Top Engineers – Bob Simpson

Passion Flower Is Clearly Better Than For Duke

Hot Stamper Pressings of Pablo Recordings

More Reviews and Commentaries for Our Favorite Pablo Recordings

This is one of the all time great Pablo sleepers.

Why is no one else writing about records like these? The music is wonderful and the sound is top drawer on the best copies. If you’ve tried and failed with other Pablo Zoot Sims records, fear not: this title is one of the best we have ever played, musically and sonically.

The ensemble is huge, probably at least a dozen pieces at any given time, and all that energy is captured on the best copies with tremendous engineering skill. The lively arrangements are by none other than Benny Carter, a man who knows his jazz. His career started in the ’20s(!) and lasted into this century if you can believe it. I consider myself fortunate to have seen him play locally when he was more than 90 years old. He stlll had it, kind of.

What to Listen For

Clarity and transients.

Thickness and fatness were common problems with Passion Flower — many copies were overly rich and somewhat opaque. It’s not necessarily a bad sound, but it becomes more and more irritating as you find yourself struggling to hear into the musical space of the studio. Smear is a problem too; many copies were lacking the transient information of the best.

In a nutshell, our Hot Stamper pressings are the most transparent copies that are tonally correct, with the least amount of smear.

forduke

Better Sound than a Direct Disc?

Musically Passion Flower is everything that For Duke isn’t, and although it may not be a Direct to Disc recording, it sure sounds better to these ears than that pricey TAS List Super Disc. The insufferably dead room For Duke was recorded in has forever ruined the album for me. I can’t stand that sound (which helps explain our aversion to Heavy Vinyl around these parts — the sound of the new remasters is consistently lacking in space, ambience and three-dimensionality).

Passion Flower was engineered by Bob Simpson at the RCA recording studios in NY, and Dennis Sands in Hollywood. These guys know a lot more about recording a large jazz ensemble than a couple of audiophiles who owned a stereo store and could record in their showroom at night and on the weekends.

Experience is surely a great teacher in this regard.

Incidentally, Dennis Sands is the engineer for one of the All Time Great Basie recordings on Pablo, Farmers Market Barbecue.


FURTHER READING

Bob Simpson Engineered Albums with Hot Stampers

Bob Simpson Engineered Albums We’ve Reviewed

Dennis Sands Engineered Albums We’ve Reviewed

Oscar Peterson Trio – West Side Story

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More Jazz Recordings Featuring the Piano

  • A superb copy with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from start to finish 
  • Rich, solid bass; you-are-there immediacy; sound that’s just jumping out of the speakers, this copy had the sound we were looking for
  • Which wouldn’t mean much if the music wasn’t swingin,’ but it is – this could very well be the best record Oscar Peterson ever made
  • Credit engineer Bob Simpson, the man behind the legendary Belafonte at Carnegie Hall recording from a couple of years before
  • An absolute Must Own – for sound and music this is our pick for The Best Oscar Peterson album of All Time

I’ve known this was a well recorded album since I first heard the DCC gold CD back in the ’90s. It sounded great to me at the time — I had nothing to compare it to — but it sure didn’t sound like this. (more…)

Chico Hamilton – The Further Adventures of El Chico

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More of Our Favorite Records on Impulse

  • Insanely good Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish and the first copy to ever hit the site! 
  • These sides, recorded brilliantly by one of our favorite engineers, Bob Simpson, are big, full-bodied and present, with plenty of Tubey Magic and set on a a huge, three-dimensional soundstage
  • The record features the amazing Gabor Szabo along with other top players like Clark Terry and Ron Carter
  • Great pop jazz with excellent sound; if you’re a fan of Gabor Szabo, this music will be right up your alley

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Harry Belafonte / Belafonte at Carnegie Hall – Wrong About Harry Again?

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Live and Learn, Right?

  • This early Black Label RCA pressing boasts stunning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it on all four sides
  • A very large group of musicians will transport themselves directly into your listening room, Harry included, all backing him live on the stage in real time and in ANALOG
  • The palpable presence and performance energy of the man himself are really something to hear, and a copy this good lets you REALLY hear it
  • Harry Pearson made his reputation bringing this kind of amazing recording to the attention of the audiophile public, and for that we owe him a debt of gratitude
  • This is one of the pressings we’ve discovered with Reversed Polarity.
  • 5 stars: “The granddaddy of all live albums, this double-LP set captures the excitement of a Harry Belafonte concert at the height of his popularity.”

NEWSFLASH:

We’ve long known that some copies of the album are mastered with the polarity reversed. This is one of those copies.

But the crazy news we have today is that this copy of the records sound just fine without adjusting the system polarity, better than any other copy we played.

It sounds a bit better with your polarity reversed, but it is still our Shootout Winner even with the polarity wrong.

I would never have believed that to be the case in the past, but my theory is that the new studio we built has reduced distortions and problems to such a degree that polarity issues are less of a problem now than they might have been in the past.

As I say, it’s just a theory, and as time goes on we will revisit this idea with other recordings that we know to have polarity issues, and we’ll be sure to let you know what we find. (more…)

Bob Simpson Is One of Our Favorite Engineers

More of Our Favorite Engineers

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Bob Simpson is one of our favorite recording and mixing engineers. Click on the links below to find his albums, along with plenty of our famous commentaries. 

We could not find a picture of the man so we’ve included a picture of the RCA label of one of his most famous recordings, Belafonte at Carnegie Hall. 

Bob Simpson Engineered Albums with Hot Stampers

Bob Simpson Engineered Albums We’ve Reviewed

Paul Gonsalves – Tell It The Way It Is!

More Saxophone Jazz

More Recordings Engineered by Bob Simpson

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  • You’ll find solid Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides of this outstanding copy of Tell It The Way It Is!
  • The sound is huge and spacious with richness and Tubey Magic like nothing you’ve heard
  • Engineered by the great Bob Simpson, this album has it going on – musically and sonically
  • Gonsalves was Ellington’s tenor man, and his wonderfully expressive tone is what makes many of Ellington’s recordings the joy they are to this day

(more…)

Stan Getz / Luiz Bonfa – Jazz Samba Encore!

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More Antonio Carlos Jobim

More Bossa Nova

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  • This superb collaboration debuts with STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish and ’60s vinyl that’s about as quiet as any we can find
  • Smooth, full-bodied and Tubey Magical, the brilliant Ray Hall engineered this Demo Disc using an All Tube chain back in 1963, and it’s glorious to hear that sound reproduced on modern hi-rez equipment
  • 4 stars: ” Getz relies mostly upon native Brazilians for his backing. Thus, the soft-focused grooves are considerably more attuned to what was actually coming out of Brazil at the time… Two bona fide giants, Antonio Carlos Jobim and Luiz Bonfá (who gets co-billing), provide the guitars and all of the material, and Maria Toledo contributes an occasional throaty vocal.”

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A Very Good Sounding Record from Perry Como on Living Stereo

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A very good sounding Living Stereo record from 1961, engineered by Bob Simpson. One problem. Where are you going to find enough clean copies with which to do the shootout and, more importantly, who’s going to buy them?

If you see one locally in clean condition and you like Perry Como, pick it up and give it a listen. We liked the one we played.

FURTHER READING

Pressings with Excellent Sound Quality (2345)

Pressings with Middling Sound Quality (93)

Pressings with Mind-Blowing Sound Quality (68)

Pressings with Weak Sound Quality or Music (369)

Perez Prado – Pops and Prado

  • Outstanding sound for this Living Stereo pressing with each side earning solid Double Plus (A++) grades and playing about as quietly as any RCA from 1959 ever does
  • These sides are unbelievably Tubey Magical, dynamic and spacious – this is vintage Analog Exotica at its best
  • Credit for the Demo Disc sound of this one must go to one of our favorite engineers, Bob Simpson, here working with the glorious acoustics of Webster Hall
  • “… the use of two organs, or double the signature sound of the next phase of Prado, is significant and very effective. This is more fun than any of his previous attempts at safe commercialism.”

Bob Simpson won the Grammy for engineering Belafonte at Carnegie Hall you may recall. (more…)

Astrud Gilberto – The Shadow Of Your Smile

The space is HUGE and the sound so rich. The vocals have dramatically less hardness and the orchestra sounds right for once. Prodigious amounts of Tubey Magic as well, which is key to the best sounding copies. The sound needs weight, warmth and tubes or you might as well be playing a CD.

If you don’t like at least some reverb on your vocals, this album is probably not for you. The standard recording approach for Male and Female Vocals in the ’50s and ’60s was to add reverb to them. Sometimes it sounds right and sometimes it’s too much. For “too much” play some of Nat King Cole’s records from the era to hear what I mean. (Try “Those Lazy-Hazy-Crazy Days of Summer” from 1963 if you want a good place to start.)

Like any processing of the sound in the studio — compression, limiting, reverb, EQ, etc. — it can be used with taste and discretion and make the recording better, or it can be overdone and ruin everything. For our part we think Astrud Gilberto’s recordings use reverb more or less tastefully. And of course there sure aren’t going to be any versions of this music coming along any time soon without the added echo. Getting the reverb to sound right is one of the things a good Hot Stamper has to do on a record like this. (more…)