March, 2018 Album Picks

Alon’s Pick
One of my favorite jazz albums of all time. Nothing fancy, just a great, straight-ahead toe-tapping jam, recorded beautifully at a live session with a very interactive audience.
In critical listening with eyes closed, it feels like I’m at the event.
If you can find it, buy it.
  Larry’s Pick
My music pick for this month is Miles Davis  Someday My Prince Will Come, Analog Productions APJ 8456-45.  This 45 RPM record is in my “heavy rotation” bin (I actually built in a couple of record store style bins in my media shelves as I enjoy the ease of flipping through the albums in that fashion – picture below).  It seems with some remixes/reissues the music sounds flat, unengaging with no interest in capturing the quality of the production, certainly this is not the case with this recording!  It never ceases to amaze me how a recording captured in 1963 can be reproduced with such clarity and tonal accuracy and I think Analog Productions is one of the best in delivering the goods.  Striking of the piano keys by Wynton Kelly which actually sound like a piano,  Hank Mobley and John Coltrane’s saxophone’s reediness and richness support and compliment the palpable attack on each note on Miles’ trumpet which is heard hanging in mid-air centered between and behind the speakers .  Plus there’s actually bass present and not just an afterthought or forgotten altogether as in some early recordings.  This is an album I can return to frequently and enjoy thoroughly.


Grant’s Pick
My music pic for this month is Chet Baker and Bill Evans Alone Together, Wax Time records reissue on 180 gram vinyl originally titled “Chet: the lyrical trumpet of Chet Baker ” recorded 1958-1959.   While Chet and Bill were both very lyrical and introspective players, they rarely played together, so this is a rare occasion.   Miles may not have liked him, but Chet was s great trumpet player and singer (this album is all instrumental). He especially excelled at ballads, where his sense of timing and phrasing were quite exceptional. Bill Evans to me is very similar. He didn’t have the pyrotechnics such as Oscar Peterson, but his playing cuts straight to your heart with a beautiful melodic lyricism that totally stands out from the rest.
Chet was largely self taught, playing by ear, while Bill was a well educated musician, composer and arranger. They blend very well in this performance however. Both were heroin addicts at the time, but it didn’t seem to affect the musicianship luckily.   This album is made up of mostly ballads, features an all star lineup with Herbie Mann on flute, Kenny Burrell on guitar, Paul Chambers on bass and other notables. The sound is rich and full. Drums are to the left channel which I normally hate, but with all the evenly spaced instrumentation, sounds nice in this context. A natural sounding reverb complements every instrument. Another very pleasurable listening experience.
Tidal: N/A
Kevin’s Pick


What Happened?  I grew up listening to KSAN with The Doors, Santana and Crosby, Still and Nash as staple.  Before that it was the Beatles on AM radio.   Today I am listening to Bobby Short. Who? Bobby Short!   A cabaret singer who croons Cole Porter like it was meant to be heard. Bobby also arranged the music for his band and played piano.
My two favorite Bobby Short albums are Late Night at the Cafe Carlyle (1991) and Songs of New York:Live at the Cafe Carlyle (1995).   Mr. Short was a fixture at the Cafe Carlyle in NY for three decades. Lucky for us, Telarc Records recorded him for posterity.   These are infectious sets that take you to the club space. But no need to dress up, you are in your living room. I do recommend a martini or my fave, champagne!   The recordings are first rate in my opinion. I use them as a reference.   Found these and others on Tidal, so check ’em out!
Ian Wotherspoon’s Pick

I call myself a life-long “Audiophile.” Being an Audiophile it requires a certain commitment to the hobby. It seems like being an Audiophile also requires one to be careful of getting on the “upgrade-merry-go-round” train and then being unable to get off. However, being an audiophile also comes with two separate parts. As always the initial investment is in the Hardware. But once one has spent their money satiating their equipment desires, then comes part number two. In a simple word or two, “program material” is needed to feed the equipment monster. I call it the “blade and razor syndrome.” Without a steady supply of blades, the razor has no real purpose. Without new music things begin to become tiring and rote over time and one can quickly lose interest in their high-priced razor. I admit that I am always in that same position of needing a new and exciting “drug” to keep my habit alive and kicking and I am always looking for that next fix, and it cannot come any too quickly in my opinion.
Most of today’s current pop music is rubbish and unlistenable to me. I suspect if I were a Millennial with IPods or Beats over-ear headphones and rip at MP3 or ACC it might not be  that big a problem. But that is not me, and it is a “major” problem sonically for those of us who are genuine “Audiophiles.”
So I seek out other venues to get my fix! One of the interesting ways to do that is by reading the reviews of audio equipment. Its kind of funny the way they generally present an item. I never know if they are getting paid or if they are required to say only good things about everything so as to not offend the manufactures that supply them equipment to review. So after the opening monologue and the “spec comments” this is where the rubber starts to meet the road as it were, and they start discussing the sound qualities of said equipment. Where am I going with all this you may ask? Well it’s my way of introducing you to a review of an album that I recently heard and cannot stop listening to. Anyway back to the ‘reviewers’, when they start describing what they are hearing, they always quote the music that they are listening too. So when they are reviewing a piece of equipment that I have already heard, I pay particular attention to the albums that they are using and listen to them in my system to compare what they heard and described. I find it a very good test to understand the mind of the reviewer and see if what they are saying is in fact correct or if they are ‘off’ in the weeds.
A few weeks ago I came across an album that this particular reviewer was using to hear the bass line and depth of the equipment in review.
To understand what he was talking about I went to ITunes and listened to several cuts while the ‘boss’/wife was in the room. She almost immediately said that she liked the music and what was it? I told her that it was Arabic Jazz and the artist was Anouar Brahem.
Anouar Brahem was born in 1957 in Tunis, Tunisia. He is an ‘oud’ player and composer. He is widely acclaimed as an innovator in his field. Performing primarily for a jazz audience, he fuses Arab classical music, folk music and jazz and has been recording since at least 1991, after becoming prominent in his own country in the late 1980’s.   Brahem studied oud at Tunisia’s National Conservatory of Music in 1981; he left for Paris in search of new vistas.   After a period back in Tunisia in the late 1980’s when Brahem was appointed director of the Ensemble musical de la ville de Tunis, he toured in the USA and Canada and then signed with ECM Records. Brahem has recorded a series of critically acclaimed albums. These include “Thimar”, recorded with saxophonist John Surman and bassist Dave Holland.
In playing style, Anouar Brahem is often compared to Rabih Abou-Khalil, though his compositions tend to be more mellow and spare.
Most often he utilizes an ensemble of three or four musicians.
Brahem has 11 albums out so far but after listening to snippets of them I find that his “The Astounding Eyes Of Rita” album to be his best for my tastes. The recording is superb in every way. I ordered it from Amazon and I ended up listening to the whole album twice when it was delivered that night. There are a total of 8 cuts. It’s hard to pick a favorite but the first cut. (The Lover Of Beirut) will definitely get you hooked and it sets the tone of what is to come. The whole album is so mesmerizing. The second cut (Dance With Waves) builds on the first track and one feels restless like waves at the shoreline but in a rhythmic fashion. Next is (The Stopover At Djibouti) a lite and engaging number with an excitement of things to see and do at this intriguing port of call. The 4th cut (The Astounding Eyes Of Rita) is a showstopper and the album’s title. The jazz style with the sparse instruments is fantastic. The bass is deep and tight, the midrange has great depth and the top end floats above it all. Combined with incredible transparency it is a joy to behold. Every track is so very well recorded from top to bottom. This is an album that needs to be ‘listened to’ in the hot-seat initially to fully appreciate its magic. (Walking State) is just that! A dreamy transcendence of being there and not being there, both in motion and at the same time at rest.
The last track (For No Apparent Reason) has some very organic bass lines, which will test your systems ability to reproduce them. This number will bring it all home and leave you wanting for more. It is delightful and intriguing at the same time.
However number 6 for me stands out as a current favorite (Galilee Mon Amour). The second half of the track is particularly engaging and very well done jazz-wise. It’s a solid album and everyone who has heard it is equally impressed. You will not be disappointed with this album and perhaps you might also like some of his other recordings. I understand that it is also available on Tidal. Good luck and please let me know what you think of this particular recording.
Cheers and happy listening……


San Francisco Audiophile Society

San Francisco Audiophile Society