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White Hot Stamper - Ellington-Basie - First Time - The Count Meets the Duke

White Hot Stamper

Ellington-Basie
First Time - The Count Meets the Duke

Columbia Records
Regular price
$249.99
Regular price
Sale price
$249.99
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Sonic Grade

Side One:

Side Two:

Vinyl Grade

Side One: Mint Minus Minus

Side Two: Mint Minus Minus

  • You'll find Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides of this stunning Six Eye Stereo pressing of First Time!
  • Three-dimensional space and ambience, rich Tubey Magic by the boatload - this 30th Street recording shows just how good Columbia's engineers were back then
  • 4 1/2 stars: "Ellington's elegance and unique voicings meet Basie's rollicking, blues-based Kansas City swing, and it works gloriously. The Duke and his band accentuate their swinging dance band side, while Basie and company have never sounded as suave and exotic as when playing Billy Strayhorn arrangements. Everyone has a good time, and that joy infuses this album from start to finish."
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This Columbia Six Eye Stereo pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely even 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 First Time 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 1961
  • 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 space of the studio

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.

Production and Engineering

Teo Macero was the producer, Fred Plaut or Ray Moore were probably the engineers for these sessions -- we cannot find the credits to know one way or the other -- in Columbia's glorious sounding 30th Street Studio. It's yet another remarkable disc from the Golden Age of Vacuum Tube Recording.

You can read more about it by clicking on the 30th Street Studios tab above.

What We're Listening For on First Time

  • 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 common to most LPs.
  • Tight, note-like bass with clear fingering -- which ties in with good transient information, as well as 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 players.
  • Then: presence and immediacy. The musicians aren't "back there" somewhere, way behind the speakers. They're front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would have put them.
  • 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.

The Players

Duke Ellington, Count Basie – piano Cat Anderson, Willie Cook, Eddie Mullens, Ray Nance, Sonny Cohn, Lennie Johnson, Thad Jones, Snooky Young - trumpet Lou Blackburn, Lawrence Brown, Henry Coker, Quentin Jackson, Benny Powell - trombone Juan Tizol - valve trombone Jimmy Hamilton - clarinet, tenor saxophone Johnny Hodges - alto saxophone Russell Procope, Marshal Royal - alto saxophone, clarinet Frank Wess - alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, flute Paul Gonsalves, Frank Foster, Budd Johnson - tenor saxophone Harry Carney, Charlie Fowlkes - baritone saxophone Freddie Green - guitar Aaron Bell, Eddie Jones - bass Sam Woodyard, Sonny Payne - drums

Vinyl Condition

Mint Minus Minus 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 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.


Side One

Battle Royal
To You
Take The "A" Train
Until I Met You

Side Two

Wild Man
Segue In C
B D B
Jumpin' At The Woodside

AMG 4 1/2 Star Review

A battle of the bands? Not quite -- more like a mutual admiration society, with the orchestras of both jazz titans playing together. (The Duke is heard on the right side of your stereo/headphones, the Count on the left.)

Ellington's elegance and unique voicings meet Basie's rollicking, blues-based Kansas City swing, and it works gloriously. There's no clutter, each band is focused, and they sound great together. This is not the thoughtful, reflective composer side of Ellington (listeners should check out Far East Suite or Black, Brown & Beige for that). The Duke and his band accentuate their swinging dance band side, while Basie and company have never sounded as suave and exotic as when playing Billy Strayhorn arrangements. Everyone has a good time, and that joy infuses this album from start to finish.