Top Artists – Freddie Hubbard

Freddie Hubbard / Sky Dive – Blurry, Thick, Veiled, Dull or Slow?

That’s too often the sound we hear on the Heavy Vinyl records being pressed these days. From time to time we get hold of some to audition just to see what they’ve done with (to?) the titles we know well.

We sure don’t have any intention of selling them. That would be against our principles. And the very name of our operation: Better Records. It’s rare for anything pressed on Heavy Vinyl to qualify as a Better Record, which is why so many of them can be found in our Heavy Vinyl Disasters section.

Not sure why so few reviewers and audiophiles notice these rather obvious shortcomings, but we sure do, and we don’t like it when records sound that way.

But that sound can be found on plenty of vintage pressings too. We should know, we’ve played them by the tens of thousands!

Smear is by far the most common problem with the copies we played. When the transient bite of the trumpet is correctly reproduced, maintaining its full-bodied tone and harmonic structures, you know you have a very special copy of Sky Dive (or First Light or Red Clay, etc., etc.).

When the sound is blurry, thick, veiled, dull or slow, you have what might be considered something more like the average copy.

Rudy gets one hell of a lively trumpet sound in this period of his career. If you have a good pressing of one of his early ’70s jazz recordings the sound can be positively EXPLOSIVE, with what feels like all the size and power of live music.

If you don’t have a hot copy of Red Clay, get one. It’s some of the best funky jazz ever recorded. No collection should be without it.

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Stanley Turrentine – Sugar

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  • Rudy Van Gelder really knocked this one out of the park – the sound here is solid, punchy and present, just the way we like it
  • If you prefer a recessed, vague, washed-out presentation, may we recommend you find whatever Heavy Vinyl reissue pressing is currently available – it will surely be more to your taste than this one
  • Thanks to RVG and Creed Taylor, this is some very well recorded funky Soul Jazz that we enjoyed the hell out of in our shootout
  • “Aided by the subtly soulful organ of Butch Cornell and the smoldering sensuality of George Benson’s guitar, Turrentine churned out solidly grooving (though not literally “funk”) tunes that employ blues-based economy and bob-schooled chops in equal measure. The fiery trumpet interjections of Freddie Hubbard keep things moving, but Turrentine’s mastery of the mid-tempo groove is exemplified throughout, whether on the down-and-dirty jam “Sunshine Alley” or a soulful take on John Coltrane’s “Impressions.””

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John Coltrane / Ole Coltrane

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Olé! Here’s a great copy of a wonderful Coltrane album that we seriously enjoy but just don’t see enough to keep in our regular rotation. And that’s a shame, because these Top Copies are a THRILL to hear. Both sides give you an exceptionally strong bottom end, and with two bass players contributing on much of the album that is essential for this music. The overall sound is lively, dynamic, and very transparent.

The music is wonderful, with Coltrane in fine form backed by a stellar lineup that includes Freddie Hubbard, McCoy Tyner, Elvin Jones, an uncredited Eric Dolphy and more. Two of the three extended tracks feature two bass players, and a transparent copy like this one allows you to separate out the players and follow their contributions over the course of the songs. (more…)

The Ornette Coleman Double Quartet / Free Jazz – “A staggering achievement.”

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More Five Star Albums Available Now

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  • We guarantee there is dramatically more richness, fullness, and performance energy on this copy than others you’ve heard, and that’s especially true if you made the mistake of buying whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing is currently on the market
  • 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
  • 5 stars: “As jazz’s first extended, continuous free improvisation LP, Free Jazz practically defies superlatives in its historical importance. . . Jazz had long prided itself on reflecting American freedom and democracy and, with Free Jazz, Coleman simply took those ideals to the next level. A staggering achievement.”

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Freddie Hubbard / Hub-Tones

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More Jazz Recordings Featuring the Trumpet

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  • This vintage Blue Note pressing boasts Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound on both sides – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • Freddie’s trumpet sounds Right On The Money — it’s breathy and full-bodied with clearly audible leading edge transients
  • Credit must go to Rudy Van Gelder once again for the huge space this superbly well-recorded ensemble occupies
  • 4 1/2 stars: “John Coltrane’s modal music was starting to influence Hubbard’s conception and his own playing was pushing the modern mainstream ahead without really entering the avant-garde.”

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Freddie Hubbard – First Light

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More Jazz featuring the Trumpet

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  • This vintage pressing of First Light has outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it on both sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Features an outstanding lineup including Herbie Hancock on keys, Ron Carter on bass, George Benson on guitar, Airto on percussion, and Jack DeJohnette on the drums.
  • 4 1/2 stars: “The result is a masterpiece of textured sound, gorgeously far-flung charts, sweet, tight grooves, a subtle mystic feel, and some of Hubbard’s most exciting playing ever. While Red Clay [a Better Records favorite] and Straight Life are both fine albums, First Light is the one that connects on all levels — and it did with the jazz-buying public as well. A masterpiece.”

This is more of a mainstream jazz record than Red Clay or Straight Life. Hubbard was a master of funky jazz, and this pressing was one of the few in our shootout with the kind of high quality mastering that can do justice to his uniquely energetic, lightning fast jazz style. (more…)

Freddie Hubbard – Red Clay

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  • With Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides, we guarantee you’ve never heard Red Clay sound remotely as good as it does here
  • It’s one of our Five Favorite CTI albums – Red Clay is Hubbard’s Soul Jazz Masterpiece, and it’s a record that belongs in every audiophile’s jazz collection
  • Lenny White drums up a storm on this album – with sound this good, he is playing right in the room with you
  • 5 Stars: “This may be Freddie Hubbard’s finest moment as a leader, in that it embodies and utilizes all of his strengths as a composer, soloist, and frontman. [It] places the trumpeter in the company of giants such as saxophonist Joe Henderson, pianist Herbie Hancock, bassist Ron Carter, and drummer Lenny White… This is a classic, hands down.”

Hubbard was a master of funky jazz, and the song Red Clay is arguably the funkiest jazz track he ever committed to tape. At 12 minutes in length it is a transcendentally powerful experience — and the bigger your speakers and the louder you turn them up the more moving that experience is going to be!

The intro to Red Clay begins with a stylized free-form jam, sounding like a bop-jazz band of old, then takes form and solidifies into a groove of monstrous proportions. Ron Carter’s bass playing is stellar! We rated this side Single to Double Plus. It’s big and lively with tons of presence and energy.

Like many of our funky favorites, this one was eventually sampled for a popular hip-hop song. That may not mean much to you, but it definitely means that nice copies of this album get swiped up quickly by young DJs and producers. (more…)

George Cables – Cables’ Vision

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  • George Cables’ superb 1980 release finally arrives on the site with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it throughout 
  • I’ve known about this Allen Sides Oceanway recording for decades – his stuff is smooth, punchy, solid, and alive with energy
  • 4 1/2 stars: “One of the most satisfying recordings to be released in 1980… this date features trumpeter Freddie Hubbard and saxophonist Ernie Watts in fiery form; the two horn players took time off from their much more commercial efforts for other labels. The solos overall are concise and make expert use of each note. Cables’ tunes are generally catchy and memorable while “Byrdlike” gives the virtuosos an up-tempo blues to romp through. This well-paced set is a gem that is highly recommended.”

This Contemporary pressing has wonderful sound. This should not be too surprising as it was recorded by one of our favorite engineers, Allen Sides, working out of his Oceanway studios. (Supposedly he is a big fan of vintage mics and the like. with many superb and valuable examples.) (more…)

Oliver Nelson and RVG – Mastering Better than the Master?

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The sound is tonally correct, Tubey Magical and above all natural. The timbre of each and every instrument is right and it doesn’t take a pair of golden ears to hear it. So high-resolution too. If you love ’50s and ’60s jazz you cannot go wrong here.

For those record lovers who still cling to the idea that the originals are better, this pressing will hopefully set you straight.

Yes, we can all agree that Rudy Van Gelder recorded it, brilliantly as a matter of fact. Shouldn’t he be the most natural choice to transfer the tape to disc, knowing, as we must assume he does, exactly what to fix and what to leave alone in the mix?

Maybe he should be; it’s a point worth arguing.

But ideas such as this are only of value once they have been tested empirically and found to be true.

We tested this very proposition in our recent shootout, as well as in previous ones of course. It is our contention, based on the experience of hearing quite a number of copies over the years, that Rudy did not cut the original record as well as he should have. For those of you who would like to know who did, we proudly offer this copy to make the case.

Three words say it all: Hearing is believing.

(And if you own any modern Heavy Vinyl reissue we would love for you to be able to appreciate all the musical information that you’ve been missing when playing it. I remember the one from the ’90s on Impulse being nothing special, and the Speakers Corner pressing in the 2000s if memory serves was passable at best.) (more…)

Oliver Nelson – More Blues and the Abstract Truth

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  • Nelson’s 1965 release makes its Hot Stamper debut with stunning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound throughout – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Forget whatever dead-as-a-doornail Heavy Vinyl record they’re making these days – if you want to hear the Tubey Magic, size and energy of this wonderful album, a vintage pressing like this one is the only way to hear it
  • 4 stars: “… there are some strong moments from such all-stars as trumpeter Thad Jones, altoist Phil Woods, baritonist Pepper Adams, pianist Roger Kellaway and guest tenor Ben Webster (who is on two songs). The emphasis is on blues-based pieces and there are some strong moments even if the date falls short of its predecessor.” 

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