Top Artists – Duke Ellington

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

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  • A stunning sounding copy with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound throughout
  • 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…)

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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Duke Ellington – A Drum Is A Woman

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  • This wonderful musical allegory makes its Hot Stamper debut here with nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound from start to finish – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • The sound is rich and Tubey Magical, yet transparent and spacious in the way that only vintage pressings ever are
  • It’s hard to imagine an original pressing playing any quieter than this one does
  • “It was powerful, rhythmic and kaleidoscopic, with a strong vocal anchor at Friday’s performance in Claudia Hamilton, a commanding presence as Madam Zajj.”

This vintage Columbia 6 Eye Mono pressing 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…)

Duke Ellington – At the Bal Masque

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  • A stunning sounding Six-Eye Columbia pressing with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides
  • Here are boatloads of the kind of Tubey Magical richness that make these vintage Columbia recordings the uniquely satisfying listening experience we know them to be
  • More superb sound from the legendary CBS 30th street studios in New York – the size and power of a jazz orchestra in glorious all ANALOG sound
  • “Ellington and his all-star orchestra manage to transform what could be a set of tired revival swing into superior dance music and swinging jazz… a surprise success.”

If you want to know what it was like to attend an Ellington supper club concert, this record will do the trick (even though the album was recorded in the studio and the applause added later). Ellington’s magic is on display for everyone to hear. (more…)

Duke Ellington – Jazz Party in Stereo

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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 – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • This original stereo Six-Eye from 1959 is one of the few copies of this famous album to hit the site in many years, and of course one of the best
  • Many copies of the copies we played would get aggressive or edgy, but this one is smooth in the right way, and for that you can thank CBS’s legendary 30th St. studios
  • 4 stars: “A most unusual Duke Ellington record, two selections feature nine symphonic percussionists on tympani, vibes, marimbas and xylophones.

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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…)