Latin Jazz Trio Luis Conte - Percussion Dave Garfield - Piano David Carpenter - Bass AIX Records DVD Audio For those who ain't hip with AIX, here's the deal: the music they release is all brand new recordings created especially for their DVD-A discs. Why? Because to get the most out of a high resolution music format, one must initially record it in said high resolution. This means that as much fun as we derive from our Queen and Metallica DVD-As, they are inherently limited sonically. AIX shclepps in musicians for a recording session, places scores of microphones all over the place, records it at 96/24 (so that the eventual DVD-A disc has no compression or other sound warping algorithms at all- pure sound as it was recorded), and video tapes the whole thing. Although they are done on a stage, there is no audience. This isn’t a concert that you’re getting- it’s music played specifically and only for the disc. This is important to remember when checking out the various sound mixes. The disc is double-sided. The features will be listed as I describe how I listened to it: 1. Stereo mix First I popped in the “blue” DVD-V side. All the content on this side can be played on any DVD player. Note: because this side isn’t DVD-A, you don’t get the high-res soundtrack here. I listened to the stereo track to get acquainted with the music. I wanted to focus only on the music without going all "ooh” and “aah” over the fancy schmancy soundtrack (yet). The stereo track is 96/24. Note that not all stereo tracks on DVD-As are playable on DVD-V machines, as it depends whether or not they’re MLP encoded. I personally don’t care since I have a DVD-A machine, but it’s something to consider for some people. It just so happens that non-DVD-A capable folks can enjoy the high-res stereo track on this disc. The music: Well, Latin Jazz indeed. Many people, when they think of Latin Jazz, think of big bands, bold brass, lots of drums, etc. However, jazz aficionados understand that the relationship between Latin music and American jazz is more complex and intimate. Any melding of two musical styles will naturally feature more emphasis on one influence over the other, depending on the musicians. For example, with rock and jazz, bands like Earth, Wind and Fire or Chicago are rock with some jazz flavor, while Pat Metheny and Return To Forever is jazz music with some rock bits thrown in. Dizzy Gillespie was, of course, a jazz musician first but who incorporated Latin sounds, as Cal Tjader did, while Tito Puente and Paquito D’Rivera come more from a Latin perspective which they infuse with jazz. Given the music they’re playing and very small instrumentation, I definitely felt like I was listening to a jazz band. However, the percussionist was obviously coming from a Latin music background, so that aspect of the music was very authentic. He plays a variety of percussive instruments and often takes the position of the lead voice in the trio. The bass player’s strength lies in his lyrical command and tasteful solos while holding his own with the busy playing of the other two musicians. Amusingly, the piano player often took the position of the musical anchor in the band, repeating riffs and themes in a trance-like fashion while the rhythm guys jam over it. Those were my favorite bits of the disc. The first and last tracks bookend the program with catchy, burning jams, the kind of stuff you bob your head to. They do a delightful cover of Horace Silver’s “Song For My Father” (one of my favorites). The simple, catchy melodic them of the tune is a perfect vehicle for Conte’s percussive acrobatics. Except for this tune, all the songs were written by members of the band. The third tune is a particularly lovely ballad (sorry, I don’t have the track names in front of me). The second track is very reminiscent of Puente. At their best, the songs are new but feel very familiar to someone who listens to this kind of music. 2. Stage mix Also included on the DVD-V side are two surround mixes. The Dolby Digital track is called the “audience” mix, which mimics the experience of sitting in the audience with the musicians in front of you. The DTS track is the “stage” mix, which puts you in the middle of the jam. This disc also provides you with the ability to see the performance on screen while you listen to either of these. My second listen was the DTS track with the performance on screen. The piano is featured on the left rear, left front, and center channels; the percussion on right rear and right front; the bass on the right front, center, and sub. While this may sound odd, it fits very well with the visuals of the performance- that is, you can see Garfield looking to his right at Conte, with Carpenter behind them. When the camera cuts from one musician to another, it’s kind of like turning around while you’re on the stage in the middle of them (except the sound doesn’t change). To me, seeing a performance enhances the musical experience a little bit, which is why I’m a sucker for buying concerts on DVD. In this case it’s cool because you get to see all the neat percussion, like congas, timbales, various stick dealys, hitting cymbals with bare hands on the first track, and a neat shaking doo-wad on the 6th. (See, this is why you need my reviews, because I’m so informed). You also get to see the comraderie between Conte and Garfield, while Carpenter is struggling to somehow fit in socially while playing his heart out. It’s very… cute. Unfortunately, there is no video for “Song For My Father.” I asked Mark Waldrep about this sort of thing when we discussed the Patrice Rushen disc- basically, there are all sorts of legal issues with video footage of music written by someone else. I did not listen to the Dolby Digital track because it is the same exact mix as the DVD-A side. 3. DVD-A For my third listen, I flipped the disc over and played the DVD-A track. Now, my friends, this is the good stuff- high resolution in all its glory. The rears had a little percussion and “ambience” in ‘em, so the vast majority of the musical information was coming out of the front three speakers. I enjoyed this mix more, but I am biased because my surrounds need a serious upgrade. Also, it really isn’t fair of me to compare two tracks of different resolutions like that. So, for me personally, I dug the DVD-A side the most of the three. The bass sounded so full and alive, and the percussion was noticeably snappier and crisper. Since this is the same mix as the Dolby Digital track on the other side, you can compare them back-to-back on the DVD-V side of the disc using the “audio” button. However, I didn’t have to do this to notice the huge difference. Which you prefer is, of course, a matter of taste. I would tend to go with whatever is presented in the highest resolution, no matter the mix. Summary: Music- receives the approval of Mike Broadman (whose opinion on jazz everyone on HTF, of course, venerates and honors ) Sonics- freakin’ A So everybody should get this one. Last night I listened to the DVD-A and watched the new Amadeus DVD. Both made me so damn happy I own the equipment to enjoy this stuff. I need these heart-warming experiences every now and then to counter the nausea-inducing experience of getting my bills from Tweeter and Best Buy. Equipment used: Player- Panasonic RP-91 Receiver- NAD T751 Main speakers- B&W 602 Center speaker- LCR something-or-other; the equivalent of the mains Rears- cheap pieces of garbage that will be replaced with 601s when I scramble the green for it Room- my living room, second floor of a two-story house, rented Chair- old recliner that belonged to my roommate’s grandmother before she died; partially broken after my girlfriend decided to sit on me while I was on it (no, she’s not fat!) Ears- young, male, Caucasian, passed all aural exams in gym class with flying colors Socks- short-ankle tube There are a couple of other jazz trio albums on AIX. I hope that eventually they score a recording session with some wind or brass players. I’d love to hear that. In case anyone is interested in more AIX reviews, I either have or soon will have pretty most of them, so let me know which ones you’re interested in.