Got my new batch of Fantasy jazz SACDs. Here's my quick lowdown on what I'm hearing (I have thus far listened to the SACD layer on all of them once). Four of the titles feature music I'm familiar with: 1. Thelonious Monk- Monk's Musi 2. Sonny Rollins- The Sound of Sonny 3. The Modern Jazz Quartet- Django 4. Vince Guaraldi Trio- A Boy Named Charlie Brown The Monk and MJQ albums are essential jazz albums. As a huge Monk fan I was thrilled that this was coming out. It's my favorite of Monk's pre-Columbia material, featuring John Coltrane and Coleman Hawkins as soloists. Unfortunately, Django is the only MJQ album I own for now. Sonically I can only compare them to the K-20 CD masters and they are improvements. This is more noticeable to me on Django, where Milts' vibes ring out real pretty. Fantasy SACD's biggest weakness to me has been drums and it hasn't gotten better since their last batch of releases. YMMV, of course, but I've heard better on other labels. Monk's Music has less of a noticeable improvement sonically and I wouldn't consider the SACD to be essential if you already have a good sounding version. The Charlie Brown CD is the soundtrack to the first animated CB film. It's also the 2nd set of CB music released by Fantasy (the first was A Charlie Brown Christmas). This is pretty much the same thing musically and sonically and even seems to repeat some of the music. I happen to find this album a more pleasant listen. The sound is real nice here (though I don't have any other recordings to compare it to). Sound of Sonny is a great album of pop tunes and standards performed in his whimsical style at the time. I have the DCC gold CD and comparing the two on a couple of tracks, I feel the DCC is more inviting listen but cannot compare in terms of fidelity. Like John Coltrane's Lush Life, I relish having both the Fantasy SACD and the DCC gold as two excellent but different ways to get to this fine music. The rest of the titles were new to me. 5. Cannonball Adderley w/ Milt Jackson- Things Are Getting Better Given their reputations outside of the jazzbos, this would seem like an odd pairing. But the fans know that Cannonball was much more diverse than the "soul-jazz" rep he garnered while playing with his brother Nat, and Milt is a true artist and wasn't beholden strictly to the Modern Jazz Quartet's elegant but sometimes uptight arrangements. Milt's collaborations with Miles Davis, Wes Montgomery, Ray Brown, et al are always a joy and this is no different. The two complement each other superbly. As on Django, SACD is very good to the sound of the vibes. 6. Chet Baker in New York This is actually my first time listening to Chet (the idea of a white singing pop star playing jazz kind of turned me off, at least from spending money on his music over the hard-hitting east coast type soun that really moves me) and it's very nice. It doesn't hurt that the band on this date is fantastic (Paul Chambers, Philly Joe Jones, Al Haig, Johny Griffin- with that rhythm section, you could put a kazoo player over it and I'd love it). Chet's playing is melodic and solid with a beatiful tone, if not very powerful or impressive. The high end seems to come out better sonically than the bottom. 7. Merl Saunders & Jerry Garcia- Live at Keystone vol 1 I've never heard of this title before or consciously been aware of Merl Saunders' work, though given his impressive credits (Bonnie Raitt, BB King, Frank Sinatra, etc) I know I listen to him play. This album includes music culled from a live performance (the rest is available on other releases) and includes two Dylan covers: "Positively 4th St" and "It Takes a Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry" which are given sensitive arrangements and restrained but passionate vocal performances by Garcia. I've just started getting into the Dead so this makes a nice addition to my listening rotation. They also do Jimmy Cliff's famous ska number The Harder They Come which doesn't do much for me (rock guys doing reggae is usually a dissappointment to me). The originals include some jamming and sonic excursions that vary between real tasty and kinda pointless, so Dead fans should dig this. 8. The Wes Montgomer Trio The guitar legend's first recording as a leader. The date is with an organ player and a drummer. The sparse sound is real mellow and pretty. The songs and playing are very restrained compared to the explosive guitar work he'd show off soon after when set up with more seasoned musicians. Not his best (this would be stuff like Full House or Incredible Jazz Guitar) but certainly better than his late work. For Wes fans like myself, a revelatory insight into his development as a player and musician. His trademark techniques are there (octaves, block chords) but not yet fully pumped up into that total package. On its own it's a nice listen, though, as a late-night groove. While I'm glad Fantasy released this on SACD (if just for the fact that it brought my attention to the album) I can't imagine the format doing much for the organ sound (which is generally a kind of a messy sounding instrument anyway). No complaints on the sound per say, but I just find this an interesting choice for release, especially since Full House, which I consider his best, is still not on SACD (which is really fine with me as my DCC gold is pretty sweet). 9. Isaac Hayes- The Isaac Hayes Movement My first Hayes disc outside of the Shaft soundtrack (also on SACD from Fantasy)- and I love this! Long extended soul "jams." The album opens with a very long spoken intro by Hayes rambling on about some romantic jibberish over funky music, something that only a man with buttloads of style can pull off. It's so entertaining and so cool when he finally starts singing. The rest of the album is as great, and that includes his version of Something by the Beatles. Sonically, this is a gem. The vocals, the bass- it's probably the nicest sounding disc of the bunch (my perception may be spoiled by the superior work from Analogue Production, MFSL and Sony for jazz titles). 10. Bill Evans Trio- Explorations Scott LaFaro on bass, my favorite of the Evans trios. Unfortunately, my disc was deffective so I'm awaiting another copy. From the few tracks I did hear, this one sounds real pretty and is possibly my favorite sounding of the Fantasy jazz SACDs. I buy these discs for the music but if all their jazz titles sounded like this they would be the premier go-to place for jazz SACD bar none considering their incredible catalog of music available as well as their comparitavely low prices. I love Bill Evan's playing, but sometimes his excessive devotion to ballads can be a little tiring to a guy like me who regularly listens to Monk, Tyner, Silver- guys that really pound it out on the keys. Don't get me wrong- as far as ballad playing goes, he's the tops. But my favorite music of his is when he mixes it up, something he did with this trio, like on the Vanguard live album. Explorations is in that vein but with even more sophisticated ideas involved. So, yeah, this is good stuff... assuming your disc isn't broken.