Robert Baird

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Robert Baird Posted: Jul 10, 2012 1 comments
It is perhaps the most cherished tale from hi-fi's primordial past: In 1951—when 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 Starker—all released with often wildly colorful covers under the still-evocative title of Mercury Living Presence.
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Robert Baird Posted: Jul 05, 2012 2 comments
One of the real coups of Holger Peterson’s Stony Plain Records which is the subject of my Aural Robert column in the July issue of Stereophile was signing the great Canadian blues guitar player Jeff Healy to a deal late in Healy’s too short life to make both blues and jazz albums.
Robert Baird Posted: Jun 28, 2012 Published: Jul 01, 2012 0 comments
Bill Evans: Live at Art D'Lugoff's Top of the Gate
Bill Evans, piano; Eddie Gomez, bass; Marty Morrell, drums
Resonance HLP-2012 (2 LPs/2 CDs, HDTracks 24/44.1k download). 1968/2012. George Klabin, exec. prod., mix, sound restoration; Zev Feldman, prod.; Fran Gala, mix, sound restoration, mastering. ADA/ADD. TT: 49:12/40:50
Performance *****
Sonics * to ***

Complain if you will, analog lovers, about the evils of digital technology, but in one area there isn't a whiff of argument: the esoteric pursuit of rescuing live recordings with marginal sound. Without question, manipulating ones and zeros has cleaned up a lot of nearly unlistenable bootlegs. This bit of buried treasure, while never unlistenable, has been rendered in sound that is, at times, very good. The two-star sonics rating, which may seem shocking for a "Recording of the Month," is an average—while the sound quality rates a single star in the opening, it's nearly up to four stars by Disc 2. The long-ago sounds of these two live sets of the Bill Evans trio playing mostly standards, recorded in a long-gone Greenwich Village club, Top of the Gate (it was literally above the better-known Village Gate jazz club), are, if not the holy grail, then a very gilded cup.

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Robert Baird Posted: Jun 15, 2012 3 comments
If piles upon piles of LPs bring you joy, and you’re within striking distance of Pittsburgh, Pa. this weekend, you need to head for the Pittsburgh Irish Centre on Forward Avenue to check out the first annual Vinylpalooza
Robert Baird Posted: May 29, 2012 2 comments
Krzysztof Penderecki/Jonny Greenwood
Threnody for the victims of Hiroshima, Popcorn Superhet Receiver, Polymorphia, 48 Responses to Polymorphia
Aukso Orchestra, Penderecki, Marek Mos, conductors
Nonesuch 530223-2 (CD) Filip Berkowicz, Michal Merczynski, prods. Barbara Orzechowska, associate prod. Ewa Guziotek-Tubelewicz, Pitor Witkowski, engs. Performance ***** Sonics *****

For the past two decades, the "C" word in classical music— crossover—has been a bone of both hope and contention. Lured by the supposed riches that lurk amongst classical fans who want to slum it and popular music fans with upscale intellectual curiosities, artists from Caruso to Domingo to Joshua Bell have given in this concept in search of a success to mostly disappointing results. And then of course there's humble Gordon Sumner (aka Feyd Rautha Harkonnen) who blithely smeared his meager powers onto the work of poor John Dowland in Songs From the Labyrinth—an apt title if ever there was. In 2010 the great Renee Fleming, no stranger to taking risks and a jazz singer during her college years, dipped her toes, fairly disastrously it turns out, into the classical/rock crossover pool with Dark Hope, a record whose title again seems to carry a less than promising message.

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Robert Baird Posted: May 11, 2012 10 comments
Many if not most of the world’s most admired albums attained their fame slowly. In the case of Exile on Main Street which was released forty years ago on May 12, 1972, it took years for its ragged, bluesy charms to percolate into the collective psyche and eventually emerge as if not the best, then one of the contenders in the Stones catalog.
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Robert Baird Posted: May 04, 2012 3 comments
Just the other evening, a friend, co–worker and fellow old record enthusiast, Brian Laboe, and I were saddled up at our neighborhood watering hole, sipping overpriced craft beer and talking about funk bands from the 70’s which happens to be a passion we share.
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Robert Baird Posted: Mar 30, 2012 5 comments
All true longtime Bruce fans knew deep in their Thunder Road hearts that this day would come...
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Robert Baird Posted: Mar 02, 2012 2 comments
Photos by Mark Sheldon

Last week, I had the honor and the pleasure of interviewing Bill Frisell in front of an audience—in what’s called a “Jazz Conversation,”—at this year’s edition of the Portland Jazz Festival. Held at the Art Bar in the Portland Center for the Performing Arts (PCPA), our chat was podcast by the Oregonmusicnews.com and can be heard here.

Robert Baird Posted: Mar 01, 2012 0 comments
Anthony Wilson: Seasons Anthony Wilson, Steve Cardenas, Julian Lage, Chico Pinheiro, guitars
Goat Hill Recordings 003 (CD/DVD). 2011. Anthony Wilson, prod.; Todd Whitelock, eng.; Damon Whittemore, asst. eng.; Kevin Gray, mastering; George Petit, live sound assistance; Steve Becker, Chris Scarafile, cameras. AAD? TT: 63:35
Performance ****½
Sonics ****½

Halfway into the interview in his management company's offices, as Steve Earle literally squirmed in his seat, I got the distinct impression that he had somewhere else to go, something more important to do. Turned out he was anxious to get to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see the exhibition Guitar Heroes: Legendary Craftsmen from Italy to New York. Suddenly, instead of talking about his career, he was rhapsodizing about the jazz-guitar luthiers—John D'Angelico and James D'Aquisto—whose work was being exhibited, and a display that featured one of the four guitars known to have been made by Antonio Stradivari.

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