For me, hearing the opening bars of "Ralphs New Blues" from the Modern Jazz Quartets Concorde is like meeting an old friend on the street -- instant recognition, even after all these years. I used to have Concorde and John Coltranes Settin the Pace on vinyl along with a drove of other Prestige titles (no originals) and Verve super-quiet Japanese pressings. It seems like ancient history, but I can vividly remember my last turntable -- a Michell Gyrodec with Micro Seiki tonearm and Shure V15V MR cartridge. I kept this setup longer than I should have, not for its sound (which my current digital setup easily surpasses) but because of the great jazz I had on vinyl.
These JVC CDs, the first two in JVCs XRCD2 series of audiophile remasters, are gems -- mostly because of the care that JVC has lavished on them. Thanks to the XRCD2 process, neither of these recordings sounds 40 years old (but both are). Although on Concorde John Lewis piano work is still obscured by the resonant playing of Milt Jackson on vibes, the individual instrumental lines are easier to follow overall, which is good for further study and increased admiration of the performances, but not essential to enjoyment. And theres now a bottom end, not one that will shake the foundation of your house, but one thats clear and discernible. Overall, I get the strong impression while listening to JVCs version of Concorde that Im hearing this recording on its best day.
Settin the Pace is vintage Coltrane. Hes with the Red Garland Trio (which he recorded with a number of times), and although the shortest tune is over seven minutes long, the cuts have characteristic individuality and flow. Coltranes playing twists and turns, raises musical issues, then resolves them. Garland and crew are sympathetic helpers, always recognizing whose recording Settin the Pace is. The bass solo on "I See Your Face Before Me," for example, seems only to set the stage for Coltranes reentrance. The sound here is great given the age of the recording -- resolved yet a touch sweet. I know one of the professed aims of JVC with the XRCD/XRCD2 series is to bring analog-like sound to digital, but these discs are far better than I remember the vinyl being.
Concorde and Settin the Pace appeal to me for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that they remind me that so little jazz of equal quality and historical importance is created today. But given the way that JVC modernizes the sound on these two recordings, you have no reason not to consider them. They have legs.
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