Monty Alexander Love You Madly- An Audiophile and Musical Delight

I’m not an audiophile

OK, that statement is only partially true. I do care about the sound quality of my music, I have a mid-level speaker system and a high end headphone setup, and I did spend some time in hifi-shops figuring out which gear I like. I’m a man, and we like our toys.

But I still wouldn’t call myself an audiophile. This special category of nerds (nothing wrong with that, I’m certainly a classical music nerd as witnessed by me doing this blog) that just love tinkering, speaking about gear, and in some extremes would rather listen to the latest “audiophile” recording even if the music is mediocre (Jazz at the Pawnshop, anybody?).

That’s how my blogger name came to be, I called myself “Musicophile” as opposed to “audiophile”. And you’ll see that on this blog I’m pretty much exclusively writing about the musical qualities of the albums I discuss, and only rarely comment about the recording quality.

But every once in a while you’ll find recordings that are both a musical and an audiophile delight, so let me break my own rule and start 2022 after a 2 month hiatus (due to a lot going on at my day job) with one of those.

Monty Alexander – Love You Madly – Live At Bubba’s (Resonance Records / 2xHD 1982/2020)

Monty Alexander Love You Madly Live At Bubba's 2xHD DXD DSD

I’ve reviewed another Monty Alexander live album previously, his very enjoyable live concert at Montreux.

This recording is actually now 40 years old, it was recorded at a club in Florida back in 1982. It has recently been re-released in 2 formats, a regular 24/96 high-res remaster that already sounds really nice, and then in the format I’ll be discussing here, from the small audiophile table 2xHD. They are doing a rather complicated audiophile voodoo treatment of a small catalogue of recordings. Other excellent examples of albums from them I own are remasters of the outstanding Brahms violin sonata and trio recordings with the Tetzlaffs which I’ve yet to review on this blog, as well several excellent Bill Evans albums.

I’ll leave it to the audiophile nerds to describe the impact of the 2xHD treatment, suffice it to say that the 2xHD version sounds a bit “smoother”, more “analog”, and somewhat warmer, without loosing detail, compared to the regular remaster. Your choice if you care about these nuances or not

But enough audiophile mumbo jumbo, what about the music, you ask?

Well, it’s a really interest setup, we’re talking about a traditional piano trio, with Paul Berner on bass and Duffy Jackson on drums, but we get the addition of a percussionist here, the excellent Robert Thomas, Jr.

Alexander is originally from Jamaica, and adding a percussionist really adds something very special here, setting it apart from regular trio sessions.

First of all, to quote Duke Ellington, It Don’t Mean A Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing, nothing to worry about here, there’s plenty of swing, if you can listen to this without tapping your foot to the fast numbers, you must be deaf.

But on top of that you get outstanding latin jazz numbers, such as Samba di Orfeu, or Fungi Mama where Robert Thomas, Jr. really shines, and you get a really interesting example of Jazz/Reggae fusion with Reggae Later. The only thing you won’t find on this album is intimate ballads, but well, we’ve got plenty of Bill Evans albums for that already

Overall, this is a truly enjoyable and somewhat special live gig, that you’ll particularly appreciate if you have decent playback equipment, but will get your foot tapping even if played over a $50 bluetooth boombox.

My rating: 5 stars

You can find the recording with the 2xHD voodoo in formats all the way up to DXD here (NativeDSD), or you can go to the regular high-res version here (Qobuz)

Keith Jarrett: Standards Live

Keith Jarrett’s Standards Trio

Happy New Year, dear readers! I assume all of you are keeping your fingers crossed that 2021 will be the year that will make things better, and that we all can attend live concerts again

In the meantime, recorded live concerts are for most of us the only option to recreate that feeling, so I thought it would be a good idea to write about some of these.

As the subtitle of my blog indicates, I’m a big Keith Jarrett fan. And his “Standards” trio with Gary Peacock and Jack de Johnette, remains, after Bill Evans legendary trios, the archetype of the Jazz Piano Trio, one of my favorite art forms.

The Standards Trio was formed semi-formally in 1983, when the trio recorded the album Standards, featuring, guess what, the jazz standards of the Great American Song Book (I’ve reviewed the legendary vol. 2 of this album here). This is not the first time the trio played together, but it was the start of more than a decade of albums, many of them live, of the trio playing together. This came as a return to more accessible music, after the 1970s, which for me Jazz-wise were not very interesting (I really don’t like free jazz, jazz-rock, fusion, or most of the other stuff that came out of that decade that for me was much more interesting on the art-rock side of things).

I’ve already put the fantastic Live at the Blue Note box into my 25 Essential Jazz Albums, and have also reviewed the enjoyable After The Fall from 1998, 15 years after the original Standards album.

Standards Live (ECM 1986)

Keith Jarrett Standards Live Highresaudio DSD remaster

This album was recorded in 1985, two years after Standards, at a live concert in Paris.

It captures all the energy of the trio at the peak of their performance, and unlike After The Fall, is recorded with the excellent recording quality that ECM is well known for.

Thanks to the live format, the trio always has sufficient times to develop the songs, with the average track length being 8-11 minutes. You can hear the fun the trio is having.

We start out with a true standard, the beautiful Stella By Starlight, that Jarrett takes a while to intro solo before the trio kicks in. They follow up with a solid The Wrong Blues, that has absolutely nothing wrong with it. Falling In Love With Love is the archetype of the swinging and grooving together. But the track from this album that I go back over and over again is Too Young To Go Steady, that Jarrett again intros solo. This is 10:11 of pure bliss to me. This is a textbook example of the trio playing truly as one.

The only downside of this, as of pretty much every other Jarrett album is his constant humming and vocalising. I still hope at some point that an AI will be able to filter this out….

My rating: 5 stars (it’s not the absolute best of the Standards trio live albums, the rating is mainly driven by the sublime To Young To Go Steady, but it id still so much better to my ears than so much other music that’s out there).

You can find it here (Highresaudio, audiophile DSD remaster) and here (Qobuz)

My Top 3 Jazz Albums of 2019

Happy New Year

Wishing all of you a fantastic 2020!

I meant to complement my Top of the Year 2019 article I wrote on classical music with a similar one for Jazz. I didn’t get to finish that last year, so at least it is the first thing I do in the still very fresh year of 2020. Hope all of you had a nice New Year’s Eve last night.

Why is this post called “Top 3” and not “Top 5” as I typically do? Well, for one I did review significantly less albums in 2019 than in the years before, due to very extensive business travel.

Furthermore however, I find less and less new Jazz albums that truly excite me. Not sure if it is the Jazz scene, or my taste is evolving. Anyhow, let’s get to it.

Keith Jarrett – Munich 2016

Keith Jarrett Munich 2016 ECM 2019 24 96

Any new Keith Jarrett solo album is an event, but this is a particularly nice one. I’m slightly biased as me attending the 2015 concert in Lucerne that was part of the same tour triggered me to start this blog in the first place Highly recommended. You’ll find my original review of Munich 2016 here.

GoGo Penguin – Ocean in a Drop

GoGo Penguin Ocean In A Drop Music For A Film Blue Note 2019

Ocean In A Drop is a very special album. Not even originally intended to be released, it really captures a very special atmosphere of an improvised film soundtrack. I still haven’t seen the movie it refers to, but keep going back to the album on a regular basis.

Triosence: scorpio rising

Triosence: Scorpio Rising 2019 24 96

I’ve written about Triosence previously (here and here), but never got to formally review this album. They are a relatively unknown group from Germany, but their style is very much to my taste. So this may be the most subjective of my recommendations. Triosence are all about melody. Therefore, some may consider them a bit too mainstream. So check them out before you buy, but if you like modern trio jazz, they are a worthy discovery. You’ll find it here (Qobuz)

So, over to you, enlighten me! I’m sure I’ve missed plenty of good new releases in 2019 that should have been mentioned here. What would you recommend I check out?

Wishing you again a Happy New Year and thank you for all the great feedback and discussions we had in 2019!

GoGo Penguin is Back With a Beautiful Album – Ocean In A Drop

I know this blog has been quite heavy on classical music recently. I’ll promise I’ll try to increase the frequency of Jazz articles!

So, here we go.

GoGo Penguin

I only discovered GoGo Penguin some years ago. I was really on board they came out with their album Man Made Object, which remains my favorite album of the group until now.

I’ve also listed Man Made Object in My Top 5 Jazz Albums of 2016. I actually had noticed them with their previous 2014 album, V 2.0, which I also really liked. I also had the pleasure of seeing them live already

Therefore, I was quite disappointed when I just really didn’t particularly like their 2018 album A Humdrum Star.

Nicely enough, when their latest album came out yesterday, I was immediately hooked.

If you want to know more about the style of GoGo Penguin, click on any of the links above, but just to quickly summarise, we’re talking about the setup of a traditional Jazz piano trio here, but with music that clearly takes cues from EST, but is equally influenced by Philipp Glass type minimal music, and probably even more by the beats of contemporary Electronica.

GoGo Penguin: Ocean In A Drop (Music For Film) (BlueNote 2019)

GoGo Penguin Ocean In A Drop Music For A Film Blue Note 2019

So here’s the genesis of this album. Apparently the thee artists of GoGo Penguin,  Chris Illingworth, Nick Blacka, and Rob Turner, really liked the Philipp Glass written soundtrack to the 1982 film Koyaanisqatsi.

They liked it so much that they played their own soundtrack to the film. Everything was recorded live while watching the movie.

Yes, this may remind you of another famous movie soundtrack that was recorded in a similar manner (which is a great album and should be discussed on these pages at some point), but I digress.

Miles Davis Ascenseur pour l'échafaud  soundtrack

This music was never intended to be released. Nicely though, enough people in their immediate entourage bugged them enough, so now we have a new fantastic album.

It is quite short, EP-style, only 22 min (and one could argue, a bit expensive for the duration), but the music is just fantastic, very inspired. We’re back to the mesmerising mix of fast rhythms and beautiful minimalist melodies that I so loved on Man Made Object.

You really need to check it out.

My rating: 5 stars

You can find it here (Qobuz)

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