Side One: Mint Minus
Side Two: Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
- Boasting two solid Double Plus (A++) or BETTER sides, this vintage stereo pressing will be very hard to beat - exceptionally quiet vinyl too
- Side one has the best condition grade we give out, Mint Minus - there may not be another record on the site with vinyl that quiet!
- This is West Coast Jazz at its best, and if anyone can capture the realism of a live jazz club, it’s the engineers and producers at Contemporary
- Each instrument here sounds right – the piano is weighty and percussive; the drums are punchy, and the brass has lovely leading edge transients
- We were surprised that Volumes One and Four had much better sound than Two and Three
- Until we can crack the code for those other two titles, don't expect to see them on the site
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This vintage Contemporary LP 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 At The Black Hawk, Vol. 1 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 1960
- 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.
Learning the Record
For our shootout for At The Black Hawk, Vol. 1, we had at our disposal a variety of pressings that had the potential for Hot Stamper sound. We cleaned them carefully, then unplugged everything in the house we could, warmed up the system, Talisman'd it, found the right VTA for our Triplanar arm (by ear of course) and proceeded to spend the next hour or so playing copy after copy on side one, after which we repeated the process for side two.
If you have five or more copies of a record and play them over and over against each other, the process itself teaches you what's right and what's wrong with the sound of the album. Once your ears are completely tuned to what the best pressings do well that the other pressings do not do as well, using a few carefully chosen passages of music, it quickly becomes obvious how well a given copy can reproduce those passages. You'll hear what's better and worse -- right and wrong would be another way of putting it -- about the sound.
This approach is simplicity itself. First, you go deep into the sound. There you find a critically important passage in the music, one which most copies struggle -- or fail -- to reproduce as well as the best. Now, with the hard-won knowledge of precisely what to listen for, you are perfectly positioned to critique any and all pressings that come your way.
It may be a lot of work but it sure ain't rocket science, and we've never pretended otherwise. Just the opposite: from day one we've explained step by step precisely how to go about finding the Hot Stampers in your own collection. Not the good sounding pressings you happen to own -- those may or may not have Hot Stampers -- but the records you actually cleaned, shot out, and declared victorious.
What We're Listening For On At The Black Hawk, Vol. 1
- 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.
Players and Personnel
- Bass – Monty Budwig
- Drums – Shelly Manne
- Engineers - Roy DuNann, Howard Holzer
- Piano – Victor Feldman
- Producer - Lester Koenig
- Tenor Saxophone – Richie Kamuca
- Trumpet – Joe Gordon
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.
- Our Delight
- Blue Daniel
- Theme: A Gem From Tiffany
Shelly Manne's Quintet was recorded extensively at San Francisco's Black Hawk club for three nights in 1959. Although not the most significant group that the drummer led, this edition (with trumpeter Joe Gordon, tenor saxophonist Richie Kamuca, pianist Victor Feldman, and bassist Monty Budwig) was certainly capable of playing high-quality bebop.
Originally their output was released on four LPs. The first volume adds an alternate take of Frank Rosolino's "Blue Daniel" to a set that includes swinging versions of "Blue Daniel," "Poinciana," "Our Delight," and "Summertime." The extended performances are easily recommended to straight-ahead jazz fans.
Among Shelly Manne’s recordings, the five volumes that came out of three nights in 1959 at San Francisco’s Black Hawk occupy a special place in his discography. The drummer recorded copiously during the Fifties with the band he called Shelly Manne & His Men, but this was the first time they had been captured on tape in a club, with commercial release in mind.
His Men were joined for the Black Hawk dates by pianist Victor Feldman, and the group caught fire in a series of performances so consistent that Contemporary released not just the one album contemplated, but four and, ultimately, a fifth, Volume 1 contains the remarkable waltz, “Blue Daniel,” and a blistering performance of Tadd Dameron’s “Our Delight.”