The copy we are selling is similar to the one pictured above.
Side One: Mint Minus Minus*
Side Two: Mint Minus Minus
- This wonderful Black Print 360 Columbia pressing impressed us, earning outstanding Double Plus (A++) grades or BETTER on both sides and playing about as quietly as any stereo original we've found
- Columbia records produced by Teo Macero in the early '60s have consistently open, natural sound - this one from 1964 is no exception
- The piano has real weight, the bass definition is wonderful, Rouse's sax is full-bodied, and the overall sound is Columbia to a "T": warm, sweet, and rich
- The Thelonious Monk Quartet of 1964 is well featured on this excellent set... Easily recommended to Monk fans, this set is just further proof that he never made an unworthy recording."
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*The last track on this side gets a little crackly and plays Mint Minus Minus to EX++.
We're big Monk fans here at Better Records and we wish we could get more records like this up on the site. Unfortunately, clean, vintage pressings of Monk's music have become increasingly difficult to find, and even when you can track them down, they rarely play as quietly as this one, and of course, this being a Hot Stamper, they rarely sound as good as this one.
This original Columbia Black Print 360 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 Monk. 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 1964
- 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.
The Piano Is Key
The copies of the album with a piano that sounded lean or hard always ended up having problems with the other instruments as well. (This should not be surprising; the piano was designed to be the single instrument most capable of reproducing the sound of an entire orchestra.)
If you have big, full-range speakers one of the qualities you may recognize in the sound of the piano is WARMTH. The piano is not hard, brittle or tinkly. Instead the best copies show you a wonderfully full-bodied, rich, smooth piano, one which sounds remarkably like the ones we've all heard countless times in piano bars and restaurants.
In other words like a real piano, not a recorded one. Bad mastering can ruin the sound, and often does, along with worn out stampers and bad vinyl and five gram needles that scrape off the high frequencies. But a few -- a very few -- copies survive all such hazards. They manage to capture these wonderful musical performances on vinyl, showing us the sound we never expected to hear.
What We're Listening For on Monk.
- 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.
- Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing -- an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.
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 that is a key part of the appeal 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.
April in Paris
I Love You (Just One Way To Say)
Just You, Just Me
The Thelonious Monk Quartet of 1964 (comprised of the pianist-composer, tenor saxophonist Charlie Rouse, bassist Larry Gales, and drummer Ben Riley) is well featured on this excellent set... The unique Monk takes "I Love You Sweetheart of All My Dreams" as a piano solo and otherwise jams tunes with his quartet. Surprisingly only two of the songs ("Pannonica" and "Teo") are his originals, but he reinvents the obscure "Children's Song," "Just You, Just Me," and "April in Paris" so they sound like he wrote them! Easily recommended to Monk fans, this set is just further proof that he never made an unworthy recording.
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