Usually, when friends become book authors, you tend to fawn a little too much over their golden meanderings. In my case, the opposite unwittingly happened when I tacked a short mention onto a recent Aural Robert that did not begin to do justice to Stereophile Contributing Editor Robert Levine’s Weep, Shudder, Die, A Guide To Loving Opera (It!/Harper Collins, 2011)
And I used to think our annual "Records To Die For" issue was difficult. Whew! When it came down to choosing the 40 most influential rock/pop, jazz, and classical records of the past 40 years, during which this magazine has been the most honest and enjoyable source of high-end audio journalism, my initial list contained more than 200 choices. A painful paring-down process ensued, with input from every member of the Stereophile staff.
For as long as I live, like it or not, I'll remember 10:28 am 9/11/06 like it was yesterday. I remember the roar and the sight of the giant radio antenna on the last of two towers standing disappearing into the massive clouds of gray smoke. I remember the emergency room personnel at St. Vincent's out in the street waiting for survivors that never came and the clouds of gritty smoke and 8 x 11 sheets of paper blowing up the streets of Brooklyn. And then I remember the jumpers, those who'd rather jump than burn.
I know folks, dedicated jazz fans no less, who cannot be dragged into piano and bass duo gigs. Something about not having a drummer spells boredom for them. Not enough going on I guess. Or more likely, there isn't a horn at work. While jazz virtuosity is most often thought of in terms of the more ostentatious sounds of saxophones and trumpets, and the most common perception of jazz groups is quartets or quintets, it's the duo format, at its most pure piano and bass, that has always inspired a special vocabulary and sonic signature. Just a pair of instrumental voices and musical visions engenders the kind of special chemistry and quiet connections that can be heard on the new Kenny Barron and Dave Holland project, the appropriately named The Art of Conversation.
It is perhaps the most cherished tale from hi-fi's primordial past: In 1951when music was first being recorded on magnetic tape, when the use of much-improved microphones became a mix of science and art, and when Stereophile's founder, J. Gordon Holt, was still a little nipper, years away from his first martini (though I wouldn't swear to that)the team of Robert (Bob) and Wilma Cozart Fine began to build a legendary catalog of recordings of classical music. It eventually included the work of conductors Rafael Kubelik, Antal Doráti, and Frederick Fennell; the Chicago and Minneapolis symphony orchestras; the pianists Byron Janis and Gina Bachauer; and the cellists Mstislav Rostropovich and János Starkerall released with often wildly colorful covers under the still-evocative title of Mercury Living Presence.
Except for Al Sharpton's shameless hogging of the spotlight, James Brown's funeral was quite a production. Televised live on NY1 (New York One), the local cable news channel, this extravaganza was held in the James Brown Arena in Augusta, Georgia.