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Hi-Res Audio Reviews
January 2003 - Part 2 of 3 - Jazz & Classical
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Acoustic Triangle (Malcolm Creese, doublebass; John Horler, piano; Tim Garland, soprano & tenor sax & bass clarinet) - Audio-B Ltd. SABCD 5012 multichannel SACD:

Another new label to SACD - this one based in the UK. The trio specializes in quieter, more meditative modern jazz showing an extensive classical influence as heard in much European jazz. Many of the dozen tracks alternate between compositions by pianist Horler and reedman Garland. There is also a Ralph Towner tune and the album opens with strictly instrumental versions of three songs by Maurice Ravel with lyrics by Stephane Mallarme. The surrounds are a bit more involved here but the subtle nature of much of the music ensures they don’t stand out unnecessarily. The best test of the surrounds is to simply turn them off and see what happens. (Another nice advantage of a remote-controlled preamp or receiver.) Even when you may think they can’t be heard at all the whole sonic picture collapses to the front in two dimensions the moment they are switched off. If you have trouble finding this disc, and you will: try www.audio-b.com

- John Henry

The late Ray Brown on his two last albums, now in SACD...
   
SuperBass 2 - with Ray Brown, John Clayton and Christian McBride - recorded live at the Blue Note, NYC - Telarc multichannel SACD SACD-63483:
Ray Brown, Monty Alexander, Russell Malone - Telarc multichannel SACD SACD-63562:

I reviewed both of these albums in the standard CD version, so I’ll start with the meat of each of those two reviews before I reflect on the new hi-res versions:

This is the sequel to the l996 original effort featuring a jazz trio of three string basses. It may seem very strange to the uninitiated. It takes three masters of the big instrument such as we have here to get a lot out of it. There are two vocals, but mainly vocalizing by the audience!- the old Temptations hit Papa Was a Rolling Stone makes a great party. Percussionist George Fludas also joins in on two of the numbers. This CD could provide a great test of your sub(s). You'd think the limited tonal color would get tiresome for a whole album but you'll probably be wanting more when it's over. Tracks: SuperBass Theme, Get Happy, Mysterioso, Papa Was a Rolling Stone, Three Songs from Porgy and Bess, Birk's Works, My Funny Valentine, Three By Four, Taco and a Pork Chop, SuperBass Theme reprise.

The multichannel surround version? What can I say?It’s mo’ betta. You are now in the middle of the vocalizing audience at the Blue Note. Purchase Here Now for the second SACD:

This was veteran bassist Ray Brown's final recording session, in March of [last] year, before his recent death. Alexander has been recording like mad for Telarc recently and Malone is a superb young guitarist I've only recently grown to appreciate - he appeared on three previous Ray Brown CDs. Ray has probably played on more recordings than any other bassist in the biz, and he comes up with something just right no matter what the tune might be. Django, Fly Me to the Moon, Blues for Jr., Honeysuckle Rose, Compassion, Dexter's Dex, I Just Can't See For Looking, One for Hamp, Don't Go, Look Who's Here, You Can See.

The standard CD version was a double-disc, including a freebie compilation of various tracks Brown had recorded for Telarc over the years. You don’t get that here, but you do get an improved clarity of all three instruments, a feeling of being with the players in a real space (even though it was a recording studio), and a more accurate sonic picture of Alexander’s piano. The low extension of Brown’s bass is not greatly changed, but there is a more realistic portrayal of the plucking and thumping of the strings of the instrument. Purchase Here

- John Henry

Eden Atwood - Waves - The Bossa Nova Session - Groove Note multichannel SACD GRV1012-3: [See LP Section this month for a review of the SACD, 33 1/2 & 45 versions of this.] Purchase Here


Gerard Presencer, Flugelhorn, with Platypus - The Optimist - Linn Records Stereo SACD AKD 166:

A sparkling and swinging jazz fusion session with a sharp young Flugelhornist who won’t put you to sleep like that guy that records for Chesky. Platypus is a nine-piece group and the arrangements are witty and highly original. There are a couple of nice vocals by a Jacqueline Dankworth - wonder if she’s an offspring off Johnny Dankworth and Cleo Lane? Patchy Sunshine is a kick, and put me in mind of Bob Dorough’s song where he sets an actual weather report to music. Being a hybrid disc, you can enjoy this one in your car too, and I think it would be excellent driving music. Tracks: Blah de blah, Dr. Jekyll, Nothing Changes, The Optimist, And If I Told You, Patchy Sunshine, Countdown. Purchase Here

- John Henry

Tommy Smith, tenor & soprano sax - Blue Smith (with John Scofield, guitar; James Genus, bass; Clarence Penn, drums) - Linn Records stereo SACD AKD 136:

The latest Tommy Smith SACD for Linn is graced by a rear-cover (and how!) photo that seems to be an unabashed invitation to do “spoons,” if you know what I mean. Oh, yeah, the music... Here’s another Amazing Grace - interesting how that’s showing up on so many jazz albums lately. The rest of the 11 tracks are all Smith originals, lots of delightful exchanges with guitarist Scofield, and a feeling of free flight engendered by the absence of a piano in this quartet. I’m partial to soprano to begin with, but Smith’s tone on this instrument is ravishing. Recorded direct to analog tape, and the notes make a point that the bass was not input direct. But that still doesn’t tell us whether this is strictly an acoustic bass or that a pickup and amp/speaker was used in the studio. I really couldn’t tell, but I guess the idea is that either way it would sound more like the real thing in a real space than an entirely electronic transfer of the sound. Tracks: El Nino, Hubba Hubba, Rain Dance, Dr. Sco, Touch Your Toes, Amazing Grace, Blacken’Blue, The Blues Blew Blue, Eany Meany Miny Mo, Miracle, Dr. Smith. Purchase Here

- John Henry


CLASSICAL

I was surprised to see the next SACD listed as jazz by this Dutch label; sounds closer to the classical world to me, so let’s start this section with it...
\ HEIN VAN DE GEYN: Woodwind Works, featuring I Solisti del Vento/Bert van den Brink, piano/Van de Geyn, double bass - Live at the Concertgebouw = Longing, Northsea Night, Fugue/A-Fantasy, A Reason to Fly, Minimal, The Magic Kingdom, Wheeling, Charlie, Christmas Song, Long Glide, Green Brook, Why Really - Challenge Records Stereo SACD SACHR 75028:

This is my kind of chamber music. It sounds like a bit like they took Alec Wilder (in his Woodwind Quintets and Octets bag) plus some of the members of the Penguin Cafe Orchestra and locked them up for awhile in that Oslo studio where ECM records so many of their CDs in the middle of the dark Scandinavian night. Oh yes, and invited in Ron Carter as a guest soloist. The Solisti is in fact a standard woodwind quintet, and all seven of these Dutch performers are obviously imbued with the iconoclastic, path breaking musical attitude common to so many Dutch musicians today. All the compositions are by Van de Geyn except for a couple of collaborations with others. They operate in a heady atmosphere where restrictive labels like classical and jazz seem to be beside the point. There are even some passages of lovely Delius-like Andante where suddenly the double bass seems to kick in and launch the ensemble into a politely swinging little rif, just like some of the Wilder chamber orchestra works. I could have used a bit of Wilder's wit and humor, but aside from that this is a totally laudable crossover effort. The Concertgebouw audience sounds like they loved it, and the concert was recorded direct to two-channel DSD with superb transparency. This label is doing some exciting hi-res music - www.challenge.nl Purchase Here

- John Sunier

MOZART: String Quintets Nos. 1 - 6 - The Fine Arts Quartet + Yuri Gandelsman, viola - Lyrinx multichannel SACD LYR 2214: ( 3 discs):

Seeing that this was a new recording from my long time favorite string quartet caught my eye even more than the facts that it was SACD format, and at that not just a single disc but a so-far unusual triple-disc package.
The Fine Arts has been around forever, and is one of the most-recorded quartets in history. Some of their early stereo recordings for the Concertapes label have been lovingly reissued by Boston Skyline Records. The quartet’s members are artists-in-residence at the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee.

Mozart was a master at this musical form, which brought a broader and fuller sound to the standard string quartet. The addition of a second viola part was also handy for him since he was a violist himself and could perform in his own works. There are numerous sections of the work full of his wit and light-hearted play, but there are also many passages of melancholy and despairing resignation. Mozart was full of anxiety at this period of his life - he wrote his father at one point “I never go to bed at night without thinking that tomorrow perhaps I will not longer be there...” There are two quintets to a disc and they progress in order from the early K174 to the last one, K614. The central pair of quintets are the most extended in length, running about 38 minutes apiece. All are four movements - the third usually a Menuetto contrasted with a preceding Andante or Adagio. The playing is just superb, and though Lyrinx doesn’t put a player at each of the five speakers (as does Tacet in their DVD-A series), the spatial separation is almost holographic, adding dimensional interest to the rapid-fire musical exchanges going on between the instruments. The alternative-to-jewel box packaging is so much more appropriate for a multi-disc set than the standard jewel box system. Purchase Here

- John Sunier

On to Hi-Res Reviews Conclusion - Part 3 - All Classical

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