Top Artists – Hampton Hawes

Letter of the Week – ELP Tarkus and Hampton Hawes Vol 2: The Trio

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently:

Hey Tom, 

Just wanted to express my excitement with the ELP Tarkus and Hampton Hawes Trio Vol 2 LP’s! Wow!!! Great sound as described and played quieter than described, beyond near mint ! The ELP only had one moderate pop on the opening of “The Only Way” track 3 on side two. Otherwise dead quiet all through !!!!

I am beyond pleased!!! Looking forward to the next order coming in !!! Lastly, can you show me where you get those terrific rice paper inner sleeves? They are nice and thick ply!! Better than MFSL or Quality RP…!!!

Thanks again!

I will surely be doing business in the future with you and have your accurate descriptions locked in to what I prefer surface wise. (more…)

Sonny Rollins – Alternate Takes

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  • This STUNNING copy boasts a Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) side two mated with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on side one – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • One of our favorite Sonny Rollins records for sound – both sides here are incredibly big, full-bodied and Tubey Magical
  • 4 1/2 stars: “This LP contains alternate versions of selections from two famous Sonny Rollins albums: Way out West and Sonny Rollins and the Contemporary Leaders. These “new” renditions… hold their own against the classic versions. …the music is hard-swinging and frequently superb.”

The album is made up of alternate takes from the Way Out West and Sonny Rollins and the Contemporary Leaders sessions, and as such there is a bit of sonic variation between these tracks and the ones on the actual albums. The best-sounding songs here, particularly the material from Way Out West, can sound amazing!

The best copies are rich and tubey; many pressings were thin and modern sounding, and for that they would lose a lot of points. We want this record to sound like something Roy DuNann recorded with an All Tube chain in 1958, and the best copies give you that sound, without the surface noise and groove damage the originals doubtless suffer from.

Some copies have much more space; some are more present, putting the musicians right in the room with you; some are more transparent, resolving the musical information much better than others, letting you “see” everyone in the studio clearly. Some have more rhythmic drive than others. On some the musicians seem more involved and energetic than they do on the average pressing.

The copies that do all these things better than other copies are the ones that win our shootouts.

This is clearly one of the best copies we have ever played. We think you will enjoy it immensely. (more…)

Hampton Hawes – All Night Session, Vol. 2

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  • A superb sounding copy with Double Plus (A++) sound throughout – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Both sides here are rich, full and Tubey Magical with good bottom end weight and plenty of jazz quartet energy 
  • 4 1/2 Stars: “Although Hampton Hawes spontaneously created five original tunes at this extraordinarily inspired date, everything on Vol. 2 comes directly out of the standard bop musician’s working repertoire.”
  • “It’s hard to put into words how good it feels to play jazz when it’s really swinging…I’ve reached a point where the music fills you up so much emotionally that you feel like shouting hallelujah — like people do in church when they’re converted to God. That’s the way I was feeling the night we recorded All Night Session!”

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Hampton Hawes – The Green Leaves of Summer

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

This Contemporary Yellow Label LP has wonderful Contemporary All Tube sound, courtesy of the amazing engineering of Howard Holzer. The piano is right — weighty and percussive with a full-bodied tone. The bass definition is superb. The clarity and transparency here are nothing short of breathtaking.

Steve Ellington’s brush work on the snare is very clear on this copy, helping to push the music to the next level. On the great Sonny Rollins track, St. Thomas, Steve Ellington is doing some fancy playing on the rims of his drums — the ambience bouncing off the studio walls is amazing.

A major highlight here is the completely original interpretation of Blue Skies. Hawes gets going with some really complicated two-handed playing. With the superb clarity of this copy you won’t miss a note. (more…)

Hampton Hawes – Everybody Likes Hampton Hawes

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

This hard-to-find ’70s Contemporary reissue pressing of the 1956 mono recording has EXCELLENT sound, with both sides earning grades of A+ to A++. We don’t run into Hawes’ LPs the way we used to, so it was indeed a delight to find enough copies of this album to do a shootout.

Note how correct the sound of the instruments is on both sides. This is the unquestionably the hallmark of any Contemporary recording: correct instrumental timbre.

Side One

A+ to A++, with correct mids and bass but lacking some top end. As the record plays, however, the top comes into play, an effect we notice more and more often these days.

If you have a “tubey” system this record will be a knockout. It needs some of that sound to work its magic.

Side Two

A+ to A++, and not that different from side one. This side could use more top and it lacks the last word in transparency. Notice how at the beginning the piano sounds slightly thin, but when the bass comes in under it everything balances out correctly. (more…)

Hampton Hawes – At The Piano – Our Shootout Winner from 2008

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

This Contemporary Yellow Label LP has THE BEST SOUND and THE BEST MUSIC I have EVER heard on a Hampton Hawes album! When we dropped the needle on this one we could not believe our ears — it’s got The Big Sound, that’s for sure.

The piano has real weight, the bass is deep and tight, and the drums sound correct. The overall sound is rich, sweet, and tonally correct from top to bottom. It’s incredibly open and transparent — you hear tons of ambience. (more…)

Hampton Hawes – Four!

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

Four! finally makes its Hot Stamper debut with stellar Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from first note to last. The timbre of the instruments in this brilliant jazz quartet is so spot-on it makes all the hard work and money you’ve put into your stereo more than pay off. Roy DuNann engineered some of the best sounding records we have ever heard – here’s a textbook example of what the audiophiles at Contemporary were able to achieve in the studio.

This vintage Contemporary Stereo pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely even 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…)

Sonny Rollins and the Contemporary Leaders

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

SUPERB SOUND ON BOTH SIDES! This Contemporary Green Label LP has THE BIG SOUND — rich and so full-bodied with amazing presence and immediacy. The bass is PERFECTION — deep, rock solid, and note-like. There’s lots of extension on the top end, letting Shelley Manne’s fantastic work on the cymbals really come to life. The clarity on this copy is superb — just listen to those leading edge transients on Sonny’s sax. The guitar has the tubey qualities that we love here at Better Records — it’s warm, rich, and sweet with lots of ambience. 

This copy has big time presence and immediacy that makes it seem as if this all-star quintet was swingin’ in your living room! Both sides have A++ sound — it’s transparent and dynamic with just the right amount of bite to the sax. I don’t think there’s anything you could do to this music to make it sound any better than this.

Sonny is backed here by a heavy-hitting lineup of Barney Kessel, Shelley Manne, LeRoy Vinnegar and Hampton Hawes — all favorites here at Better Records.

Hampton Hawes At The Piano

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  • This huge, rich and natural Contemporary pressing took top honors recently, with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound throughout
  • This is the last record Hawes made, and it’s one of the most deeply emotional and satisfying albums of his entire career – it may even be his best, and for a man of his talents, that’s really saying something
  • “Hampton Hawes’ final recording found him returning not only to the acoustic piano after having dabbled in electric keyboards from 1972-74, but to producer Lester Koenig and his Contemporary label, where Hawes recorded most of his classic gems of the 1950s… Teamed up with bassist Ray Brown and drummer Shelly Manne, Hawes shows that he was still in prime form.”

This is my favorite Hampton Hawes record of all time. He died less than a year after these sessions. Looking at the cover, you can almost see in his face his acceptance of the end he knew was coming. He plays with deep emotion here.

Ray Brown and Shelly Manne, the same rhythm section who back Joe Sample on my all-time favorite piano trio album, accompany Hawes beautifully here. (more…)

Barney Kessel – Let’s Cook

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

We were simply blown away by this Yellow Label pressing, which earned an A+++ for side one and an A++ for side two in a recent shootout. The transparency and clarity are SUPERB, and the amount of tubey magic is unbelievable! Folks, if you like guitar jazz, do not miss out on this album. I guarantee you will be absolutely knocked out by the sound of this pressing, not to mention the fantastic music!  (more…)