Top Engineers – Roy DuNann

Andre Previn & His Pals – Pal Joey

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  • Superb Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on both sides – this copy is truly a knockout Piano Trio record 
  • Our best Hot Stamper copies will show you just how good Fifties All Tube Analog can sound
  • Yet another Demo Disc for Contemporary, the brilliant work of the engineering team of Dunann and Holzer
  • One of Andre Previn’s better jazz performances on record – his pals Manne and Mitchell are no slouches either

The piano sounds uncannily lifelike right from the start, a beautiful instrument in a natural space, tonally correct from top to bottom. I can’t think of many records off the top of my head that get a better piano sound than this one. Dunann and Holzer in 1957 are hard to beat. (more…)

Barney Kessel – Easy Like – Reviewed in 2005

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

This is an original Mono Contemporary Yellow Label DEMO LP (although the cover shows the OJC). The record plays EX++ to Mint Minus Minus — if you can stand some surface noise this is a very good sounding LP. The sound is good; however, it’s almost impossible to find quiet pressings of these old Contemporary albums. This is about as quiet as they get! 

“…the set features Kessel in boppish form with quintets in 1953 and 1956 featuring, either Bud Shank or Buddy Collette doubling on flute and alto. Kessel shows off the influence of Charlie Christian throughout the performances, with the highlights including “Easy Like,” “Lullaby of Birdland,” “North of the Border,” and the accurately titled “Salute to Charlie Christian.”  (more…)

Benny Carter – Jazz Giant

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  • With two Triple Plus (A+++) Shootout Winning sides, this copy blew the doors off of everything else we played
  • If you still think that Analogue Productions is remastering records properly, you have definitely never heard a real Contemporary that sounds like this(!)
  • The sound of Contemporary Records is alive on this copy, with space, size, clarity and richness that no other pressing can match
  • “Benny Carter had already been a major jazz musician for nearly 30 years when he recorded this particularly strong septet session for Contemporary … This timeless music is beyond the simple categories of “swing” or “bop” and should just be called “classic.”

If you like the sound of Contemporary Records, you won’t find a better example than this! Midrange magic doesn’t get anymore magical. (more…)

Andre Previn & His Pals – Gigi

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  • A KILLER sounding original Black Label Stereo pressing with Triple Plus (A+++) sound from the first note to the last    
  • If you have never heard an All Tube Analog piano trio recording by Roy DuNann from the Golden Age of Tape, you are really in for a treat with this phenomenal sounding LP
  • Exceptionally (I’m tempted to write impossibly) quiet vinyl throughout – Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
  • “André Previn’s ten records for Contemporary during 1957-1960 were among the finest jazz recordings of his career… Best known among the songs are “I Remember It Well” and “Thank Heaven for Little Girls,” but the trio also uplifts and swings the other lesser-known tunes.”

This vintage Contemporary Black Label pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound. (more…)

Shelly Manne & His Friends – Bells Are Ringing – What to Listen For

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises.

I have a very long history with this album, dating back close to twenty years. My friend Robert Pincus first turned me on to the CD, which, happily for all concerned was mastered beautifully. We used it to test and tweak my stereo and many of those that were owned by friends. 

Playing the original stereo record, which I assumed must never have been reissued due to its rarity (I have since learned otherwise), all I could hear on my ’90s all tube system was blurred mids, lack of transient attack, sloppy bass, lack of space and transparency, and other shortcomings too numerous to mention that I simply attributed at the time to vintage jazz vinyl.

Wellthings have certainly changed.

I have virtually none of the equipment I had back then, and I hear none of the problems with this copy that I heard back then on pressing I owned. This is clearly a different LP, I sold the old one off years ago, but I have to think that much of the change in the sound was a change in cleaning, equipment, tweaks and room treatments, all the stuff we prattle on about endlessly on the site.

In other words, if you have a highly-resolving modern system and a good room, you are should be knocked out by the sound of this record. I sure was. (more…)

Shelly Manne – Sounds Unheard Of!

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

This Super Hot Stamper Black Label Original Contemporary pressing has SUPERB sound on BOTH sides. All that stuff we tend to say about the original tube-mastered Contemporary pressings being fat and dull does not apply here whatsoever. This record is mastered beautifully, we real transient attacks to all the percussion. When Shelly bangs on the bass drum it goes Ka-Boom and really rattles the walls. As a Demo Disc this one is pretty hard to beat!  

Remember the old Acoustic Sounds Analog Revival series mastered by Stan Ricker? This was one of the titles they did, and completely ruined of course. Ricker boosted the hell out of the top end, as is his wont, so all the percussion had the phony MoFi exaggerated spit and tizziness that we dislike so much around here at Better Records but that many if not most audiophiles never seem to notice.

The whole series was an audio disaster, but funnily enough, I cannot remember reading a single word of criticism anywhere discussing the shortcomings of that series of pressings. Outside of my own reviews of course. Has anything in audio really changed?  (more…)

Leroy Vinnegar Sextet – Leroy Walks!

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  • Leroy Vinnegar’s debut album finally arrives on the site with a KILLER Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) side two and a truly oustanding Double Plus (A++) side one 
  • The Contemporary LP stereo sound here is completely natural in every respect, yet still rich, warm and smooth
  • Roy DuNann and Howard Holzer engineered some of the best sounding records we have ever heard – here’s a textbook example of what the audiophiles at Contemporary were able to achieve in the studio
  • 4 stars: “…Vinnegar generously features his talented sidemen… A fine, straight-ahead session.”

For us audiophiles both the sound and the music here are wonderful. If you’re looking to demonstrate just how good an 1958 All Tube Analog Contemporary recording can sound, this killer copy will do the trick. (more…)

Helen Humes – ’Tain’t Nobody’s Biz-ness If I Do – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame

This EXCEPTIONALLY QUIET Contemporary Recording has wonderful sound on both sides. It’s got SHOCKINGLY DYNAMIC VOCALS — just listen to Miss Humes really belting it out on a great reading of Stardust! The sound is really rich and full with a BIG punchy bottom end. The clarity and transparency are superb, and you can really hear the leading edge transients on the various horns (Carter on trumpet, Rosolino on trombone). (more…)

Hampton Hawes – Four!

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

Four! finally makes its Hot Stamper debut with stellar Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from first note to last. The timbre of the instruments in this brilliant jazz quartet is so spot-on it makes all the hard work and money you’ve put into your stereo more than pay off. Roy DuNann engineered some of the best sounding records we have ever heard – here’s a textbook example of what the audiophiles at Contemporary were able to achieve in the studio.

This vintage Contemporary Stereo pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely even BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound. (more…)

Sonny Rollins and the Contemporary Leaders

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

SUPERB SOUND ON BOTH SIDES! This Contemporary Green 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. 

This copy has big time presence and immediacy that makes it seem as if this all-star quintet was swingin’ in your living room! Both sides have A++ sound — it’s transparent and dynamic with just the right amount of bite to the sax. I don’t think there’s anything you could do to this music to make it sound any better than this.

Sonny is backed here by a heavy-hitting lineup of Barney Kessel, Shelley Manne, LeRoy Vinnegar and Hampton Hawes — all favorites here at Better Records.