Curtis Counce, and that album cover!

I’ve always loved You Get More Bounce with Curtis Counce! by the Curtis Counce Group. It’s a delightfully easy, loping album, full of smooth, juicy lyricism, almost totally absent of the paid-by-the-note speed-bop that often leaves me feeling cold. But it’s not so laid-back that it’s going in reverse. Rather, it’s a midway blend of West Coast chardonnay and Chicago barrel whiskey. There’s some wonderful soloing going on here—Miles meets Ben Webster without the drug addictions. The arrival of the Craft Recordings reissue of this criminally underappreciated album really sent me down a rabbit hole.


Curtis Counce was not long for this world. Born in 1926, he died of a heart attack in 1963. It’s a given, then, that his output wasn’t extensive. Counce released five records as a leader, of which Bounce was the second. To be frank, I haven’t listened to much of Counce’s other output; I’ve always come back to Bounce because . . . that cover! Let’s get this out of the way and then we can circle back to the music.

I did some research (read: I googled the heck out of it) and was unable to come up with the name of the model on the cover.

Just the girl

I found surprisingly few references to this album cover, despite the fact that it must have been seen as incredibly racy when it was released back in 1957. Upon receipt of the reissued record, I dug out my Vixens of Vinyl book, which details the history of “cheesecake” album covers, as I assumed Bounce must be in there somewhere. Nope. This is an oversight, but since the book includes Whipped Cream & Other Delights and I’ve got a copy of that Herb Alpert classic in my rack, I’ll let it go.

Whipped cream

Okay, this cover is midway sexist, but it’s a product of its time, so there’s some historical interest here. Further, looking at the covers from some of the female artists that my daughter listens to, the cover of Bounce is actually quite tame. That said, it’s a beautiful photo of a beautiful woman, and that’s fine by me.

While they’re not the first names you think of when assembling a fantasy league, the players on Bounce are beyond competent. With Jack Sheldon on trumpet, Harold Land working the tenor sax, Carl Perkins on piano, and Frank Butler banging on drums, it’s a hard-playing band, and they gel extremely well on this record.

Cover with vixens

Much of the ease on this album comes from the actual tone of the recording. The sax and trumpet aren’t overly hot. The piano, which often got pushed to the back in mid-’50s jazz, is more forward in the mix, which gives Perkins’s mellow lyricism a promotion from backing instrument to equal-opportunity lead. You can hear tons of spit on Land’s sax, sometimes almost playing by pure breath—the saxophone death rattle, I like to call it. I’m not familiar with Frank Butler, but his drumming adds an interesting layer of complexity to this album. He does some tappity-tap stuff on “Counceltation” that really stands out for its oddness.

The bounce? It’s there, with Counce’s loping bass sounding like it’s smiling—laughing even. It evokes an overt humor reminiscent of Sonny Rollins’s playing—take a listen to “Big Foot” on side 2. There’s an extended bass solo in this track, and we all know that jazz bass solos tend to be a bit of a yawn. But this one has some snap to it, and it sets off Sheldon’s trumpet right after as if he’s responding, egged on by Counce’s performance.

Record label

It’s hard to imagine mid-’50s jazz sounding any better than this. And no wonder. Bernie Grundman mastered this 2023 LP from the original master tapes and it’s pressed on thick, flat, 180gm vinyl at QRP. The Tidal version (24-bit/44.1 kHz FLAC) is a thin shadow of the LP. The streamed album, played through the overachieving Meitner Audio MA3, has zero body. The bass is weak, the midrange thin, and the highs edgy and bright. And don’t get me started on the soundstage—the Tidal version is as flat as a pancake. It’s almost as if they are different recordings.

At $30 (all prices in USD unless otherwise noted), this release from Craft Recordings and Acoustic Sounds hits the sweet spot. It’s great music in a lovely package. And that cover! It’s printed on high-quality cardstock, and the reproduction of the artwork is crisp and glossy.

You need a mat. The Mitmat mat.

I’ve lived with the stock felt mat on my VPI Prime Signature for six years now. While I love its cool graphic appearance, and while it sounds just fine, I’ve—quite literally—hated it for most of that time. During the winter, it’s a toss-up whether or not the felt mat will lift off with the record. So I need to pull it off the record’s underside, which is accompanied by lots of static snaps and pops. Also, I need to keep it covered all the time, as it’s a dust magnet. I guess I’ve stuck with it because I’m lazy, so I haven’t bothered to look for alternatives.

Enter the Mitmat, the brainchild of Lawrence Mittler, who is a longtime audio enthusiast and industry sales representative. The $99 Mitmat is, on the face of it, a simple product. It’s a 3mm-thick foamed-PVC platter mat, but some serious thought has gone into its design. The Mitmat is extremely consistent in its thickness—I measured its perimeter with my Vernier caliper and found every measurement to be consistent, down to the 0.05mm resolution of the tool.

Mat engraving

The Mitmat is made from rigid microcell foam with a flat PVC surface. According to Mittler, this combination of materials reduces low-frequency resonance by 3–10dB, and damps mid- to high-frequency platter ringing by up to 20dB.

The 300mm diameter supports the outer lip of the record. There’s no depression in the center for the record label, as Mittler believes that the structural integrity of the mat would be compromised by machining its inner portion. Further, the company states that “the lack of a label recess means the Mitmat is consistent in thickness through the crucial label/spindle area, providing equally consistent resonance damping across its entire surface.”

Mat on Musical Fidelity turntable

The Mitmat is also available in a 295mm-diameter version for use on lipped platters.

You can buy a Mitmat from Elusive Disc. Further, Mitmat is working with dealers in Canada and the US and is offering custom etching of each company’s name, which would make it a sensible add-on to turntable sales. As of this writing, there are ten dealers in Ontario that carry the Mitmat, with a complete dealer list on the Mitmat’s website. The price in Canada is $129.95 (in CAD). One of the samples I received was a version of the Mitmat destined for The Record Centre, a turntable and record retailer in Ottawa, Ontario.

I’d be remiss if I failed to mention that the Mitmat is made here in Canada, from Canadian materials.

I swapped out the felt VPI mat for the Mitmat. Installation was—obviously—a non-issue. On visual examination (it’s hard to accurately measure the thickness of a felt mat) the Mitmat is just a hair thicker than the stock mat, but I did not notice any change in vertical tracking angle. The difference in thickness and the attendant change in VTA was so slight that I didn’t feel any need to obsess over it. As claimed, the Mitmat is admirably flat. I pushed down around the perimeter, and at the center, and the totality of the mat made contact with the platter.

Functionally, the Mitmat worked a treat. Not once in the several months that I’ve been using it has the Mitmat lifted off with the record, or even hinted at retention of a static charge. The matte surface dusts off easily, but the pores do seem to retain a small amount of dirt, which is difficult to dislodge with a brush or even with a fingernail. That said, an occasional swipe with a damp cloth brings it right back to factory-clean.

Mat with sleeve

So in use, the Mitmat is a pleasure. For most of its time in my system, I used the Mitmat on my VPI with the DS Audio DS 003 cartridge and EMM Labs DS-EQ1 phono stage, although I also listened for a while via the X-quisite Voro moving coil through my Aqvox Phono 2 CI phono stage.

The biggest benefits manifested via the Voro. DS Audio optical cartridges are very quiet in the groove—almost unnervingly so. With the DS 003, I noted benefits in the upper midrange and lower treble, but they were less prominent than the gains with the moving coil.

With the Voro, surface noise was notably reduced. Not ticks and pops—those didn’t change much. But the low-frequency rumble that’s always there in the background was meaningfully reduced. And with that decrease in rumble came increased definition in the low end. A good example here is Colin Stetson’s “Lord I Just Can’t Keep From Crying Sometimes” from New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges (Constellation CST075). Stetson’s grinding bass saxophone is a low-frequency buffet dinner—expansive, never-ending, and just a bit disturbing. With the Mitmat supporting the record, the bottom-most growl of Stetson’s sax had a little more texture. It was a small improvement, but definitely worthwhile.

Mat on VPI

Midrange focus also benefitted, with guest vocalist Shara Nova’s voice just a little more tightly coiled around itself—as it should be. I got the same results with the DS 003 in the midrange, which was comforting, given that they were both reading the same record.

At the top, the Mitmat smoothed out some rough edges that I didn’t even know were there. Not at the expense of extension, which was unchanged. The horns on “You Can’t Get What You Want (Till You Know What You Want)” from Joe Jackson’s Body and Soul (A&M SP5000) are just full of cranky, sassy backtalk, where you can almost sense the vibrating lips radiating out of the bells. It’s all a bit much, and the Mitmat helped consolidate the hash that rides like a carrier wave overtop of the highest harmonics.

In all, for its $99 retail price, the Mitmat is an easy recommendation.

. . . Jason Thorpe

Mitmat Platter Turntable Mat
Price: $99.99 USD, $129.95 CAD.
Warranty: Lifetime.

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