Top Artists – Miles Davis

The Best Jazz Record Ever Made, or the Best Jazz Record We’ve Ever Played?

Reviews and Commentaries for Somethin’ Else

I ran across this listing for Cannonball Adderley’s Somethin’ Else today, a record we raved about after doing a shootout for it years ago. Notice the careful hedging in the phrases with newly added italics:

The music here is amazing — as I’m sure most of you know, this is as much a showcase for Miles Davis as it is for Cannonball himself — but the good news for audiophiles is that it’s also one of the BEST SOUNDING BLUE NOTE ALBUMS we know of. When you hear it on a copy like this, it’s just about As Good As It Gets.

After doing this shootout in 2015 I would like to amend the above remarks for being much too conservative. The current consensus here at Better Records is that this album deserves to hold three — count ’em, three — somewhat related titles:

One, The Best Sounding Blue Note record we have ever played.

Two, The Best Sounding Jazz Record we have ever played.

Three, Rudy Van Gelder’s Best Engineering (based on the copies we played).

Our shootout winners had more energy, presence, dynamics and three-dimensional studio space than any jazz recording we have ever heard. The sound was as BIG and BOLD as anything in our audio experience.

Add to that a perfectly balanced mix, with tonality that’s correct from top to bottom for every instrument in the soundfield and you may begin to see why we feel that the best copies of this album set a standard that no other jazz record we’re aware of can meet.

Have we played every Blue Note, every RVG recording, every jazz record?

Of course not. We would never make such a claim.

All Well and Good, But Bear This in Mind

In our defense, who could possibly claim to have critically evaluated the sound of more jazz records than we have?

There are multitudes of music experts in the world of jazz. For jazz sound quality the numbers must surely be orders of magnitude smaller, and here is where we’re [pretty sure we have more than a few critically valuable advantages, to wit:

  • better playback equipment,
  • better record cleaning technologies,
  • stacks of pressings of the same title,
  • a scientifically blinded approach and, most importantly of all,
  • a single-minded purpose. 

All our efforts are in service to only one end, to find the pressing with the ultimate in analog sound.

(Naturally we leave the sound of CDs and other digital formats to others. Although CDs often outperform their modern Heavy Vinyl pressing equivalent — here is a case in point — we know our lane and and are happy to stay within it.) (more…)

Miles Davis – Water Babies

More Miles Davis

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  • This superb compilation album makes its Hot Stamper debut here with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it throughout
  • Tubier, more transparent, more dynamic, with that “jumpin’ out of the speakers” quality that only The Real Thing (an old record) ever has
  • Huge amounts of three-dimensional space and ambience, along with boatloads of Tubey Magic – here’s a 30th Street recording from 1967 and 1968 that demonstrates just how good Columbia’s engineers were back then
  • “Time has revealed this band to be as daring and fascinating as any in the long Davis career, and Water Babies contains some of its best music. There is simply so much happening here; hear it.”

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Miles Davis – Basic Miles

More Miles Davis

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  • Demo Disc Jazz sound for this wonderful collection, with both sides earning outstanding Double Plus (A++) grades
  • Opening side two, the 9 plus minutes of On Green Dolphin Street has some of the coolest jazz you will ever hear, on any record, at any price
  • If you want to know what the better copies of Kind of Blue sound like, this pressing will tell you, because it has that sound
  • And that means it is absolutely NOTHING like the MoFi 45 RPM 2 LP pressing that some audiophiles (and the reviewers who cater to them) seem to like so much
  • We’re talking Bill Evans, John Coltrane and Cannonball Adderley in their prime, 1958, with top 1958 sound to match

*NOTE: On side two, a mark makes light to moderate repeating pops on the first 20 seconds of Track 1, On Green Dolphin Street.

Want to know how good our Hot Stamper Kind of Blue pressings sound? Listen to this very record. If you play the tracks that were recorded in 1958, the year before Kind of Blue, you will hear practically the same lineup of musicians.

That means Stella By Starlight and Little Melonae on side one, and Green Dolphin Street and Fran-Dance (Put Your Little Foot Right Out) on side two. We’re talking Bill Evans, John Coltrane, and Cannonball Adderley in their prime, 1958, with top 1958 sound to match.

The nine-minute plus Green Dolphin Street that opens side two is nothing short of amazing, some of the coolest jazz you will ever hear. With Fran Dance on the same side, that gives you about 17 minutes of great-sounding jazz by Miles’ classic Kind of Blue lineup.

Side one has the same cats playing for more than 12 minutes. By my calculation, that’s close to another album’s worth of material from the group. The rest of the material on this compilation is best seen as gravy; maybe not essential, but never less than interesting. (more…)

Miles Davis – Quiet Nights

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  • You’ll find excellent Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides of this oh-so-spacious Miles Davis-Gil Evans classic
  • Fred Plaut engineered the sessions, and on this amazing early pressing the sound is rich, warm, smooth and clear
  • This copy plays about as quiet as we can find these early pressings, Mint Minus Minus throughout
  • In the Saturday Review, Quiet Nights received praise for Davis’ “wonderfully songful trumpet in a Latin-American vein”, set against “piercingly lustrous curtains of tone and discreet Caribbean rhythms.”

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Miles Davis – Miles In The Sky

Hot Stamper Pressings of Miles’ Albums Available Now

More Columbia 30th Street Studio Recordings

Reviews of Recordings Made at Columbia’s 30th Street Studio

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  • This outstanding Columbia pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) or close to it from first note to last
  • Excellent sound courtesy of Arthur Kendy’s and Frank Laico’s engineering at the famed Columbia Studio B in NYC
  • Miles here is backed by his classic ’60s All Star crew – Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Ron Carter & Tony Williams
  • “…Miles Davis explicitly pushed his second great quintet away from conventional jazz, pushing them toward the jazz-rock hybrid that would later become known as fusion… intriguing music…”

*NOTE: On side one, a mark makes 5 light ticks at the beginning of Track 2, Paraphernalia.

We just finished a big shootout for this superb Miles Davis album and this copy was dramatically better sounding than many. Both sides have excellent bass, correct sounding brass, wonderful transparency and loads of Tubey Magic.

Many copies didn’t have the kind of transparency or openness that we heard here, which made it harder to appreciate the contributions of the different players. This one puts plenty of separation between the various instruments, so you can make sense of what each of these heavy-hitters adds to the mix. You will have a very hard time finding a copy out in the bins that sounds as good as this one!

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds. (more…)

Miles Davis – Kind of Blue

More on Kind of Blue

Hot Stampers of Miles’s Albums Available Now

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  • With seriously good Double Plus (A++) sides, this 360 stereo pressing has Demo Disc sound – sound that’s guaranteed to make you want to take all of your remastered pressings and dump them off at the Goodwill, followed by a heartfelt “Good riddance!”
  • KOB is the embodiment of the big-as-life, spacious and timbrally accurate 30th Street Studio Sound Fred Plaut was justly famous for
  • Space, clarity, transparency, and in-the-room immediacy are some of the qualities to be found on this pressing
  • It’s guaranteed to beat any copy you’ve ever played, and if you have the new MoFi pressing, please, please, please order this copy so that you can hear just how completely they defiled the sound
  • 5 stars: “KOB isn’t merely an artistic highlight for Miles Davis, it’s an album that towers above its peers, a record generally considered as the definitive jazz album, a universally acknowledged standard of excellence.”

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Miles Davis – Sketches of Spain

More Miles Davis

More Jazz Trumpet Albums

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  • This outstanding Columbia 360 Stereo pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last
  • The good copies capture the realistic sound of Davis’s horn, the body, the breath and the bite (and not a little of the squawk as well)
  • Balanced, clear and undistorted, this 30th Street recording shows just how good Columbia’s engineers were back then
  • A couple of marks play, so this copy is being offered at a much lower price than it otherwise would have been for those of you who can tolerate the pops
  • 5 stars: “Sketches of Spain is the most luxuriant and stridently romantic recording Davis ever made. To listen to it in the 21st century is still a spine-tingling experience…”

*NOTE: On side two, two marks make 24 moderate pops one-quarter inch from the end of Track 2, Saeta, and 15 moderate pops one-quarter inch into Track 3, Solea.

On the best pressings of this masterpiece, the sound is truly magical. (AMG has that dead right in their review.) It is lively but never strained. Davis’s horn has breath and bite, just like the real thing. What more can you ask for? (more…)

Miles Davis – Workin’ And Steamin’

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  • An outstanding Double Album with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it on all four sides
  • The best sounding tracks here can hold their own with ANY Miles Davis vinyl we’ve ever heard, and that’s a whole lot of Mile Davis albums
  • 5 Stars: “This two-LP set combines a pair of classic albums by the Miles Davis Quintet of 1956, the group that also featured John Coltrane, Red Garland, Paul Chambers and Philly Joe Jones. …the music has plenty of variety and does not sound rushed. Davis’s beautiful muted statements made these two of his most popular albums.”

*NOTE: On sides one and two, a bubble makes 6 very soft thumps on Track 1, It Never Entered My Mind (side one), and Trane’s Blues (side two). On side four, a mark makes 15 light stitches at the beginning of Track 3, When I Fall In Love.

You might be surprised that a reissue can beat the originals, but one play of this pressing should be enough to remove all doubt.

To the Jazz Fans of the World, we here present one of the BEST sounding jazz recordings we have ever had the PRIVILEGE to place on a turntable. I cannot ever recall hearing a better sounding Rudy Van Gelder recording, and I have a theory as to why this tape is as good as it is: it’s MONO. It also sounds like it’s recorded completely LIVE in the studio, direct to one track you might say. As good a recording as Kind of Blue is, I think the best parts of this album are more immediate and more real than anything on KOB. (more…)

Miles Davis – Sorcerer

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  • An outstanding pressing of Sorcerer, with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it from start to finish
  • Sorcerer demonstrates the big-as-life, spacious and unerringly accurate 30th Street Studio Sound Fred Plaut was justly famous for
  • 4 1/2 stars: “The emphasis is as much on complex, interweaving chords and a coolly relaxed sound as it is on sheer improvisation, though each member tears off thoroughly compelling solos. Still, the individual flights aren’t placed at the forefront the way they were on the two predecessors — it all merges together, pointing toward the dense soundscapes of Miles’ later ’60s work.”

We played a bunch of these recently and this was one of the better copies we heard! It’s got more energy, more presence, and more body than many copies we heard. Drop the needle anywhere and listen to how open, transparent and spacious it is. The soundfield is HUGE — big, wide and deep! Everything sounds natural, balanced and correct. The bass has texture, the piano has weight, the brass has the right amount of bite and so on.

We had a big stack of copies for this shootout, including a bunch of 360 originals and some later Red Label pressings. You can find great sound on either label but it will probably take you quite a few copies to get there, and you’d need a serious stack to have any hope of finding two sides this good on vinyl that plays well.

And by the way, copies of classic Miles Davis albums from the ’60s are neither easy to find nor are they cheap. Hit the jazz bins at your local store and I’m sure you’ll have the same experience we’ve been having — tons of pricey modern reissues but not too many clean vintage pressings. (more…)

Miles Davis – Decoy

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  • STUNNING sound throughout with both sides earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or very close to them
  • Fans of Bitches Brew will find much to like here, and at least in most ways, this is actually a better sounding album
  • Exceptionally quiet vinyl throughout — Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
  • “Mr. Davis has made tasteful creative use of synthesizers, drum machines and other modern gizmos, voicing them with saxophone, guitar and other traditional instruments without letting them dominate the music.” – NY Times

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