Top Engineers – Phil Iehle

Herbie Mann – Returns To The Village Gate

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Hot Stamper Pressings of Superb Jazz Recordings in Stock

  • Herbie Mann’s 1963 release makes its Hot Stamper debut on this early Atlantic Blue & Green label pressing with phenomenal you-are-there sound
  • You won’t believe how good the Live Jazz Club sound captured on this album is, but it might take a White Hot Stamper pressing like this one to really make the case
  • This is an exceptionally well recorded jazz flute album, and if you want to hear this kind of sound, you going to need an early ’60s pressing, because none of the reissues we played even came close
  • “By 1961, flutist Herbie Mann was really starting to catch on with the general public. This release, a follow-up to his hit At the Village Gate…features Mann in an ideal group with either Hagood Hardy or Dave Pike on vibes, Ahmed Abdul-Malik or Nabil Totah on bass, drummer Rudy Collins and two percussionists. Mann really cooks on four of his own originals, plus ‘Bags’ Groove,’ blending in the influence of African, Afro-Cuban and even Brazilian jazz.”
  • A Jazz Classic from 1963 that should appeal to any fan of Bossa Nova music
  • The complete list of titles from 1963 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

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John Coltrane – Giant Steps

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More 5 Star Albums

  • 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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John Coltrane – Coltrane Jazz

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Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of John Coltrane

  • This outstanding copy of Coltrane’s brilliant sixth studio album boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • This pressing captures the classic Coltrane sound that Tom Dowd and Phil Iehle achieved in the studio in 1961, with plenty of the Tubey Magic that makes a vintage jazz album like this one such a special listening experience
  • It’s the rare pressing that isn’t mediocre if not outright awful – it took us a long time to find the right stampers for this one
  • It’s trial and error, no more, no less, a process that has worked for a host of other hard-to-find-good-sound-for-Coltrane albums too
  • 4 1/2 stars: “The first album to hit the shelves after Giant Steps… While not the groundbreaker that Giant Steps was, Coltrane Jazz was a good consolidation of his gains as he prepared to launch into his peak years of the 1960s.”

For us audiophiles both the sound and the music here are wonderful. If you’re looking to demonstrate just how good 1961 All Tube Analog sound can be, this killer copy will do the trick.

This pressing is super spacious, sweet and positively dripping with ambience. Talk about Tubey Magic, the liquidity of the sound here is positively uncanny. This is vintage analog at its best, so full-bodied and relaxed you’ll wonder how it ever came to be that anyone seriously contemplated trying to improve it.

This IS the sound of Tubey Magic. No recordings will ever be made like this again, and no CD will ever capture what is in the grooves of this record. There is, of course, a CD of this album, but those of us who possess a working turntable and a good collection of vintage vinyl could care less.

The engineering duties were handled by Tom Dowd (whom you no doubt know well, and Phil Iehle, who happens to be the man who recorded some of Coltrane’s most iconic albums for Atlantic: Giant Steps (1960) and My Favorite Things (also in 1961).

Phil Iehle also helped engineer Buffalo Springfield’s Last Time Around, as well as albums by Mose Allison, Jerry Jeff Walker, Charles Mingus, the MJQ, Herbie Mann, Eddie Harris, Hank Crawford and dozens of others. Staff engineer at Atlantic? That’s my guess. But a supremely talented one nonetheless.

What the best sides of this Classic Jazz Album have to offer is clear for all to hear:

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1961
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

Copies with rich lower mids and nice extension up top did the best in our shootout, assuming they weren’t veiled or smeary of course. So many things can go wrong on a record! We know, we’ve heard them all.

Top end extension is critical to the sound of the best copies. Lots of old records (and new ones) have no real top end; consequently, the studio or stage will be missing much of its natural air and space, and instruments will lack their full complement of harmonic information.

Tube smear is common to most vintage pressings and this is no exception. The copies that tend to do the best in a shootout will have the least (or none), yet are full-bodied, tubey and rich.

What We’re Listening For on Coltrane Jazz

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
  • Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

Vinyl Condition

Mint Minus Minus and maybe a bit better is about as quiet as any vintage pressing will play, and since only the right vintage pressings have any hope of sounding good on this album, that will most often be the playing condition of the copies we sell. (The copies that are even a bit noisier get listed on the site are seriously reduced prices or traded back in to the local record stores we shop at.)

Those of you looking for quiet vinyl will have to settle for the sound of other pressings and Heavy Vinyl reissues, purchased elsewhere of course as we have no interest in selling records that don’t have the vintage analog magic of these wonderful recordings.

If you want to make the trade-off between bad sound and quiet surfaces with whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing might be available, well, that’s certainly your prerogative, but we can’t imagine losing what’s good about this music — the size, the energy, the presence, the clarity, the weight — just to hear it with less background noise.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Little Old Lady
Village Blues
My Shining Hour
Fifth House

Side Two

Harmonique
Like Sonny
I’ll Wait and Pray
Some Other Blues

AMG 4 1/2 Star Review

The first album to hit the shelves after Giant Steps, Coltrane Jazz was largely recorded in late 1959, although one of the eight songs (“Village Blues”) was done in late 1960. On everything save the aforementioned “Village Blues,” Coltrane used the Miles Davis rhythm section of pianist Wynton Kelly, bassist Paul Chambers, and drummer Jimmy Cobb.

While not the groundbreaker that Giant Steps was, Coltrane Jazz was a good consolidation of his gains as he prepared to launch into his peak years of the 1960s.

There are three standards aboard, but the group reaches their peak on Coltrane’s original material, particularly “Harmonique” with its melodic leaps and upper-register saxophone strains and the winding, slightly Eastern-flavored principal riffs of “Like Sonny,” dedicated to Sonny Rollins. The moody “Village Blues” features the lineup of McCoy Tyner on piano, Elvin Jones on drums, and Steve Davison bass; with the substitution of Jimmy Garrison on bass, that personnel would play on Coltrane’s most influential and beloved 1960s albums.

Ornette Coleman – The Art of the Improvisers

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More Jazz Recordings Featuring the Saxophone

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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 outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides of this 1961 Coltrane classic – exceptionally QUIET vinyl too
  • There is more richness, fullness and presence on this pressing than other copies offer, and that’s especially true for whatever godawful Heavy Vinyl pressing is currently being foisted on an unsuspecting public
  • With McCoy Tyner on piano, Steve Davis on bass and Elvin Jones on the drums, this is a group that can do no wrong with standards of this caliber
  • 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. Each track of this album is a joy to revisit.”

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…)