March 2003

Christy Baron - Take This Journey
Chesky JD 239
Released: 2002

by Roger Kanno

Musical Performance ***
Recording Quality ****1/2 *
Overall Enjoyment ***1/2 *

Christy Baron’s third album is another excellent CD from Chesky’s growing catalog of audiophile recordings. Although Chesky now offers many titles on high-resolution multichannel SACD and DVD-A, Take This Journey is a good example of just how much sound quality can be extracted from standard16-bit CDs.

Take This Journey is an intimate recording of a small jazz ensemble, consisting of guitar, bass, sax, and drums -- in addition to Ms. Baron’s vocals. The recording might be quite intimate, but the soundstage stretches well beyond the speakers and has a great sense of depth and space. The vocals are slightly up front and dead center, as they should be, and sound about as natural as any I have heard on any recording. Percussion, such as brushes and kick drum, originates from well back in the soundstage, while cymbals have a rich metallic sound that avoids splashiness and even seems to exhibit a sense of height. The bass on "Bitter With the Sweet" is recorded at a relatively low level, but the detail in the plucking of its strings and the resonance of the instrument give it an immediate and palpable quality.

The wonderful sonic integrity of this recording would mean little if it were not backed up by solid performances by the musicians and Ms. Baron. Compared to her first release on the Chesky label, I Thought About You from 1997, it is evident that Ms. Baron has matured as a vocalist. Her voice is now more self-assured and exhibits a greater range -- "Bitter With the Sweet" is a good example, one which also displays a more playful character than she exhibited on the first disc. While she does not reinvent any of the (mainly) pop songs that she covers, such as several Carole King offerings or "Happy Together," her interpretations of "A House Is Not A Home" and "You Are There" are memorable nonetheless.

Some might find the arrangements on this album to be a bit mellow and the tone of the songs to be somewhat homogeneous, but Take This Journey has Chesky’s signature recording quality and a refreshing performance by Christy Baron -- both of which make it a CD worth adding to your jazz collection.