Top Engineers – Rudy Van Gelder

George Benson – Bad Benson

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

White Hot Stamper sound on side two, which means this copy has the power to show you just how well-recorded the album really is, and how much energy and drive there is to both the sound and the music. No other side of any copy earned the full Three Plus White Hot grade, so this is a very special side indeed.

We didn’t run into any awful CTI originals the way we do with the typical rock record from the ’70s, but it’s the rare copy that has a real top end, or much in the way of transparency, or freedom from smear. This copy has all three, without any sacrifice in richness or Tubey Magic.

There’s some “Breezin”-like material on the second side, two years before that monster album was released, and man does it ever sound good on this copy!

Rich, full-bodied sound is not hard to find on Bad Benson; most copies had the goods in the bass and lower midrange. (more…)

Freddie Hubbard – Straight Life

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

Straight Life is a great album for anyone who wants to hear some well recorded, seriously adventurous jazz. We freely admit that side one is fairly “out there,” but side two balances it out with much more accessible, melodic material. A wonderfully sensitive and emotional version of Here’s That Rainy Day closes out the side with George Benson proving to be an especially sympathetic accompanist on guitar.  

By the way, if you don’t have a hot copy of Red Clay, get one. It’s some of the best funky jazz ever recorded. No collection should be without it. (more…)

Never Heard Maiden Voyage Like This – The Transparency on this Copy Is Superb!

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Maiden Voyage

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Hello Gentlemen,

I have to commend you once again. I have never heard Maiden Voyage like this before. The transparency on this copy is superb! I gave up listening to my reissue a while back. It had a heavy veil hanging over it that was obvious. Yet as the listener I yearned to hear past it because the music itself is so wonderful. Thanks for digging up this treasure. It will bring many hours of enjoyment now and in the future.

Records are a tangible investment for the listener. When you find a great copy you hang on to it because it engages you. It moves you in a real sense. A collector who collects for value of first issue is a collector too. However they collect as one would coins, stamps or baseball cards. The value is attributed to what is perceived not what is experienced. I do not slam anyone for this. If joy is found in this manner then, so be it. (more…)

Oliver Nelson – The Blues and the Abstract Truth

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

Oliver Nelson’s masterpiece debuts at Better Records with at least White Hot Stamper sound on both sides. Side one was so HUGE and Tubey Magical we called it at least White Hot – it’s out of this world. If all you know is the Van Gelder original cutting, you will surely have your mind blown by this Hot Stamper LP.   (more…)

Airto – Fingers – Top End Extension Is Key to the Best Pressings

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of Fingers.

The best copies have the highs that are missing from so many of the CTI originals. When you play them against most copies there is an extension to the top end that you won’t hear elsewhere. Since this album is heavy on percussion, that difference is critical. The HARMONICS of the percussion are critically important to the music. When they go missing it’s as if the music seems to slow down, a strange effect but a fairly common one with rhythmically dense arrangements such as these. 

With an extended top end the sound is SWEET, not HARSH. Believe us when we tell you, the last thing you want is a harsh sounding pressing of a Rudy Van Gelder recording. (Not unless you have a dull, dull, deadly dull stereo. Those “Old School” stereos are practically the only way one can tolerate some of his early recordings.) (more…)

Coleman Hawkins – Hawk Eyes

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Hawk Eyes

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

This 1960 Saxophone Ballad session from 1960 has to be seen as yet another recording triumph for Rudy Van Gelder  

The best pressings of these OJC and Prestige reissues from the ’70s and ’80s sound like the vintage jazz albums they emulate, and sometimes they even beat the originals at their own Tubey Magical game. They can be every bit as rich, sweet and spacious as their earlier-pressed brethren in our experience.

In the case of Hawk Eyes we simply have never seen an original copy clean enough to buy, so we have no reference for what an original would sound like.

That said, having critically auditioned literally hundreds and hundreds of vintage jazz records over the course of the last few years, we’re pretty confidant we know what they are supposed to sound like.

And they sound just like the best copies of this very pressing. (more…)

Herbie Hancock – Head Hunters

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  • An outstanding copy of Hancock’s 1973 release with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too 
  • If you’ve been disappointed by the sound of the album in the past, here’s a copy that can show you a whole new Head Hunters
  • Described as “a key release in Hancock’s career and a defining moment in the genre of jazz” and a member of Rolling Stone’s 2003 list of the 500 greatest albums of all time
  • 5 stars: “It had all of the sensibilities of jazz, particularly in the way it wound off into long improvisations, but its rhythms were firmly planted in funk, soul, and R&B, giving it a mass appeal that made it the biggest-selling jazz album of all time (a record which was later broken).”

Jazz-fusion fans are going to have themselves a funky good time with this Hot Stamper copy of Head Hunters! Let me tell you, it is no mean feat to find a copy of this album with this kind of sound. This copy is dynamic and lively with the kind of extension up top that brings this music to life. The bottom end has the kind of weight that these funky tunes demand, and the percussion sounds right on the money. (more…)

Herbie Hancock – Maiden Voyage – Our Shootout Winner from 2008

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Maiden Voyage

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

We just finished a big Maiden Voyage shootout, and while we didn’t come up with too many winners, we did manage to find this one KILLER copy. Side two has A+++ MASTER TAPE SOUND — it can’t be beat! You won’t believe how clean, clear, open, and transparent it is. Most importantly, the energy factor is OFF THE CHARTS, and the dynamics are INCREDIBLE. Too many copies we played left us cold and bored; this one kept us engaged throughout. It’s got the silkiest highs and the breathiest brass we’ve ever heard for this album. Most copies we played this against couldn’t even come close to the richness, sweetness, and warmth we heard here.

Side one is wonderful as well, the best we played this time around at A++. The piano has real weight, the sax has a nice bite, and the trumpet sounds great. The top end is smooth and sweet but lacks just a bit of extension compared to side two.

One Of The Great Blue Notes

This is one of the greatest Blue Note jazz records of all time — 5 big stars in the All Music Guide, which should surprise no one. Freddie Hubbard on this album is nothing short of astonishing. I remember one time playing around with the stereo, listening for different effects as I made minor changes in the tracking weight, the VTA, adjustments to the Hallographs, and the like, and at one point, I noticed that the ensemble seemed to be really coherently connected. Each of the players was balanced with the others. It was a striking effect and it made me realize that musical values can often be overlooked while chasing after audiophile effects of one kind or another. When I heard the ensemble come together, it made me appreciate this album even more. Tony Williams on drums deserves a special nod. His cymbal work on the first track is completely original and spontaneous in the best jazz tradition.  (more…)

Paul Desmond – Pure Desmond – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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

CTI is better known for the funky grooves of artists like Stanley Turrentine, Ron Carter and Deodato, but this album features mature adult jazz from Dave Brubeck’s former sideman. It’s a lovely album, but if your pressing doesn’t have all the magic we could forgive you for not giving the music the credit it deserves. Unless your copy has a lot of energy and good amounts of richness and fullness, you probably wouldn’t give the music a second thought. (more…)

Miles Davis – Workin’ And Steamin’ – Our Shootout Winning Mono

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

A MONSTER Double Album that simply could not be beat – three of the four sides earned our highest sonic grade of Triple Plus (A+++). The best sounding tracks here can hold their own with ANY Miles Davis vinyl we’ve ever heard, and that’s a whole lot of Mile Davis albums. You might be surprised that a reissue can beat the originals, but one play of this pressing should be enough to remove all doubt.

This pressing is WAY off the charts. You will find Demo Disc Quality Sound of the Highest Order on the best tracks, of which there are many. The extension high and low sets these sides apart. The presence of the instruments and the space around them just cannot be beat.

To the Jazz Fans of the World, we here present one of the BEST sounding jazz recordings we have ever had the PRIVILEGE to place on a turntable. I cannot ever recall hearing a better sounding Rudy Van Gelder recording, and I have a theory as to why this tape is as good as it is: it’s MONO. It also sounds like it’s recorded completely LIVE in the studio, direct to one track you might say. As good a recording as Kind of Blue is, I think the best parts of this album are more immediate and more real than anything on KOB. (more…)