Top Engineers – Rudy Van Gelder

Horace Silver Quintet – The Tokyo Blues

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  • You’ll find incredible Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides of this wonderful Blue Note stereo pressing
  • Spacious and three-dimensional, as well as relaxed and full-bodied – this pressing was a big step up over every other copy we played
  • 4 stars: “Silver’s Tokyo-influenced compositions fit right in with the subtle cross-cultural but very American hard bop he’d been doing all along… [his] compositions have a light, airy feel, with plenty of space, and no one used that space better at these sessions than Cook, whose tenor sax lines are simply wonderful, adding a sturdy, reliable brightness.”

If you know anything about Blue Note, you know that finding a copy that plays this quietly is rare. Add to that the excellent sound and music and you have yourself a real winner with this LP! (more…)

Sonny Rollins – The Sound of Sonny – Reviewed in 2007

Riverside White and Blue original 2 Mic Label Mono LP. Side one sounds like a typical old Riverside jazz record, but side two sounds EXCELLENT! I don’t know when I’ve heard an early Sonny Rollins record sound better. His horn is really full-bodied and dynamic and has amazing IMMEDIACY on some tracks. It makes side one sound sick in comparison.

The surfaces for old jazz records are always the problem. This one plays M– to EX++ and has some groove damage in the inner grooves — nothing too serious, but it’s definitely there. We played all the marks and only a few of them repeat, and not for long. I’ve never seen a clean quiet copy of a record like this in my life. I’m sure they exist, but I don’t come across them, at any price.  (more…)

The Best Jazz Record Ever Made, or the Best Jazz Record We’ve Ever Played?

Reviews and Commentaries for Somethin’ Else

I ran across this listing for Cannonball Adderley’s Somethin’ Else today, a record we raved about after doing a shootout for it years ago. Notice the careful hedging in the phrases with newly added italics:

The music here is amazing — as I’m sure most of you know, this is as much a showcase for Miles Davis as it is for Cannonball himself — but the good news for audiophiles is that it’s also one of the BEST SOUNDING BLUE NOTE ALBUMS we know of. When you hear it on a copy like this, it’s just about As Good As It Gets.

After doing this shootout in 2015 I would like to amend the above remarks for being much too conservative. The current consensus here at Better Records is that this album deserves to hold three — count ’em, three — somewhat related titles:

One, The Best Sounding Blue Note record we have ever played.

Two, The Best Sounding Jazz Record we have ever played.

Three, Rudy Van Gelder’s Best Engineering (based on the copies we played).

Our shootout winners had more energy, presence, dynamics and three-dimensional studio space than any jazz recording we have ever heard. The sound was as BIG and BOLD as anything in our audio experience.

Add to that a perfectly balanced mix, with tonality that’s correct from top to bottom for every instrument in the soundfield and you may begin to see why we feel that the best copies of this album set a standard that no other jazz record we’re aware of can meet.

Have we played every Blue Note, every RVG recording, every jazz record?

Of course not. We would never make such a claim.

All Well and Good, But Bear This in Mind

In our defense, who could possibly claim to have critically evaluated the sound of more jazz records than we have?

There are multitudes of music experts in the world of jazz. For jazz sound quality the numbers must surely be orders of magnitude smaller, and here is where we’re [pretty sure we have more than a few critically valuable advantages, to wit:

  • better playback equipment,
  • better record cleaning technologies,
  • stacks of pressings of the same title,
  • a scientifically blinded approach and, most importantly of all,
  • a single-minded purpose. 

All our efforts are in service to only one end, to find the pressing with the ultimate in analog sound.

(Naturally we leave the sound of CDs and other digital formats to others. Although CDs often outperform their modern Heavy Vinyl pressing equivalent — here is a case in point — we know our lane and and are happy to stay within it.) (more…)

Shelly Manne – 2-3-4

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  • This superb 1962 release boasts outstanding Double Plus (A++) stereo sound from first note to last
  • Huge, Tubey Magical and lively, with solid weight for Manne’s kick and lots of space around all the other instruments, this Van Gelder recording is guaranteed to fill your listening room with brilliant modern jazz music
  • Shelly Manne is one of our favorite drummers – here he reunites with the great Coleman Hawkins, as well as Hank Jones, Eddie Costa and George Duvivier
  • 4 stars: “This unusual set has five selections from a date featuring the great tenor Coleman Hawkins, pianist Hank Jones, bassist George Duvivier, and drummer Shelly Manne… A very interesting set with more than its share of surprises.”

For us audiophiles both the sound and the music here are wonderful. If you’re looking to demonstrate just how good a 1962 All Tube Analog Impulse recording can sound, this killer copy will do the trick. (more…)

Wes Montgomery – California Dreaming

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  • This excellent Wes Montgomery title returns to the site for the first time in two years with a Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) side one and outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on side two
  • Both sides here are OUT OF THIS WORLD, incredibly big, bold, clear, rich and dynamic – this is DEMO DISC Quality Big Production Guitar-led Jazz
  • Credit goes to Rudy Van Gelder once again for the huge space that the superbly well-recorded group occupies
  • Forget the critics, this is one of Wes’s Best Albums of All Time I tell you!

This White Hot Stamper has the REAL Wes Montgomery/ Creed Taylor/ Rudy Van Gelder MAGIC in its grooves. You will not believe how big, rich and full-bodied this pressing is. Since this is one of Wes’s best albums, hearing this incredible White Hot copy was a THRILL for us and we’re sure it will be as big a thrill for you too.

As Good As It Gets Sound

So natural, transparent and clear. Listen to all the space around the guitar. (On the Cisco you might hear 20% of that space. That’s Heavy Vinyl for you. What a load of crap.)

Beware any and all imitations (even the one I used to like somewhat, the Cisco version). They barely BEGIN to convey the qualities of the real master tape the way this pressing does. This White Hot Stamper exhibits huge amounts of ambience and spaciousness, with far more energy and the kind of “see into the studio” quality that only the real thing ever seems to have. (more…)

Coleman Hawkins – Coleman Hawkins All Stars

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  • This vintage pressing of Hawkins’ 1960 release boasts Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • If you want to hear the Tubey Magic, size and energy of this wonderful session from 1960 recorded by none other than Rudy Van Gelder, this very pressing is the way to go
  • “Hawkins proves again and again why his sound is not only the epitome of jazz, but forever timeless… The demonstrative yet subtle Hawkins is in full flight here, with the equally elegant Thomas and naturally subdued Dickenson in lock step. What a joy they must have been to hear together at a club or concert date, if in fact it happened in this small-group setting.”

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Kenny Dorham – Whistle Stop

Hot Stamper Blue Note Albums Available Now

More Recordings by Rudy Van Gelder

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This is a Minty looking Blue Label Blue Note LP with EXCELLENT SOUND. It features performances by Hank Mobley, Kenny Drew, Paul Chambers and Philly Joe Jones.

To hear this record work its magic, go right to track two on side one. That’s Blue Note Music and Sound at their best! 

“Dorham teams up with tenor-saxophonist Hank Mobley (who he had recorded with previously along with Art Blakey and Max Roach), pianist Kenny Drew, bassist Paul Chambers, and drummer Philly Joe Jones for a set of lively, fresh, and consistently swinging music. This is a generally overlooked near-classic set.” – AMG

Jimmy Smith & Wes Montgomery – The Dynamic Duo

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  • KILLER Triple Plus (A+++) grades or very close to it on both sides, this is a wonderful vintage stereo pressing of a classic jazz collaboration from 1966
  • Big, rich and lively, thanks to Oliver Nelson’s arrangements (and RVG’s engineering), this big group of top players is having a blast and we think you will too
  • 5 stars: “The romping, aggressive big band charts [represent] Oliver Nelson at his best… The results are incendiary — a near-ideal meeting of yin and yang… They are an amazing pair, complementing each other, driving each other, using their bop and blues taproots to fuse together a sound.”

The sound of this Verve stereo pressing is tonally correct and natural. The timbre of each and every instrument is right and it doesn’t take a pair of golden ears to hear it. So high-resolution too. If you love ’60s jazz you cannot go wrong here. (more…)

Art Blakey – Meet You At The Jazz Corner of the World – Volume 1

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More Albums on Blue Note

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  • The first in this superb 2-volume live set makes its Hot Stamper debut here with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last
  • Tubier, more present, more alive, with more of that “jumpin’ out of the speakers” quality that only The Real Thing (an old record) ever has
  • Credit goes to RVG once again for the huge space that the superbly well recorded combo occupies
  • “Here all ears are tuned to the proverbial “jazz corner of the world,” better known as Birdland, where the quintet serves up a healthy sampling of its concurrent catalog… a welcome addition to the library of most any jazz lover.”

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Donald Byrd – House of Byrd

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  • Two rare Donald Byrd albums in one, both with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on all sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • The Tubey Magic is fully intact, making these two albums sound just the way 1956 RVG jazz should
  • Composed of two superb LPs, 2 Trumpets and The Young Bloods, these wonderful pressings capture some of Byrd’s best sound
  • “Art and Donald are in fine form, and if there is any competition it serves only to increase the musical yield.”
  • “… These blowing sessions (typical of Prestige’s albums of the 1950s) have their enjoyable moments with Farmer and Woods taking overall solo honors.

This reissue is spacious, open, transparent, rich and sweet. It’s yet another remarkable disc from the Golden Age of Vacuum Tube Recording Technology, with the added benefit of mastering using the more modern cutting equipment of the ’70s in this case. We are of course here referring to the good modern mastering of 40+ years ago, not the generally opaque, veiled and lifeless mastering so common today. (more…)