April 2012

SecundoBack-to-the-Future Jazz

Berthold Records Audiomax 912 1724-6
Format: Hybrid Multichannel SACD

Musical Performance

Sound Quality

Overall Enjoyment

Bach and jazz are no strangers. Many albums throughout the history of audio have mixed jazz and serious music. The one that jumps instantly to mind is the Modern Jazz Quartet's Blues on Bach. But Secundo marks the first time I've heard composers like Heinrich Schütz, Orlando di Lasso, and Hans Hassler, in addition to Bach, receive the jazz treatment. A few pieces are from folk music, and there's one by a 20th-century composer.

Jazz'N'Spirit (Dirk Piezunka, soprano and tenor saxophones, bass clarinet, and percussion; Martin Flindt, concert and western guitar; and Jens Piezunka, double bass and vocals) don't pick Baroque or Renaissance pieces that have spiky rhythms. Rather, they choose music such as chorales that have long, flowing melodies, and then in their arrangements they provide the rhythm, plus some very complex variations. The style ranges all the way from easy jazz through jazz ballad to a little bop, with the method being linear more often than harmonic.

The moods range widely. The arrangement of Felicitas Kukuck's "Es führt über den Main" has a spiritual quality, and the closing "Nun sich der Tag geendet hat" by Adam Krieger offers an aching, lyrical sound that's so beautiful it defies earthbound description. But the group isn't all about serenity and lofty messages. Schütz's "Psalm 150" is treated to a "western style" interpretation that sounds like a recently unearthed Ennio Morricone score for a spaghetti western!

The MDG crew did the engineering, as that audiophile label seems to be parent to Berthold Records. Seeing Nicholas Bild, Werner Dabringhaus, and Reimund Grimm listed as producers is a guarantee that good sound is in the offing. Recording in the Marienmünster Abbey and eschewing any sort of spot microphones for each instrument, the crew has obtained a very natural sense of the space with three musicians in it. Excellent presence and superb warmth coexist comfortably with fine detail. The recording is mixed into MDG's 2+2+2 format (two front speakers, two rear speakers, and two front height speakers), but this system is compatible with the 5.1 systems that most of us have.

If you're looking for something in audiophile jazz that's a little off the beaten track and will lend itself to contemplative listening, look no further. Secundo can fill the bill.

Be sure to listen to: A bit into the last track, the vocal that Jens Piezunka sings while doubling the melodic line on his double bass is soft and sure, incredibly tangible and lovely.

. . . Rad Bennett