In this edition…
Stephen Braude reviews Stan Getz – Moments in Time and Josep Colom – Confluences
Kip Peterson reviews Rachel Podger – La Stravaganza
Joel D. Parker reviews Dragon Quartet – String Quartets by Dvorak and Schubert
Jorge Capadocia reviews Les McCann Trio – Live at the Village Vanguard
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Stephen Braude is Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at the University of Maryland, and a professional jazz pianist and composer. He comes from a family of classical musicians and has been playing piano since the age of two.
Stan Getz: Moments in Time
Stan Getz was such a consummate musician that he was able to sound relaxed and unruffled in almost any musical context. If there was a downside to his virtuosity, it might be that he was seldom challenged to move beyond the musical gestures that were comfortable for him and which had become his stock in trade. Furthermore, Getz is best-known for his work with ensembles that themselves tended to be on the mellow side. This played to his familiar lyrical strengths—from his best-selling bossa nova albums, to his work with musical kindred spirits like Bob Brookmeyer, and his quintet with the then young Gary Burton on vibes. So I wouldn’t be surprised to discover that most listeners have an impression of Getz as someone who produced a kind of superior easy-listening jazz, always melodically and harmonically pleasant and inventive, always swinging, but seldom the kind of hard-swinging or muscular playing more often associated with East Coast be-bop.
Moments In Time documents an engagement Getz had with the Joanne Brackeen Trio at San Francisco’s fabled Keystone Korner in 1976. Brackeen’s default style of playing was more dissonant and aggressive than Getz was accustomed to. This quartet setting pushed Getz to play with an usual degree of fire, and occasionally more rawness of tone than he usually produced. He still sounds unruffled – in fact, more comfortable than Brackeen, whom I’ve previously enjoyed, but who in this recording comps tentatively and not especially effectively behind Getz, whose McCoy Tyneresque flurries of notes are too often not executed cleanly, and whose playing is generally rhythmically stiff. Nevertheless, Getz seems to be having a great time in this setting.
Bassist Clint Houston and drummer Billy Hart provide a dynamic rhythmic foundation beneath him, quite unlike the understated and polite ensembles he usually fronted. This clearly encourages Getz to cut loose on his solos. His playing is still melodically impressive, and he swings as effortlessly as usual. But there’s more edginess and extroverted passion than we usually hear from him.
That’s the major novelty, and major selling-point, of this DSD release. Getz’s playing may be a departure from his norm, but it’s still outstanding. And we also get to hear him in repertoire with which he’s not usually associated—for example, Wayne Shorter’s “Infant Eyes.” Notable also is the quartet’s unusual, and uncommonly hard-driving version of Dizzy Gillespie’s “Con Alma.”
I also invite DSD listeners to consider the following – possibly controversial – conjecture. I was struck by the fact that audience reactions to Brackeen’s solos were often more demonstratively enthusiastic than for Getz’s solos. I found that striking because to me, Brackeen’s solos seemed uncomfortable, sloppy, and musically uninteresting. My conjecture is that one reason Getz’s playing is so forceful is that he was feeling pressured by the audience’s enthusiasm for Brackeen’s noisy soloing to push himself beyond his usual comfort zone, in order to match Brackeen’s level of intensity and generate more audience excitement for his own playing. After all, Getz was the headliner for this gig, and the audience seemed not to be appreciating him as the star attraction.
At any rate, this recording is clearly a valuable addition to Getz’s recorded legacy, and it could be a real revelation to many listeners. You could think of it as Getz on steroids.
Josep Colom: Confluences
Now here’s a provocative concept album! Of course, that doesn’t make it self-recommending; fortunately the concept works. Pianist Josep Colom alternates selection of Bach Preludes from the Well-Tempered Clavier with various Chopin Etudes and Nocturnes, with the aim of revealing melodic, harmonic, rhythmic, and also emotional connections between them. And to ease what might otherwise be awkward transitions between the pieces, Colom improvises short passages that lead—usually successfully—from one to the next.
One reason the affinities between Bach and Chopin emerge clearly is that Colom plays the Bach selections very freely, in a way that might annoy partisans of so-called historically informed performance practices. Colom takes liberties as well with the Chopin selections. And quite possibly, neither the Bach nor the Chopin performances would be collectors’ first choices for those pieces. But I consider the album to be a complete success nevertheless.
Colom’s playing is first-rate and very musical throughout. The Bach-Chopin connections are undeniably illuminating; and the album can be enjoyed as a surprisingly and delightfully seamless whole. In fact, the improvisatory spirit of the transitional passages infuses the playing of the pieces themselves, and in a way I suspect respects and captures the improvisatory talents of the composers.
I should also note that the included booklet features a photo of Colom’s hands that should give palm readers a lot to chew on.
Kip Peterson has had a love of music since beginning piano lessons at the age of eight. Today, Kip enjoys playing the piano daily and composing.His interest in audio systems began as a teenager, and though he has always been a fan of analog, with a Studer A80 tape machine anchoring his system today, Kip has invested in high-end digital playback over the last few years and finds DSD to be his favorite format. He has even begun archiving many of his analog tapes and LPs in DSD with a Korg MR-2000. Kip lives in the San Diego, California area, and is honored and pleased to be an occasional reviewer for NativeDSD. You can catch a glimpse of Kip’s setup in one of our NativeDSD listener videos on NativeDSD’s YouTube channel.
Rachel Podger: Vivaldi – La Stravaganza 12 Violin Concertos
Soon after discovering NativeDSD, a friend recommended I look into the performances of Rachel Podger, knowing that I love baroque music that highlights the violin in particular. Since that first recommendation, I have purchased several of her albums, always enjoying her remarkable talent. I recently I decided to try “Vivaldi – La Stravaganza 12 Violin Concertos” assuming, of course, that I would be equally pleased. This is an extreme understatement! Everything about this album is breathtaking—the performance, the freshness of the interpretations and, unsurprisingly, the quality of the recording. If you can relate to these things and enjoy baroque music, this album will likely impress you in the same way.
Perhaps these impressions are to be expected. After all, when Vivaldi composed these beautiful concertos in the early 1700s, listeners were immediately impressed with their inventiveness. Musicians such as Podger obviously thrive on such creative scores, allowing their structure to emotionally and physically create a drive to explore new boundaries. Hearing her prodigious talent brought to bear on these pieces is an absolute joy for listeners.
As the album begins with Concerto No. 1, you are engaged from the first bar, with its light and lively pace, sprinkled with chord progressions that sound surprisingly modern and familiar. As the album progresses, one is impressed with the lilting beauty of the Largo movements found in most of the concertos, but especially by the one in No. 5, creating a mood that allows one to almost feel the varnish in the wood of the violin.
The album concludes with a most delightful Allegro in Concerto No. 12, almost as if Vivaldi knew he wanted to make you get up and shout for joy—and you do! As the music stops, it becomes obvious the musicians on this gorgeous album have taken you on a journey that is almost restorative in nature, and you catch yourself smiling.
What could be better? Sonically, I’ve learned through my purchases at NativeDSD that Channel Classics recordings never disappoint. So, selecting this album was even easier knowing the technical aspects of the recording would equal the tremendous musicality of Podger’s playing.
We are lucky to have such easy access to a world of wonderful music such as this, and I can’t recommend this album highly enough. It is no surprise it won the Best Baroque Recording from Gramophone when it was released.
Joel D. Parker
Joel is an academic living in Tel Aviv, where he enjoys playing and listening to a variety of musical styles, along with parenting, writing, and learning Jewish texts. He got infected with the audiophile bug while doing his PhD and spending long hours in front of a computer. In his words, “My search for recorded music that actually sounds real and doesn’t wear down the ears began with vinyl, and eventually I found DSD, which has the warmth of vinyl but the clarity of live music. Now I try to convince my musician and audio-tech friends to give it a listen. I haven’t touched a turntable in ages.”
Dragon Quartet: String Quartets of Schubert, Dvorak (in DSD 256)
The relatively young Dragon Quartet, born in 2012 in Beijing, pulls off a stunningly controlled and yet powerful performance of two of quartet music’s most well-loved pieces: Dvořák’s ‘American’ (Op. 96 in F major) and Schubert’s ‘Death and the Maiden’ (No. 14 in D minor). The opening movement of Schubert’s D minor quartet is marked by precision and unity, gripping the listener from the first bars. It is only as the work develops and the quieter scenes progress that the album begins to demonstrate the overarching strengths of the quartet, its first violinist Ning Feng and its cellist Qin Liwei, who are both solo artists in their own right. The second violinist and violist, Wang Xiaomao and Zheng Wenxiao, respectively, entirely hold their ground with the other players, and the overall effect is predominantly that of extreme balance between them. This is only belied occasionally by the incredible tone of Ning Feng’s 1721 Stradivari violin, the ‘MacMillan’, delicately shimmering against the inky black background of this DSD recording. Indeed the solid spatial cues, acoustic accuracy, and depth of tone provide riveting listening throughout the album.
The stormy dark magic of the famous Schubert work builds throughout, as the players hold a certain reserve of power for the last movement, which conjures up images of a lover riding on a horse through the night, intent on reaching the angel of death, in order to retrieve his lost maiden, stolen before her time. This contrasts nicely with the F major second half of the Album, where the Czech, Dvořák, appears to have found common kinship with his Midwestern American hosts, as he vacationed in the early 1890s in Iowa. The playing does not fray around the edges, and yet playful banter between the instruments provides contrast with the earlier perfectionism of Schubert’s work. If one were seeking room for improvement, the virtuoso cellist Qin Liwei could have pushed himself to show a bit more flare—but this is a mere quibble, as his penchant for stoicism also serves as a solid anchor for the group. For those seeking extraordinary insight into the texts of these foundational works, the DSD 256 quality edition of the album is highly recommended.
The profession of Jorge Capadocia requires him to participate in NativeDSD’s Reviewers program anonymously. He might be a politician, a secret agent or a famous artist. Who knows? We do know that he is a big fan of NativeDSD and writes fantastic reviews about both Jazz and Classical DSD releases. Enjoy!
Les McCann Trio
Once upon a time in NYC in the 60’s…
…maverick recording engineer George Klabin, then a student at Columbia University, decided to contact artists to record their performances. His intent was to broadcast them on WKCR FM Radio, where he was the head of the jazz department. As he stated on an interview, one of his most memorable experience from that time was recording Les McCann live before he changed his style. He was referring to the concert that was held at the Village Vanguard on July 16th 1967. A tape from that night was released in 1998 on 32 Records as “How’s Your Mother”.
What we have now on 2xHD is also a DSD album created from a tape from that very same night. I just wonder if it’s the same tape in spite of the set lists being somewhat different. Be as it may, what we have here is music making, recording, and mastering of the highest order.
Composed by Les McCann at the piano, bassist Leroy Vinnegar and drummer Frank Severino, the trio plays two of McCann’s own songs – the spirited ‘I can dig it’ and the jolly ‘Blues 5′. The album also features Bobby Hebb’s pop/soul hit ‘Sunny’ and the ubiquitous standard Bronislaw Kaper’s ‘On Green Dolphin Street‘. Two of Cole Porter’s songs – ‘I am in Love’ and ‘Love for Sale’ – are gorgeously played to conclude the album (the absolute highlights!).
I’m just thankful that George Klabin has recorded and kept this treasure. And that René Laflamme and André Perry are bringing it to us in DSD. I sincerely hope that their DSD releases keep coming!
The sound is vivid. Clearer on the mid/upper-range with gorgeous ambiance – as if you’re there. With very little audience noise except for applause in moments of excitement. The performers excitement is audible throughout though. If you like jazz played live, with performers capitalizing on the rapport with the audience to build momentum, and can tolerate Les McCann growls, then you’ll likely find this album a small jewel.