Top Artists – Sonny Rollins

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…)

Sonny Rollins – Vol. 2 – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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 Even though this session was supposedly recorded in one day on April 14, 1957 we heard an anomaly that took us somewhat by surprise. The first and third track on side two sound amazing, better than anything on side one. However, the second track, You Stepped Out Of A Dream, has sound that is clearly a step down from anything else on the album. It’s smaller and more congested. Why that is we have no idea, but we felt it was worth pointing out.

Sonny’s horn on side two is especially big and rich, with huge amounts of Tubey Magic as befits an all-tube 1957 Blue Note recording. This is clearly the right sound for this music.

  • Side two of this stereo pressing is at least Super Hot – it’s huge, rich and tubey
  • Side one is Super Hot, musical, lively, clear and real sounding
  • Another classic late ’50s RVG recording of some of the greatest Jazz Giants who ever lived
  • “…a timeless session and a milestone in jazz history that gathered together some of the founding fathers of the post-bop era.”

Note that side one is not quite as tubey but makes up for it with energy and clarity that we found conveys the music beautifully. (more…)

Sonny Rollins – Alfie

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  • This Sonny Rollins classic boasts killer Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides
  • Though I’ve been playing this album for more than 25 years, for some reason this is only the third copy to ever hit the site 
  • A triumph for Rudy Van Gelder, a Top Impulse title, and as much a showcase for Oliver Nelson (+11) as it is for Sonny Rollins
  • 4 1/2 Stars: “Rollins attempts to capture the textures of life through his incisive and energetic playing, his coherent improvisations, and variations on musical themes.”

This album is on the TAS Super Disc list, which is probably what first alerted me to it. I know I was listening to this album 25 years ago, just from the memory of hearing it in the condo I used to live in. It sounded great back then and it sounds even better now! It may just be my personal favorite of all his work.

What makes this album so great? For starters, great players. Kenny Burrell is wonderful as always. Interestingly, I never realized that Roger Kellaway is the pianist on these sessions. I saw him live years ago with Benny Carter (who was 90 at the time) and he put on one of the most amazing performances at the piano I have ever seen. For some reason, he was never able to make it as a recording artist, but the guy is a genius at the keyboard.

Of course, any orchestration by Oliver Nelson is going to be top flight and this is no exception. Two of his records are Must Owns, in my book: Jimmy Smith’s Bashin’ and his own The Blues and the Abstract Truth. No jazz collection without them can be taken seriously. (more…)

Sonny Rollins – Now’s The Time

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  • An outstanding copy with Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound on side two mated to a very good side one
  • Ray Hall once again engineered brilliantly for RCA – the Tubey Magical richness and dynamic energy of the sessions are captured with audiophile quality sound
  • Forget the Classic Records reissue from the ’90s and whatever Heavy Vinyl they’re making now – it sure won’t sound like this!
  • Features performances by Rollins with Herbie Hancock, Thad Jones, Ron Carter, Bob Cranshaw and Roy McCurdy on several bebop tunes

(more…)

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

The Music of Sonny Rollins Available Now

OJC 007, the first Sonny Rollins title they picked to remaster. Too bad they didn’t do a very 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…)

The Awful Sound of the Heavy Vinyl Reissues Doug Sax Mastered in the ’90s

More Sonny Rollins

More Analogue Productions

More Doug Sax

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Longstanding customers know that we have been relentlessly critical of most audiophile LPs for years, especially in the case of these Analogue Productions releases from back in the early ’90s. A well-known reviewer loved them, I hated them, and he and I haven’t seen eye to eye on much since.

Newflash!

Just dug up part of my old commentary discussing the faults with the orginal series that Doug Sax cut for Acoustic Sounds. Check it out!

In the listing for the OJC pressing of Way Out West we wrote:

Guaranteed better than any 33 rpm 180 gram version ever made, or your money back! (Of course I’m referring to a certain pressing from the early ’90s mastered by Doug Sax, which is a textbook example of murky, tubby, flabby sound. (Too many bad tubes in the chain? Who knows?)

This OJC version also has its problems, but at least the shortcomings of the OJC are tolerable. Who can sit through a pressing that’s so thick and lifeless it communicates none of the player’s love for the music? If you have midrangy bad transistor equipment, go with the 180 gram version (at twice the price). If you have good equipment, go with this one.

[We are no longer fans of the OJC of Way Out West, and would never sell a record that sounds the way even the best copies do as a Hot Stamper. It’s not hopeless the way the Heavy Vinyl pressing is, but it’s not very good either. It’s yet another example of a record we was wrong about. Live and Learn, right?

The following commentary comes from our catalog from the mid- to late-’90s, back when I could still find great jazz records like Alternate Takes. Note also that the AP records were in print at the time. (more…)

Sonny Rollins Plus 4 – How on Earth Did This Pressing Get Approved?

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Plus 4 on Two Slabs of 45 RPM Analogue Productions Heavy Vinyl. This review is from 2014 or thereabouts.

Sonic Grade: F

I cannot recall hearing a more ridiculously thick, opaque and unnatural sounding audiophile record than this, and I’ve heard a ton of them. 

As I noted in another commentary “Today’s audiophile seems to be making the same mistakes I was making as a budding audiophile more than thirty years ago. Heavy Vinyl, the 45 RPM 2 LP pressing, the Half-Speed Limited Edition — aren’t these all just the latest audiophile fads each with a track record more dismal than the next?” (more…)

Sonny Rollins – Way Out West – Our Shootout Winner from 2014

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The Contemporary 1957 sax sound is so smooth and tubey it will have you drooling. All Music Guide gives it 5 Stars and so do we. Such a classic album. If you don’t own a top quality Sonny Rollins album this would be a great place to start. 
The best pressings sound rich and full-bodied with plenty of low end weight. This is the Contemporary sound we love!

It’s our favorite jazz label for sonics by a long shot. Roy DuNann always seems to get The Real Sound out of the sessions he recorded — amazingly realistic drums in a big room; full-bodied, breathy horns; Tubey Magical guitar tone; deep, note-like bass; weighty pianos; vocal immediacy, and on and on. (more…)