SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews

SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews,, Pt. 1 of 3 – Hi-Res Jazz


Published on February 1, 2005

41  DVD-A logoSACD logo Reviews This Month!

January-February 2005, Pt. 1 of 3 – Hi-Res Jazz [Part 2]     [Part 3]

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Mulligan & Monk SACD Art Pepper SACD Nat Adderley SACD Bobby Timmons stereo SACD
Art Blakey & Jazz Messengers Wes Montgomery/Milt Jackson SACD Benny Carter Jazz Giant Tjader & Getz together - SACD

*********MULTICHANNEL DISC OF THE MONTH*********

The Tiptons sax quartetThe Tiptons: Surrounded by Horns – Stockfisch multichannel SACD SFR 357.4034.2, 49:20 *****:

For some time I have been urging small labels I knew to record a sax quartet or quintet in multichannel. Now we have it, from a German label and featuring an all-female band from Seattle. This is something of a departure for Stockfish, who specialize in guitar and acoustic recordings and are just beginning to release SACDs. The band, consisting of two alto saxes, a tenor and a baritone sax plus a drum set, was originally founded in l987 with the name Phlegm Fatale. Later they chose the name The Billy Tipton Memorial Saxophone Quartet, in honor of the big band musician who died in l989 and only then was discovered to have been not a he but a she! Today the five ladies have shortened their name to just The Tiptons. (They probably got sick of explaining, but will that change since none of them is named Tipton?)

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.

- John Henry

Eight more great jazz stereo masters transferred
to hybrid SACD from Fantasy…

Mulligan Meets Monk - SACDMulligan Meets Monk (Gerry Mulligan, baritone sax; Thelonious Monk, piano; Wilbur Ware, bass; Shadow Wilson, drums) – Riverside RISA-1106-6 Stereo SACD, 59:32 ****:

This 1957 session, which Riverside had the foresight to tape in stereo prior to the stereodisc, has long been one of my favorites in its LP version. Two of my favorite jazz greats too – although one would think completely different from one another. Well, it turns out not so much. Mulligan and Monk were good friends in New York where they were both struggling simultaneously in the last forties and early fifties. They admired one another’s work. Riverside producer Orrin Keepnews heard about this connection, arranged for them to record together, and this session was the result.

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.

Tracks: ‘Round Midnight, Rhythm-a-ning, Sweet and Lovely, Decidedly (takes 4 & 5), Straight No Chaser (takes 3 & 1), I Mean You (takes 4 & 2)

- John Henry

Art Pepper - Gettin TogetherArt 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.

- John Henry

Nat Adderley on SACDNat 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 ****:

I’m always a pushover for unusual instrumental sounds and combinations, even if they don’t work that well. But this session searching for a “new sound” worked extremely well with its front line of cornet, guitar and cello on some of the tunes! I’ve been a fan of Sam Jones’ jazz cello recordings for a long time and it’s a kick to hear him in this setting with one of the greatest jazz guitarists who ever lived – Wes Montgomery. Nat Adderley liked to bring soulful, funky sounds into modern jazz, and he also wasn’t one to shortchange the ballads. Those characteristics are heard in these nine tracks recorded at Reeves Sound Studios in NYC in l960. Five of them are originals for the entire sextet. Two came straight from the band he had with brother Cannonball Adderley: Work Song and Sack o’ Woe. In the blues number Fallout we hear two cello solos – the first by Jones and the second by Keter Betts as they switch chairs.

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.

Tracks: Work Song, Pretty Memory, I’ve Got a Crush on You, Mean to Me, Fallout, Sack o’ Woe, My Heart Stood Still, Violets for Your Furs, Scrambled Eggs.

- John Henry

Bobby Timmon, piano SACDThis Here Is Bobby Timmons (Timmons, piano; Sam Jones, bass; Jimmy Cobb, drums) – Riverside Stereo SACD RISA-1164-6, 38:57 ****:

Composer-pianist Timmons made quite a name for himself in the jazz world of the late 50s with first his tune “Moanin’” for Art Blakey, and later “This Here” and “Dat Dere” for Cannonball Adderley’s band. The gospel-flavored sound of these hits pegged Timmons a soul man for the rest of his career but he had a wider talent than that. For example, dig his short unaccompanied solo on Strayhorn’s brilliant Lush Life on this hi-res disc, or the lovely piano part on My Funny Valentine. This is one of the most listenable piano trio discs I’ve heard in some time – perhaps the fact that the piano sounds so natural and transparent on the SACD influences that.

Tracks: This Here, Moanin,’ Lush Life, The Party’s Over, Prelude to a Kiss, Dat Dere, My Funny Valentine, Come Rain or Come Shine, Joy Ride.

- John Henry

Blakey & Jazz MessengersArt 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.

Tracks: Caravan, Sweet ‘N’ Sour (two takes), Wee Small Hours, This is for Albert, Skylark, Thermo (two takes).

- John Henry

Wes & Milt together on SACDMilt 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 ****:

This late 1961 session matched up the hottest new guitarist around at that time with one of the most honored figures in jazz for a fresh and swinging collaboration. The overall sound without horns is more of a chamber jazz one (and cleanly transparent in this hi-res version), but not lacking that jazz swing and impact one bit. The strong influence of the blues in Jackson’s work assures that. Their rhythm section is also one of the best in the biz – although I was wishing Jones had taken a track or two on his cello – it would have fit into the groove just perfect. Jackson had nothing but high praise for Montgomery at the session, and this was high praise indeed because Milt was also a sometime guitar player himself. Two of the tunes are by Jackson and Wes gets three originals. The three bonus tracks are all alternate takes, and if you listen closely they will testify to the seemingly inexhaustible improvisational chops of both leaders since they are quite different from one another in the solos.

Tracks: S.K.J., Stablemates, Stairway to the Stars (takes 6 & 2), Blue Roz, Sam Sack, Jingles (takes 9 & 8), Delilah (takes 4 & 3).

- John Henry

Benny Carter Jazz GiantBenny 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 ****:

Benny Carter has been a prime figure in jazz for seven or more decades but has somehow never been given the attention he deserves. He has been a saxophonist, trumpeter, bandleader, arranger and composer who has worked with just about everybody in jazz and influenced many other performers. Only two of the seven tracks here are his originals, but his stamp of originality is on all the rest. This album, taped in l957 and 58, was the very first all-hot-jazz, small-group blowing session album released under Carter’s name. In fact there is surprisingly little in the catalog under his name.

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.

Tracks: Old Fashioned Love, I’m Coming Virginia, A Walkin’ Thing, Blue Lou, Ain’t She Sweet, How Can You Lose, Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gives to Me.

- John Henry

Tjader & Getz SACDCal 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




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