Archive for the ‘Traditional Jazz’ Category

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

The Gene Harris/Scott Hamilton Quintet – At Last (Concord)

July 13, 2010

What happens when we join excellent musicians, a memorable label, a perfect recording and a unique moment? It happens a great piece of Jazz art: The Gene Harris/Scott Hamilton Quintet, At Last.
Scott Hamilton and Gene Harris are the main names of this recording. The Scott’s tenor sax always very smooth with a powerful medium low frequency dynamics. On piano, Gene shows his accessible jazz style with a blues and soul touch. Also, Herb Hellis (guitar), with a undistorted timbre, a extremely pleasant sweet sound. Harold Jones plays the drums and, as a great bonus, the bass of Ray Brown always very present on the music.
This is another great Concord’s recording. It was made in 1990, already in the CD Era and, technically perfect. The bass low notes, the medium-lows of the piano and tenor sax and the highs of drum and piano excite all the frequency range of your equipment. I’m a big fan of Concord Records, with an special enthusiasm for that time records.
If you like Jazz, specially those played by great musicians in great moments, picked up by people that know what and how to do, this is a collector item mandatory in any collection.

Thanks
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

Earl “Fatha” Hines – Plays Hits He Missed (M&K Records)

June 2, 2010

We, music listeners and collectors, love to dig out there searching for good records. Sometimes we find a record that is much more than a good record, and this is the case of the work I present to you here.
Earl Hines, was a brilliant American pianist that started his career on the 20’s and had a strong left hand delivering a lot of energy to the music. He is almost an unknown guy nowadays and I hope to contribute to keep his name alive through this review.
When you listen to music recorded here you feel all the energy that Earl was capable of on the piano. In the solo track “Humoresque”, you can listen him playing like for fun (and it makes sense since it is a real time recording, commented in the following lines). The track “Birdland” is a classic standard from Zawinul, known by Weather Report and Jaco Pastorius fans and starts with a perfectly recorded Tuba in the center of the speakers, followed by Bill Douglas drums a Earl Hines keys.
This is a typical album that I don’t get satisfied with having only one version. In the above picture, you see the original cover of the LP from M&K Realtime records.
I owned a unit some years ago. I was looking for some records in the used music stores in my big city and I found a funny guy smiling to me. I was about to ignore it when the word “direct to disc” almost said: “yes, you want me”. I didn’t concern about the music quality (since it was my first contact with this musician) because I knew that there was (and is) high quality inside. When I put it to play in my Thorens turntable with ortofon MC cartridge, I got totally amazed with the quality of the music and also the so important quality recording.
Direct To Disc, in LP, is the technique to capture a live recording, usually inside a studio, and use the direct signal to cut a master disc. It is a totally unprocessed and lossless signal, with extremely high and natural quality.
Earl Hines, when started to record it, was a bit confused about this kind of recording technique. He had to play each side of the record without a break, like if he was in a live show. That’s one of the additional features of this work. You can really feel the liveliness of the session.
After I sold my Thorens turntable, I sold it also for a friend collector, but I started to search out for CD versions, and I found a compilation of 2 M&K Records: For Duke and Earl “Fatha” Hines

This is a very interesting remaster of the original LP version. It was done by the M&K owner Ken Kreisel. This is a very clean reissue and very important since joined two great records in only one.
In my opinion, this is not the best CD version. There is another one, released by Drive Archive:

The former CD here (gold) is very nice and has an incredible sound, but it seems that a filter was applied to minimize some noise from the original master disc and, then, make a more clear sound. For me it also removed some magic and some analog taste from the original issue, that are fully present in the latter CD version I presented (Drive Archive), which is my favorite.
Don’t worry. These differences between the CDs are subtle and you will have true state of the art recording of a great musician playing great musics.

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

Gonzalo Rubalcaba Trio – Diz (Blue Note)

April 19, 2010

Splendid! This is the first word that came to my mind when I started listening (after some years) again to this great Gonzalo Rubalcaba work. The cover is a bit sad, probably in memory of Dizzy Gillespie.
Gonzalo was born in Havana, Cuba and had a very intense musical life and was discovered by Dizzy Gillespie in 1986. Diz… the title of this albums, but, only 4 (of 9 tracks) are related to Dizzy. We can conclude that it is dedicated to Dizzy Gillespie, despite that.
Right after the first second of the first track, I realized that I was going to listen a real dense jazz work. I really heard that. Ron Carter at the bass started the first notes with a very precise and present walking. I have not comments about him and this name says everything by itself. At the drums, Julio Barreto doing everything you can imagine. Gonzalo has a very peculiar style in this album. He re-wrote completely all the standards and some tracks are unrecognizable, but still pretty. He is a true piano genius.
The recording quality is astonishing. The stage is very deep and airy. All the instruments are very well captured and have a perfect tonal balance. The piano timbre is very smooth at the left position. The bass at the center and the drums through the entire stage. It was recoded at McClear Pathé, Toronto 1993.

As a curious person, I decided to search information about this studio on Internet and found this web site: http://www.mcclear.com. The information I got is that it was closed in 2005 and this is a memorial site. That’s really also sad. The pictures show a very nice place with very nice people that produced very nice recordings.
I would like to dedicate this post to this great place and I hope everyone from McClear can continue working with the same quality as they did in the Diz album.

best regards
Leonardo

Jessica Williams – Gratitude (Candid Records)

April 2, 2010

It is late at the night. I have just finalized a full listening session of this record. I don’t want to wait one or more days to write my impressions about it. It is fresh in my ears and this woman and this record deserves much more than the time I’ll spend here.
Jessica Williams is essentially a solo pianist. The reasons for that are explained in this album’s liner notes (by herself) and I suggest you to take a look on it. She is a true musician a has all my respect.
This record was in my wish list for some years and I confess that I didn’t expect so much. Someone told me in the past that J.William’s records plays very nice in our special stereo systems and I decided to try this one. What happened is that I knew a great musician that, for our luck, has many well recorded albums.
What impressed my here is the way Jessica explores the piano. From bass notes to treble, she keeps swinging. Very creative always doing new variations, new patterns and rhythms track by track. Each song has something new and you will be amazed with the dynamics she imposes to the keys. In music Justice she plays the harmony with the right hand and the solo with the left hand (she has inverted the conventional way, I was just wondering if she inverted the hands too).
This is a near-piano recording. It means that the piano seems to be near you and not far, like a big concert hall. The bass notes are in the left side (not at the left speaker) and goes to the right as the scales are increasing. It means that you have a complete piano keyboard in front of you, from left to right. You can follow each note, each harmonic in its own physical position. This recording is great to test how you stereo system manage the left hand piano, that should be extremely clear and separate, never mixing. The piano percussion dynamics are also great, mainly at the lower notes. Jessica uses a lot of harmony in the low register of the piano. It can lead to a lack of intelligibility, both live and at your home stereo, but that’s not the case here, absolutely.

Thank you
Leonardo

The Ray Brown Trio – Soular Energy (Concord)

March 29, 2010

This work was originally released by Concord Records, in LP. The original Concord LPs are true relics and I already owned many of them, but ended up selling everything when I sold my Thorens turntable.
I really like this LP series released by Concord in 70-80’s. Whenever I found one in the used LP stores nearby I got it without asking for any discounts. They always played very well here. It is a company that always concern about the artists selection and, fortunately, about the way the music is presented: great recordings and masterings. When put to play in hi-fi stereo systems, they allow us to enjoy all the musicians performance, without losing any detail.
Ray Brown was a bass player that had a very intense Jazz life. He was married to Ella Fitzgerald, was member of Oscar Peterson band, was one of the L.A. Four, and others…
As I already wrote above, this recording follows the Concord quality standard, but I can say it is some steps above the expected, becoming a true piece of music (when art and recording are great, we got a true musical piece of art).
It was trio that knew how to choose the tracks. The Ray Brown bass is very well captured and we are able to listen all the notes and intentions perfectly. Therefore, the main highlight of this album is the great pianist Gene Harris.
The classic Take the “A” Train is played down-tempo, very different of its original pace. In Mistreated But Undefeated Blues track, the pianist used the left hand with pleasant energy (few audio systems can reveal that) and, finally, Sweet Georgia Brown, other great standard beautifully presented here, mostly by the bass notes of Ray Brown.

Best wishes
Leonardo