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C. Breunig (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Jun 05, 2017
Jubilo is, says Balsom, ‘a celebration’ of early music by Bach, Corelli (a concerto grosso), Fasch (a concerto) and Torelli (a trumpet sonata with strings and continuo), where she plays both a natural and a modern trumpet. The Corelli is a new arrangement of the ‘Christmas Concerto’ (to which purists might take exception, though somehow the baroque trumpet seems to ‘fit’), while the eight Bach tracks include pieces with organ – ‘In dulci jubilo’, ‘Wachet auf’, ‘Kommst du nun’, etc, from the Schübler Chorales – and with the Cambridge Choir, ‘Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring’, sounding a bit rushed here. About half of the programme was recorded at King’s College, and half in the more intimate acoustic of St Jude on the Hill, London. Alison Balsom’s legato lines, varied dynamics and overall technique make this a really enjoyable issue, and one that’s been well produced too.
A. Everard (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  May 29, 2017
Well, this looks like perhaps the safest jazz set in the book: a trio, playing standards such as ‘I’ll Remember April’, ‘A Sleepin’ Bee’ and ‘On The Sunny Side Of The Street’. However, overlook it at your peril, for both the musicianship on offer here, and the quality of the recording, set it apart: Charlap’s piano playing is consistently light, tight and entirely in control, while still remaining remarkably expressive and able to bring something new. And the bass of Peter Washington and the drumming of Kenny Washington (no, they’re not…) fusing perfectly with the ‘lead instrument’ to create a tight, focused sound that’s at once easy on the ear and constantly intriguing. Listen to this album a second, third or fourth time and you’ll still be picking up little nuances you may have missed first time round, simply because you were enjoying the music so much.
C. Breunig (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  May 22, 2017
This is the fourth dance-related Pentatone programme with the youthful-looking Yamada (now 37), principal guest conductor with the Suisse Romande. Its founder, Ernest Ansermet, made the imaginative orchestrations here for Debussy’s Épigraphes (two-piano originals). These come as a breath of fresh air after the elaborate scoring of the Roussel, although the Suisse Romande players certainly respond to its challenges. Les Biches is heard in the five-movement Suite adapted from the frothy 1924 ballet, and Yamada brings an ideal light touch to this music – where, incidentally, you hear a theme duplicated in Stravinsky’s Pulcinella.
A. Everard (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  May 15, 2017
Another live Bill Evans set emerges from the archives, and this one, in DSD guise, is a cracker. Recorded in 1968, it has just the right combination of live atmosphere and focus on the performances, meaning one can enjoy what’s being played and the sense of event without Jazz At The Pawnshop levels of distraction. Engineer George Klabin recorded these performances for his radio show, and got an intimate, yet dynamic sound. Evans is here with a relatively new trio of Eddie Gomez – with whom he’d been playing for a couple of years – and recently-arrived drummer Marty Morell.
A. Everard (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  May 08, 2017
There’s obviously something of a blooming of Nordic double-bass player/composers with solo albums at the moment, for here we have Norwegian ‘big fiddle’ virtuoso Mats Eilertsen with a scintillating set of self-composed pieces originally part of a collection commissioned for the 2014 Vossa Jazz Festival, and evolved on the road to create this ensemble album played by a septet. And you can tell the musicians have been working closely to develop the recordings here, so well do they connect in an expressive mélange of brass and woodwind, pianos both acoustic and electric, some superb guitar-work by long-time Eilertsen collaborator Thomas T Dahl, and of course the composer’s own bass. The music is understated, mesmeric and consistently captivating, and – despite our reservations in the lab panel below – instruments still sound crisp, clear and natural. AE Sound Quality: 90% Hi-Fi News Lab Report While this is certainly a 96kHz rendering and one that avoids peak-level overload, spectral analysis reveals a clump of (digital?) spuriae around 30kHz [see graph].
C. Breunig (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  May 01, 2017
Making his (Schumann) recording debut in 1973, Murray Perahia has always stayed with CBS/Sony, but has now signed to Deutsche Grammophon starting with this mid-2013 Berlin studio set of the six French Suites. His producer Andreas Neubronner was also responsible for the 1997-8 Perahia/Sony English Suites. We get all the repeats, because Perahia says he likes to introduce variation there, adding ornamentation, etc. And of course he’s long preferred his Steinway to any harpsichord (which he studied for four years).
C. Breunig (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Apr 25, 2017
96kHz/24-bit, FLAC; Chandos CHSA5175 (supplied by www. chandos. net) The BBC Symphony for Vivaldi? Well, Tasmin Little says she prefers a ‘big sound’ for ‘The Four Seasons’, and Chandos provides a warm cohesive balance with clear continuo. To my mind, harpsichordist David Wright is the star of the show, coming into his own in ‘Autumn’ with a linking cadenza and a virtual Doppelgänger shadowing the violin.
A. Everard (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Apr 20, 2017
The Texas-based choral ensemble Conspirare here performs musical director Craig Hella Johnson’s first major composition, a full-length concert piece about the murder of Matthew Shepard. A gay student at the University of Wyoming, in 1998 Shepard was kidnapped, beaten and left to die tied to fence in a field, his funeral later picketed by the infamous Westboro Baptist Church. Drawing on Shepard’s own journals, contemporary sources and musical snippets from the Bach opening to ‘Frère Jacques’, the piece evokes the senselessness of the crime. In its scope, structure and power, this is a modern oratorio, albeit as grounded in country music as it is in the sacred tradition.
A. Everard (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Apr 15, 2017
The concepts of down ’n’ dirty blues and fine sound don’t always go hand in hand, but that’s certainly the case with this set from singer/songwriter/guitarist Lance Lopez and producer/bassist Fabrizio Grossi. Of course, it helps if you can pull in the odd guest artist, and here they’re of the calibre of Warren Hayne, Walter Trout and ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons. However, it’s not a case of ‘sling in a flashy trademark solo’, as each meshes seamlessly into the band’s sound. As Grossi puts it, ‘It’s not a guest record, those guys are part of our family and just happened to show up on that song’.
A. Everard (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Apr 10, 2017
This set by German trumpeter and vocalist Till Brönner will neither set the world alight nor challenge any jazz preconceptions, as it’s very much on the safe ground some hundreds of metres back from the cutting edge. If that’s damning with faint praise, so be it: this is a selection of familiar standards covered with a combination of breathy brass and easygoing vocals, set against assured accompaniment and fine production. Brönner’s keen musicianship is matched by pianist Larry Goldings, guitarist Anthony Wilson, John Clayton on bass and drummer Jeff Hamilton, and the whole thing was produced at LA’s Ocean Way by Ruud Jacobs, creating a flawlessly easy sound to match the album’s subtitle, ‘Music for Peaceful Moments’. It may well be a bit too formulaic for some ears – so high marks for technical, if notched down a little on artistic, presentation.
C. Breunig (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Apr 05, 2017
96kHz/24-bit, FLAC; CDA68133 (supplied by www. hyperion-records. co. uk) Vol 1 in this survey of the major solo piano works was my Sep ’16 Album Choice.
A. Everard (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Mar 25, 2017
Guitarist Cline says ‘I have been dreaming about, planning, and re-working my rather obsessive idea of this record for well over 25 years’, and hopes it ‘offers something of an update of the “mood music” idea and ideal, while celebrating and challenging our iconic notion of romance’. Fortunately this package, arranged and conducted by trumpeter Michael Leonhart – who also plays as part of the large ensemble featured – isn’t quite the slushfest that description might suggest. Instead, its combination of original pieces and arrangements both gives Cline’s guitar room to manoeuvre and manages to evoke the emotions intended, (albeit on the lush side at times, though well-served by an excellent Blue Note production job). Yes, the sound is occasionally a bit on the easy-listening side of neutral, but won’t test your speakers’ dynamics or trouble the neighbours.
A. Everard (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Mar 20, 2017
Jazz/classical crossovers are nothing new, but this set by Norwegian saxophonist and composer Marius Neset pulls off the trick better than many: there’s not any sign of the usual car-crash or shoehorning here, but rather a fine combination of the jazz ensemble and the London Sinfonietta’s instruments. The music itself is by turns slow and lyrical and hard-driving, making use of everything from the Sinfonietta’s woodwinds to the crisp pizzicato strings, and the ‘band’ is clearly up for the challenge’s of Neset’s dense, busy writing. If there’s a criticism it’s that there often seems to be too much going on, and ideas tumble out and are replaced almost before they can be established, let alone developed – but a masterful recording makes the most of everything from lush strings to the taut, jerky rhythms. Here’s a crossover well worth closer inspection.
C. Breunig (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Mar 15, 2017
Apart from the Roman trilogy – ‘Pines’, ‘Fountains’ and ‘Festivals’ – The Birds and the Ancient Airs And Dances arrangements (these two popular Dorati/Mercury recordings), Respighi’s music is pretty much a closed book to most collectors. This fourth Neschling/BIS programme brings a late-romantic, shrewdly orchestrated symphony, seen as too Germanic when premiered in 1915, and a characterful overture derived from music for an unsuccessful opera (although recorded by Hungaroton). Although overwrought in parts and certainly overlong for what it has to say, Sinfonia Drammatica proves a likeable piece and it certainly sounds lush in the spacious Liège concert hall. About 8m into (ii) you get a foretaste of ‘Pines Of Rome’.
C. Breunig (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Mar 10, 2017
Glazunov’s romantic concerto provides a balm after the terrors and intensity of the Shostakovich: held back from performance until Stalin’s dictatorship was over. There was far slighter music by that composer – ‘Romance’ from The Gadfly – in Benedetti’s 2012 Decca collaboration with the Bournemouth Orchestra and its Ukranian chief conductor, The Silver Violin. Here, she rises to the challenges of music written for Oistrakh, whose 1955 New York benchmark recording is now on Sony. There’s something of a Heifetzian concentration in her playing (and the coupling sounds even more like a live performance) so it’s a shame she’s given full stage width for the long cadenza and we briefly get a ‘wrong end of a telescope’ effect as the Burlesque opens, although the ear quickly adapts.