SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews
SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews,, Pt. 1 of 3 – Hi-Res Jazz
Published on February 1, 2005
Published on February 1, 2005
41 & Reviews This Month!
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*********MULTICHANNEL DISC OF THE MONTH*********
The music is not your typical mix of jazz standards and light classical fare of most sax ensembles. These are mostly originals by members of the ensemble, though things are kicked off with a piece from the unique Raymond Scott. Meandering among big band swing, klezmer, gypsy music, pop and various European folk elements, the quintet provides a refreshing take on the usual sax quartet. The sonic side also provides something new: The DSD format was retained throughout the entire recording/editing/mixing/mastering. An eight-track SADIE system was used, with six channels comprising the SACD surround setup and the remaining two for a mixed-on-the-spot stereo mix. The CD layer was made from the stereo DSD mix, so this is said to be the first chance for audiophiles to accurately compare a real DSD recording with a conventional 44.1 CD made at the same time. Of course the CD benefits from the higher-res original and the included bit-mapping during the data reduction. No EQ or reverb was added to any of the mixes, so the surround option sounds terrifically alive and with great presence. This is a winner both musically and sonically – especially surroundingly.
Tracks: The Penguin, Calder’s Circus, Gypsy Wedding, Sahel, Vorrei dire due parole, After Before, Dreamsville, 12 Days, Black Train.
Eight more great jazz stereo masters transferred
Mulligan Meets Monk (Gerry Mulligan, baritone sax; Thelonious Monk, piano; Wilbur Ware, bass; Shadow Wilson, drums) – Riverside RISA-1106-6 Stereo SACD, 59:32 ****:
The disc has second takes (actually they are differently-numbered) of three tunes which were not present on the original LP, but the opening ‘Round Midnight is such a delight there was no pressure for another take of it. Monk is being relaxed and not too weird this session, and a rather quirky quality about Mulligan’s solos seems to be apparent, making this a perfect and complementary blending of their styles.
In addition to the original LP – now a bit noisy but still better than the CD layer on this disc – I had at hand the recent JVC xrcd of the album, so a comparison was a natural. If one starts off with the xrcd, it sounds very impressive and better than the LP. Then you switch to the SACD. Now Mulligan’s baritone is stepped up in the presence/imaging area about 200% – his breathy, subtly “spit-flavored” sound makes you aware of the reed in the instrument, the moisture, the blowing, in a manner totally missing on the xrcd/cd/lp. At the beginning of track 2 there’s a section of just the drum set. On the xrcd there is not more than a hint of the studio space and what there is sounds extremely small and cramped. The reflected sound of the drum kit is dull and rolled off in the high end. On the SACD the drums explode! they have impact and there’s plenty of reflected sound giving the feeling of a medium-sized studio. Monk’s piano also comes across stronger and with more foundation to the tones.
Art Pepper – Gettin’ Together! (Pepper, alto & tenor sax; Conte Candoli, trumpet on tracks 1, 2 & 5; Wynton Kelly, piano; Paul Chambers, bass; Jimmy Cobb, drums) – Contemporary CSA07573-6, 58:45 ****:
Art Pepper had a disaster of a life due to his addictions, but he made a number of superb albums which have inspired other jazz performers ever since, and which continue to sell well. This is one of them, for which he was given the “gold standard” of modern jazz rhythm sections. These three cats played with Miles and plenty of others. This combination, plus the contribution of Conte Candoli’s smooth trumpet sound on three of the tracks, ensures a great-sounding session. The final two bonus tracks of the nine were not on the original LP. The first is an alternate take of the title tune, “Gettin’ Together.” Two minutes longer than the original take, it has an extended solo by bassist Chambers. The closing track, “The Way You Look Tonight” runs for six and one-half minutes, is very uptempo and full of some very creative treatments of the theme by Pepper. One of my fav jazz ballad standards is Romberg’s Softly As in a Morning Sunrise. Pepper leads a very cool and relaxed version here, but with an underlying rhythmic pulse that’s not felt with many of the “cool school.”
Tracks: Whims of Chambers, Bijou the Poodle, Why Are We Afraid?, Softly As in a Morning Sunrise, Rhythm-a-ning, Diane, Gettin’ Together (orig. & alternate take), The Way You Look Tonight.
Nat Adderley – Work Song (Adderly, cornet; Wes Montgomery, guitar; Bobby Timmons, piano; Sam Jones or Keter Betts, cello or bass; Percy Heath, bass; Louis Hayes, drums) – Riverside Stereo SACD RISA-1167-6, 39:06 ****:
On two other tracks Timmons’ fine piano playing is eschewed to give the ensemble a leaner sound, and the harmonies it had provided come from Wes Montgomery’s guitar instead. The program is a bit short – there were evidently no alternate takes – but it’s 39 minutes of prime sounds, and with SACD we’re closer to being in their studio than any listener in the home has been before. Adderley’s cornet has an astonishing 3D presence; the drum set sounds very loose and highly reverberant in the smallish studio.
This Here Is Bobby Timmons (Timmons, piano; Sam Jones, bass; Jimmy Cobb, drums) – Riverside Stereo SACD RISA-1164-6, 38:57 ****:
Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers – Caravan (Blakey, drums; Curtis Fuller, trombone; Freddie Hubbard, trumpet; Wayne Shorter, tenor sax; Cedar Walton, piano; Reggie Workman, bass) – Riverside Stereo SACD RISA-9438-6, 52:18 ****:
Blakey first used the designation Jazz Messengers for his band in the mid-forties and continue with it for over three decades. But this iteration, recorded here in l962, was one of his strongest assemblies of terrific players and a strong front line sound that had the impact of a big band. The trombone, trumpet and tenor sax could come up with a variety of tonal colors and all three players were superb improvisers in their solos. The session blasts off with a nearly ten-minute-long Caravan, pushed across the desert sands by Blakey’s exciting master drumming. For the rest of the eight tracks he stays a bit more in the background but guiding the other players in imaginative ways with his drumming. And the transparency of the SACD reveals details of his brush work and other subtleties not heard in previous CDs or LPs. The two bonus tracks are alternate takes of numbers on the original album; they had never been issued before.
Milt Jackson and Wes Montgomery – Bags meets Wes! (Jackson, vibes; Montgomery, guitar; Wynton Kelly, piano; Sam Jones, bass; Philly Joe Jones, drums) – Riverside Stereo SACD RISA-9407-6, 55:48 ****:
Benny Carter, Jazz Giant (Carter, alto sax & trumpet; Ben Webster, tenor sax; Frank Rosolino, trombone; Andre Previn or Jimmy Rowles, piano; Barney Kessel, guitar; Leroy Vinnegar, bass; Shelly Manne, drums) – Contemporary Stereo SACD CSA-7555-6, 39:10 ****:
Carter choose his contemporary Ben Webster for this Contemporary session, but the rest of the band were younger jazz lights. The Previn/Vinnegar/Manne trio is the same that made albums for Contemporary as the popular Shelly Manne & His Friends – such as the My Fair Lady classic. Pianist Jimmy Rowles plays on only one track. Carter has been described in the past in some of the same terms as applied to Duke Ellington – urbane, elegant, sophisticated. But on this date, as if egged on by the younger players, his chops are hot. Listen to his trumpet on I’m Coming Virginia – one of two tracks showcasing his trumpet style. His lyrical side is not forgotten however in other numbers. Contemporary was ahead of the game recording in stereo, and the clean, spatially-specific sound of this SACD transfer is ahead of any previous LP or CD version of this classic album. Most of this Fantasy series now have the entire label side printed with a solid black background to the text material, from close to the center hole to the edge of the disc. Since I don’t have an identical SACD without this design to compare, I can’t say if there’s an improvement in the sound, but it will definitely please the more highly tweaky audio buffs among us. Oh, the note booklet for this disc is by Nat Hentoff and good reading.
Cal Tjader/Stan Getz Sextet (Tjader, vibes; Getz, tenor sax; Vince Guaraldi, piano; Eddie Duran, guitar; Scott LaFaro, bass; Billy Higgins, drums) – Fantasy Stereo SACD FSA-3266-6, 42:48 ****:
Recorded in San Francisco in l958, this session brought together another vibist and this time a gifted saxist. The other players were not yet well known; Vince Guaraldi was to go on to great fame with his Black Orpheus album and later all the Peanuts animation soundtracks. Famed audio writer Ralph J. Gleason points out in his notes that Tjader had admired Getz for a long time and wanted to perform with him, but they never seemed to be in the same place at the same time. In early ‘58 Getz played the Blackhawk jazz club in SF (the one where the owner once told Gleason “I sweat and slave to keep dis place a sewer”) At this time Tjader was taking a break and re-forming his group, so Fantasy succeeded in bringing them together in the studio. They melded and played off one another as if they had been doing this for years. Both the ballads and the more gutsy tunes came off on mostly the first take, with only two alternate takes required in the whole session. They even take on a waltz-time number which can be a challenge in jazz.
There’s no mention anywhere on the album of stereo and the SACD sticker on the front is one of those rate ones which only says “Hybrid” instead of Hybrid Stereo or Hybrid Multichannel, so it appears someone thought the l958 date meant that this session was just mono. It’s actually terrific stereo – aided by the ramped-up resolution of the SACD process. Tracks: Ginza Samba, I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face, For All We Know, Crow’s Next, Liz-Anne, Big Bear, My Buddy.
– John Henry