Top Engineers – Phil Iehle

John Coltrane – Giant Steps

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  • Coltrane’s Atlantic debut returns to the site on this KILLER vintage pressing with Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound from the first note to the last – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • As is so often the case, the right stampers make all the difference in the world on this album, and these are some of the best, even though the label may not be the right colors
  • It takes us years to find a copy that plays as quietly as this one with no marks in the vinyl – it will be quite a while before another of its kind comes our way
  • It’s big, lively, tubey, present and very transparent – nothing we played could compete with it
  • Credit superb engineering from Phil Iehle and Tom Dowd, who would work on some of Coltrane’s most iconic albums at the label
  • 5 stars: “[Coltrane] was…beginning to rewrite the jazz canon with material that would be centered on solos — the 180-degree antithesis of the art form up to that point. These arrangements would create a place for the solo to become infinitely more compelling.”

As you might expect, the original Blue and Green label pressings have (potentially) superb sound on Giant Steps, but somewhat surprisingly — assuming you’ve heard a Nearly White Hot original — the Red and Green label pressings can sound every bit as good.

The Tubey Magical richness and warmth carried over into the ’70s, at least on some copies of this title, and we’re very glad they did, as finding clean original Coltrane albums from the early ’60s is not so easy these days.

If you know anything about this music, you know that Coltrane builds up a head of steam on practically every track on the album. He is blasting away here and it is a thrill to be sure. The soundfield opens up naturally, with real depth.

The clarity does not come at the expense of brightness or thinness of any kind. In fact, just the opposite is the case — the sound is so rich and tubey you will be practically bowled over by it.

The extension on both ends of the frequency spectrum is one of the qualities that often sets the better copies apart from the pack. All the top end and the deep bottom end weight and fullness that are so essential to the sound are simply not to be found on most pressings — but here they are.

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Jerry Jeff Walker / Mr. Bojangles

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  • Clean and clear, rich and natural, with good vocal presence and wonderful energy throughout
  • The title track sounds amazing, but that’s just one of the great songs with excellent sound on the album
  • The engineering team of Tom Dowd and Phil Iehle really worked their magic on this one
  • 4 1/2 stars: “…Walker favored the country and folk side of folk-rock much more than the rock side.”

This is only the second title by Jerry Jeff that we’ve been able to do shootouts for. Most of the records we’ve played of his from the ’70s left a lot to be desired sonically and more often than not musically, so we gave up on them.

His Vanguard release from 1969 has superb sound, as does this Atco from 1968. There may be one or two more coming down the pike but that could be many years from now. His records never sold all that well, and not many of them can be found in Southern California.

And they are hard to find in audiophile playing condition. (more…)

Ornette Coleman / Ornette on Tenor – Demo Disc Jazz Sound

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  • This is one of the BEST sounding jazz albums we have played in many months – it is ALIVE with energy and dynamic contrasts
  • We had a superb original Plum and Orange Mono pressing and as good as that one may be, this stereo pressing takes the music to another level entirely (on big speakers at loud levels of course)
  • Compare this pressing to anything ever recorded by Rudy Van Gelder and you may be in for quite a shock
  • Engineered by the team of Tom Dowd and Phil Iehle, the men behind some of Coltrane’s most iconic, best sounding albums for Atlantic
  • 5 stars in Downbeat – Allmusic notes: “It’s an understatement to say that Ornette Coleman’s stint with Atlantic altered the jazz world forever, and Ornette on Tenor was the last of his six LPs (not counting outtakes compilations) for the label, wrapping up one of the most controversial and free-thinking series of recordings in jazz history… far ahead of its time.

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Ornette Coleman – The Art of the Improvisers

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  • With a nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) side one and a seriously good Double Plus (A++) side two, this copy will be very hard to beat – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Engineered by the team of Tom Dowd (whose work you surely know well) and Phil Iehle – the pair recorded some of Coltrane’s most iconic albums for Atlantic: Giant Steps (1960) and Coltrane Jazz (also in 1961)
  • 5 stars in Downbeat – Allmusic notes: “It’s an understatement to say that Ornette Coleman’s stint with Atlantic altered the jazz world forever, and Ornette on Tenor was the last of his six LPs (not counting outtakes compilations) for the label, wrapping up one of the most controversial and free-thinking series of recordings in jazz history… far ahead of its time.”

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Charles Mingus – Oh Yeah

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  • This insanely good original stereo pressing of Mingus’s brilliant Oh Yeah from 1962 boasts outstanding Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A++++) sound from first note to last
  • Tubey Magical, lively and clear, with three-dimensionality that will fill your listening room from wall to wall
  • Phil Iehle and Tom Dowd made up the engineering team for these sessions, which explains why the best copies of the album sound so damn good
  • A raucous (and ROCKIN’) deviation from traditional jazz, this compilation incorporates R&B and soul influences – Mingus even lends his rich vocal stylings to a few songs
  • 5 stars: “Oh Yeah is probably the most offbeat Mingus album ever, and that’s what makes it so vital.”

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John Coltrane – My Favorite Things

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  • You’ll find excellent Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides of this 1961 Coltrane classic
  • You’ll also find dramatically more richness, fullness and presence than most copies have to offer
  • An exceptionally difficult album to find with top quality sound and decent surfaces, but here one is!
  • 5 stars: “The unforced, practically casual soloing styles of the assembled quartet allow for tastefully executed passages a la the Miles Davis Quintet, a trait Coltrane no doubt honed during his tenure in that band.”

An album like this is all about its Tubey Magical Stereoscopic presentation. If you’re looking to demonstrate just how good 1961 All Tube Analog sound can be — thanks go to legendary engineers Phil Lehle and Tom Dowd — this excellent copy should be just the record for you. (more…)