Top Engineers – Rudy Van Gelder

Freddie Hubbard – Sky Dive

More Freddie Hubbard

  • Outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides of this classic CTI album – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • This is the kind of spacious, low-distortion, dynamic and energetic sound Rudy Van Gelder was getting in the early ’70s – if you think he was better in the sixties, you need to play some of these recordings from the ’70s that show off just how good his work could be
  • Hubbard got together a great group of Funky Jazz players to support him here, with Don Sebesky doing his usual inventive arrangements
  • 4 Stars: “The charts for the brass and woodwinds are colorful; there is a fine supporting cast that includes guitarist George Benson, Keith Jarrett on keyboards, and flutist Hubert Laws; and Hubbard takes several outstanding trumpet solos.”

Rudy was getting one hell of a lively trumpet sound on tape during this period in his career. If you have a good pressing of one of his early ’70s jazz recordings the sound can be positively EXPLOSIVE, with what feels like all the size and power of live music. (more…)

Coleman Hawkins – Night Hawk on OJC

Potentially Good Sounding OJC Pressings

Not Very Good Sounding OJC Pressings

The best copies of a certain small, select group of reissues sound like the vintage jazz albums they are attempting to 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 Night Hawk we simply have never seen an original stereo copy clean enough to buy, so we have no actual, physical reference for what an original would sound like.

That said, having critically auditioned literally thousands of vintage jazz records over the course of the last few decades, including hundreds recorded by Rudy Van Gelder like this one, we’re pretty confidant we know what the good ones are supposed to sound like.

And they sound just like the best copies of the very pressing we are offering here.

What to Listen For 

The best copies are rich and tubey; many pressings were thin and modern sounding, some were opaque and recessed, and they would lose a lot of points for those shortcomings. We want our Hot Stamper pressings to sound like something RVG recorded in 1961, and the best copies give you that sound, without the surface noise and groove damage the originals doubtless have to offer.

Copies with rich lower mids 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, by the thousands in fact.

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.

Smear is common to most records, 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.

The Players and Personnel

Bass – Ron Carter 
Drums – Gus Johnson 
Piano – Tommy Flanagan 
Recorded By – Rudy Van Gelder 
Tenor Saxophone – Coleman Hawkins 
Tenor Saxophone – Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis

Freddie Hubbard – Listen for Smear on the Trumpet

More of the Music of Freddie Hubbard

More Jazz Recordings Featuring the Trumpet

More Recordings that Are Good for Testing Smear

This Hot Stamper original CTI pressing from our shootout in 2011 has a truly SUPERB side two that put to shame most of what we played.

Smeary blurred trumpet blasts? Not here. Nope, the transient bite and energy of the trumpet is as REAL as it gets. 

Side Two

This Super Hot side earned a grade of A++ with its exceptional high end (although it doesn’t extend quite all the way, just most of the way) and its amazing transparency. It’s so clear! You really hear into this one, in the way that the best of the classic jazz recordings allow you to do, recordings such as Kind of Blue and the better Contemporaries.

And no smear. Trumpet records with no smear, by Freddie Hubbard or anyone else, or hard to come by. A bit more richness and this one would have been in White Hot Stamper territory. It is awfully close to the best we heard.

Side One

Earning a grade of A Plus, this is the side where some of that smear we discussed earlier can clearly be heard. The sound is rich, richer than side two even, with a huge stage and full size instruments. It’s just that the midrange is a bit veiled and smeary, and the midrange is where the trumpet is.

Our Standard RVG Hot Stamper Overview / Backhanded Compliment

Rudy Van Gelder does it again! I hear virtually none of his bad EQ, compressor overload and general unpleasantness. Instead, this recording has smooth, sweet mids; open unexaggerated highs; and rich, tonally correct bass. In other words, you would never know it’s an RVG recording.


FURTHER READING

New to the Blog? Start Here

More Helpful Advice on Doing Your Own Shootouts

Important Lessons We Learned from Record Experiments 

Miles Davis – Green Haze (‘The Musings of Miles’ and ‘Miles’)

More Miles Davis

More Recordings by Rudy Van Gelder

  • Spacious, sweet and positively dripping with ambience – talk about Tubey Magic, the liquidity of the sound here is positively uncanny
  • This Prestige Two-Fer simply combines two complete Miles Davis titles recorded by Rudy Van Gelder in 1955 – ‘The Musings of Miles’ and ‘Miles’
  • 4 stars: “… it is for the excellent rhythm sections and the playing of Miles Davis that this two-fer is highly recommended.”
  • If you’re a fan of Miles, this All Tube MONO Recording from 1955 belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1955 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

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. (more…)

John Coltrane – A Love Supreme

More John Coltrane

More Jazz Recordings Featuring the Saxophone

  • This vintage Impulse Stereo copy is close to the BEST we have ever heard, with two STUNNING Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sides, just shy of our Shootout Winner – remarkably quiet vinyl too
  • One quality that stood out to us on this reissue pressing was just how ENERGETIC the best of them can be, and this one clearly qualifies as one of the best copies we have ever played
  • Tubier, more transparent and more dynamic than practically all other copies, with plenty of that “jumpin’ out of the speakers” quality that only The Real Thing (an old record) ever has – thanks RVG!
  • Full-bodied and tonally correct from top to bottom – this copy IS guaranteed to bring Coltrane’s music to life in a way few pressings can
  • 5 stars: “One of the most important records ever made, John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme was his pinnacle studio outing, that at once compiled all of the innovations from his past, spoke to the current of deep spirituality that liberated him from addictions to drugs and alcohol, and glimpsed at the future innovations of his final two and a half years.”
  • If you’re a Coltrane fan, this Impulse title from 1965 is clearly one of his best, and one of his best sounding
  • The complete list of titles from 1965 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

The original Impulse pressings on the brown and orange label are the best, right?

Not in our experience. We think that plays into one of the biggest canards in all of record collecting, that the first pressings are always the best sounding.

For this album, having sampled a large group of pressings from every era, we found the originals to be inferior to the best reissues we played. Naturally the ones we offer here as Hot Stampers will be the best of those reissue pressings. We are not the least bit worried that this vintage Impulse LP won’t beat the pants off of any original as well as any reissue you may have heard. And of course it is guaranteed to be dramatically better sounding than any Heavy Vinyl pressing produced by anyone, anywhere, at any time.

The Sound

This record is ALIVE! When you hear a record like this, you don’t need to play the 180 gram reissue to know that an early pressing such as this one is just going to murder it.

If you know anything about this music, you know that Coltrane is blasting away here and it is a thrill to hear him playing with such passion to be sure.

The clarity you will hear on this pressing 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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Kenny Burrell – Great Arrangements by Don Sebesky

More of the Music of Kenny Burrell

Don Sebesky, A Top Arranger

More Records that Are Good for Testing String Tone and Texture 

This is one of our favorite orchestra-backed jazz records here at Better Records. A few others off the top of my head would be Wes Montgomery’s California Dreaming (1966, and also Sebesky-arranged), Grover Washington’s All the King’s Horses (1973) and Deodato’s Prelude (also 1973, with brilliant arrangements by the man himself).

On a killer copy like this the sound is out of this world. Rich and full, open and transparent, this one defeated all comers in our shootout, taking the Top Prize for sound and earning all Three Pluses.

What’s especially notable is how well-recorded the orchestra’s string sections are. They have just the right amount of texture and immediacy without being forced or shrill. They’re also very well integrated into the mix. I wouldn’t have expected RVG to pull it off so well — I’ve heard other CTI records where the orchestration was abominable — but here it works as well as on any album I know of.

Both sides blew us away with a deep, wide soundstage and full extension on both the top and the bottom.

The bass is deep and defined; the tonality of the guitar and its overall harmonic richness are Right On The Money. The piano has the weight and heft of the real thing.

This kind of warm, rich, Tubey Magical analog sound is gone forever. You have to go back to 1971 to find it!

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Gene Ammons – Blue Gene

More Gene Ammons

More Jazz Recordings Featuring the Saxophone

  • This wonderful Prestige jazz classic boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on both sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • One of the best sounding Ammons records we know of – it’s huge, rich and Tubey Magical, with a solid bottom end and bluesy jazz energy like no other
  • Clean and clear and open are nice qualities to have, but rich and full are harder to come by on this record – this pressing has it all
  • “Some ballad performances in his oeuvre are a testament to an exceptional sense of intonation and melodic symmetry, powerful lyrical expressiveness, and mastery both of the blues and the bebop vernacular that can now be described as, in its own way, ‘classical.'”

For us audiophiles, both the sound and the music here are wonderful. If you’re looking to demonstrate just how good a 1958 All Tube Analog recording by Rudy Van Gelder on Prestige can sound, this killer copy will do the trick.

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George Benson – Bad Benson and Bad Audio

More of the Music of George Benson

More Recordings Engineered by Rudy Van Gelder

Some notes about this shootout from years back may be instructive.

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. [Now that we are much better at our jobs — see the advice at the end of this review — this happens only a few times a year.]

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.

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

Your Old Stereo (If You Had One in the Seventies)

On the other hand, clarity, top end, transparency and freedom from smear were hard to come by on all but a few copies. Most copies sound pretty much like your old ’70s stereo system — you know, the one you had with the three-way box speakers sitting on concrete blocks.

Fat, blurry down low, thick, opaque and smeary, that sound was everywhere. Pleasant, but not much more than that.

[This seems like an apt description for the records currently being pressed on Heavy Vinyl, wouldn’t you say?]

We’ve come a long way since then. Some pressings still have that sound to a degree, but with so many audio revolutions taking place over the last twenty years, now we can get dramatically more out of even those sub-optimal copies.


FURTHER READING

New to the Blog? Start Here

Revolutions in Audio, Anyone?

Making Audio Progress 

Unsolicited Audio Advice

John Coltrane Quartet – Ballads

More John Coltrane

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of John Coltrane

  • Ballads makes its Hot Stamper debut with outstanding solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER throughout this vintage Impulse Stereo copy
  • Full-bodied, energetic, and tonally correct from top to bottom, this pressing is guaranteed to bring Coltrane’s music to life – it’s possible that you would not own any Coltrane record that sounds as good as this one
  • The sound is everything that’s good about Rudy Van Gelder’s recordings – it’s present, spacious, full-bodied, Tubey Magical, dynamic and, most importantly, ALIVE in the way that modern pressings never are
  • 4 stars: “[A] perfectly fine album of Coltrane doing what he always did — exploring new avenues and modes in an inexhaustible search for personal and artistic enlightenment. [H]e’s introspective and at times even predictable, but that is precisely Ballads’ draw.”

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Sonny Rollins – David Turner Was Taking Care Of Business in 1978

More of the Music of Sonny Rollins

Yet Another Record We’ve Discovered with (Potentially) Excellent Sound

The complete Tenor Madness album is found here, with big, full-bodied, MONO jazz sound at its BEST, courtesy of the great one, Rudy Van Gelder

This is what classic ’50s jazz is supposed to sound like – they knew how to do these kinds of records forty years ago, and those mastering skills are in short supply nowadays, if not downright extinct

The transfers from 1978 by David Turner are in tune with the sound of these recordings – there’s not a trace of phony EQ on this entire record

This Two-Fer includes all of Tenor Madness and most of Work Time and Tour De Force.

Top jazz players such as Ray Bryant, John Coltrane, Red Garland, Kenny Drew, Max Roach and Paul Chambers can be heard on the album.

If you want all the tubey magic of the earlier pressings, a top quality pressing of the real Tenor Madness album on Prestige is going to give you more of that sound.

David Turner’s mastering setup in the ’70s has a healthy dose of Tubey Magic, but it can’t compete in that area with the All Tube cutting chains that were making records in the ’50s and ’60s.  Without one of those early pressings around to compare, we don’t think you’re going to feel you are missing out on anything in the sound with best copies.

And where can you find an early Prestige pressing with audiophile playing surfaces like these?   (more…)