Side One: Mint Minus Minus (often quieter than this grade)
Side Two: Mint Minus Minus (often quieter than this grade)
- This early 360 Stereo Columbia pressing boasts outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or better on both sides - fairly quiet vinyl too
- If you want to hear just how good Monk's big, rich piano sounds, this copy can show you like nothing by Monk you've heard
- Four Stars in Allmusic, with Teo Macero producing and top Columbia engineering to ensure audiophile standard sonics
- "Thelonious Monk’s Straight, No Chaser is the pinnacle of his recordings for Columbia Records..." — TheAudioBeat.com
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This vintage Columbia 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 Straight, No Chaser 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 1967
- 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 Real Piano Sound
If you have full-range speakers, some of the qualities you may recognize in the sound of the piano on this vintage pressing are WEIGHT and WARMTH. The piano is not hard, brittle or tinkly. Instead, the best copies show you a wonderfully full-bodied, warm, 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. This is what we look for in a good piano recording. 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 reproduce the full spectrum of the piano's wide range (and of course the wonderful performance of the pianist) on vintage vinyl, showing us the kind of sound we simply cannot find any other way.
Rudy Van Gelder, eat your heart out. This is the piano sound Rudy never quite managed. Some say it's the crappy workhorse piano he had set up in his studio. Others say it was just poorly miked. Rather than speculating on something we know little about (good pianos and their miking) let's just say that Columbia had the piano, the room and the mics to do it right as you can easily hear on this very record.
What We're Listening For on Straight, No Chaser
- 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 for the piano, 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.
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 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.
I Didn't Know About You
Straight, No Chaser
Japanese Folk Song
Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea
This is the sixth studio album cut by Thelonious Monk under the production/direction of Teo Macero for Columbia and as such should not be confused with the original motion picture soundtrack to the 1988 film of the same name. The band featured here includes: Monk (piano), Charlie Rouse (tenor sax), Ben Riley (drums), and Larry Gales (bass). This would be the final quartet Monk would assemble to record with in the studio. While far from being somber, this unit retained a mature flavor which would likewise place Monk's solos in a completely new context.
Thelonious Monk’s Straight, No Chaser is the pinnacle of his recordings for Columbia Records. It was his eighth for the label, and there would be only two more official releases before Monk and Columbia parted ways.
By this point in 1967, he and his bandmates, tenor saxophonist Charlie Rouse, bassist Larry Gales, and drummer Ben Riley, had been playing together for a number of years and this showed in the near-telepathic way they played with and off each other. It also meant that they knew Monk’s music inside and out -- no small feat -- so they could improvise at will.
Much of this album was of older Monk tunes, the title coming from one of his most widely recorded and praised compositions. Not that that was a huge surprise as he tended to recycle his music over and over. But what would for almost anyone else have become tediously repetitious as the years rolled by, for Monk, the inveterate innovator, it managed to always sound fresh -- as if he had written the tunes just for that particular session.
John Crossett, TheAudioBeat.com
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