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Hi-Res Audio Reviews, Pt. 2 - June 2002
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Getting a bit folky on you for the next several discs...

CELTIC SPECTACULAR - Cincinnati Pops Orchestra & Erich Kunzel with special guests: The Chieftains; James Galway, flute & whistles; John McDermott, tenor; Liz Knowles, fiddle; Keran O'Hare, Ulleann pipes & whistles; Silver Arm Celtic Band - multichannel SACD - Telarc SACD-60571:

I should admit up front that Celtic music is only slightly above Hawaiian music in my musical world, but aside from wincing slightly at Danny Boy and Irish-tenor classics of that ilk on the disc, I actually enjoyed this musical outing to the Emerald Isle. Of course there are the excerpts from Lord of the Dance and Riverdance, but also a track from the Chieftains and Galway in some lovely melodies for flute or whistle, such as Simple Gifts. There's plenty of lush Hollywoodish arrangements and clever but not excessive use of the surrounds for musical effects. There is a short surround sound effect titled Off to the Hunt. Even the bagpipes were not too painful.

- John Sunier

Belafonte at Carnegie Hall, 1959 - Orch. Cond. By Robert Corman - RCA/BMG 74321894852 stereo SACD:

This and the SACD below have been issued only in Hong Kong primarily for the Asian market and are not readily available in the U.S. Music of the Caribbean has long had a certain fascination for the Japanese, and perhaps other Asians - though I'm not sure about that. This classic Harry Belafonte concert, once a prized Victor Living Stereo LP, must be a sort of urtext for Caribbean folk music in Asia. The final five songs take off from the land of banana boats and tour the world. The note booklet reprints the original LP liner notes - entirely in English - a surprise considering the intended audience for the hi-res disc. There were not many live concerts taped this way at that time - getting such good sound on the fly (recording just two nights of his performance) was quite a feat. Belafonte bounced all over the stage and his backing ranged from a single guitar and bongos to a 47-piece orchestra. The clarity of his voice is almost uncanny - the tapes have obviously survived well over the years and the DSD medium allows their maximum impact to come thru. He may even succeed - 43 years removed - in getting you to join in his singalongs. No Boo Boos to Look-A on this Day O... [One of the few places to purchase this disc in North America is A4Audio.com]

Tracks: Intro/Darlin' Cora, Sylvie, Cotton Fields, John Henry, The Marching Saints, Day O, Jamaica Farewell, Mama Look A Boo Boo, Come Back Liza, Man Smart (Woman Smarter), Hava Nageela, Danny Boy, Cu Cu Ru Cu Cu Paloma, Shenandoah, Matilda.

- John Sunier

Los Indios Tabajaras - Always In My Heart - RCA /BMG 74321899002 stereo SACD:

These two Indian brothers lived in the Brazilian jungle and one day found a battered guitar discarded by a party of white men. Thus began the careers of the globe-circling Latin guitar/vocal duo who came to fame in l963 with the hit single Maria Elena. This SACD reissue from l964 is more of the same light and highly commercial Latin vocals. Sonics are superb. Tracks are: Always in my Heart, Por Que Eres Asi?, Over the Rainbow, More Brandy Please, Amapola, Wide Horizon, Moonlight and Shadows, You Belong to My Heart, Central Park, Magic is the Moonlight, New Orleans, Maria My Own. [One of the few places to purchase this disc in North America is A4Audio.com]

Herbie Mann, flute & Sona Terra - Eastern European Roots - Stereo SACD, HerbieMannMusic 01-2000:

Released on his own label, jazz flutist Mann's first SACD came about when the musician had a close encounter with mortality due to a cancer diagnosis. He realized he had played music influenced by many different folk cultures - including Brazilian, Latin, Japanese, Middle Eastern and African. Yet his roots were in Eastern European culture. He had written some music with an Eastern European feel to it years ago, which he now dusted off and played, along with composing new ones. A trip to Roumania broadened his interest in rediscovering his musical roots, and pianist Milcho Leviev shared his Eastern European music and soul with Mann. Mann plays several different flutes, and the nine musicians joining him on various of the 11 tracks play guitar, cimbalom, accordion, drums, percussion, mandolin, bass, soprano sax, fujara, and bouzouki. The centerpiece and longest track was recorded in Hungary during Mann's trip there. Six of the tracks are Mann's compositions. Engaging tunes and arrangements with super-clean sonics - especially of the occasional percussion instruments - due to the high-res medium. [If you have trouble locating the SACD, email: jarison@newmexico.com] Tracks are: Ayla, Gypsy Jazz, Gelem Gelem, Balalaika Love Song, A Dance at the Rise of the Moon, Jelek, Bucovina, Passing Through, Foreign Village, Magyar Dreams, Sera.

- John Sunier

Jazz Concord - Herb Ellis & Joe Pass, guitars; Ray Brown, bass; Jake Hanna, drums - Concord Records/Hi-Res Music stereo 96K DVD-A HRM 2006:

The original l974 LP release of this session out of the early Concord Jazz Festival in California was one of the very first albums from the new Concord record label. It even had very simple cover art that looked like an early mono LP from around 1952. The recording was not made live at the festival but the well-known Wally Hyder Studio in Los Angeles. Both guitarists played Gibson ES 175 instruments and used amplification very sparingly. And with Ray Brown on bass you know the session is going to be a winner. This is a smashing duo in every way. Ellis offered "We just watch each other close and keep our ears open and some pretty fantastic things happen." They do and they did. The 96K reissue brings out every nuance of the improvisations of all four instruments. I have the original LP still packed away somewhere. If when I locate it I find it sounds better than this DVD-A I'll update this review. But I strongly doubt it.

- John Sunier

Three tribute albums are up next, first to two great trumpet players and thence to a great fusion jazz ensemble...

Bob Barnard, cornet & The Swedish Jazz Kings, featuring Roy Williams, trombone - A Tribute to Young Louis - multichannel SACD - Opus 3 CD 22013 (Distr. by May Audio Mktg.) :

Another newly recorded four-channel SACD from the Swedish label, following their first series which used surround channels that were derived from the Blumlein-miked two-channel original tapes. This SACD, just recorded last year, is quite an international production. The music of this Swedish CD is from the early career of Louis Armstrong, Bob Barnard is Australia's No. 1 trad jazz star, and on most of the dozen tracks is heard one of Britain's top trombone players, Roy Williams. In their previous albums the Swedish Jazz Kings have shown themselves to be amazingly accurate and swinging interpreters of traditional jazz, mainly of Louis Armstrong. Now with all these great tunes from "The Bach of Jazz" and the topnotch guest soloists, they really shine. All tunes are from the period l924 thru l929 and Louis' Hot Five and Hot Seven bands, except for two tracks. The four discrete channels really immerse the listener in the center of the hot jazz cooking - perhaps the quad era wasn't so lame after all and four channels are all we need when the recordings are properly done, eh?

Tracks: Oriental Strut, You're Next, My Heart, Melancholy Blues, Ory's Creole Trombone, Georgia Bo-Bo, The Last Time, Wild Man Blues, Everybody Loves My Baby, Two Deuces, Keyhole Blues, Sunset Cafe Stomp.

- John Sunier

Clark Terry - One On One (with Monty Alexander, Geri Allen, Kenny Barron, Tommy Flanagan, Benny Green, Sir Roland Hanna, John Lewis, Marian McPartland, Junior Mance, Billy Taylor and others) Multichannel SACD - Chesky SACD231:

What a great idea the Cheskys had and what a lot of effort it must have taken to bring this all together - bringing in 14 of today's greatest jazz pianists to improvise one-on-one with the trumpet player many consider the link between Louis Armstrong and Miles Davis. Plus the tunes they chose all are by or connected with earlier great pianists such as Ellington, Count Basie, Bud Powell, Fats Waller, Eubie Blake, Nat Cole, Art Tatum and Earl Hines. In the note booklet each recording pianist speaks briefly about both Clark Terry and about the pianist honored in their tribute duo. The recording was made in St. Peter's Episcopal Church in NYC and each of the guest pianists tickled the ivories on an extended-range Bosendorfer Imperial Grand Piano. The natural timbres of both instruments are preserved beautifully in the DSD process and the multichannel reproduction enhances the experience immensely with a strong feeling of the trumpet peaks bouncing off the distant walls of the large sanctuary. I'm looking forward to (as soon as I get it set up) trying out the provided six-channel option using the center and LFE channels to feed an additional pair of speakers high on the sides near the front.

- John Sunier

Celebrating the Music of Weather Report (Incl. Jay Beckenstein, Randy & Michael Brecker, Steve Gadd, Marcus Miller, Andy Narell, Joe Sample, David Sanborn & John Scofield) - Multichannel SACD Telarc SACD-63473:

A very worthwhile tribute to the top fusion jazz group of the 1970s. The task here was for producer/arranger Jason Miles to assemble a line of players able to capture the special sound-world of Weather Report but still show some of their own individuality. Looking over the long, long list of players it appears he did a fine job of it. Miles also was the keyboardist and did the drum and percussion synth programming. The group's big hits such as Birdland and Mysterious Traveller are here among the 11 tracks, sounding fuller and more impressive than I recall from the originals. But they're still not the originals. There seem to be more synthesizers than heard in the originals; of course synths have become a great deal more diversified and sophisticated since the 70s.

The album has now been issued by Telarc as both an SACD and DVD A, as with their 1812 Overture. While the two-channel mix on the DVD-A uses 24 bit/ 96K, the 5.1 surround tracks are limited to 24 bit/ 44.1K sampling. Thus the multichannel SACD has the edge right off due to a much higher sampler rate. Is this audible since the Weather Report sound is so synthesizer heavy anyway? Yes. Of course with the DVD-A you also get a 5.1 DTS option plus a dolby Digital MP3 layer for your DVD-ROM computer drive. And some pictures on the screen if you want them. On both formats the bass drum and percussion is very prominent and has deep extension, mostly appearing on the center front channel. Since my front subs operate only on the left and right front speakers and at the moment I have no bass management, that meant I was losing some of the extreme low frequencies at my center channel speaker. Tunes: Birdland, Elegant People, Badia, Young and Fine, Cannonball, Pursuit of the Woman with the Feathered Hat, Mysterious Traveller, Harlequin, Man in the Green Shirt, Palladium, Cucumber Slumber.

- John Sunier

Natalie MacMaster ­ In My Hands; Hybrid Stereo SACD Rounder 11661-7025-6:

The first track on this disc starts off as a nice alternative pop song, with a good beat and pleasant instrumentation, and then, the fiddle shows up! Yes, this disc is chock full of jigs and good ole Scottish style music, despite the fact MacMaster is from Nova Scotia, Canada. Recording quality sounds very natural, and percussion and the instruments in the mix all sound great. It's hard to listen to this disc and not want to get up out of your seat and dance around. About half of the tunes are mellow, while the other half of them are rhythmic and upbeat. "Flamenco Swing" plays exactly as it sounds, and clearly shows the mastery of this group. Songs included are: In My Hands, Welcome To The Trossachs, Gramma, Blue Bonnets Over The Border, New York Jig, Flamenco Fling, Space Ceilidh, Olympic Reel, Father John MacLeod's Jig, Get Me Through December, The Farewell, Moxham Castle, Mom's Jig, Flora MacDonald.

- Brian Bloom

Cowboy Junkies ­ Open; Hybrid Stereo SACD Latent 01143-1020-6:

This disc seems much grittier and harder than previous Cowboy Junkie releases like Lay It Down. If you are unfamiliar with the band, their music can best be described as a blend of folk and rock. It was a little hard to reconcile the sound of the guitar with Margo Timmin's soft vocals on a few of the cuts. The sound quality of the instruments and voice were very impressive. "Thousand Year Prayer" is a noteworthy exception to that hard and brash sound. It's a touching, soft, melodic song that harkens back the sound of the Trinity Sessions record-an audiophile favorite. The Junkies strength has always been in the more finely crafted tunes wherein you don't have to turn the sound up and bang your head! The types of songs in the latter half of the CD are going to be much more familiar for fans. Songs included are: I Did It All For You, Dragging Hooks (River Song Trilogy: Part III), Bread And Wine, Upon Still Waters, Dark Hole Again, Thousand Year Prayer, I'm So Open, Small Swift Birds, Beneath The Gate, Close My Eyes.

- Brian Bloom

On to Part 3 Conclusion of Hi-Res

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