1996 Records To Die For Page 13
CLARK TERRY/FRANK WESS: Big Band Basie
Clark Terry, Frank Wess, Bob Lark, DePaul University Jazz Ensemble I
Reference Recordings RR-63CD (HDCD CD). J. Tamblyn Henderson, prod.; Keith O. Johnson, eng.; Michael "Pflash" Pflaumer, HDCD eng. DDD. TT: 58:58
Although I'm not really a big-band fan, Big Band Basie has become one of the test pieces I use for hardware reviews; moreover, I often find myself playing it even when I'm not in Equipment Evaluation mode. This is a stunning recording, one that captures the timbre of brass instruments and the sheer power of a big jazz band with a realism that I haven't heard equaled. The music is gutsy, exciting, with seasoned pros Clark Terry and Frank Wess joining a university jazz ensemble that sounds anything but academic. (XVIII-9)
KETÉLBEY: Music of Ketélbey
"In a Persian Market," "In a Monastery Garden," "In a Chinese Temple Garden," "In the Mystic Land of Egypt," others
Laurence Dale, tenor; Michael Reeves, piano; Ambrosian Chorus; London Promenade Orchestra, Alexander Faris
Philips 400 011-2 (CD only). DDD. TT: 55:11
Mark my words: any day now, there's going to be a huge revival of interest in the music of Albert W. Ketélbey. The English composer---who changed his name from the less exotic-sounding William Aston---wrote richly melodic music, with masterly use of a wide palette of orchestral colors. Some consider it dated, and they could be right, but it's utterly charming and capable of eliciting profound feelings of nostalgia for places and times that perhaps never existed. The recording is very good for early digital, but could benefit from a remastering. How about it, Philips?
MILES DAVIS: Kind of Blue
Miles Davis, trumpet; John Coltrane, tenor sax; Julian "Cannonball" Adderley, alto sax; Bill Evans or Wynton Kelly, piano; Paul Chambers, bass; James Cobb, drums
Columbia/Legacy Mastersound Limited Edition CK 52861 (CD). Teo Macero, prod.; Amy Herot, reissue prod.; Fred Plaut, Robert Waller, engs. ADD? TT: 45:38
For 35 years, Kind of Blue has been part of America's counter-cultural consciousness. Yet Columbia's production was a spectacular botch. At one of the two recording sessions the tape machine was running slow and the first side of the album was about a quarter-tone sharp. The jacket and label copy listed tunes out of order, and the liner notes transposed track-by-track descriptions. For this limited-edition 24K gold CD, a long-lost back-up master tape was found to fix the speed problem. Now remarkably restored through Sony's Super Bit Mapping, it is, more than ever, the definitive 2am jazz album. Miles probes that existential space between day's end and sleep where all truths are relative. (XV-2)
KEITH JARRETT: At the Blue Note: The Complete Recordings
Keith Jarrett, piano; Gary Peacock, bass; Jack DeJohnette, drums
ECM 1575-80 (78118-21575-2, 6 CDs only). Manfred Eicher, prod.; Jan Erik Kongshaug, eng. DDD. TT: 7:03:49
This recent release contains six CDs with Keith Jarrett's entire June '94 sold-out engagement at the Blue Note in Greenwich Village: three nights, two sets per night; one CD per set. It is the great Jan Erik Kongshaug's only live recording of Jarrett's "Standards" trio in a small acoustic space, and he puts us into a relationship with three instruments which is shockingly intimate. To lose yourself for an evening in Jarrett's meditations on the American popular song repertoire---what he has called "our tribal language...something beautiful that is not ours"---is a spiritual experience. (XVIII-12)
PATRICIA BARBER: Café Blue
Patricia Barber, vo! cals, piano; John McLean, guitars; Michael Arnopol, bass; Mark Walker, drums, percussion, body parts
Premonition PREM-737-2 (CD only). Patricia Barber, prod.; Jim Anderson, eng. DDD. TT: 62:51
Café Blue has seduced everyone for whom I have ever played it---jazz people, rock people, Medicare people, even computer people. Some call from record stores, sounding slightly desperate: "That album you played for me the other night! What was her name again?" If you have a voice that's a dark pure whisper straight up from the soul, and if you've lived it yourself, you can sing to people of their innermost anxieties and they will not only love it, they will need it. (XVIII-10)
CHARLES LLOYD: The Call
Charles Lloyd, tenor sax; Bobo Stenson, piano; Anders Jormin, bass; Billy Hart, drums
ECM 1522 (78118-21522-2, CD only). Manfred Eicher, prod.; Jan Erik Kongshaug, eng. DDD. TT: 76:52
It's difficult to choose among the four albums Charles Lloyd has made for ECM since hi! s return to active music in the '90s. All are "Records To Die For," but The Call is the most whole. Stenson, Jormin, and Hart create an updraft of inspiration on which Lloyd's tenor sax ascends to an intensity centered in stillness. The surface of this music feels cool, yet burns like an underground fire. The Call has that ECM sound from Oslo's Rainbow Studio, an alchemy of warmth and intricate detail in which each instrument glows. (XVII-11)
DUKE ELLINGTON: All Star Band
Duke Ellington, piano; Harold "Shorty" Baker, Willie Cook, Clark Terry, trumpets; Ray Nance, cornet, vocal; Quentin Jackson, Britt Woodman, John Sanders, trombones; Johnny Hodges, alto sax; Russell Procope, alto sax, clarinet; Paul Gonsalves, tenor sax; Jimmy Hamilton, tenor sax, clarinet; Harry Carney, baritone sax, bass clarinet; Joe Benjamin, bass; Sam Woodyard, drums
Signature AGK-39137 (CD). (Also available as Doctor Jazz WGK-39137.) Bob Thiele, prod. Jack Towers, eng. AAD? TT: 71:02
A dance on a June night in 1957 in Carroltown, Pennsylvania---one of thousands of forgotten one-nighters in forgotten towns played by a band that was on the road for 45 years. But on this night Ellington archivist Jack Towers was there. The incomparable ensemble, in Towers' astonishingly visceral early stereo sound, is huge and alive. So is the noisy, sweaty crowd. One by one, like ghosts who tread the earth again, they come down to the mike: Paul Gonsalves. Harry Carney. Clark Terry. Johnny Hodges, he of the erotically sublime upper register. Duke, bantering and urbane, chides the crowd not to forget that "the bar closes at one." To be taken back like this is as real and eerie as a dream.
SIBELIUS: Symphonies 2 & 6
Sir Colin Davis, London Symphony
RCA 68218-2 (CD only). Michael Bremner, prod.; Tony Faulkner, eng. TT: 72:53
Here's a right-up-to-date production of two Sibelius symphonies played by the highly professional LSO conducted by Sir Colin Davis. Sir Colin has had much experience in performing the music of this composer, and it definitely shows here, where the dynamic range of this high-resolution, 20-bit, Faulkner-engineered recording is fully exploited. Those characteristic Sibelian climaxes so generously scored in the brass ring out with effortless clarity but without false hardness or stridency. The string tone is also excellent---silky, and much nearer a concert-hall sound than is generally achieved.
The Blackheath Concert Hall venue is not huge but has a sumptuous, spacious acoustic, nicely captured in this recording. Clarity is retained at low and high volumes, the latter unexpectedly so. Careful transfer from the 20-b! it master to CD via an effective noise-shaping technique has made a significant contribution, and the musical sound of those big, classic Neumann tube microphones can be clearly heard through the digital encode/decode mechanisms.
I much like the performance; the LSO plays superbly, fully revealed in this naturally balanced recording.
ZZT 96256-2 (CD). Trevor Horn, prod.; Tim Weidner, Carmen Rizzo, Steve Fitzmaurice, Gregg Jackman, Robin Barclay, Paul Wright, Sean Chenery, engs. TT: 50:33
Don't be confused, this Seal record is the 1994 production, not his first (and still good) 1991 debut, also eponymously titled. I still use the '91 disc for testing, not just for its great musicianship but also its clean, driving bass lines.
Seal sings well---he can reach for a note and make a direct hit, in contrast to so many other performers who can give a good first impression (especially when backed by superb recording quality), but are ultimately unsatisfying.! Best of all, Seal has rhythm. His music is intelligent and drives well. Seal '94 is both complex and thematic. With the first few playings it sounds heavily textured and apparently lacks the refreshing variation of Seal '91. But when you get to know it better, the complex thematic nature doesn't dominate after all. Seal '94 can sound muddled with poor systems, but as system quality improves the high production quality becomes apparent. This ambitious record was not designed to generate a quick thrill for No.1 status, but its musical performance endures. Seal knows about good sound; he runs a top-flight audio system himself.