SSI: Final Words from Art Dudley
For a journalist at a trade show, few things are more awkward than entering a room and finding that the exhibitor and his staff are the only people there: No dealers. No customers. Just a few desperate souls ready to pin their last half-hope on a man with a badgeand the badge says Press.
Happily, I had only a few such moments at Salon Son et Image 2010: three, in fact, all on the same, slow trade day. (The trick, by the way, for those who covet the audio reviewer's life of power, riches, and fame, is to answer the begging gaze by fumbling with your cell phone and saying, "Sorry: It's set to vibrate and I feel a call coming in.") By contrast, during every moment when SSI was open to the paying public, it was packed with attendees, even more so than the previous year. The Salon seemed an unambiguous success.
SSI succeeded in other, less quantifiable ways. It offered a rare chance for this rural home-worker to see, in one place, some of my favorite people. There were also some great mealsalthough I prefer by far the wine selection in my favorite, and generally less expensive, American bistrosand, forgive me, a higher concentration of beautiful women than anywhere else on Earth. People in Montreal, men and women alike, also dress better, and they know something about cologne.
More to the point, during those four days in March I was turned on to a wealth of great music. Philip O'Hanlon introduced me to the late singer Lhasa de Sela; Jonathan Halpern and John DeVore turned me on to psycho-folkie Devendra Banhart; through his own amazing recordings, recently made with a pair of Joe Grado's new condenser microphones, Peter McGrath introduced me to Jorge Luis Plats, a Cuban-American who may be the single most talented pianist alive; and, in much the same way, the talented recordist Rene Laflamme introduced me to Hindemith's Escale Romantiqueor at least the last two movements, available on a sampler that you need now, from Laflamme's Fidelio label.
The last two, in fact, are among my nominees for best sound of the show. McGrath played Platsand other classical stars of his acquaintancethrough a Wilson Sasha-fronted system described elsewhere in our SSI coverage. Laflamme used a computer-based music server (with the oft-discussed Merging Technologies card) feeding a dCS converter and a pair of Nagra MPA monoblock amplifiers, driving Verity Sarastro loudspeakers. Both systems were transcendently good in ways that I treasure: colorful, present, dramatic, realistically textured, organically fast, and altogether real. I was also thrilled by the sound of Skip James in the vinyl-only Brinkmann/Leben/DeVore room sponsored by Montreal dealer Coup de Foudre; hypnotized by Jeff Buckley on the same sponsor's Pathos/VTL/Avalon system; and intrigued by the sound of Handel's Tamerlano on an all-Ocellia system. In other words, I had fun.