Top Engineers – Rudy Van Gelder

The Search for Lush Life – We Broke Through in 2016

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More Breakthrough Pressing Discoveries

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We’ve been searching for years trying to find just what kind of Lush Life pressing — what era, what label, what stampers, mono or stereo, import or domestic — had the potential for good sound.

No, scratch that. We should have said excellent sound. Exceptional sound. We’ve played plenty of copies that sounded pretty good, even very good, but exceptional? That pressing had eluded us — until a few months ago.

Yes, it was only a few months ago, early in 2016 in fact, that we chanced upon the right kind of pressing — the right era, the right label, the right stampers, the right sound. Not just the right sound though. Better sound than we ever thought this album could have. (more…)

Stanley Turrentine – Another Story

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More Albums on Blue Note

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  • Both sides of this later Blue Note pressing boast solid Double Plus (A++) sound
  • Rudy Van Gelder really knocked this one out of the park – the recording is as dynamic as they come, with horns that blast with real power and some serious snap to the drums
  • You will have a very hard time finding a better sounding funky Soul Jazz album than this copy of Another Story
  • 4 Stars on All Music; Turrentine on this date is joined by Thad Jones, Cedar Walton, Buster Williams, and Mickey Roker, serious jazz players one and all

This vintage Blue note pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound. (more…)

Donald Byrd – A New Perspective

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More Hot Stamper Pressings on Blue Note

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Reviews and Commentaries for Blue Note Records

  • An STUNNING stereo pressing of one of our all-time favorite Blue Note albums with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound throughout
  • The gospel vocals are amazingly well recorded (thanks RVG!) – with the transparency of this copy, you can easily pick out and follow each voice
  • To hear the real RVG magic, play Beast of Burden on side one – that’s some real audiophile DEMO DISC sound
  • 5 stars: “One of the most successful uses of a gospel choir in a jazz context. This is a memorable effort that is innovative in its own way, a milestone in Donald Byrd’s career.”

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Joe Newman Quintet / Jive At Five – Killer Trumpet Jazz from 1960

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More of Our Best Jazz Trumpet Recordings

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

  • Jive At Five arrives on the site with killer Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • This hard to find Prestige Swingville LP is big, spacious, swinging with energy and absolutely jumping out of the speakers
  • 4 stars: “…[this music] is very much in the Count Basie vein. That fact is not too surprising when one considers that the quintet includes three members of Basie’s men: trumpeter Joe Newman, tenor saxophonist Frank Wess and bassist Eddie Jones. Joined by the complementary pianist Tommy Flanagan and drummer Oliver Jackson, Newman and his friends swing their way through four vintage standards and a couple of the leader’s original blues…”

Jive at Five is one of my all-time favorite jazz trumpet albums. This Shootout Winning Prestige reissue might very well turn you into a big fan as well.

I highly recommended this album back in the day. Hearing it now as a much older man, having played thousands of jazz records in the ensuing decades, and thankfully being able to hear it on much better equipment than I had back then, I realize both the music and sound (can’t forget that!) have stood the test of time very well indeed.

This is what a good jazz trumpet album should sound like, miles from the squawky, muted microphone-distorted horn sound so many audiophiles seem to revere. I’m guessing you know who I’m referring to. Miles Davis was surely a genius and a brilliant innovator, but his horn sound from the sixties on was never as relaxed, smooth and natural as it is on this wonderful Joe Newman Quintet album from 1960.

Joe was one of Basie’s long-time band members, a fiery soloist with an unerring sense of swing. This album ably demonstrates those qualities. The guy is passionate but he never gets lost in his own solos; he keeps the melodies and the swing front and center. (more…)

Horace Silver – Horace-Scope

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More Albums on Blue Note

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  • This superb stereo pressing boasts nearly Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • This shootout was years in the making – few copies survived in this kind of audiophile playing condition, and fewer still – far fewer still – sound as good as this one does (thanks RVG!), so Silver fans should get while the gettin’ is good
  • 4 stars: “…every selection is full of soulful grooves and well-honed group interplay, the qualities that made this band perhaps the top hard bop outfit of the early ’60s. Silver was in the midst of a hot streak that wouldn’t let up for another few years, and Horace-Scope is another eminently satisfying effort from that period.”

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John Coltrane – Black Pearls

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More Jazz Recorded by Rudy Van Gelder

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  • Black Pearls returns to the site with STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from first note to last
  • It takes us years to find a copy that plays as quietly as this one, and since this is the only one that took Top Honors, 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
  • A great Rudy Van Gelder recording that hits a whole ‘nother level on a copy that was mastered and pressed as well as this one
  • 4 stars: “. . . Black Pearls indeed captures Coltrane at the height of perfecting the intense volley that would garner the name “sheets of sound.”

A killer copy of this wonderful 1958 Coltrane recording (released in 1964), unbeatable on either side! We heard one that blew us away a few years big, so we picked up a bunch more and finally had the chance to evaluate them. The music was always enjoyable, but on a copy like this things really get going. Coltrane is joined here by Donald Byrd, Red Garland, Paul Chambers and Art Taylor — a top lineup, the same crew behind the great Lush Life.

The sound here is wonderfully natural and clear. You get incredible presence, impressive transparency, real size and space between the players. It’s also amazingly rich and full-bodied with lots of energy. Most of the copies we’ve collected didn’t come close, so if you’re looking for some late ’50s Coltrane magic, this is the hot ticket right here! (more…)

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

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More Recordings by Rudy Van Gelder

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  • An outstanding pressing with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on all FOUR sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • 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.”

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…)

Airto – Fingers

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

and One We Will Probably Never Shootout Again

Some records are getting too expensive to find in clean condition nowadays, and that makes the expense and labor costs of doing shootouts for them hard to justify. Fingers is a Desert Island Disc for yours truly, and the links below will take you to many more.

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Desert Island Discs Available Now

Desert Island Discs – The Complete List

  • Excellent from first note to last – Double Plus sound (A++) on both sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Incredibly impressive funky Brazilian jazz sound with HUGE lifelike percussion – thanks RVG!
  • “Produced by Taylor and recorded at Rudy Van Gelder’s famous New Jersey studio, this LP demonstrates just how exciting and creative 1970s fusion could be. When Moreira and his colleagues blend jazz with Brazilian music, rock and funk on such cuts as “Wind Chant,” “Tombo in 7/4” and “Romance of Death,” the results are consistently enriching. Fingers is an album to savor.”

This is without a doubt the BEST ALBUM the man ever made. On top of that, this copy really has the kind of sound we look for, with an open, fully extended top end that gives all the elements of this complex music room to breathe.

We Love Fingers

Fingers is one of our all time favorite records, a Desert Island disc to be sure. I’ve been playing this album for more than thirty years and it just keeps getting better and better. Truthfully it’s the only Airto record I like. I can’t stand Dafos, and most of the other Airto titles leave me cold. I think a lot of the credit for the brilliance of this album has to go to the Fattoruso brothers, who play keyboards, drums, and take part in the large vocal groupings that sing along with Airto.

At times this record really sounds like what it is: a bunch of guys in a big room beating the hell out of their drums and singing at the the top of their lungs. You gotta give RVG credit for capturing so much of that energy on tape and transferring that energy onto a slab of vinyl. (Of course this assumes that the record in question actually does have the energy of the best copies. It’s also hard to know who or what is to blame when it doesn’t, since even the good stampers sound mediocre most of the time. Bad vinyl, worn out stampers, poor pressing cycle, it could be practically anything.) (more…)

Kenny Burrell with Gil Evans – Guitar Forms

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More Gil Evans

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  • This STUNNING pressing offers Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from start to finish
  • Gil Evans wrote the superb orchestral arrangements and Rudy Van Gelder captured them on lovely analog tape – what’s not to like? 
  • We’ve really been digging these Creed Taylor productions for years now – it may not be serious jazz, but it’s no less interesting and captivating for it
  • “His landmark 1965 collaboration with Gil Evans, Guitar Forms rivals anything the arranger did with Miles Davis. Indeed, the track “Lotus Land” has a bolero form very reminiscent of Sketches of Spain. Throughout, Burrell takes thoughtful, concise, and utterly musical solos, and even switches to acoustic classical guitar on “Prelude #2” and “Loie.””

For us audiophiles both the sound and the music here are wonderful. If you’re looking to demonstrate just how good 1965 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. (more…)

Red Garland Trio – Groovy

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What makes this vintage piano trio album in mono so special? Allow me to quote a review from a few years back for a pair of recordings that Red Garland made with Miles Davis back in the mid-’50s: Workin’ And Steamin’.

To the Jazz Fans of the World, we here present one of the BEST sounding jazz recordings we have ever had the PRIVILEGE to place on a turntable. I cannot ever recall hearing a better sounding Rudy Van Gelder recording, and I have a theory as to why this tape is as good as it is: it’s MONO. It also sounds like it’s recorded completely LIVE in the studio, direct to one track you might say. As good a recording as Kind of Blue is, I think the best parts of this album are more immediate and more real than anything on KOB.

The size, the weight, the solidity, the clarity, the energy, the rhythmic drive – it’s all here and more. We’ve never heard the record sound better, and that’s coming from someone who’s been playing the album since the ’80s.

These guys are playing live in the studio and you can really feel their presence on every track — assuming you have a copy that sounds like this one.

Based on what I’m hearing my feeling is that most of the natural, full-bodied, smooth, sweet sound of the album is on the master tape, and that all that was needed to transfer that vintage sound correctly onto vinyl disc was simply to thread up the tape on a high quality machine and hit play.

The fact that nobody seems to be able to make an especially good sounding record these days — certainly not as good sounding as this one — tells me that in fact I’m wrong to think that such an approach would work. Somebody should have been able to figure out how to do it by now. In our experience that is simply not the case today, and has not been for many years, if not decades. (more…)