The copy we are selling is similar to the one pictured above.
Side One: Mint Minus Minus (often quieter than this grade)
Side Two: Mint Minus Minus
- Superb Double Plus (A++) sound throughout this vintage Columbia 360 Stereo pressing
- Both sides are full of that old-school 30th Street Studio Tubey Magic - the brass is full-bodied and airy, the bass is surprisingly well-defined, the top end is extended and sweet, and the soundfield is HUGE and three-dimensional
- The music is a classic example of the brilliant partnership between Davis and arranger Gil Evans, and a must-own for serious jazz fans
- Teo Macero was the producer, Fred Plaut the engineer for these sessions in Columbia's glorious sounding 30th Street Studio. It's yet another remarkable disc from the Golden Age of Vacuum Tube Recording
- 5 stars: "It was Evans’ intimate knowledge of the composition as well as the performer that allowed him to so definitively capture the essence of both… No observation or collection of American jazz can be deemed complete without this recording."
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Vintage covers for this album are hard to find in exceptionally clean shape. Most of the will have at least some amount of ringwear, seam wear and edge wear. We guarantee that the cover we supply with this Hot Stamper is at least VG
This vintage Columbia 360 Stereo 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.
If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it -- not often, and certainly not always -- but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.
What The Best Sides Of Porgy and Bess 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 1959
- 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. 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 Porgy and Bess
- 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, full-bodied 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.
Size and 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.
We often have to go back and downgrade the copies that we were initially impressed with in light of such a standout pressing. Who knew the recording could be that huge, spacious and three dimensional? We sure didn't, not until we played the copy that had those qualities, and that copy might have been number 8 or 9 in the rotation.
Think about it: if you had only seven copies, you might not have ever gotten to hear a copy that sounded that open and clear. And how many even dedicated audiophiles would have more than one or two clean vintage copies with which to do a shootout? These records are expensive and hard to come by in good shape. Believe us, we know whereof we speak when it comes to getting hold of early Columbia pressings of classic jazz recordings.
One further point needs to be made: most of the time these very special pressings just plain more involving. When you hear a copy do what this copy can, it's an entirely different -- and dare I say unforgettable -- listening experience.
The All-Star Players
- Bass - Paul Chambers
- Composer - George Gershwin
- Conductor - Gil Evans
- Drums - "Philly" Joe Jones, Jimmy Cobb
- Engineer - Ray Moore
- Flute - Jerome Richardson, Phil Bodner, Romeo Penque
- French horn - Gunther Schuller, Julius Watkins, Willie Ruff
- Producers - Cal Lampley, Teo Macero
- Saxophone - Cannonball Adderly, Daniel B. Banks
- Trombone - Frank Rehak, Jimmy Cleveland, Joseph Bennett, Dick Hixon
- Trumpet - Bernie Glow, Ernie Royal, Johnny Coles, Louis R. Mucci
- Trumpet, flugelhorn - Miles Davis
- Tuba - Bill Barber
CBS 30th Street Studio
CBS 30th Street Studio, also known as Columbia 30th Street Studio, and nicknamed "The Church", was an American recording studio operated by Columbia Records from 1949 to 1981 located at 207 East 30th Street, between Second and Third Avenues in Manhattan, New York City.
It was considered by some in the music industry to be the best sounding room in its time and others consider it to have been the greatest recording studio in history. A large number of recordings were made there in all genres, including Miles Davis' Kind of Blue (1959), Leonard Bernstein's West Side Story (Original Broadway Cast recording, 1957), Percy Faith's Theme from A Summer Place (1960), and Pink Floyd's The Wall (1979).
Having been a church for many years, it had been abandoned and empty for some time, and in 1949 it was transformed into a recording studio by Columbia Records.
"There was one big room, and no other place in which to record," wrote John Marks in an article in Stereophile magazine in 2002.
The recording studio had 100 foot high ceilings, a 100 foot floorspace for the recording area, and the control room was on the second floor being only 8 by 14 feet. Later, the control room was moved down to the ground floor.
"It was huge and the room sound was incredible," recalls Jim Reeves, a sound technician who had worked in it. "I was inspired," he continues "by the fact that, aside from the artistry, how clean the audio system was."
Many celebrated musical artists from all genres of music used the 30th Street Studio for some of their most famous recordings.
Bach: The Goldberg Variations, the 1955 debut album of the Canadian classical pianist Glenn Gould, was recorded in the 30th Street Studio. It was an interpretation of Johann Sebastian Bach's Goldberg Variations (BWV 988), the work launched Gould's career as a renowned international pianist, and became one of the most well-known piano recordings. On May 29, 1981, a second version of the Goldberg Variations by Glenn Gould was recorded in this studio, and would be the last production by the famous studio.
Jazz trumpeter Miles Davis recorded almost exclusively at the 30th Street Studio during his years under contract to Columbia, including his album Kind of Blue (1959). Other noteworthy jazz musicians having recorded in this place: Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, Dave Brubeck.
In 1964, Bob Dylan and record producer Tom Wilson were experimenting with their own fusion of rock and folk music. The first unsuccessful test involved overdubbing a "Fats Domino early rock & roll thing" over Dylan's earlier, recording of "House of the Rising Sun", using non-electric instruments, according to Wilson. This took place in the Columbia 30th Street Studio in December 1964. It was quickly discarded, though Wilson would more famously use the same technique of overdubbing an electric backing track to an existing acoustic recording with Simon & Garfunkel's "The Sound of Silence".
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.
A Must Own Record
Porgy and Bess is a recording that belongs in any serious Jazz Collection. Others that belong in that category can be found here.
- The Buzzard Song
- Bess, You Is My Woman Now
- Gone, Gone, Gone
- Oh Bess, Oh Where’s My Bess?
- Prayer (Oh Doctor Jesus)
- Fisherman, Strawberry and Devil Crab
- My Man’s Gone Now
- It Ain’t Necessarily So
- Here Come de Honey Man
- I Loves You, Porgy
- There’s a Boat That’s Leaving Soon for New York
AMG 5 Star Rave Review
Tomes are available annotating the importance of this recording. The musical and social impact of Miles Davis, his collaborative efforts with Gil Evans, and in particular their reinvention of George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess are indeed profound. However, the most efficient method of extricating the rhetoric and opining is to experience the recording. Few other musical teams would have had the ability to remain true to the undiluted spirit and multifaceted nuance of this epic work. However, no other musical teams were Miles Davis and Gil Evans. It was Evans’ intimate knowledge of the composition as well as the performer that allowed him to so definitively capture the essence of both… No observation or collection of American jazz can be deemed complete without this recording.