This is the fourth in a monthly series of album reviews I will be doing for DVL Audio here in Canada. I’ll be heading out to a local record store in Vancouver, digging through the bins, and coming up with an intriguing LP to discuss here on Part-Time Audiophile. I’ll never go out with something in mind beforehand, and there is no criteria for whether it’s a new album, an old album, an out-of-print LP, electronic, classical, jazz, punk – whatever – it just has to sound good to me.
I’ll come up with as much of the backstory as I can research, and include a small audio sample for listening. I hope you enjoy reading the reviews as much as I enjoy doing them.
There’s something about LPs pressed in Japan. I’ve seen photos of stampers being handled – or cut from master tapes – over there with white gloves being worn, and of staff at pressing plants where everyone is wearing white gloves too… there’s such an environment of cultured respect, or reverence towards vinyl in Japan that you can’t help but be impressed by it. The fact that every Japanese pressing I have sounds better than the US, German, or Canadian pressing I had of the LP previously doesn’t hurt either. So when I’m flipping through the stacks at a record store, and an obi-wrapped jacket pops up on my radar, I grab the album no matter what it is because it will A) most likely be in near-mint condition, and B) it will have excellent sonics.
So, when I stumbled across Wes Montgomery Bumpin‘ at Audiopile Records over on Commercial Drive, I set aside it aside immediately. The LP jacket, and obi were in excellent condition (you don’t find obis in great shape often, they usually have a few tears or nicks) and the sleeve, and vinyl slab inside were mint minus. I was stoked. A quick check online revealed this was Montgomery’s 13th album – released in 1965 on the Verve label – and that it was his first album to chart, reaching 116 on Billboard’s Top 200. Featuring an orchestral backup conducted, and arranged by Don Sebesky, the tracks have a big, lush sound, and the recording throws a wide, deep sound stage with all the musicians placed across the horizontal plane in an evenly-distributed pattern.
Of note on this album (beside Montgomery’s exquisite guitar playing) is Grady Tate’s close-mic’d drum kit – in particular the kick drum – which absolutely slammed, and pounded its way through the Harbeth Compact 7-ES3s I used for this review. In fact, the kick drum was so pronounced, and present that I hopped up from my listening chair when it first started coming through on the opening track “Bumpin'” because I thought my upstairs neighbours were pounding on my ceiling with a rubber mallet… I kid you not. That title track was not fooling around with its name. If you can source a different release I’d be interested to hear if the kick drum is present in the mix to the same impact as this version.
Recorded audio sample below:
The vibe on this LP is latin-tinged with solid, straight-ahead bop at its core. While the backing orchestra adds a certain flavour, majesty, and breadth to the dynamics of the album, it’s the core session musicians here – Montgomery on guitar, Tate on drums, Bob Cranshaw on bass, and Roger Kellaway on piano – that provide the muscle, grunt, and spine to every cut. You could strip out the orchestra, and still be left with some choice pieces for consumption. Standout tracks for me were “Bumpin,'” “The Shadow of your Smile” and “Just Walkin.'” The nice thing about this recording is that while the orchestra is present, and integrated on every track, they are set back slightly in the mix so that core quartet comes through. This isn’t a long LP, coming in at just a hair over 31 minutes, but it plays like a concept album, with every track beautifully flowing into the next.
Associated equipment for listening session:
- VPI Prime Scout w/JMW Memorial Tonearm
- Mofi MasterTracker Moving Magnet Cartridge
- AudioQuest Wind interconnects
- AudioQuest Oak speaker cables
- Pass Labs XP-12 Preamplifier
- Pass Labs XP-17 Phono
- Pass Labs X150.8 stereo power amplifier
- Harbeth C7ES-3 loudspeakers on Skylan stands
- PS Audio P10 Power Regenerator
- Entreq Olympus Tellus grounding box/cables