SoundStage! Music Online Editor's Pick Archives
July/August 1999

Dave Brubeck - The 40th Anniversary Tour of the U.K.
Telarc CD-83440, 1999

SnapShot! Rating:
***1/2

Dave Brubeck’s seventh collection for Telarc is one of his best for the label, perhaps because he’s playing live and with a sense of history -- a different Brubeck Quartet from the one recorded here toured England in 1958. Brubeck himself sounds positively nostalgic on "Someday My Prince Will Come," with its subdued intro that melts into a driving take that would be at home in 1958. Of special note is the eerily Paul Desmond-like tone that saxophonist Bobby Militello conjures as well as a pair of Brubeck originals dedicated to two of his musician friends: "The Salmon Strikes" for pianist John Salmon, and "Goodbye Old Friend" for the late Gerry Mulligan. The recording is standard for Telarc -- rich, smooth, and very present. You will probably see this material on SACD -- it was recorded in DSD....Marc Mickelson


The Mahavishnu Orchestra with John McLaughlin - The Inner Mounting Flame
Mobile Fidelity UDCD 744, 1999

SnapShot! Rating:
****

A classic of the early-‘70s jazz/rock fusion movement, The Inner Mounting Flame is given loving treatment here, sounding less digitally sterile and a bit more supple than the Columbia/Legacy remaster. But you should buy this disc for its otherworldly spirit. It probes and prods better than anything you’ll hear today, and dates itself only by the influence it has wielded since its 1971 release. McLaughlin is ebullient on guitar, and Jerry Goodman’s violin acts as spinal cord for the group, conveying through his improvisation much of the joy of making music this animated and inventive. Just try to play this disc as background noise!...Marc Mickelson


Ella Fitzgerald and Joe Pass - Take Love Easy
JVC XRCD 0031-2, 1998

SnapShot! Rating:
****

The combination of voice and guitar is difficult to botch and equally difficult to make work on an exalted level. The inherent spareness can be a burden to performers, especially when synergy doesn't happen naturally. Here, Joe Pass tastefully subordinates himself, letting Ella Fitzgerald have the spotlight, which she treats with subdued respect. Highlights include delicate takes of the war-horses "Lush Life" and "Gee Baby Ain’t I Good to You," on which the dialog between Pass and Fitzgerald is especially supportive and dusky. The sound is spectacular -- this disc pins the meters in all audiophile categories except the width of its soundstage....Marc Mickelson


Terry Evans - Blues for Thought
Classic Records DAD 1014, 1998

SnapShot! Rating:
****1/2

Few audiophiles are unaware of this Ry Cooder-produced collection of butt-bumping music spiced with a healthy dose of spirituality and love. The CD is a demo disc, and a top-shelf one at that, but the Classic DVD treads new ground in terms of spatial resolution -- no small feat given the CD's superior sense of space -- and analog-like ease, which comes not at the cost of sounding soft or veiled. Evans growls through "Get Your Lies Straight" and croons "I Want to be Close to You, God," displaying not only his vocal range but also his emotive power. And who wouldn't want to hear "Shakespeare Didn't Quote That" turned up to 11? If you can play 24/96 DVDs, this is one to own....Marc Mickelson


Chris Whitley - Dirt Floor
Classic Records DAD 1010, 1998

SnapShot! Rating:
****

Over the course of his recording career, Chris Whitley has dabbled in power chords and grunge, but he has never cast off the musical persona of the dobro-packing country bluesman. On Dirt Floor, he gives in completely, performing nine originals rife with dense imagery and glints of personal stories, all captured inside his father's tool shed in Vermont direct to two-track analog via a single stereo ribbon mic. Whitley's playing on steel-body guitar and banjo is atmospheric, and the setting, as you would guess, is supremely intimate -- just Whitley, his instruments, and his tapping foot. The sound of this DVD, which was released concurrently with the CD, is spacious and detailed. Interestingly, Tim de Paravicini (E.A.R.), Terry Dorn (Audio Research) and Richard Gerberg (ProAc USA) are listed in the acknowledgements, underscoring the fact that this next-generation recording is a true audiophile effort....Marc Mickelson


Bill Evans Trio - Waltz for Debby
Victor VICJ-60141, 1998

SnapShot! Rating:
*****

Nothing more needs to be said about this classic live session, Evans’ most famous. This remastered version, however, deserves nothing but praise for the alternate takes and additional material included on it -- and, of course, the gorgeous XRCD sound. This is not a domestic XRCD, so you’ll have to hunt for it and pay a premium price (the list is $40). But if any CD is worth it with 24/96, SACD and DVD-Audio staring audiophiles in the face, this one would be it....Marc Mickelson


The Modern Jazz Quartet - Django
Victor VICJ-60160, 1998

SnapShot! Rating:
****

Django has five John Lewis originals along with covers of "One Bass Hit," "Autumn in New York," and "But Not for Me" -- good stuff from beginning to end. The sound here is not quite as notable as on the other XRCD Modern Jazz Quartet remaster, Concorde. Lewis’s piano is more discernible, but Jackson’s vibe work doesn't project or float nearly as well. Both are in mono, but very good-sounding overall. This is also a Japanese XRCD; however, unlike Waltz for Debby, there are no other audiophile-CD remasters of Django, so if you want a superior digital version (the regular-issue Prestige disc is far less focused and natural), you’ll have to pay $40 for it....Marc Mickelson


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