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Vinyl from the Rockies

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Before I get into the record reviews let me tell you about one of my favorite vendors who I think has been present at every RMAF. The vendor is For the Records of Lafayette, CO. It is a vintage LP seller who fully guarantees all purchases. Owner Doug Gaddy is easy to work with, and each year one of the first places I head is to see what Doug has brought to the show. This year I found three LPs I had been having great difficulty finding for my collection and one that I discovered on Thursday night. I hope you enjoy my telling you about them.

Soular Energy
The Ray Brown Trio featuring Gene Harris
Concord Jazz

Side One

1. Exactly Like You
2. Cry Me a River
3. Teach Me Tonight
4. Take the “A” Train
Side Two

1. Mistreated But Undefeated Blues
2. That’s All
3. Easy Does It
4. Sweet Georgia Brown

Let me just start by saying that I love to listen to anything Ray Brown plays. If you don’t believe this let me tell you about the last time I heard him live. It was shortly before he passed away and he was at Yoshi’s in Oakland, California. Sitting in the front row of tables was a young man whose father had brought him to hear Ray Brown for his birthday. During the set Ray asked the young man if he had a request, of all things he requested “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” Ray and his drummer proceeded to play the most incredible rendition of it I had ever heard. Come to think of it, it was the only incredibly good rendition I have ever heard. So yes, I like Ray Brown.

Friday morning, to take a break, I dropped into the vendor section and walked right back to see what Doug had. It was genuine excitement that came over me when I saw his display stand with about twenty records displayed, including the four I brought home. The real excitement came from seeing Soular Energy! It is my favorite Ray Brown SACD, but since I gave up on SACD, I had never been able to find it on vinyl. The cover looked a little faded, but the original disc looked almost mint, and it plays that way too.

If you’re not a Ray Brown fan, I assume you have never heard him play. He plays the standup bass in a way that can be a fantastic solo or lead instrument that almost sounds like someone singing bass. He can also play with the trio in a way that blends in, but makes the whole group better. There are two songs on this album that I find just overwhelming, “Cry Me a River” and “Sweet Georgia Brown.”

This album is well recorded, it has a very natural soundstage, and great attack and decay if your system can reproduce them. If you find it, buy it; if you like any kind of jazz, you won’t be sorry.

Rob Wasserman Duets
MCA Records

Side One

1. Stardust / Aaron Neville
2. Moon is Made of Gold / Rickie Lee Jones
3. Brothers / Bobby Mcferrin
4. Duet / Featuring Rob
5. One for My Baby (And One More for the Road) / Lou Reed

Side Two

1. Ballad of the Runaway Horse / Jennifer Warnes
2. Gone With the Wind / Dan Hicks
3. Angel Eyes / Cheryl Bentyne
4. Over the Rainbow / Stephane Grappeli

I guess you can see I love to hear the standup bass played well. Let me start this review by saying right up front: I know this album is digitally mastered. Not only that, it is a compilation of different recordings from different places, and yes it’s on thin, low-grade vinyl. In fact, it’s exactly the kind of album that even my family knows not to buy for me. Yet, Thursday night at the RMAF I ran into Garth of Musical Surroundings. He and Jim White of Aesthetix were setting up their room. As we sat there listening to the big Focal speakers, Garth put on this incredible album. I had never heard it before. It was Rob Wasserman’s album Duets.

Wasserman’s bass playing is superb. The recording was superb, and the performances are even better. Almost every cut is a gem, but there were a few tracks that I find particularly fine. My favorite is Wasserman and Jennifer Warnes’ version of “Ballad of the Runaway Horse”. This is my favorite of the bonus songs on the Anniversary edition of the Famous Blue Raincoat album. This presentation is so much simpler and still has just as much emotion. It is simply beautiful.

“Angel Eyes” with Cheryl Bentyne is another great cut. Wasserman’s playing of the bass is just impeccable and again the recording is just so very natural sounding. Bentyne’s “Moon is Made of Gold” with Rickie Lee Jones is a very emotionally involving piece. Her voice comes through almost like she is in the room with you, and the performance is just spot on. The last cut I want to point out is my second favorite and the perfect song and performance to end the album. It’s a simply beautiful rendition of “Over the Rainbow” performed as a duet with Stephane Grappeli on violin and Rob Wasserman on bass. I would have never guessed that an instrumental version of this song could be so moving and beautiful, and I guess that last phrase just about sums up this great album.

If you’re lucky enough to come by this album cheap, don’t pass it up. On Ebay and at used record stores it seems to be priced more than I would have ever paid for a digitally mastered LP. Don’t let that stop you, this is one of those records that is worth the money.

Time Further Out
Micro Reflections
The Dave Brubeck Quartet

Side One

It’s a Raggy Waltz
Charles Matthew Hallelujah
Far More Blue

Side Two

Far More Drums
Maori Blues
Unsquare Dance
Bru’s Boogie Woogie
Blue Shadows in the Street

Time Further Out came out in 1961 and continues the Dave Brubeck Quartet’s use of unusual time signatures that began on their “Time Out” album which came out in 1959. One of the most unusual things about this albums is that as you progress through the tracks, the number of beats per bar increases. It starts with “It’s a Raggy Waltz” and “Bluette” done in 3/4 time and progresses to the last song “Blue Shadows in the Street” performed in 9/4 time.

This is an album that I had the mono version of and have always enjoyed, but the chance to pick up a pristine copy of the stereo version was a temptation I could not resist. In many ways, I like this album even more than Brubeck’s vastly popular Time Out album. The tonal balance seems better to me, a little less warm, but still slightly on the warm side of neutral. As much as I like the mono version of this album, I believe this is a case where I prefer the stereo. (Preposterous! –Ed.) It doesn’t have any of that early stereo sound where recordings were panned hard to the left and right, so as to show off the stereo effect. Instead, this album has a beautiful and natural sound stage.

The piano is everything you would expect from Brubeck and takes up the whole right side of the stage. Paul Desmond’s alto sax is dead center and to the front. It may be the best I’ve ever heard him play or being recorded. Eugene Wright’s bass is dead center and to the back. It sounds incredibly realistic and has no sense of being too heavy or too light. Joe Morello’s drums are place to the left and each drum and cymbal occupies real space. His brush work is especially beautiful on the album.

Highly Recommend! Pick one up if you can find it.

Somethin’ Else
Cannonball Adderley
Blue Note Records

Side 1

1. Autumn Leaves
2. Love for Sale
Side 2

1. Somethin’ Else
2. One for Daddy-O
Dancing in the Dark

A couple of months ago I reviewed two 45 rpm reissues of this album. One was mono and one stereo. In that review I said, “The first comparison was between a rather poor copy of the original Blue Note mono and the Analogue Production’s stereo version. The conclusion was painfully simple and as far as I could hear undeniable. If you can get your hands on anything near a listenable copy of the original Blue Note mono, it’s incredible. The horns on the mono recording makes the one on the stereo recording sound very small and very distant. On the whole there is just no comparison; I can only think of one area where the stereo LP betters the mono one.”

Well, as you can see above I found a Blue Note mono in near mint condition. Yes I paid as much for it as the 45 rpm reissues, but it’s worth twice as much. I’m not going to review this album again; it speaks for itself. I mean, how can an album of hard bebop played by Miles Davis, Hank Jones, Sam Jones, Art Blakey, and Cannonball Adderley not speak for itself? If you can find a good Blue Note mono, jump on it; if not, get the Classic Records Clarity reissue.

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