical richness you will not find anywhere but on these early Verve stereo LPs.

Why is that? Well, for starters, this vintage pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely begin to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing any sign of coming back. (more…)

Frank Sinatra – Sinatra At The Sands – The Ideal Pressing for the Average Audiophile

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Don’t want the hassle of finding a nice original stereo copy?

Don’t want to invest in proper record cleaning equipment to restore the glorious sound of its 50-plus year old vinyl?

Don’t want to spend the time (decades) and money (tens of thousands of dollars) to build and tweak a top quality analog playback system?

If you don’t want to do any of these things, you are not alone. In fact you are clearly in the majority, part of that enormously tall, fat bulge right in the middle of the bell curve. As the quintessential audiophile record lover, part of the mass of the mass-market, Mobile Fidelity has made the perfect record for you.

It’s quiet, it’s tonally correct, and on the mediocre equipment you will use to play it back, it does not seem to be especially veiled, opaque or compressed. It is indeed all of these things, and many more, but you will have no reason to suspect that anything is wrong with it.

More precisely, you will have no way to know that anything is wrong with it.

Now the only thing remaining is to go to an audiophile forum and write your “expert”  review, telling everyone how much better it is than whatever crappy pressing you owned and will be happily trading in soon. (This assumes you owned anything at all. I would be surprised if the average audiophile had a vintage copy of the album to compare with the new one, but no doubt some do.)

If you want to hold the pressings you play to a higher sonic standard, we are here to help. If setting a low bar is more your style, Mobile Fidelity has been making records for you for more than fifty years. As long as you keep buying them, they’ll keep making them. They’ve been setting a low bar for as long as I can remember, and the fact that they are still around is positive proof that their customers like it just fine that way.

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Frank Sinatra and Count Basie – Sinatra At The Sands – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

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

This double album presents Sinatra and Basie at the height of their powers, in a setting especially conducive to both men’s music, the big room at the Sands Hotel in Vegas. If you missed it — and I’m sure most all of us did — here’s your chance to go back in time and be seated with the beautiful people, front row center. This two disc all tube-mastered analog set is practically the only way you’ll ever be able to hear the greatest vocalist of his generation — in his prime no less — performing with one of the swingingest big bands of the time.

There is some edge on Sinatra’s voice on every side of every copy; it’s so common it’s got to be on the tape. Those copies with less edge and grit on the vocals that are at the same time not overly smooth or dull tend to do very well in our shootouts. (more…)

Count Basie – Kansas City 5

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

Another amazingly well recorded Count Basie album, and this one is killer with Triple Triple grades. It’s bigger, more solid and rich, with extension on both ends of the frequency spectrum that no other copy could match. First time on the site – a great session with a fresh sound for Basie, with Milt Jackson on vibes and Joe Pass on guitar.

I was not familiar with this record until recently. We pick up all the Pablo Basie titles we can get our hands on, and when we needle dropped a copy of this album we were amazed at the sound. Don’t know much about the engineer but he did a great job at Kendun for this session. 

This was the first of a series of smaller ensemble recordings under the heading of Kansas City. We have more coming, including the superb Kansas City piano trio album entitled “For the Second Time” with Louis Bellson and Ray Brown, a record that can have superb sound on the Pablo pressing (but steer clear of the OJC which is thin and opaque, the opposite of the sound you want). (more…)

Frank Sinatra and Count Basie – Sinatra At The Sands – Mobile Fidelity Reviewed

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Sonic Grade: B

Another MoFi LP reviewed.

It’s pretty good. Compressed and veiled, but the tonality is correct. I give it a B. It will beat the vast majority of reissues, which tend to be thin, gritty, and woefully lacking in Tubey Magic. And the vinyl will be quiet, which is something not many of the best pressings can offer. 

But who wants to listen to a B grade record when we you can buy A and A+ pressings from us? (more…)