Side One: Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
Side Two: Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
- The first copy to hit the site in years and boy does our Shootout Winner here have STUNNING sound - it earned Triple Plus (A+++) grades from start to finish - exceptionally quiet vinyl too
- If all you've ever heard is the Roulette original (or the wacky MoFi, or whatever current Heavy Vinyl pressing is being made, this LP is guaranteed to be a REVELATION
- Basie Plays Hefti catches Basie's band at the peak of their powers in 1958, and in this All Tube Recording you get every bit of the magic they made in the studio
- "The Count Basie Orchestra was in top form for this set of Neal Hefti arrangements. Hefti had been one of the main architects of the new Basie sound of the '50s... "Cute" (heard here in its initial recording) became a standard."
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This is the followup to the smash Basie album The Atomic Mr. Basie, an album we would love to make available if we could ever find a clean, good sounding copy to play. The liner notes tell the story of this album well. Click on the tab above to read them.
Basie was recording like a madman back in the late '50s and even all through the '60s. In 1958, the year of this release, he put out seven (7!) albums on the Roulette label. We've played quite a number of them over the years and found relatively few with audiophile quality sound.
Including the original Roulette pressing of this very title. We've only heard a few, and had only one for our shootout, but it was awful enough to make us swear off buying more, especially considering the prices vintage jazz albums are going for these days. Hard and sour brass, no real top or bottom, it's the sound of a poorly mastered Old Jazz Record, fine for the consoles of the day, not so good on today's advanced stereo systems. Emus seems to be the only way to go.
The sound is tonally correct, Tubey Magical and above all 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.
And of course we absolutely loved the music. I had a chance to see the Basie Big Band perform not long ago at Disney Hall and a fairly large chunk of the music and arrangements they play these days are Neal's, practically half I would venture to guess. Meaning simply that Hefti's music has clearly stood the test of time. Play this album and you're sure to see what I mean.
What Shootout Winning sides such as these have to offer is not hard 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 1958
- 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
What We're Listening For on Basie Plays Hefti
- Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
- Then: presence and immediacy. The instruments aren't "back there" somewhere, lost in the mix. They're front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would put them.
- 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.
A Big Group of Musicians Needs This Kind of Space
One of the qualities that we don't talk about on the site nearly enough is the SIZE of the record's presentation. Some copies of the album just sound small -- they don't extend all the way to the outside edges of the speakers, and they don't seem to take up all the space from the floor to the ceiling. In addition, the sound can often be recessed, with a lack of presence and immediacy in the center.
Other copies -- my notes for these copies often read "BIG and BOLD" -- create a huge soundfield, with the music positively jumping out of the speakers. They're not brighter, they're not more aggressive, they're not hyped-up in any way, they're just bigger and clearer.
And most of the time those very special pressings are just plain more involving. When you hear a copy that does all that -- a copy like this one -- it's an entirely different listening experience.
What do we love about these vintage pressings? The timbre of every instrument is Hi-Fi in the best sense of the word. The unique sound of every instrument is reproduced with remarkable fidelity. That's what we at Better Records mean by "Hi-Fi," not the kind of Audiophile Phony BS Sound that passes for Hi-Fidelity these days. There's no boosted top, there's no bloated bottom, there's no sucked-out midrange.
This is Hi-Fidelity for those who recognize The Real Thing when they hear it. I'm pretty sure our customers do, and whoever picks this record up is guaranteed to get a real kick out of it.
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 later 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 originals.
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.
Has Anyone Here Seen Basie
It's Awfully Nice to Be With You
A Little Tempo, Please
The Count Basie Orchestra was in top form for this set of Neal Hefti arrangements. Hefti had been one of the main architects of the new Basie sound of the '50s and on this memorable date he utilizes the flute of Frank Wess prominently. "Cute" (heard here in its initial recording) became a standard.
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