Archive for the ‘Contemporary Jazz’ Category

Marcus Miller – Marcus (Concord Jazz)

January 26, 2012

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Once upon a time, good years ago, I was in a meeting with some audio friends. I was talking to my friend David (a great audio designer) about low frequency speakers (also known as sub-woofers). In that occasion, I told him that I wish I had an amp-speaker combination which would result in deep and precise bass. David looked at me a said: Everyone wants to have that.

In fact, what I wanted was simple: Frequency response with low reverb time for low frequencies. I was only able to know what I really wanted some time later.
At the time, I was a certain that the secret lied on amplifiers and speakers but, in fact, they are a percentage of that (probably a small percentage for those who always use good electronics and speakers).
Every ordinary room has a reverberation time much higher than mids and highs. Bass instruments (like acoustic bass) has a heavy load of higher harmonics in medium and high frequency range and they are the elements that define the instrument position on the stereo image. We usually end up taking the low response of our systems as good, not because they are really good, but because the instrument higher harmonics cause a fake low reverb time for bass. In this case, we have an undefined bass masked as defined.

There is no point having the best amplifier and the best speaker if the reverb time of B tone (around 60Hz) is 0.5 seconds. Any semi-quaver bass phrase will sound mediocre. Besides that, the upper harmonics will mislead you to think that you have indeed a good bass. After all, you spent a lot of money in your system.

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This Marcus Miller’s work reflects what I explained above quite well. He is a very required musician. Wanted by many other artists for recording sessions and still has few solo albums.
He mixes several styles like jazz, pop, hip hop, vocal, instrumental, etc. Plays with energy using slap almost all the time, resulting a deep bass loaded with upper harmonics.
The result of listening in regular rooms is satisfactory, but enjoying it in acoustically treated rooms is much more comfortable because we are clearly able to perceive each tone chaining played by him.

Thank you
Leonardo

Scott Kinsey – Kinesthetics (Abstract Logix)

January 23, 2012

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Scott Kinsey is a very skilled keyboardist/pianist, both in creative and technical areas and, his appearance here has a specific reason. I have already written about Gary Willis and the relation between them is that both are members of Tribal Tech, one of my favorite contemporary jazz bands.

I have always enjoyed this band. The compositions explores rhythms, harmonies and unusual melodies. This is very suitable for people like me, who constantly look for high quality original music and, of course, having a nice recording quality.

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The Tribal Tech’s guitar, Scott Henderson, has already made a concert in my country (Brazil), on SESI theater and I was present there, me and my wife. To be honest, I didn’t like the event, tougth the musics too heavy for my taste, quite different from what I’m used to listen at home.
While listening this Scott Kinsey’s work and, being familiar with other albums from Gary Willis, I concluded that those two guys are the big names behind Tribal Tech’s geniality.
It is also interesting to listen this album knowing the meaning of “kinesthetics”: the esthetics of movement. Scott tried to use predefined themes and lots of improvisations. On top of that, put a richness of textures, percussions, harmonies and uncommon melodies, resulting in a fluid sound with a lot of aesthetic information.

Not limited to extreme creativity, he is a nice producer and knows music recording very well, showing us that he knows what high fidelity is.
It is a technical album, artistic as well, creating lots of movements, with extreme beauty.

Abra├žos
Leonardo

Anthony Wilson Nonet – Power of Nine (Groove Note)

July 6, 2011

I decided to have all CDs from this sophisticated musician after listening the first one presented here months ago. This is the third Anthony’s album to be added to this blog.
When I bought it, I was expecting to receive one more Anthony Wilson Trio formation, but I didn’t realize that this specifically is Anthony Wilson Nonet, so, has 9 members (although, despite Diana Krall appearance, I counted 10) and is named Power of Nine.

The key difference between this work and the others presented here before is the brass section: Baritone Sax, Trombone, Tenor Sax, Alto Sax, Soprano Sax and Trumpet. They form a very smooth background, despite the fact that it could seems the opposite before listening the tracks. The individual solos are also very nice, with special highlights to the baritone sax.
When I started listening, I surprised the style applied, seemed more predictable. My mistake. While listening track by track (I always put the entire CD to play, catching all the work flow) I realized that this is a very intriguing album: rich, complex, some melancholic touches, chaotic, progressive and dissonance. It is very different from other Anthony Wilson’s Trio albums, which are more melodic. This is not a easy to listen work, but it has very high levels of genius and creativity.
The recording quality is also brilliant, Groove Note high-level quality. Each brass in its place, allowing us to figure the distance that separates each instrument.

The same way I have counted one more musician, I counted one more music, track 12 (Bird in a Basket), excellent by the way, probably a hidden bonus, recorded but not listed. Finally, music 11, Power of Nine, where we are able to see the real power… of nine.

thank you
Leonardo

Di Meola plays Piazzolla (Bluemoon Records)

April 25, 2011

I have been to Buenos Aires in 2010 for vacation and near the hotel there was an avenue with many CD shops. I spent almost one day digging good stuff there and this album is a result of that. When I found this CD two things caught my attention: It’s an Al Di Meola work and it’s from Bluemoon records. I already have some records from this company and they are really good.
Many countries have its own music icons. Brazil has Tom Jobin and Villa Lobos. Argentina has Astor Piazzolla (among others, for both countries, of course). I listened to this CD recently, after deciding to listen my entire collection in alphabetical order. I like to do that because we end up re-discovering goods things that were hidden for long time.

This is a very easy to listen work. The guitar, the accordion and the classical guitar combination provides a very soft timbre allowing us to increase the volume. Despite the fact that this record is made basically by three instruments, with a few percussion in some tracks, when I started the audition I thought that I would listen only two or three musics, skipping some to avoid a possible sleepiness. Far away from that, I listened this work end-to-end, each chord, totally focused on the Piazzolla’s music richness translated by Al Di Meola.

The tracks 4, 7 and 9 are my favorites. The last two has a superb recording quality and 4 (Tango Suite part II) shows the Di Meola’s contemporary fusionism. In track 9 (Milonga Del Angel), he plays a solo guitar showing us why he left the electric guitar for a while.

Thank you
Leonardo

David Benoit – Here’s to you, Charlie Brown (GRP)

August 21, 2010

A long time ago, when I still used to watch TV cartoons, Peanuts was one of my favorites and the some of the reasons for that were the Schroeder playing Beethoven in his tiny piano and the soundtrack, a good jazz (although I didn’t know it at that time).
Sometimes ago, while researching some CD titles at CD Universe, I was watching David Benoit’s discography and I found some interesting items related to this subject. One of them is the one I present to you now, Here’s to You, Charlie Brown.
It is basically a work with Vince Guaraldi’s compositions that were written exclusively for the TV animated version, all of them in jazz style. David Benoit was also responsible for some of the soundtrack compositions, that’s the reason for the influence.

The tracks are beautifully performed by the high profile musicians. It is a CD to listen without skipping any track.
I confess here that some points caught my attention for this album, even without listening to it: It is a David Benoit work, it is from GRP, is produced by Tommy LiPuma and recorded/mixed by Bill Schnee.
Those parameters are far enough for me (and for some friends). While waitting this CD to arrive here, I was hoping that the responsible for the mastering was Doug Sax (Mastering Lab owner). Why? First because if this album is GRP, produced by T.LiPuma and recoded by Bill Schnee, the chance to have Doug Sax in crew is very high. Second, if the team is complete, the chance to be a great amazing high quality recording is also very high!
When I opened the liner notes and technical description, I could see Mastered by Doug Sax at Mastering Lab, exactly as I predicted.

The most interesting happened when I put the CD to play for the first time. The first track, Linus and Lucy, begins with the original version from the original tape, with a bad quality. It scared me. I thought that the entire CD would be like that, what would go against my stats explained above. After some seconds playing, a different piano tries to take place at the right channel. Finally, after a break, the band comes with its fullness, showing what Bill Schnee and Doug Sax are capable of. I got completely jaw-dropped and had to push the pause button and wait some instants to come back to the reality. For sure that was a trick from them to us. We, lucky guys that like to enjoy music in hi-fi equipment.
I read some reviews about this work, they are official reviews with critics to the use of the original tape (necrophilia? come on…). It’s clear that these people have limited reviewing capacity. They couldn’t interpret the message, after all, the musicians are not the only that do the art. That’s something I always say.
Do you believe that, after this review, you can leave your collection without this title?

Thank you!
Leonardo

John Pizzarelli – Knowing You (Telarc)

June 14, 2010

I always enjoyed John Pizzarelli music for the following reasons: He plays a lot guitar, is a scat singing master (sings the guitar solo at the same time), choose always a very good music set and has a Class A pianist: Ray Kennedy.
Sometimes ago, after buying my last Pizzarelli’s CD, I was certain that I had enough records of this musician and that I wouldn’t purchase more titles anymore.
I guess I listened this CD only once, some years ago, being idle in my collection since then.
In this meantime, I changed my stereo system around 2 times and never put it back to play.
Last week, I grabbed it back and put to play. I got totally amazed with the high quality of the recording. It is a jaw-dropping DSD-CD.
Put this CD to play in your system. If you don’t think it has a superb recording quality, it means that there is something wrong with your system or room.
He plays extremely pleasant musics, romantic style and also swinging tracks, with his humor touches too. Plays known standards (and unknown too).
After listening 2 times in a row, I decided that this is not going to be my last John Pizzarelli CD, at all. I’m already updating my wish-list with more titles, Telarc DSD preferably.

See also: John Pizzarelli – PS Mr. Cole – Rca Victor

Thank you
Leonardo

Lee Ritenour – Wes Bound (GRP)

May 18, 2010

I was influenced by Smoke and Mirrors, which is a great album and, after listening some samples, I ordered one copy of Lee Ritenour’s Wes Bound.
I always listen to all the internet samples before deciding to order a CD. The samples of Wes Bound promised that it would be a very good item for my collection.
It is dedicated to jazz-guitar legend Wes Montgomery, one of the Lee Ritenour’s influences. He plays some Wes tracks and also own music, including “New Day” which is, for me, the best song in this work.
In my opinion, one of the best Lee Ritenour’s albums. Great music in a very good GRP recording quality.

The Anthony Wilson Trio – Jack of Hearts (Groove Note)

May 10, 2010

This is my second Anthony’s album. The other is Our Gang, which was already commented here and which I like a lot. They are both extremes of Anthony Wilson presence at Groove Note.
When I listened a sample of this work in CD Universe, I listened only the first track Mezcal. This track has an interesting joy rithm and made me order one copy of Jack Of Hearts CD.
I was expecting something similar do Our Gang and, it is oddly very similar and quite different, at the same time.
One similarity is that we have a guitar-drum-organ trio. Guitar (Anthony Wilson), Drums (Jeff Hamilton and Jim Keltner) and Organ (Larry Goldings). This organist adds a very intense and seasoned timbre to the album. I enjoyed a lot his work here.

The main difference between Jack of Hearts and Our Gang is the music style. Our Gang is more bebop oriented, which is absolutely not the case in this new record. Jack of Hearts has a post-bop atmosphere. More ongoing rhythms, sometimes bluesy sometimes psychedelic. There was a real change in the 8 years between the two records.
Another similarity is the recording quality. Groove Note is already a safe hifi quality label for me. Very nice drum pickup and extremely well tonal balance.
There are other 2 Groove Notes releases: Savivity and Power of Nine, already in my wish-list and hope to get them soon.

thank you
Leonardo

Geral Veasley – Velvet (Heads Up)

May 1, 2010

Geral Veasley is an excellent American bassist influenced by Jaco Pastorius and Stanley Clarke.
In the early 90’s he signed with Heads Up International and released good records so far. Velvet is one of them.
As the name itself suggests, Velvet is a work with smooth and soft musics. With a funky-jazz-soul style he shows a very solid creativity. He is able to create original forms, always with the bass in evidence.
My favorite tracks are Put your Sunday clothes, Bread Puddin’ and Home.
The recording quality of the Heads Up releases are always very good. Velvet is not different. A very safe HiFi album.

I have already written in other posts that bass players, when decides for a solo career, usually do the right thing. The bass, which is a rhythmic instrument (since it depends closely on the drums), when is the main spot of an album, shall reveal exactly that: rhythm. Probably that’s the reason why it is important that the bassist show up more. Have you ever wondered how the modern jazz would be without guys like Jaco, Stanley Clarke and others?

Best wishes
Leonardo

Spyro Gyra – Wrapped in a Dream (Heads Up)

March 25, 2010

I’ve been planning a review of this record in the last five days, after some listening sessions and some adjustments to my hifi stereo.
When I met Spyro Gyra for the first time, some years ago, I was listening to “Breakout” in a standard LP version, and I enjoyed it a lot. The band occupied a good place in my collection since then.
Something happened in the last times, while listening to “Modern Times” and “Original Cinema”. I realized that the band was a kind of modern jazz industry by itself. So many records and so many tracks, with many common aspects between them. Jay Beckenstein always soloing its alto sax, very perfect music, with very perfect melodies and compositions, always very smooth and well synchronized. What is that? Art or commercial music? I started to read about Spyro Gyra and found that this band is very criticized about being a commercial-focused band.

The fact is that Spyro Gyra has an extensive list of records and a maze of materials to explore. I just found that they have records from GRP, which is one of my favorite record labels and they sounds very nice in my sound system. For sure I’m aiming these and will start doing some research on them soon.
Wrapped in a Dream is a must-have album for those who like good modern jazz music with superb recording quality. This record has some features that makes it a bit different and innovative, at least comparing with other recent albums. Has some Spanish touches and the track “Impressions Of Madrid” and “Walkin’ Home” are my favorite.
Despite the critics, I have a lot of fun listening to this album, and that’s what matters.

Leonardo