Top Artists – Oscar Peterson

Ella Fitzgerald – The Duke Ellington Songbook, Volume Two

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Ella Fitzgerald Albums We’ve Reviewed

  • An excellent Verve Mono reissue with wonderful sound on all FOUR sides
  • Forget the originals – like so many of the early songbook pressings, they suffer from painfully hard and honky mastering EQ (and gritty sounding vinyl)
  • We know whereof we speak when it comes to early Ella records – we’ve played plenty of them and found that most just don’t sound very good
  • Exceptionally quiet vinyl throughout* — Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
  • “Duke’s spectacular catalog dazzles, and his sprightly, lush textures are transfigured under Fitzgerald’s warm-timbred voice and elegant, precise delivery… each tune as familiar as it is delightful to hear in this new context.”
  • If you’re a fan of Ella’s, this Top Title from 1957 belongs in your collection
  • The complete list of titles from 1957 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

This mono reissue is the only way to find the MIDRANGE MAGIC that’s missing from modern records. As good as the best of those pressings may be, this record is going to be dramatically more REAL sounding.


Alan Sides Likes a Dead Studio

Hot Stamper Pressings of Pablo Recordings Available Now

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Many of Allen Sides‘ recordings suffer from a lack of ambience. The musicians do not seem to have much room around them. In audiophile parlance, his recordings often lack “air.”  I can’t say all his recordings are made in a dead studio, but some of them sure are.

Many audiophile recordings, especially direct-to-disc recordings from the ’70s, are insufferable in this respect, with too much multi-miking and not enough studio space.

This Bach recording on Crystal Clear is a good example of the sound some audiophile labels were going for. Back in the 70s, audiophile producers and engineers were using state-of-the-art high-tech recording equipment, but they seemed to lack experience as well as knowledge of the recordings of the past. They regularly ended up producing records that are not remotely the equal of those that were commonly made only twenty years before.

For Duke is the poster boy for that sound. The instruments are dynamic as all get out, but no one ever imagined that the ideal approach to recording Ellington’s music would be to cram a big group of players into the equivalent of a heavily carpeted and draped livingroom.

Miller and Kreisel created a completely new, strange and inappropriate sound for Duke’s music, and it has been rubbing me the wrong way since I first heard it demoed in the audio showrooms of the 70s I used to frequent.

Sheffield’s first Direct to Disc recording suffered from the same problems to some extent. Lots of multi-miking, lots of instruments in isolation booths, no sense that everyone is playing together in a big room.

When the space in a recording is reduced on one pressing versus another, that is a sign that the pressing is question lacks resolution, and in our shootouts you lose a lot of points for that shortcoming. (Records that are especially good for testing Ambience, Size and Space can be found all over this blog.)

Bob and Ray is a favorite test disc of ours for three-dimensional sound. A big group of guys in 1958 playing live in a reverberant studio with superb acoustics produced our favorite wall to wall, floor to ceiling Large Jazz Group recording of all time. For the last fifteen years it has been invaluable in testing and tweaking the system.

Back to Oscar

For our review for the Oscar Peterson record you see pictured, we noted “Surprisingly spacious and three-dimensional for a recording from 1986.”

But that is setting the bar awfully low. Truth be told, recordings made in 1986 are rarely if ever as spacious or three-dimensional as those produced in the 50s, 60s and well into the 70s.

Two of the Worst

Of course, some of the most ambience-challenged records available today are on Heavy Vinyl. I could link to hundreds of them, but here are two that should get the point across well enough.

This album on DCC, like much of their dubious output, has very little of the breathing space of the vintage pressings we sell.

And the disgraceful label that released this title can be relied upon to press records that no audiophile with a decent stereo and two working ears should want anything to do with.


Letter of the Week – “All I can say is “Holy Cow”! I’m definitely a convert.”

More of the Music of Oscar Peterson

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Oscar Peterson

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

I got my first Hot Stamper yesterday. Last night, I A/B-ed it with my current pressing of the same LP, which is a super-nice and very glossy VG++.

All I can say is “Holy Cow”! I’m definitely a convert. I have a very revealing headphone system, and this Hot Stamper is a stunning revelation! I went from listening to a video someone took on their phone at an Oscar Peterson concert, to sitting at a front table in the club! No exaggeration.

I am already scouring your website for my next purchases. I’m drooling over the Shelly Manne “Bells Are Ringing” – I have a copy of “West Side Story” with those guys that I love!

Many thanks, and I look forward to more great LPs from you all in the future!

Best regards,


Thanks for your letter. Stunning revelation is exactly what we were going for.


Further Reading


The Recordings of Oscar Peterson – These Two Didn’t Make the Grade

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Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Oscar Peterson

Pictured to the left are a couple of the Oscar Peterson albums we’ve auditioned over the years and found to be less than impressive. As far as we were concerned, they didn’t make the grade.

Without going into specifics, we’ll just say these albums suffer from weak music, weak sound, or both. They may hold some appeal for fans, but audiophiles looking for top quality sound and music — our stock in trade — should take our free advice and look elsewhere.

General Notes

We are not aware of any record Peterson recorded for Limelight that’s worthy of a Hot Stamper shootout.

He made six in the mid-sixties. We’ve played two or three and did not feel the need to audition any others.

As for Pablo Records, Peterson recorded himself, his various groups, and played on the sessions for a great many other artists. At most a dozen or two would be of enough interest for us to pursue.


Oscar Peterson – A Tribute To My Friends

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  • A superb copy with Double Plus (A++) sound throughout – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Mastered by Joe Gastwirt at the JVC cutting center, this has the punchy, lively sound that some of the better Pablos are known for
  • The piano reproduction is especially clean, clear and lively, with solid weight down low, just the way we like it
  • 4 stars: “With the assistance of guitarist Joe Pass, bassist Niels Pedersen and drummer Martin Drew, Peterson sounds inspired on such themes as “Blueberry Hill,” “Stuffy,” “Cottontail” and even “A Tisket, a Tasket.”
  • More Reviews and Commentaries for Pablo Recordings
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Oscar Peterson on Speakers Corner Heavy Vinyl

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Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Oscar Peterson

Sonic Grade: F

More vinyl dreck from Speakers Corner. I played this record back in the ’90s and was astonished at how bad the sound was.

They eventually realized that the tapes they had available to them should never have been used. The newer version has been remixed from the three-track masters. It may be fine, it may not, we will never bother to get one in and play it, but if you do decide to buy one, make sure to have a return guarantee.

Nothing this label does can be trusted.

It’s an Audiophile Hall of Shame pressing and yet another Disastrous Heavy Vinyl release that proves this label had no shame.

Is it the worst version of the album ever made? Hard to imagine it would have much competition. The CD I have is dramatically better.

If you put your faith in what Speakers Corner said about their process and bought this crappy remaster, I hope you learned at least one lesson from your mistake: never believe anything an audiophile label has to say about anything. 

Cut from original master tapes, pure analog mastering on Neumann VMS 80

Superior sound quality


Oscar Peterson, et al. – Oscar Peterson + Harry Edison + Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson

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More Jazz Recordings of Interest

  • With STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the second side and solid Double Plus (A++) sound on the first, this original Pablo pressing has some of the BEST sound we have ever heard for this title – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Surprisingly spacious and three-dimensional for a recording from 1986
  • 4 1/2 stars: “The strictly instrumental set has many fine solos on appealing tunes such as ‘Stuffy,’ ‘Broadway’ and the lengthy blues ‘Slooow Drag.’ This boppish session gave Vinson a rare chance to really stretch out and he was up for the challenge.”


Count Basie & Oscar Peterson – Two Pianos and No Smear on Either?

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There was not a trace of smear on the pianos, which is unusual in our experience, although no one ever seems to talk about smeary pianos in the audiophile world other than us.

With 176 keys on hand, this recording presents the audiophile with a great piano test.

The Piano

If you have full-range speakers, some of the qualities you may recognize in the sound of the piano are WEIGHT and WARMTH. The piano is not hard, brittle or tinkly. Instead the best copies show you a wonderfully full-bodied, warm, rich, smooth piano, one which sounds remarkably like the ones we’ve all heard countless times in piano bars and restaurants.

In other words like a real piano, not a recorded one. This is what we look for in a good piano recording. Bad mastering can ruin the sound, and often does, along with worn out stampers and bad vinyl. But some copies survive all such hazards.

They manage to reproduce the full spectrum of the piano’s wide range (and of course the wonderful performance of the pianist) on vintage vinyl, showing us the kind of sound we simply cannot find any other way.

Analogue Productions Heavy Vinyl

AP did another one of the Basie Peterson collaborations on vinyl, a longtime favorite of ours, The Timekeepers. Considering their dismal track record — an unbroken string of failures, with not one success of which I am aware — I’m quite sure the Hot Stamper we are offering here will blow the doors off anything they will ever do on vinyl.

AMG Review

From the same week that resulted in Night Rider and Timekeepers, this is the fifth album that documents the matchup of Count Basie and Oscar Peterson. The two pianists (backed by bassist John Heard and drummer Louis Bellson) play five standards and three blues with predictable swing, finding much more in common with each other than one might have originally suspected.

Further Reading

Letter of the Week – “This copy is a completely different musical experience.”

More of the Music of Jackson Browne

More of the Music of Oscar Peterson

More of the Music of Grover Washington, Jr.

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

Hey Tom, 

I really liked the Oscar Peterson West Side Story and appreciate the effort you put in to find me a Hot Stamper. This was an album my mother bought for me and I have fond memories of lying on my back under my parents RCA console stereo looking up at the glowing tubes and listening to it. Thank you. Much better than the DCC CD. It now sounds like I remember it.

Mr. Magic was also a surprise. It never sounded that good and was better than I remember it. 

The one that has completely blown me away was the Jackson Browne 3+ side one. It never sounded like that ever. I had a 1.5 and it was good; kind of like I remember it.

This copy is a completely different musical experience. I enjoy the presentation more and have a much better appreciation of the music. You guys did it again.

Thanks as usual,
Mike H.


Thanks for your letter.

A 3+ Jackson Browne first album is a very special record indeed, so rich and smooth.

Would make a great Demo Disc, the opposite of the kind of phony trash they play at audio shows.

Other letters from customers recounting the incredibly powerful experiences they’ve had while playing one of our Shootout Winning pressings can be found here.

If you think you would enjoy kicking your musical satisfaction up a notch or two, nothing can get you to the next level faster than playing one of our killer Hot Stamper LPs.

Best, TP

Coleman Hawkins Encounters Ben Webster on Classic Records

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Probably a good Classic Records Jazz album.

Years ago we wrote:

A top top jazz title! This is one of our favorite Classic Records LPs from the old days when we were selling Heavy Vinyl. We haven’t played this record in a long time but we liked it very much when it was in print in the ’90s.

We can’t be sure that we would still feel the same way. My guess is that this is still a fairly good record if you can get one for the 30 bucks we used to charge.

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Important lessons we learned from record experiments 

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