Top Artists – Ray Brown

The Ray Brown Trio – Soular Energy

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This Concord Jazz LP has excellent sound. There is a half-speed mastered audiophile version of this record cut by Stan Ricker himself.

Now hold on: half-speed mastering by its very nature causes a dramatic loss of bass definition, not to mention the fact that much of the deep bass usually goes completely missing. This is a record built around the sound of Ray Brown’s double bass. Do you really want the lowest octave of bass to disappear and the bass above it to turn to mud on a record that features a bass player as its leader? It’s crazy, right?

I’ve never heard the half-speed and don’t plan to track one down in order to audition, but I guarantee you that this “full-speed” mastered version will blow the doors off any version mastered by Stan Ricker.

There is plenty of commentary on the website about his incompetent mastering and I recommend you take a moment to read some of it before you buy any half-speed mastered record. (We of course do not offer such records, with the exception of John Klemmer’s Touch, which is a half-speed mastered record that actually does sound good, superb in fact.)

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Oscar Peterson Trio with Milt Jackson / Very Tall – Another Awful Anadisq

If you made the mistake of buying the atrocious Anadisq pressing MoFi put out in the ’90s, our Hot Stamper pressings will let you hear what a wonderful recording Val Valentin cooked up with these cats back in the day. (more…)

Billie Holiday – The First Verve Sessions

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  • Excellent sound throughout with solid Double Plus (A++) sound from the first note to the last – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • All four sides here are clear and full-bodied with wonderfully breathy vocals and the kind of vintage analog sound you won’t hear from any modern reissue or CD, that’s for sure
  • This double LP set captures some of Billie’s best music from the years 1952 to 1954 and features Oscar Peterson, Barney Kessel, Ray Brown, Flip Phillips, Freddie Green, Charlie Shavers and more

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Sonny Rollins – Sonny Rollins & the Contemporary Leaders

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  • Incredible sound throughout for this later Contemporary pressing with both sides earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades; exceptionally quiet vinyl too!
  • Both of these sides are textbook examples of the kind of rich, smooth, natural, effortless Contemporary Jazz sound that Roy DuNann’s All Tube Recording Chain was famous for in 1958
  • “The last of the classic Sonny Rollins albums prior to his unexpected three-year retirement features the great tenor with pianist Hampton Hawes, guitarist Barney Kessell, bassist Leroy Vinnegar and drummer Shelly Manne… Great music.”

This Contemporary Yellow 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.

Sonny is backed here by a heavy-hitting lineup of Barney Kessel, Shelley Manne, Leroy Vinnegar and Hampton Hawes — all favorite players of ours here at Better Records. (more…)

The Poll Winners – Straight Ahead

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  • This superb collaboration has KILLER Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it on both sides
  • Musically, this is by far our favorite Poll Winners record – these guys got back together after 15 years and were eager to prove that they still had their youthful exuberance, and even better chops, which they did have and did prove!
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Kessel in particular is heard in excellent form… Overall this is the best all-around recording by The Poll Winners and is easily recommended to bop fans.”

These guys play with more spunk here than on any other album of theirs I’ve ever heard. And you have to love those ’70s leisure suits they’re wearing on the cover. I remember my commentary when this record was around, mentioning that Roy DuNann had lost none of his engineering skills in the intervening years either.

This is a very dynamic recording, one of his best. You almost never hear cymbals sound this good on an RVG Blue Note, that’s for sure. The bass definition on this record is amazing — you can really hear Ray Brown pulling and bending the strings of the instrument. He’s tearing it up. (more…)

Dizzy Gillespie’s Big 4 – 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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Ben Webster – Soulville

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  • Outstanding sound throughout for this Verve Two-Fer set with Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it on all four sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Unlike the Speakers Corner version from a few years back, this is the real thing, mastered by real pros, not audiophiles
  • This reissue combines the albums Soulville and Ben Webster Meets Oscar Peterson
  • With rave reviews for both albums, AMG lauds Soulville is, “one of the highlights of that golden ’50s run,” and notes the collaboration as “one of the jazz legend’s all-time great records.”

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Joe Pass – Portraits Of Duke Ellington

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

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.

Milt Jackson Quintet – That’s The Way It Is

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  • You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound and fairly quiet vinyl on both sides of this is a killer live jazz album from Shelly’s Manne-Hole
  • Big, rich and real, with the kind of relaxed Tubey Magical sound that not many live albums achieve
  • Wally Heider engineered and he knocked it out of the park – You Are There, and even better, it’s 1969
  • “This is not experimental jazz. It’s beyond that, or as they say in New York, outside that. This is solid, rooted, sweet-smelling earth of an enduring style, as played by masters.”

We dropped the needle on a copy of this record last year and could hardly believe how good it sounded. So rich, so tubey, so big and clear – this is one of the best Impulse records we have played in a very long time. It’s clearly another “sleeper” discovered by your friends here at Better Records. Who else is finding vintage albums with this kind of sound and music? (more…)

The L.A. 4 – Pavane Pour Une Infante Defunte – Reviewed in 2008

More Lee Herschberg

More Pavane Pour Une Infante Defunte

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

This is a Near Mint East Wind Japanese Import Direct-To-Disc LP with SUPERB SOUND. Most copies we come across are quite ticky. Thankfully that ain’t the case here. This is an EXCEPTIONALLY QUIET copy! 

The sound may be good but the music is mostly a snore.