Top Artists – Sonny Rollins

Sonny Rollins / Saxophone Colossus – Try the DCC CD

Our last White Hot Stamper Gold Label Mono pressing went for big bucks, 900 of them in fact.

Of course, a clean original goes for many times that, which is one reason you have never seen such a record on our site.

How much would we have to charge for a Hot Stamper pressing of an album we paid many thousands of dollars for? Far more than our customers would be willing to pay us, that’s for sure.

You Say You Don’t Have Nine Hundred Bucks for This Album?

Try the DCC pressing from 1995.

The DCC Heavy Vinyl pressing is probably a nice record. I haven’t played it in many years, but I remember liking it back in the day.

It’s dramatically better than the ’80s OJC, which, like many OJC pressings, is thin, hard, tizzy up top and devoid of Tubey Magic. (We have many reviews of OJC pressings on this very blog for those who are interested.)

I would be surprised if the DCC Gold CD isn’t even better than their vinyl pressing.

They usually are.

Steve Hoffmann brilliantly mastered many classic albums for DCC. I like DCC’s CDs much better than their records. Their records did not have to fight their way through Kevin Gray’s opaque, airless, low-rez, modern transistor cutting system, a subject we discussed in some depth here.

Sonny Rollins / Tenor Madness – On the Often Wonderful Prestige Trident Blue Label

  • This KILLER Prestige not-very-stereo pressing has Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to its on both sides
  • Like many other Prestige “stereo” reissues, if there is any left-right information, you would never know it without checking it on a pair of headphones
  • In other words, this ’50s mono recording has been mastered in the ’60s to sound like it’s supposed to sound – there’s absolutely nothing artificial or modern here, which makes this a very special pressing indeed
  • Again and again the notes read “solid, big and rich,” and that’s the kind of sound fifty year old records give you, in spades
  • “Tenor Madness was the recording that, once and for all, established Newk as one of the premier tenor saxophonists, an accolade that in retrospect, has continued through six full decades and gives an indication why a young Rollins was so well liked, as his fluency, whimsical nature, and solid construct of melodies and solos gave him the title of the next Coleman Hawkins or Lester Young of mainstream jazz.”
  • If you’re a fan of Sonny’s, this is a Top Title from 1956. The complete list of titles from 1956 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

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Sonny Rollins – Saxophone Colossus

  • An incredible sounding copy and one that we rarely have on the site — rich, full-bodied, Tubey Magical and super dynamic with tight note-like bass and a lovely clear and natural top end
  • About as quiet a vintage copy as we are ever likely to find – this pressing plays Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus, which in our experience is practically a miracle
  • 5 Stars: “Sonny Rollins recorded many memorable sessions during 1954-1958, but Saxophone Colossus is arguably his finest all-around set… Essential music”

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Sonny Rollins – Taking Care Of Business

More Sonny Rollins

  • This outstanding pressing boasts Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on all four sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • The complete Tenor Madness album is found here, with big, full-bodied, MONO jazz sound at its BEST, courtesy of the great one, Rudy Van Gelder
  • This is what classic ’50s jazz is supposed to sound like – they knew how to do these kinds of records forty years ago, and those mastering skills are in short supply nowadays, if not downright extinct
  • The transfers from 1978 by David Turner are in tune with the sound of these recordings – there’s not a trace of phony EQ on this entire record
  • “Tenor Madness was the recording that, once and for all, established Newk as one of the premier tenor saxophonists, an accolade that in retrospect, has continued through six full decades and gives an indication why a young Rollins was so well liked, as his fluency, whimsical nature, and solid construct of melodies and solos gave him the title of the next Coleman Hawkins or Lester Young of mainstream jazz.”

This Two-Fer includes all of Tenor Madness and most of Work Time and Tour De Force.

Top jazz players such as Ray Bryant, John Coltrane, Red Garland, Kenny Drew, Max Roach and Paul Chambers can be heard on the album.

If you want all the tubey magic of the earlier pressings, a top quality pressing of the real Tenor Madness album on Prestige is going to give you more of that sound. David Turner’s mastering setup in the ’70s has a healthy dose of tubes, but it can’t compete in that area with the All Tube cutting systems that were making records in the ’50s and ’60s.  Without one of those early pressing around to compare, we don’t think you’re going to feel you are missing out on anything in the sound with this killer copy.

And where can you find an early Prestige pressing with audiophile playing surfaces like these?   (more…)

Sonny Rollins Quintet / Rollins Plays For Bird – Live and Learn

A classic case of Live and Learn.

Previously we had written:

This is one of the BEST Sonny Rollins records around! Nobody seems to know anything about it but let me tell you, this is Rollins at his BEST. The sound is also EXCELLENT.

Recently we played the OJC pictured here and did not care for the sound in the least. It was much too thin and lacking in the Tubey Magic of the earlier pressings.

Potentially Good Sounding OJC Pressings

Not Very Good Sounding OJC Pressings

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Thelonious Monk / Brilliant Corners

More Thelonious Monk

More Piano Jazz

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  • An outstanding copy of Brilliant Corners, with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it from start to finish – mostly quiet vinyl too
  • Rich, full-bodied and present yet still clear and spacious – we guarantee this copy sounds better than any pressing you’ve heard, and should beat the pricey originals hands down
  • With masterful horn playing from Sonny Rollins and Clark Terry, and a rhythm section that can actually keep up with Monk – made up of Max Roach, Oscar Pettiford and Paul Chambers – this is a Must Own for any music loving audiophile
  • 5 stars: “Brilliant Corners may well be considered the alpha and omega of post-World War II American jazz. No serious jazz collection should be without it.”

If you’re looking to demonstrate just how good a 1957 All Tube Analog recording can be, this killer copy should be just the record for you. 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.

This is the sound of Tubey Magic. No recordings will ever be made like this again, and no CD will ever capture what is in the grooves of this record. There is of course a CD of the album, but those of us in possession of a working turntable could care lessfive (more…)

Sonny Rollins – The Sound of Sonny – Reviewed in 2007

Riverside White and Blue original 2 Mic Label Mono LP. Side one sounds like a typical old Riverside jazz record, but side two sounds EXCELLENT! I don’t know when I’ve heard an early Sonny Rollins record sound better. His horn is really full-bodied and dynamic and has amazing IMMEDIACY on some tracks. It makes side one sound sick in comparison.

The surfaces for old jazz records are always the problem. This one plays M– to EX++ and has some groove damage in the inner grooves — nothing too serious, but it’s definitely there. We played all the marks and only a few of them repeat, and not for long. I’ve never seen a clean quiet copy of a record like this in my life. I’m sure they exist, but I don’t come across them, at any price.  (more…)

Sonny Rollins – Way Out West

More Sonny Rollins

Reviews and Commentaries for Way Out West

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  • A stunning copy of Way Out West with Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound from start to finish – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • This stereo pressing has superb 1957 Contemporary sound – big, open and natural throughout
  • The sax is so smooth and tubey it will have you drooling
  • One of our favorite Rollins records – one listen to this copy and you will know exactly why we love the recordings of Roy DuNann
  • 5 stars: “The timeless Way out West established Sonny Rollins as jazz’s top tenor saxophonist”

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The Original Jazz Classics (OJC) Series Got Off to a Bad Start with Sonny’s Worktime Album

Hot Stamper Pressings of Sonny Rollins’s Albums Available Now

OJC 007, the first Sonny Rollins title they picked to remaster. Too bad they did such a poor good job with it.

The copy we auditioned did not impress us sonically, so don’t expect to see Hot Stampers of this title on OJC coming to the Better Records website any time soon.

The music might be wonderful — we unreservedly follow the maxim de gustibus non est disputandum — but the sound of this pressing is unlikely to ever be of audiophile quality.

There may be great sounding pressings of the album – how could we possibly know there aren’t without playing every version ever pressed? — but we’re pretty sure the OJC will always fall short of the mark.

We created two sections for the OJC label: one for the (potentially, it’s what Hot Stampers are all about) good sounding OJC pressings and one for the (probably, see the paragraph above) bad sounding ones.

If you know of a great sounding pressing of the album, feel free to let us in on what pressing you have and we might just pick one up and give it a listen.

We’ve auditioned countless pressings like this one in the 33 years we’ve been in business — buying, cleaning and playing them by the thousands. This is how we find the best sounding vinyl pressings ever made.

Not the ones that should sound the best. The ones that actually do sound the best. (more…)

Sonny Rollins – Brass / Trio

More Sonny Rollins

  • An incredible sounding copy and the first to his the site in SEVEN years! Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it on both sides; exceptionally quiet vinyl too!
  • Both sides sound wonderful here — rich, full-bodied, Tubey Magical and musical with a solid bottom end
  • This is a very tough album to find with the right sound and surfaces; they’re usually beat to hell!
  • “In 1958 Sonny Rollins split an LP between two very different settings… [he] excels in both of these settings, making this an easily recommended set.” – All Music

This isn’t an easy album to come by and even when you find a clean one they tend to be noisy, and as you might expect not all of them sound all that good. Add in the fact that you’re always going to pay good money for a clean early pressing like this one, and you’ll realize that getting a great copy in your collection is not going to be an easy task. Unless of course you’d like to take this 100% Guaranteed Hot Stamper home for a spin — that’s probably the easiest (and cost-efficient) method. And who knows if we’ll ever find another copy like this one? Certainly we haven’t been able to find a good one for many years, and we’ve been doing this for a LONG time. (more…)