Top Artists – Duke Ellington

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/Johnny Hodges – Blues Summit – Better Sound than the Originals?

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  • This superb jazz double album makes its Hot Stamper debut here with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from start to finish
  • What surprised during our shootout was that this later pressing from 1976 actually sounded quite a bit better than virtually all the early pressings we put it up against
  • The Classic Records pressings from 1995 aren’t bad, but they head to head they can’t begin to compete with a pressing as good as this one
  • Superb engineering from the man behind so many great sounding Verve records, Val Valentin
  • 4 stars: “… this very enjoyable double LP includes two related sessions… Highly recommended in one form or another.”

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Duke Ellington – Masterpieces By Ellington

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We’ve known about this wonderful album for decades, since first got hold of a red label copy from the ’70s. Although not in the league with the best 6 eye pressings, even that late reissue had enough Columbia magic left in its grooves to impress the hell out of me.

And the fact that a jazz album recorded in 1950 was still in print more than twenty years later is testament to the lasting power of Ellington’s music. As Kenny Burrell would say, “Ellington Is Forever.” (more…)

Joe Pass – Portraits Of Duke Ellington

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

Maybe it’s the fact that there are only three instruments playing, live in the studio, that accounts for the amazing recording quality. Nobody knows, certainly not us, but the one thing we can say for sure is that you will have a very hard time finding a guitar trio album that sounds remotely as good as this one does.

And the music is by The Duke himself. How great is that? Can’t fault the song choices in any way; they’re all classics: Satin Doll; Sophisticated Lady; I Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good); In A Mellowtone; Don’t Get Around Much Anymore; Do Nothin’ ‘Till You Hear From Me and more.

Watch for more Joe Pass albums coming to the site. After hearing this album, and enjoying the hell out of it, we’re hunting down everything we can get our hands on to audition. I’d be surprised if we find another album with sound this good, but in the land of records you just never know.

Johnny Hodges – The Big Sound

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  • Hodges’ superb and quite rare release arrives on the site with STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it
  • Spacious and transparent, this mono copy has the big three-dimensional soundstage that makes an All Tube recording from 1957 such a joy to listen to
  • Featuring some of the swingingest cats from Duke Ellington’s band, all playing the music they love and performing at the peak of their powers
  • 4 stars: “No surprises, but the session was as good as one might hope. Gathered here was the Ellington band with Billy Strayhorn at the piano…This was an integrated unit, not some detached studio band for Hodges to blow over, under, around, and through. It was wonderful Hodges and fine Ellington.”

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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 / Duke Ellington – Francis A. & Edward K. – Our Shootout Winner from 2014

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

An amazing pressing of a superb recording, this White Hot Stamper really gets this music right!

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. (more…)

Duke Ellington – Newport Jazz Festival 1958 – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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

If you are a fan, this record will be a thrill. If you’re unfamiliar with the Duke’s music, I can’t imagine a better introduction than this.

This LP also includes Gerry Mulligan’s only performance with the Ellington band. Paul Gonsalves’s saxophone performance is superb and worth the price of the album alone. The clarinet parts on Princess Blue are out of this world — Ellington at his best!

Duke Ellington – Ellington Indigos – Our Shootout Winner from 2008

More Duke Ellington

Ellington Indigos

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

AMAZINGLY TUBEY MAGICAL SOUND for this album of romantic jazz ballads. We just finished a shootout for this album and this Six Eye pressing was the winner in a landslide. The overall sound is richer, wamer, and fuller than any other. The brass is breathy with the proper amount of bite; the trumpets sound particularly good. We played about ten copies of this album this week and didn’t hear any with the kind of life and energy on BOTH sides of this record. The transparency is amazing and you won’t believe all the DEPTH to the soundfield — you can really hear INTO the music. (more…)