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Fred Kaplan Posted: Apr 22, 2015 3 comments
Transparency is a trait we all value in a hi-fi rig, and it's a concept I've long thought I understood. A system that tosses up the illusion of a clear, spacious soundstage, on which you can hear—almost see—all of the singers and/or instruments, from side to side and, especially, from front to way, way back: that's the ticket. Still, although such transparency is a sign that you've entered the realm of fine sound, it's not an absolute requirement. Tonal accuracy, dynamic range, a certain thereness that conveys the emotional heft or delicacy of music—those things come first. Without them, the most precisely delineated soundstage is like an architect's sketch of an oil painting.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Mar 31, 2015 18 comments
I'm usually not a fan of male baritone jazz singers, not even Johnny Hartman (except, of course, on his album with Coltrane): they tend too much toward the operatic, and they're usually too smooth, too eyebrow-arched suave, for my taste anyway. But Jose James is something else, and his new album, Yesterday I Had the Blues (Blue Note), goes down like a rare vintage port on a chilly night.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Mar 27, 2015 0 comments
A few years ago, Ryan Truesdell, a jazz composer and arranger, gained access to a treasure trove of Gil Evans' handwritten scores from the 1940s to '80s—some of them recorded, many not—and set out to form a big band to play them. Lines of Color (Blue Note/Artists Share) is the second album to come out of what he calls the Gil Evans Project (the first, Centennial, was released in 2012), and it's something to savor.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Feb 12, 2015 2 comments
With Break Stuff, his third trio album and his first on the ECM label, Vijay Iyer comes into his own as a master pianist, composer, and conceptualizer—one of the truly great jazz musicians of our time.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Jan 26, 2015 5 comments
I've probably raved enough about Analogue Productions' 200-gram vinyl reissue of Masterpieces by Ellington, one of the greatest (yet, strangely, least-known) albums in Duke Ellington's vast catalog—and, despite its vintage (1950, mono) his best-sounding. The good news here: for those of you who aren't into vinyl, AP has now issued it again as a hybrid SACD.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Jan 05, 2015 1 comments
It's cold in New York City, but don't expect that to keep jazz fans from dashing through the streets of Greenwich Village this weekend, darting in out of various clubs and theaters, to see a dozen or more topflight musicians playing in the 2015 Winter Jazzfest.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Dec 19, 2014 1 comments
With so few "major record labels" left standing, the music-loving audiophile stands alert for new venture—indies by the measure of indies—that offer very good music, excellent sound, and (is it too much to ask?) the occasional slab of vinyl. As first reported by Robert Baird in Stereophile's August 2014 issue, there is another worthy prospect worth celebrating: Smoke Sessions Records, the creation of Paul Stache, proprietor of Smoke Jazz Club on upper Broadway in NYC, where most of his discs are recorded live, with Stache himself at the controls.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Dec 13, 2014 2 comments
Here, once again, are my picks for the year's best jazz albums...it's been a terrible year for much of the world, but a very good year for the salve of jazz.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Dec 10, 2014 4 comments
For five years in this blog space, I've been urging, begging, audiophile record labels to reissue Masterpieces by Ellington, to my mind Duke Ellington's finest (and finest-sounding) album, on vinyl. Now Chad Kassem of Analogue Sounds has done it, and his QRP pressing is the jaw-dropper of the year...
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Nov 30, 2014 1 comments
Frank Kimbrough is a protean artist; his voices are myriad, adaptable to the occasion, as a musician, bandleader, sideman, and composer. His new CD, Quartet (on the Palmetto label), is his first album as the leader of a foursome. (The other albums under his name have been solos, duets, or trios), and it's among his most inventive.

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