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Michael Fremer  |  Jul 24, 2020  |  8 comments
Suave, swinging and exuberant, Michael Weiss’s self-produced Soul Journey sounds something like a big band playing on a Blue Note Records date, but it’s really a small ensemble making like a big one thanks to Weiss’s deft, harmonically-rich, rhythmically neck-snapping arrangements and free-spirited yet tightly drawn, well-meshed performances by the three man veteran horn section of saxophonist Steve Wilson, trumpet and flugelhorn player Ryan Kisor and trombonist Steve Davis.

Michael Fremer  |  Jul 28, 2020  |  13 comments
This previously unreleased March 9th 1959 session recorded at Rudy Van Gelder’s Hackensack home studio is a “must have” for Blue Note “completists”, especially for those with an affinity for car and plane crash videos. If you are just getting into the rich Blue Note catalog, your money is best spent elsewhere as this session, despite the stellar group, often sounds listless and forced. Grooves get glossed over in favor of speed.

Michael Fremer  |  Sep 03, 2020  |  11 comments
This agreeable set of standards sung by Louis Armstrong backed by the Oscar Peterson Quartet, then consisting of Herb Ellis, Ray Brown and Louis Bellson recorded at the then new Capitol Studios, L.A. in 1957 but not released in stereo until 1959, was a follow-up of sorts to the highly successful Norman Granz-produced Ella & Louis (Verve MGV-4003) recorded August of 1956.

Like this set, there Armstrong and Fitzgerald were backed by the Oscar Peterson Quartet, but with Buddy Rich drumming instead of Louis Bellson.

Michael Fremer  |  Sep 09, 2020  |  12 comments
Miles Davis's second collaboration with arranger/orchestrator Gil Evans (and the first recorded in stereo) is arguably the duo's best effort—a majestic, moody re-working of George Gershwin's classic folk opera recorded in three summer of 1958 sessions at Columbia's 30th street studios.

Michael Fremer  |  Sep 17, 2020  |  4 comments
There’s no better time than now to release a live performance of Civil War era “lifeline” spirituals dedicated to Harriet Tubman, an escaped slave herself, who is best known as an “Underground Railroad” organizer personally responsible for smuggling to freedom hundreds of slaves, first to the North and then after the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850 that allowed the recapture of freed slaves in non-slave states, to Canada.

Ty Webb  |  Sep 28, 2020  |  2 comments
In this, the 250th anniversary of Ludwig van Beethoven’s birthday, Yarlung Records offers a recording worthy of the master, a delectation from the Janaki String Trio that was originally recorded in 2006 in Zipper Hall. The sonics are as inviting as the playing.

Nathan Zeller  |  Oct 11, 2020  |  8 comments
We find ourselves during the ongoing pandemic abstaining from pleasurable activities like hanging out on the street. Listening to the 1970’s power pop group Big Star will one day help ease the way back to that once taken for granted lifestyle.

Discovering older musical acts like Big Star is for a child of the 21st century like me mostly a matter of pure luck. I happened upon Big Star’s song “Thirteen” on an episode of “That ‘70’s Show” airing on Netflix. That tune, a captivating piece of tender musical perfection, led me to discover Big Star the group and boy, am I thankful for that!

Michael Fremer  |  Oct 27, 2020  |  34 comments
Talk about bad luck: Love And Theft Bob Dylan’s first album in four years, his 43rd (at the time, including live and studio) and the follow up to the million-selling, triple-Grammy Award winning (including “Album of the Year”) Time Out of Mind had a September 11th, 2001 drop date. Buildings dropped instead.

Michael Fremer  |  Nov 12, 2020  |  17 comments
One ferocious and one mellow, these two John Coltrane albums dropped last month by Verve in association with Acoustic Sounds serve as both a great intro for the unfamiliar and as possibly the best sounding versions of both and of course affordable too.

Michael Fremer  |  Nov 17, 2020  |  16 comments
“I have to admit that this (D2D) recording technique was completely unknown to me before. When I ultimately realized what it entailed, I had mixed feelings at first.” So admitted Jakub Hrusa, the Bamberg Symphony’s 39 year old Czech-born conductor, who joined the orchestra in 2016. Based on the stunning musical and sonic results it was well worth whatever trepidation resulted from the decision to proceed with the recording of Czech-born Bedrich Smetana, which took place July 2th/26th, 2019 in Bamberg, Germany’s Joseph-Keilberth-Saal concert hall. (please forgive the lack of proper accents over the names).

Michael Fremer  |  Dec 18, 2020  |  9 comments
As a value proposition the 2016 “The Philips Years” seven LP box set covering all of Nina Simone’s recorded output between 1964 and 1967 can’t be beat. Digitized at 96/24 resolution at Abbey Road using the original master tapes and well-pressed at Record Industry, the seven LPs sound very good. However!

Michael Fremer  |  Jan 26, 2021  |  16 comments
This limited to 1000 copies lavishly packaged "one-step" edition of John Coltrane's Lush Life sold out shortly after it was announced. Did you miss anything? If it's a favorite, probably. I hesitated to review it, much like I don't review The Electric Recording Company's limited editions that almost immediately sell out upon release announcement, but given Craft's uneven release history (unlike that of ERC), a review seems appropriate.

Michael Leser Johnson  |  Feb 23, 2021  |  2 comments
Over the last 40 years, Giulio Cesare Ricci’s Fonè record label has been slowly churning out limited audiophile “one stage” (the same basic process as MoFi’s one-step) records using an all-analog chain. These Pallas-pressed recordings of classical, jazz and various other types of acoustic music are limited to 496 copies each. Why 496 specifically? Because Ricci is fond of the number, that’s all. Fonè is clearly a labor of passion and love for Ricci as he not only runs the label, but serves as his own recording and mastering engineer.

Michael Leser Johnson  |  May 16, 2021  |  22 comments
In May of 1913, just one year before the start of the first World War, Igor Stravinsky premiered his third ballet with the Ballets Russes in Paris: Le Sacre du printemps (The Rite of Spring). The premiere would go down in history for a number of reasons, primarily due to the unruly Parisian audience that descended into what could be referred to as a riot. What was so scandalous about the Rite? Stravinsky, along with choreographer Vaslav Nijinsky, wanted to evoke a picture of Russia from the distant, pagan past. A story of an ancient pagan rite where a young maiden would be chosen to dance herself to death to appease the ancestors and secure a bountiful harvest. The music, while stylistically not a huge departure from Stravinsky’s two previous and successful Parisian ballets, was dissonant, brutal, and rhythmically disorienting. Likewise, Nijinsky’s choreography was rigid, and was meant to mimic the flat, two-dimensional style of prehistoric paintings. The audience that night was not having it, but their uproar helped launch the Rite into infamy, helping it to become one of the most talked about and often performed works of the 20th century.

Michael Fremer  |  May 17, 2021  |  163 comments
Is it possible to now write anything that hasn’t already been written or said about this record? I haven’t any fresh insights to offer that might advance what you probably already know. A good Kind of Blue pressing puts you in the 30th Street studio to hear the performance. Ashley Kahn’s “Kind of Blue” book sets the pre-recording stage, offering both musical and technical details and puts you as much in the control room as in front of the band.

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