Top Artists – Joe Pass

What Recordings Are Audiophile Writers Writing About Now I Wonder?

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In the early seventies, when I was first becoming seriously interested in audiophile-quality equipment, this was a well-known Demo Disc at some high-end audio salons.

Five years later I would have speakers larger and more expensive in real dollars than the speakers I now own. At a tender age I acquired Stereophile’s cost no object, state-of-the-art speaker system from the mid-’70s, the Fulton J. I was the youngest person ever to own a pair of the behemoths, a record that has never and will never be broken I suspect.

The other monster speaker from that time was the Infinity Servo-Static 1A, which I auditioned before buying the Fultons. During the audition the electrostatic drivers kept blowing if the level got up too high, so that was the end of that. Who wants a speaker that can’t play at realistic sound levels?

Of course, many of you may never have heard of Carmen McRae’s The Great American Songbook album, because the heyday for this record was probably 30-40 years ago, back when the audiophile magazines were actually writing about exceptionally natural, realistic recordings such as this one.

I don’t know what they write about now; I stopped reading them years ago. But I doubt very much that they are still writing about recordings of this quality.

What’s striking about this album is how immediate and unprocessed everything sounds. It really gives you the feeling of being at a live show in a club. It helps that the performance was captured directly onto analog tape with minimal miking. Michael Cuscuna was the remix supervisor, by the way.

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Joe Pass / For Django – Our Shootout Winner from 2016

More Joe Pass

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White Hot Stamper sound on both sides — this is some killer jazz guitar “trio” sound. There are actually two guitarists on this record, John Pisano being the other one, plus bass and drums. We’re big fans of Pacific Jazz recordings from this era, with 1964 live in the studio Tubey Magic to die for. 

We’ve played quite a few of these early jazz guitar records by the likes of Kenny Burrell, Joe Pass, Charlie Byrd, Grant Green, Wes Montgomery and others. Can’t say I’ve ever heard a better sounding one than this.

The All Tube live in the studio approach to the recording results in natural, open, rich, clear, spacious, dynamic sound the likes of which you may have never experienced. The exceptionally clear, tight, note-like bass is an added bonus — not many tube recordings get the bass to sound that way! (more…)

Count Basie – 88 Basie Street

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  • With KILLER Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from first note to last, this copy was getting the sound of this big band right
  • This is a Top Basie Big Band title in every way — musically, sonically, you name it, 88 Basie Street has got it going on!
  • With 18 pieces in the studio this is a real powerhouse – the sound is is rich, full and HUGE
  • 4 stars: “One of Basie’s final albums, the very appealing title cut seems to sum up his career, a lightly swinging groove with a strong melody. Two small-group performances with guest Joe Pass on guitar add variety to a particularly strong set.”

With 18 pieces in the studio this album can be a real powerhouse — if you have the right copy — and this White Hot pressing can show you just how lively and dynamic this music can be. It’s a real Demo Disc, no doubt about it.

Both sides here are excellent, with real strength down low, nice extension up top, and incredible clarity and transparency. Play this one good and loud and put yourself front and center for a rip-roarin’ performance led by the king Bill Basie!

We’ve become huge fans of these Basie Big Band records. Allen Sides knew just how to record this stuff by the time Basie came around to Pablo — on the best pressings you can hear that this is big band music recorded just right. The sound is clean and clear with excellent transparency and the kind of separation between the instruments that lets you appreciate the contributions of each player. (more…)

The Stones Jazz with Joe Pass and Bruce Botnick

Yet Another Audiophile Quality Pressing “Discovered”

Brought to you by the folks at Better Records.  We know a good sounding record when we hear one.

That’s how we came to have a website full of them

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And the music is interesting and fun from first song to last. With Joe Pass on guitar how could it not be – the guy’s a very talented player.

With two Triple Plus (A+++) shootout winning sides, this original stereo World Pacific copy simply could not be beat

  • Huge and rich, here is the kind of Tubey Magical presentation that lets this big group of musicians (four trombones!) come alive
  • The engineering by none other than Bruce Botnick is brilliant in all respects, as good as his work with The Doors
  • This is FUN West Coast Pop Jazz built around the superb arrangements of Bob Florence and the great songs of the Stones
  • We’re so sure you’ll like this music that if for any reason you are unhappy the domestic return shipping is on us!

Engineering by Bruce Botnick

Botnick is of course the man behind the superb recordings of The Doors, Love and others too numerous to mention.

More recordings by Bruce Botnick

He also recorded another of our favorite West Coast jazz ensemble records, Bud Shank And the Sax Section. That undiscovered gem — well known to us but heretofore undiscovered by the audiophile public as far as we can tell — has a lot in common with this album. Top players, smart arrangements, superb sound, the album is as fun as Fun West Coast Jazz gets.

This copy is spacious, sweet and positively dripping with ambience. Talk about Tubey Magic, the liquidity of the sound here is positively uncanny. This is vintage analog at its best, so full-bodied and relaxed you’ll wonder how it ever came to be that anyone seriously contemplated trying to improve it. (more…)

Count Basie – Kansas City 5

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  • Presenting yet another amazingly well recorded Count Basie album, with STUNNING Triple Plus (A+++) sound throughout
  • It’s bigger, richer, more Tubey Magical, with more extension on both ends of the spectrum than every other other copy we played
  • A different sound for Basie, a small group setting with two of his favorite players at his side: Milt Jackson on vibes and Joe Pass on guitar
  • “The predictably excellent group performs spirited versions of some of Basie’s “hits” (including “Jive at Five” and “One O’Clock Jump”), some blues and a few standards. It is always interesting to hear Basie in a hornless setting like this one where he gets opportunities to stretch out on the piano.”

Only recently did I become familiar with this record, released in 1981 from sessions recorded in 1977. We pick up all the Pablo Basie titles we can get our hands on these days. When we dropped the needle on a copy of the album we were amazed at the sound. Don’t know much about the engineer — Geoff Sykes — but he did a great job working at Kendun for this session.

This was the first of a series of smaller ensemble recordings under the heading of Kansas City. We have more coming, including the superb Kansas City piano trio album entitled “For the Second Time” with Louis Bellson and Ray Brown, a record that can have superb sound on the Pablo pressing (but steer clear of the OJC which is thin and opaque, the opposite of the sound you want).

With such a small group and no horn players there is much more room for interplay between Basie and either Pass or Jackson. As the liner notes make clear, both vets quickly adapted their playing styles to the laidback Count Basie approach to the blues. If you are in the market for some smooth Basie grooves with exceptionally good sound, this one should be right up your alley. (more…)

Dizzy Gillespie – Dizzy Gillespie’s Big 4

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  • Dizzie Gillespie’s Big 4 makes its Hot Stamper debut here, with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on both sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • The size, clarity, presence and energy of this obviously live-in-the-studio recording are off the charts – plenty of Tubey Magic to boot
  • AMG 4 1/2 stars – on a copy this natural, clean and clear, the spontaneous interplay among these four jazz luminaries is laid out for all to hear
  • “…one of [Gillespie’s] best ensemble performances… his playing is superb and he is in command of the material… the musicians play off each other well and do a great job of supporting Gillespie. A big 4, indeed.”

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Joe Pass – Portraits Of Duke Ellington

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.

Oscar Peterson – A Tribute To My Friends – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

More Oscar Peterson

A Tribute To My Friends

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

This is one of the best Peterson records. It got rave reviews in the old catalog when we actually had sealed copies to sell. (Those days are long gone.) 

Duke Ellington – Duke’s Big 4

More Duke Ellington

More Duke’s Big 4

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

I don’t know of any other Pablo recording of the Duke from this era that has such big, open, clear, solid sound. VAL VALENTIN did the engineering, and as he has so often over the course of his storied career, he knocked it out of the park.

What both sides of this exceptionally good sounding Pablo pressing have to offer is not hard to hear:

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1974
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments of this stellar jazz combo having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we describe above, and for that you will need to take this copy of the record home and throw it on your table. (more…)

Count Basie & Joe Williams – Memories Ad-Lib

More Count Basie 

More Memories Ad-Lib

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  • A vintage stereo pressing of Joe Williams right at his peak in 1959, with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound and fairly quiet vinyl 
  • This is one of the few Joe Williams records we’ve been able to find with audiophile sound and surfaces – it’s taken us years to get even one shootout going, but it produced this great copy, so we think it was worth it!
  • “Williams’ vocals seem effortless throughout the date… highlights include the easygoing swinger “The One I Love (Belongs to Somebody Else)” and a foot-tapping “Honeysuckle Rose.”

This vintage LP has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern pressings cannot BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing any sign of coming back. (more…)