Jazz SACD review thread

Discussion in 'Music' started by Mike Broadman, Oct 4, 2003.

  1. Mike Broadman

    Mike Broadman Producer

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    I don't know about you folks, but it seems like most of my music money lately has been going into the influx of jazz SACDs hitting the market. So I've decided to review them. Why?- because it makes me feel important.

    My modest equipment:
    Speakers: B&W 602s in the front, 601s in the rear
    Receiver amp: NAD T-751
    Player- Sony 555ES (my baby)

    Any requests for jazz SACD reviews are welcome (providing I have the disc, of course).

    Ok, here's my first one:

    John Coltrane- Lush Life

    I bought all of the newly released Fantasy Jazz SACDs, so expect quite a bit about them in this thread,

    Specs: hybrid stereo SACD
    recorded by Rudy Van Gelder in 1957 and 1958
    mastering by Joe Tarantino

    Music:
    The song Lush Life, a classic ballad by Billy Strayhorn, is the centerpiece of this album. The focus is purely on Coltrane here- this was a chance for 'Trane to strut his stuff coming off a highly fruitful period with Monk and still playing with Miles. The songs are standards and the instrumentation sparse, allowing Coltrane to make or break the album. The first three songs, Like Someone In Love, I Love You, Trane's Solo Blues (the only one written by Coltrane) have only bass and drum accompaniment. Lush Life and I Hear a Rhapsody also have Red Garland playing piano and Lush Life has a solo spot by Donald Byrd.
    The playing is of course strong, with Trane utilising his many tools and techniques. His ballad playing gets the spot light on a couple of the shorter tunes and is its most lyrical in the title track.

    Sound:
    I have the DCC Gold disc, so I compared it to the new SACD and its CD layer.

    DCC Gold: The "warmest" sounding of the bunch. Very sweet and draws the listener in. Excels on the lower end.
    SACD layer: the clearest sounding, with the most "space," especially on the brushes and on the trumpet's high end.
    CD layer: the most brittle and unpleasant of the three, not surprisingly

    Overall, I prefer the SACD due its clarity and liveliness of sound. However, I'm sure many will stick to the DCC with its signature vinyl-like sound.

    By the way, I am selling the DCC, so PM me if you're interested. I only like to have on copy of an album.
     
  2. DonaldB

    DonaldB Supporting Actor

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    Great idea for a thread, Mike, and thanks for the Coltrane review. Given my listening preferences over the last year, this should certainly prove useful.
     
  3. Mike Broadman

    Mike Broadman Producer

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    Zoot Sims- and the Gershwin Brothers

    Recorded 1975
    Produced by Norman Granz
    Recorded by Bob Simpson

    stereo hybrid SACD

    Zoot Sims- tenor sax
    Oscar Peterson- piano
    Joe Pass- guitar
    George Mraz- bass
    Grady Tate- drums

    tracklist:
    The Man I Love
    How Long Has This Been Going On?
    Oh Lady, Be Good
    I've Got a Crush On You
    'S Wonderful
    Someone to Watch Over Me
    Isn't It a Pity
    Summertime
    They Can't Take That Away From Me


    The Music: It is what it says- Zoot Smms playing the music of George and Ira Gershwin.
    Zoot is one of those players you can't help but love (like Lester Young)- real smooth tone with a lot of personality, always a lot of swing, and delightful melodies. He could have played for Basie.
    So the material is perfect- the Gershwins' classics are given the golden treatment by Zoot. The hot numbers are jumpin' and the ballads are sweet. And of course you get the added bonus of Oscar Peterson, one of the most fun accompaniests, tickling the ivories.

    The sound: The way Zoot's sax was presented would be the make or break issue of this recording. I'm pleased to say that it passed muster. The sax is given the space it needs to shine, drawing the listener into the music, which is what this format is supposed to do.

    However, after listening to 2.5 of these Fantasy SACDs (I'm in the middle of the Gil Evans disc now), it seems to me the sound may be a little bright for some audiophiles' taste. It's not too bright and I happen to like it, but I'm a child of the CD age. I don't know how someone coming from a vinyl listening history will take to them. My advice if you have the record or one of those fancy CDs of any of these albums is to keep them until you've heard these.
     
  4. Mike Broadman

    Mike Broadman Producer

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    Gary Burton- Like Minds

    multi-channel / stereo hybrid SACD

    Gary Burton- vibes
    Chick Corea- piano
    Pat Metheny- guitar
    Dave Holland- bass
    Roy Haynes- drums


    The music: Look at those names. Each are the best at their respective instruments. So, yeah, the music is good. Real good.
    All the songs but one are originals by the band members. The solos are somewhat concise and the whole thing flows real well, almost like a regular working band, and many of these songs were only played once or twice.
    So even if you don't get the SACD, at least get the CD.

    The sound: The drum sound on this disc shines, doing justice to Haynes' slick playing. The multi-channel mix is not too aggressive- in fact, I would like it to have been a bit more. There are some really cool passages where Burton's vibes fill up the right side of the listening space. This is an instrument that is served well by multi-channel.

    But the real star of this disc is the music itself. Very highly recommended.
     
  5. LarryDavenport

    LarryDavenport Cinematographer

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    Though they are kind of expensive, I recommend Miles Davis' Cookin' on Analogue Productions and Steamin' on MOFI, especially if you dig Coltrane. Relaxin' is supposed to come out on Fantasy in February 2004.
     
  6. Mike Broadman

    Mike Broadman Producer

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    I second those recommendations.

    I still have a stack of new jazz SACDs waiting to be listened to, but they're competing with the new Dylan SACDs.

    So much music, so little time...
     
  7. Mike Broadman

    Mike Broadman Producer

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    Bill Evans- Portrait in Jazz

    hybrid SACD
    Fantasy

    Bill Evans- piano
    Scott LaFaro- bass
    Paul Motian- drums

    If I have both some SACDs and regular CDs of an artist, I tend to gravitate toward the high-res titles when choosing to listen to that artist. Up until now, 3 of the 4 Bill Evans titles in my collection were SACDs, all from Analogue Productions: Sunday Night at the Village Vanguard, Waltz For Debby, and Moonbeams. Finally, Portrait in Jazz can be added to the ranks. I had the k-20 remastered CD from Prestige.

    The music:
    This is simply one of the most crucial recordings of trio jazz. Arguably the most important jazz trio of modern jazz, along with Oscar Peterson and Monk's early recordings, they redefined the dynamics of trio playing and expanded its vocabulary. Evans' harmonic invention and lyricism, LaFaro's prodigy-like virtuosity, and Motian's melodically sympathetic style were launched with this recording after Evans' head-turning stint with Miles on Kind of Blue.

    The songs are all standards except one Evans original. They also do Miles' Blue in Green.

    My one complaint is that they chose to arrange the songs the same way as the K-20 CD, with the alternate versions in the middle of the album, so that both versions of Autumn Leaves and Blue in Green are next to each other. I prefer having the alternates at the end, the way AP does it.

    By the way, for a textbook example of what Evans can do with a song, check out When I Fall In Love. Break out the music theary textbooks for that one.

    The sound:

    Overall, I would qualify the SACD layer as very solid but not stellar. It's a clear improvement over the CD, with more clarity and space as one would expect in an SACD. So it's worth the upgrade. It seems a tad bright on the high end at times, like when Evans hits those real high notes on the piano. But the shimmering hi-hats and rounder bass tone when compared to the CD is consistently superior.

    I also compared the CD layer to the K-20 CD and they sound exactly the same to me. So you lose nothing by replacing it.

    Overall, I would say if you're tight on $$ and already have the K-20, you can hold out on this one. But if you have only the original CD, this is what you upgrade to (barring vinyl). And if you don't have any copy of this album- shame on you! Get the SACD.
     
  8. Mike Broadman

    Mike Broadman Producer

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    LA4- Just Friends

    hiybrid stereo SACD
    label: Groove Note

    Laurindo Almeida- guitar
    Ray Brown- bass
    Jeff Hamilton- drums
    Bud Shank- alto sax


    This is one of those titles that probably would not have captured my interest if it wasn't on SACD. Boy, am I glad it did.

    The music: As the title implies, the idea of this session is simply that of 4 old buddies jamming. This gives it that special element of playfulness that's found in the most exuberant jazz performances.
    Besides their excellent playing, the musical highlight for me is the arrangements. They do all covers, but present them in charming ways.
    Some highlights include the first tune, Nouveau Bach, a jazzed-up jam of JS Bach's Prelude in C Minor. Jazz musicians have always enjoyed playing and playing with Bach, much to my delight.
    Love Medley- a funky arrangement of Love for Sale and Love Walked In. Brown fans will delight at Ray going all out.
    The album closes with Chick Corea's Spain, one of my favorite songs.

    The sound: Sounds very nice- full body, nice texture (darn, looks like I'm describing a beer).
    The guitar especially sounds sweet. Just keep in mind that this is a legacy recording (1979), so it's not a demo disc.

    Recommended. A strange but pleasant entry in the SACD catalogue.
     
  9. Mike Broadman

    Mike Broadman Producer

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    Vince Guaraldi- A Charlie Brown Christmas

    Music: the soundtrack for the Peanuts Christmas movie which propelled Guaraldi into jazz stardom. Tasteful, simple tio music with children singing on a couple of tracks. Instantly recongnizabel to anyone. Also a good jazz "starter" for non-jazz fans.

    Sound: Easily the best sounding of the Fantasy Jazz SACDs so far. I didn't even have it loud and I could hear the warmth, space, and all that other good stuff found on quality SACDs. Maybe the master tapes were in particularly good shape or something, but this sounds fantastic by any standard without having to qualify it with "for its time" or some such.

    This gets my highest recommendation.
     
  10. Ron Reda

    Ron Reda Cinematographer

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    Mike,

    Thanks for the reviews...they are very helpful! I was reluctant to pick up some of these titles on SACD until I read some reviews first regarding the sound quality. So far I have picked up "Lush Life" and "A Charlie Brown Christmas". Next on my list will be LA4's "Just Friends" and Bill Evans' "Portrait In Jazz".
     
  11. Ron Reda

    Ron Reda Cinematographer

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    I finally picked up Art Pepper "Meets The Rhythm Section" and Miles' "Cookin'" and was able to listen to them this past weekend along with Thelonious Monk's "5 By Monk By 5". Wow, I was in jazz heaven! I only checked out the CD layer (I was listening on my secondary system), but all three sounded excellent. I particularly enjoyed the Art Pepper disc. That is one bopping CD! It got me tapping my foot in no time. Can't wait to listen to the SACD layer. I also thoroughly enjoyed "Cookin'" despite it's short running time. Track 4 "Airegin" was easily my favorite off this disc. Miles' solos are just killer on this tune. I highly recommend all three!
     
  12. Mike Broadman

    Mike Broadman Producer

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    Ron, you got some winners there.

    I think you'll be as pleasantly surprised as I was with LA4- a little known title that is really a lot of fun.

    Portrait in Jazz is by far my favorite Evans disc- he absolutely shines live.

    Cookin' is a classic, and while I prefer his later stuff compositionally, Miles' playing was at his best in the mid-to-late 50s, IMO.

    I got a few things from elusivedisc last night and listened to Art Pepper's "come back" New York album, which has interesting versions of Straight, No Chaser and A Night in Tunsia, as well as an unaccompanied sax tune and a duet with my favorite non-Mingus bass player, Ron Carter. Required listening for Pepper fans.

    I also got the Evans/Cannonball disc from Fantasy (have the K-20 CD, so am familiar with the music), Quintet at Massey Hall (ditto), CCR's Pendulum, and Issaac Hayes' Shaft!
     
  13. Ron Reda

    Ron Reda Cinematographer

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    Mike,

    If you like LA4, you definitely need to check out "Pavane Pour Une Infanto". I believe it's only available as an import and will set you back around approx. $30, but man is it excellent both sonically (Japanese 24-bit/96kHz) and musically. It's got a great version of "Autumn Leaves" and "Corcovado" is amazing. Check it out here:

    http://www.cduniverse.com/productinf...27&style=music

    Agreed, after hearing "Rhythm Section" and already enjoying "Intensity" consider me a AP fan! It's gonna be tough (and expensive) though...I use All Music Guide as a reference and most of his stuff gets 4-5 stars!

    In my typical pre-paycheck frenzy, I ordered Cannonball's "Know What I Mean", Sonny Rollins' "Saxophone Collosus" and "Way Out West". I can wait to check out the last two...I can't believe it's taken me this long to finally pick them up.
     
  14. Lewis Besze

    Lewis Besze Producer

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    Mike thanks for doing this thread. I'm currently "investigating" some of those titles for purchase.
    Keep 'em coming![​IMG]
     
  15. Mike Broadman

    Mike Broadman Producer

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    Ron, that disc looks interesting. I'm still neck-deep in domestic releases before I get into imports (and there are some nice Miles ones to import...)

    Lewis, let us know what you think of this stuff.

    Michel Camilo's SACDs have been in heavy rotation in my player lately. Forgetting about sound, the music is just stellar. Along with Dave Holland, this is my favorite current jazz music. Camilo's musical vocabulary, involving Latin, straight bop, a background in orchestral and film, all coming together with a great band and lots of energy.

    Triangulo and a double-live from the Blue Note are on MC hybrid SACDs. These get my very highest recommendation, which is rare for a current recording (my brain is usually stuck in the 50s and 60s). The sound is awesome. Don't have my MC rig setup so can't listen to the surround track, but I've always liked Telarc's mixes.
     

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