Top Artists – Duke Ellington

Duke Ellington – Piano In The Background on Six Eye Columbia Vinyl

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  • This original Six Eye boasts superb Triple Plus (A+++) sound on side one – this is As Good As It Gets, folks, and that’s very good indeed
  • Full-bodied and warm, exactly the way you want your vintage analog to sound
  • The piano is surprisingly real here, solid and dynamic
  • Classic Records remastered this title in the 2000s, as has Speakers Corner, but if you think either one of those pressings can hold a candle to the real thing from 1960, let us send you this record and disabuse you of that notion
  • 4 stars: “One of Ellington’s rarer studio sessions… Ellington’s solo abilities were always a bit underrated due to his brilliance in other areas, but this set shows just how modern he remained through the years as a player.”

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Duke Ellington – The Ellington Suites

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  • The Ellington Suites finally returns to the site with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it throughout
  • Lively, dynamic, transparent, spacious and musical throughout – you won’t believe how good this Jazz Classic from 1976 sounds
  • We guarantee there is dramatically more richness, fullness and presence on this copy than anything you have ever heard, and that’s especially true if you made the mistake of buying whatever godawful Heavy Vinyl pressing is currently on the market
  • “Ellington devoted special attention to The Queen’s Suite, which in the end hewed closely to his original sketch. Its six episodes were inspired by natural phenomena encountered in his travels. . .”

I know of no other Pablo record with sound so rich, full, and warm. This one destroyed a big stack of copies we’d been collecting for years in order to do this shootout. Unless you have a good-sized batch, ten or more, you will have a tough time finding one with sound anywhere near this amazing.

The Queen’s Suite, which takes up side one, was recorded in 1959 and sounds amazing. As you can imagine, this has one of the best Ellington bands ever assembled, with players like Clark Terry, Paul Gonzalves, Harry Carney, Johnny Hodges… the list of jazz giants goes on and on. If you enjoy the classic albums by Mingus on Atlantic, you’re gonna love this work. The sound is excellent as well, spacious and transparent with tight bass and an extended top end.

Side two has material performed by Ellington in the early ’70s, which though not as good musically, is still very enjoyable. On this copy, it sounds amazing, with incredible transparency and immediacy. The overall sound is airy and open with lots of breathy texture to the horns and woodwinds.

1976 Grammy Award Winner for Best Jazz Performance by a Big Band! (more…)

Bill Berry and His Ellington All-Stars – For Duke

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  • For Duke makes its Hot Stamper debut here with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the second side mated with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on the first of this original M&K Real Time pressing – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Tubier, more present, more alive, with more of that “jumpin’ right out of the speakers” quality that only The Real Thing (The Real Thing being An Old Record) ever has
  • “. . . this album features a true all-star lineup. Each artist solos in this heartfelt tribute session. . . one of those rare albums that you can enjoy over and over without losing your smile.”

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Frank Sinatra and Duke Ellington – Francis A. & Edward K.

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  • A STUNNING original Reprise pressing with a Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) side one mated to an outstanding Double Plus (A++) side two – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Sinatra is both natural and present – he actually sounds like he is standing on the same stage as Ellington’s band
  • “Recorded on Sinatra’s birthday in 1967, this collaboration between America’s most popular singing icon and pre-eminent jazz composer still endures as one of Sinatra’s most enjoyable Reprise-era albums.” – Amazon

Recorded one year after the remarkable Sinatra-Jobim record that we treasure here at Better Records, Sinatra takes the opportunity to work with one of the greatest bandleaders in the history of jazz, the Duke himself. We had good luck with the stereo originals on the lovely Blue and Green Reprise labels — they can be as big, rich and warm as Sinatra’s legendary Capitol recordings when you find the right pressing, and that’s really saying something.

You Are There

The presence and immediacy here are really something. Turn it up and Frank is right between your speakers, putting on the performance of a lifetime.

The sound is big, open, rich and full. The highs are extended and silky sweet. The bass is tight and punchy. And this copy gives you more life and energy than most by a long shot. Very few Sinatra records offer the kind of realistic, lifelike sound you get from this pressing.

He’s no longer a recording — he’s a living, breathing person. We call that “the breath of life,” and this record has it in spades. His voice is so rich, sweet, and free of any artificiality, you immediately find yourself lost in the music, because there’s no “sound” to distract you. (more…)

McCoy Tyner – Plays Ellington

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More Jazz Recordings Featuring the Piano

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  • Superb sound throughout with both sides earning solid Double Plus (A++) grades; exceptionally quiet vinyl too! 
  • With a lively and present piano, clarity, space and timbral accuracy, this is guaranteed to be one of the better sounding jazz records you’ve heard
  • Credit goes to Rudy Van Gelder once again for the huge space this superbly well-recorded ensemble occupies (the ensemble being a piano trio with two percussionists, but it works!)
  • 4 stars: “An interesting project that works quite well… This is an excellent outing that displays both Tyner’s debt to the jazz tradition and his increasingly original style.”

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Armstrong & Ellington / An Historic Recording Event (1961) – Our Shootout Winner from 2018

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Insanely good sound throughout with both sides rating a shootout winning Triple Plus (A+++).

This pressing is super spacious, sweet and positively dripping with ambience. 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.  (more…)

Duke Ellington / Ellington Indigos – Amazingly Spacious Sound

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More Records with Exceptionally Tubey Magical Sound

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  • With two outstanding sides rating a Double Plus (A++) for sound, this was one of the better copies in our most recent shootout
  • This original 6-Eye Stereo pressing blew us away with its superbly well recorded romantic big band jazz, of which Ellington was a true master
  • A near-perfect demonstration of just how good 1958 All Tube Analog sound can be – no modern record can hold a candle to a pressing as good as this one
  • If you like your jazz ballads performed with deep feeling, by a road-tested group of virtuoso players, this record is for you

If you like the sound of relaxed, tube-mastered jazz, you can’t do much better than Ellington Indigos. Many of the other Six Eye copies we played suffered from blubbery bass and transient smearing, but the clarity and bass definition here are surprisingly good. The warmth and immediacy of this sound may just blow your mind.

We played a handful of later pressings that didn’t really do it for us. They offer improved clarity, but can’t deliver the tubey goodness that you’ll hear on the best early pressings. We won’t be bothering with them anymore. It’s tubes or nothing on this album.

The key for vintage super-tubey recordings is balancing clarity with richness. The easiest way to test for those two qualities on this album is to find a track with clear, lively, loud trumpets that also includes rich trombones and other low brass. On side one that track is Where or When. If your copy has clear, lively trumpets and rich, full-bodied, Tubey Magical low brass, it is definitely doing something right. (more…)

Ellington-Basie – First Time – The Count Meets the Duke

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  • You’ll find Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides of this stunning Six Eye Stereo pressing of First Time!
  • Three-dimensional space and ambience, rich Tubey Magic by the boatload – this 30th Street recording shows just how good Columbia’s engineers were back then
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Ellington’s elegance and unique voicings meet Basie’s rollicking, blues-based Kansas City swing, and it works gloriously. The Duke and his band accentuate their swinging dance band side, while Basie and company have never sounded as suave and exotic as when playing Billy Strayhorn arrangements. Everyone has a good time, and that joy infuses this album from start to finish.”

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Duke Ellington – Up In Duke’s Workshop

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  • Stunning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) Ellington Big Band sound or very close to it, taken from 1969-1972 recordings, can be found on both of these outstanding sides
  • Pablo has here compiled some of Ellington’s best later music and mastered and pressed it wonderfully – you will not be disappointed with this one
  • “At first listen it is rougher, seems to be less evolved than his earlier easier-to-notice stylistic approach. If you give this a couple of plays, you will find it totally mesmerizing.”
  • “Duke Ellington was the most important composer in the history of jazz as well as being a bandleader who held his large group together continuously for almost 50 years.”

On every copy we played, the first track on side two is not quite up to the standard set by some of the other pieces. The top end is a little boosted and you can hear it most clearly on the cymbals. But by track two all is well sound-wise. (more…)

Duke Ellington – Selections From Peer Gynt Suites Nos. 1 and 2

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  • This superb copy of Duke Ellington’s 1961 release boasts Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) from top to bottom – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • The sound is gloriously ANALOG – smooth, relaxed and full-bodied – almost no other copy in our shootout had this kind of exceptionally natural sound
  • Wall to wall, floor to ceiling, room-filling All Tube Radio Recorders Studio sound like nothing you have ever heard
  • One of Ellington’s most enjoyable classic collaborations with Billy Strayhorn
  • “All in all, it’s one of Ellington’s most focussed large-scale efforts… It ends on a swinging Ray Nance solo (on violin, yet!), miles away from the politesse of Grapelli. I’ve heard only one other violinist (and not a jazz violinist, surprisingly) swing this hard.”

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