1994 Records To Die For Page 12
ILLINOIS JACQUET: The Blues; That's Me!
Illinois Jacquet, tenor sax, bassoon; Wynton Kelly, piano; Tiny Grimes, guitar; Buster Williams, bass; Oliver Jackson, drums
Prestige 7731/Fantasy OJCCD-614 (LP/CD). Don Schlitten, prod.; Danforth Griffiths, eng. AAA/ADD. TT: 43:07
I recommend this record as an example of what's offered from Fantasy's Original Jazz Classics catalog, which brings to a new audience wonderful records in mostly good, sometimes excellent remasterings which occasionally surpass the original pressings. This record's highlight is a bassoon version of Monk's "Round Midnight," the stand-out track of an excellent session with a purposeful blues theme. I wish my record player had a repeat function.
OREGON: Roots in the Sky
Paul McCandless, oboe, bass clarinet; Glen Moore, bass, piano; Ralph Towner, guitar, piano; Colin Walcott, tabla, sitar, percussion
Elektra 6E-224 (LP). Oregon, prod.; David Green, eng. AAA. TT: 44:01
Oregon is one of the groups that turned me on to what is now called "World Music." Oregon's relaxed, mostly introspective style is saved from NewAgeism by the intensity and inventiveness permeating their work. They're also not afraid of the occasional outburst of energy.
There are two reasons why I like this 1979 record more than any other by Oregon. The first is the sonics: my Bob Ludwig-mastered American pressing sounds superb---not much air, but beautiful tonal colors, image specificity, and, above all, an excellent rendition of the complex rhythmic interplay between musicians. The other is purely sentimental: about the same time this record was made, I heard Oregon live for the first time. They performed many of the compositions from Roots in the Sky; "House of Wax" will forever haunt my dreams.
LANCHBERY: Tales of Beatrix Potter (Original Soundtrack)
John Lanchbery, Royal Opera House Orchestra, Covent Garden
EMI CSD 3690 (LP only). Brian Culverhouse, prod.; Michael Gray, eng. AAA. TT: 52:32
This 1971 treasure from the heyday of British EMI vinyl (and not to be confused with the US Angel issue) features the stereo mix approved by Lanchbery, much as heard in private screenings and roadshow presentations of the film, and not at all to be heard in the phase-muddled mix on the VHS cassette from HBO Cannon. Beatrix Potter's field and barnyard creatures, portrayed by members of the Royal Ballet, were choreographed to a fine turn by Sir Frederick Ashton, and set to Mr. Lanchbery's score, which reinvented the best and worst of Ludwig Minkus and Ricardo Drigo, with music-hall tunes of the Victorian era. This is close-up studio miking, with no apologies for spotlighting the banjo solo and washboard. On the other hand, there's no annoying post-production, phony reverb, or "ambience." Great fun, and hopefully a challenge for a CD worthy of the source.
FRITZ REINER: Overtures
Tchaikovsky: Overture 1812. Mendelssohn: Hebrides Overture. Liszt: Mephisto Waltz. Brahms: Tragic Overture
Fritz Reiner, CSO
RCA LSC-2241 (LP only). Richard Mohr, prod.; Lewis Layton, eng. AAA. TT: 45:31
Overture 1812 has been available since 1985 on RCA's full-price CD of Reiner's CSO Nutcracker excerpts. Its abrupt start---which fails to do justice to the recording's true first breath---has not been corrected. The other three works on the LP have yet to make CD appearances, and are not likely to until mid- or late 1994 at the earliest. Although Reiner substantially abridged 1812, and there is no artillery in the usual sense, it's worth noting that the first note in the cellos is led by János Starker. Each piece and performance shows an aspect of Reiner/CSO's collective mastery of the minor masterpiece, as well as Mohr/Layton's mastery, artistry, and intelligence with the emerging technology they were helping to define. The very definition of a collector's item.
RAY BRYANT: Blue Moods
Ray Bryant, piano; Rufus Reid, bass; Freddie Waits, drums
Japanese EmArcy EJD-5 (CD only). Kiyoshi "Box Man" Koyama, prod.; Tom Lazarus, eng. DDD. TT: 44:41
This one always makes it onto the Digital Launch Pad, whether for hotdog audiophile demos, or just for the pleasure of experiencing the full range of emotions an audiophile can glean from that special connection to the music. It starts off with a fab, reflective "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child," segues to "Good Morning Heartache," gets you back up with "Blues in the Closet," lifts you higher with the well-known "Bags Groove," backs you down to earth with "Blue Monk," romances the stone with "Since I Fell for You," puts you right with "Lush Life," and leaves you begging for more with the last track, "Blues in G." Groove the classic tunes, cool ones.
HOLLY COLE TRIO: Don't Smoke! In Bed
Holly Cole, vocals; Aaron Davis, piano; David Piltch, bass, percussion; Joe Henderson, tenor sax
Manhattan CDP 7 81198 2 (CD only). David Was, prod.; Leanne Ungar, eng. DDD? TT: 44:52
This just-off-the-presses CD is killer. Cole is fabulous, period. The performances by Aaron Davis on piano and David Piltch on bass and percussion are virtuosic and just original enough in style to be arresting without going overboard. On "Get Out of Town," Davis gets up while playing, and places one of his hands over the piano strings while continuing to play with the other. This damped-string effect is an extremely interesting counterpoint to Cole's idiosyncratic, sexy style. You know it's special, from the opening plucked bass on "I Can See Clearly Now" right through to the last track---not a dud in the bunch.
CARMEN McRAE/DAVE BRUBECK: Take Five
Carmen McRae, vocals; Dave Brubeck, piano
Columbia Special Products JCS 9116 (LP only). Teo Macero, prod. AAA. TT: 36:00
McRae is sublime, Brubeck's in top form, and the 1973 date is simply recorded with plenty of ambience, even if it's not the last word in pinpoint imaging. (Special Products are head and shoulders above the rest of the period Columbia dreck.) You'll grab this LP for the music and synergy between McRae and Brubeck, rather than for the sonics alone. Dave on Carmen: "Songs are dramatic vehicles in which Carmen reveals a personal point of view through her voice. Her intelligence-controlled instrument often serves as a witty commentary on human foibles, or becomes so charged with emotion that a bent phrase can break our heart as surely as a masterful gesture from a great actress." Amen. Just wait 'til you hear their version of "Take Five"!
FRANCIS POULENC: Sonatas & Trios
Trio d'anches OZI: Claude Villevieille, oboe; Lucien Aubert, clarinet; Alexandre Ouzounoff, bassoon; Kun Woo Paik, piano; Jacques De Donato, clarinet
Cornelia ADDA 590042 (CD only). Alexandre Ouzounoff, artistic direction; Daniel Valencienne, eng. DDD. TT: 56:21
This beautiful, liquid, midrange-magnificent French CD starts with one of my favorite pieces, the Sonata for clarinet and piano---a composition of aching beauty which never becomes insipid. Poulenc's romantic music is full of unexpected twists and turns of energy and direction, absolutely defying predictability. The compositions are all gorgeous---elegance personified. Grab your honey, a bottle of wine, and let her gaze into your intelligent eyes as you woo her with these magnificent smaller works. The disc serves as a sublime yet approachable introduction to this most sophisticated of French composers.
SATIE: The Velvet Gentleman
Camarata Contemporary Chamber Group
Deram SML 1053 (LP only). Tony D'Amato, prod.; Arthur Lilley, eng. AAA.
Seventies Moog Madness + traditional instruments + Satie + Decca British Pressing = French Sensory Food O' The Gods. This disc remains totally classical, but it's still approachable with Moog-updated modernist Satie humor, musical wit, a heavy dose of pure charm, and a dollop of whimsy. The recording is close to perfection---magnificent tonal colors, precise and ambient imaging, and a soundstage as big as Paris. I found this LP in the US and have seen it several times in various used record stores.