Anthony Braxton: "Quartet (New Haven) 2014"

August 2019

Firehouse 12 FH12-04-02-030
Format: 16-bit/44.1kHz FLAC download

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
*****

Overall Enjoyment
****

Anthony Braxton loves Merle Haggard.

That’s right. Braxton. The cardigan-wearing, pipe-puffing cypher who plays every reed instrument under the sun and gives obscure titles to his avant-garde compositions. He loves the Okie from Muskogee so much that he and his bandmates -- guitarist Nels Cline, trumpeter Taylor Ho Bynum, and drummer Greg Saunier -- devote an entire hour of this four-hour improvised session to him. According to the other dedications on Quartet (New Haven) 2014, he also digs Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and James Brown.

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Andy Biskin & 16 Tons: "Songs from the Alan Lomax Collection"

July 2018

Andorfin ANDRF-007
Format: 16-bit/44.1kHz FLAC download

Musical Performance
*****

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
*****

The world is now so hyperconnected that only those of a certain age can recall a time when essentially any commercially released music was not available at our fingertips. The world still held untapped discoveries, and it was up to stalwart explorers like ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax to open our ears to unknown possibilities by bringing obscure artists into the light.

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Endless Field: "Endless Field"

June 2017

Biophilia BREP0007
Format: 16-bit/44.1kHz WAV download

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
*****

Overall Enjoyment
****

In June 2009, I was speaking backstage at a jazz festival with trumpeter Dave Douglas about how musicians were addressing the changing nature of the music industry. At the time, he was four years into running his own distribution company -- Greenleaf Music -- and was still experimenting with new ways to reach audience members.

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Macy Gray: "Stripped"

November 2016

Chesky 389
Format: 24-bit/192kHz AIFF download

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
*****

Overall Enjoyment
****

From Norah Jones to my friend and homegirl Kellylee Evans, there has been a trend among up-and-coming women jazz singers to make the jump to more commercial music as soon as they make their initial breakthrough. Who can blame them? Pop is where the large audiences -- and money -- live.

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Steven Wilson: "Hand. Cannot. Erase."

March 2015

Urban Nightmare, Audiophile Dream

Kscope/HDtracks
Format: 24-bit/96kHz AIFF download

Musical Performance
****1/2

Sound Quality
****1/2

Overall Enjoyment
****1/2

Steven Wilson's musical expressions have been getting more diverse and colorful as he evolves through and beyond progressive rock. Hand. Cannot. Erase. is tough to categorize. What do we call it -- rock opera, rock oratorio, social statement? Perhaps all of them apply. It was inspired by the story of Joyce Vincent, a young woman who was found dead in her flat in 2006. She'd been dead since 2003. Automatic accounts had paid her bills, and her family supposedly thought she had moved away. Wilson sees this event as the invasion of social media into our lives. As told to Record Collector, "It is a way of withdrawing from human interaction that gives the illusion of being connected." Joyce Vincent was/wasn't there.

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John Coltrane Quartet: "Ballads"

November 2014

BalladsBlowing the Cobwebs off Another Classic Jazz Album

HDTT (High Definition Tape Transfers)
Format: 24-bit/96kHz FLAC download

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

When I reviewed Ella Fitzgerald's Ella Swings Brightly with Nelson some months ago, I mentioned that I hoped Bob Witrak, CEO of High Definition Tape Transfers, would look for more jazz four-track tapes that he could use as masters for great-sounding downloads.

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The Gloaming: "The Gloaming"

August 2014

The GloamingBowers & Wilkins Offers HD Musical Adventures at a Low Cost

Bowers & Wilkins Society of Sound
Format: 24-bit/48kHz FLAC download

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

To me, loving music means taking a chance with it in order to discover new artists and explore new paths. Sure it's OK to let Entertainment Weekly or Rolling Stone guide me a bit, but it's when I get off the beaten track that I discover wonders that seem like they were crafted just for me. But I'm into only high-quality audio -- above CD quality whenever possible -- and downloads and specialized formats can cost a bundle. So I was so happy, four years ago, to discover Bowers & Wilkins's Society of Sound. I'd let my membership lapse, but I got back on this summer to find that the roster of artists had completely changed.

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Ella Fitzgerald and Nelson Riddle: "Ella Swings Brightly with Nelson"

April 2014

Ella Swings Brightly with NelsonBlowing the Cobwebs off a Classic Album

HDTT (High Definition Tape Transfers)
Format: 24-bit/96kHz FLAC download

Musical Performance
****1/2

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

Just as downloads were becoming a high-quality challenge to other delivery formats, Robert Witrak had the idea to use commercially produced two- and four-track 7 1/2-IPS tapes as masters from which to derive those downloads. Lately HDTT has gotten into overkill, offering DSD and up to 24-bit/192kHz-resolution downloads of material mostly recorded in the 1950s and '60s. I doubt that there's really any material on the original commercial tapes that warrants such high sampling rates, but I must admit that overall, HDTT's releases can sound very good, often eclipsing the sound of corresponding LPs and CDs.

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Coleman Hawkins, Henry "Red" Allen, Marty Napoleon, George Wettling, Earl Warren, Chubby Jackson: "Sweet Moods of Jazz in Stereo"

Sweet Moods of Jazz in StereoDecember 2013

1958 Recording of Jazz Standards Makes a Good Impression 55 Years Later

HDDL410
Format: 24-bit/96kHz FLAC (download)

Musical Performance
***1/2

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

In the early days of stereo, it was not uncommon for a manufacturer of blank tape to produce a few commercially recorded reel-to-reel tapes or vinyl LPs under their own label. Such was the case with Soundcraft, which had enough success with its Dixieland Jamfest in Stereo that it decided to follow up with a two-track reel-to-reel tape of Sweet Moods of Jazz in Stereo.

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Carmen Gomes Inc.: "Thousand Shades of Blue"

March 2013

Thousand Shades of BlueAmerican Blues from the Netherlands

Sound Liaison Studio Showcase Series No. 1
Format: 24-bit/96kHz FLAC (download)

Musical Performance
****1/2

Sound Quality
****1/2

Overall Enjoyment
****1/2

I've been among the prophets saying that high-resolution downloads are the future of audiophile music sales. Surely it will benefit the majors to make high-quality downloads a first choice rather than an MP3 extra, but I believe that individual artists can benefit as well. Most new-to-the-scene performers have little money for middlemen and disc manufacture, yet can get things together for the Internet.

Read more ...

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