Top Artists – Harold Land

What Are the Rules for Acquiring Records with the Highest Quality Sound?

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The Riverside pressings we’ve auditioned of both The Thelonious Monk Orchestra – At Town Hall and Thelonious Monk Quartet Plus Two – At The Blackhawk were just awful sounding. The OJC reissues from the ’80s, although better, were not overflowing with the rich, natural, relaxed sound we were looking for either.

Ah, but a few years back we happened to drop the needle on one of these good Milestone Two-Fers. Here was the sound we were looking for and had had so little luck in finding.

Which prompts the question that should be on the mind of every audiophile: What are the rules for collecting records with the best sound quality?

The answer, of course, is that there are no such rules and never will be.

There is only trial and error. Our full-time staff has been running trials — we call them shootouts and needle drops — for more than twenty years now, with far more errors than successes. Such is the nature of records. It may be a tautology to note that the average record has mediocre sound, but it nevertheless pays to keep that rather inconvenient fact in mind.

Even worse, if you make the mistake of pinning your hopes on a current reissue — and you unfortunately find yourself a member of that small minority of audiophiles with reasonably high standards and two working ears — your disappointment is almost guaranteed. (more…)

Bill Evans – Quintessence

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  • Outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound can be found on both sides of this wonderful Bill Evans album, a Better Records favorite since we first heard it some years ago
  • Evans is joined by an all-star lineup of Harold Land, Kenny Burrell, Ray Brown and the great Philly Joe Jones
  • Sonic highlights include a breathy, full sax; a big, solid piano; well-defined acoustic bass; and guitar tone that’s tubey and warm
  • “Most of pianist Bill Evans’ recordings were in a trio format, making this quintet date a nice change of pace… the results are quite tasteful and explorative in a subtle way.”

There aren’t too many ’70s jazz records that sound like this. The music is wonderful as well, and Evans is joined by an all-star lineup of Harold Land, Kenny Burrell, Ray Brown and the great Philly Joe Jones.

We were shocked to hear how good this album can sound on the right pressing. It has that natural, realistic feel that you get on the best Contemporary recordings. We don’t know what more you could do to make this music sound any better than it does on our best copies.

The sax is breathy and full, the piano is big and solid, the acoustic bass is well-defined with real weight and the guitar tone is tubey and warm. Hard to imagine that there are too many audiophiles with a substantial number of jazz records in their collection that sound as good as this (our own Hot Stampers excluded of course)! (more…)

Jack Sheldon – Jack Sheldon And His All-Star Band Comes with Many Covers

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If you like the sound of relaxed, tube-mastered jazz — and what red-blooded audiophile doesn’t — you can’t do much better than Jack Sheldon And His All-Star Band. The warmth and immediacy of the sound here are guaranteed to blow practically any Big Band record you own right out of the water.

This is a wonderful example of the kind of record that makes record collecting FUN.

If you large group swinging West Coast Jazz is your thing — think Art Pepper Plus Eleven — you should get a big kick out of this one.

Both sides of this very special pressing are huge, rich, tubey and clear. As soon as the band got going we knew that this was absolutely the right sound for this music. There was practically nothing that could beat it, in any area of reproduction. (more…)

Harold Land – West Coast Blues!

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  • Truly superb sound can be found on both sides of this Jazzland recording, with each earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades
  • Wally Heider, recording in San Francisco in 1960, captured the jazz excitement on tape, and George Horn took those tapes and mastered them faultlessly
  • “Tenor saxophonist Harold Land leads an all-star sextet that includes guitarist Wes Montgomery, trumpeter Joe Gordon, pianist Barry Harris, bassist Sam Jones and drummer Louis Hayes… The music is as well-played and swinging as one would expect from this superior bop group.”

This vintage Jazzland/OJC 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…)

Thelonious Monk – In Person

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  • In Person makes its Hot Stamper debut with stunning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on all four sides
  • Unusually rich, full-bodied, lively and present sound which brings out the best in this music
  • Features incomparable jazz greats Donald Byrd and Joe Gordon
  • 4 1/2 stars: “The first half of In Person contains the pianist/composer’s famous Town Hall concert of 1959… The second half of this two-fer finds Monk leading a strong sextet with trumpeter Joe Gordon and tenors Rouse and Harold Land live…”

The Riverside pressings we’ve auditioned of both The Thelonious Monk Orchestra – At Town Hall and Thelonious Monk Quartet Plus Two – At The Blackhawk were just awful sounding. The OJC reissues from the ’80s, although better, were not overflowing with the rich, natural, relaxed sound we were looking for either.

Ah, but a few years back we happened to drop the needle on one of these good Milestone Two-Fers. Here was the sound we were looking for and had had so little luck in finding.

Which prompts the question that should be on the mind of every audiophile: What are the rules for collecting records with the best sound quality?

The answer, of course, is that there are no such rules and never will be. There is only trial and error. Our full-time staff has been running trials — we call them shootouts and needle drops — for more than twenty years now, with far more errors than successes. Such is the nature of records. It may be a tautology to note that the average record has mediocre sound, but it nevertheless pays to keep the inconvenient fact in mind.

Even worse, if you make the mistake of pinning your audiophile hopes on a current reissue — and you have reasonably high standards and two working ears — your disappointment is almost guaranteed. (more…)