Over the years this classic jazz album Legrand Jazz, arranged by Frenchman Michael Legrand and recorded at Columbia Studios in New York in 1958 has been cited as a classic. The album is a who's who of jazz at the time of the recording, and although the musical arrangements aren't very forward thinking – one might inadvertently toss this record into the Easy Listening section – one close listen will convince any lover of jazz that this is the real deal. There have been many pressings of this album over the years, with the three sessions that are recorded on the original LP rearranged into a different order, pressed with a variety of cover art, and issued on many different labels – 36 different versions of this album (!), not including this album I'm reviewing that's pressed on Impex, are listed in Discogs, issued in every country one could imagine.
Michael Legrand Legrand Jazz
On my first listen I was taken by surprise. Even though I always considered Legrand's arrangements a mix of what I consider bachelor-pad music, easy listening, and exotica, a closer examination revealed to me that his arrangements are quite complex, and might actually have been a challenge to the musicians that were assembled for the recording sessions. And the musicians on this album are the real deal, including but not limited to Phil Woods, Paul Chambers, Herbie Mann, Bill Evans, Hank Jones, Ben Webster, Art Farmer, Donald Byrd, a tenor sax player named John Coltrane and on trumpet Miles Davis. On the cover of the album is printed "Michael Legrand, with thirty-one of America's greatest jazzmen, featuring Miles Davis".
There is no question that the version I was sent for review on Impex Records is the definitive version of "Legrand Jazz". To press this double LP running at 45 rpm, Impex cut the records using the original master tapes on an all-tube system that was operated by Bernie Grundman, and the pair of 180-gram slabs of vinyl were then pressed at Record Technology, Inc. (RTI) by Rick Hashimoto.
And the sound quality? Second to none. Yes, to be expected, there is a bit of tape hiss in the background, it was recorded in stereo in 1958, after all. But other than that, there is not much I could say that wouldn't sound as if I was simply reciting audiophile clichés. This album is demo disc quality with music on it that not many that I know will walk out on. Besides this double 45 rpm version Impex also pressed a version on a single 33 rpm LP, and an SACD. Those lamenting about LP's rising prices might use the double 45 LP version as fuel for their argument, priced on Amazon at nearly $60. But really, how many audiophiles haven't seen a single audiophile pressing priced at $30? Plus, the pressing is limited to 3000 numbered copies and packaged in a thick gatefold cover with a 14-page "large format" booklet with rare photos and art, and an appreciation by Tom Schnabel. One spin should convince every audiophile who purchases this album that their money was money well spent.
Also recently released on vinyl by Impex is Jennifer Warnes Another Time, Another Place (IMXLP6032 $34.99). Yes, this is the Famous Blue Raincoat Jennifer Warnes, who released this celebrated album in 1986, which not only inspired many other singer-songwriters to do the same – which, I'm afraid, were not nearly as successful – mostly because they weren't covering songs of Leonard Cohen, which on her album seemed not like only a perfect match for Ms. Warnes, but was apparently this match was also appreciated by fans of both hers and Mr. Cohen's. Impex has released an audiophile quality 180-gram vinyl release of that album four years ago, and now has this new album, Another Time, Another Place as another album that sounds as good, but maybe even better than that older record. This is the first Jennifer Warnes album in 17 years!
This time out Jennifer Warnes interprets modern but now classic tunes written by songwriters many will recognize, including but not limited to Derek Trucks, Eddie Vedder, John Legrand, Mark Knopfler, and Warren Haynes and she also adds a couple of originals to the mix.
Sonically, this LP will have audiophiles saying the same thing as the Legrand Jazz album above, except this is a modern recording made with modern equipment. This LP was also mastered by Bernie Grundman, and pressed at RTI. It includes a "large format" 16-page booklet of lyrics and photos inside its thick gatefold sleeve. It's also available on Impex on SACD with bonus track not on the LP.
Trio Palabras Lo Que Dice Mi Cantar
Trova is basically the Cuban tradition of traveling musicians, and in the 19th century these musicians earned a living by singing and playing the guitar. On this LP you'll hear Lorenzo Hierrezuelo's energetic "Vendedor de Agua" and Pepe Sanchez's "Tristezas" (the very first Cuban bolero), and the somber "Esta Vez Toco Perder" (popularized by the legendary Maria Teresa Vera), these passionate performances honor the venerable Cuban Trova tradition and should move anyone with a love of great music, regardless of which genres they normally prefer. That the album's sound quality is first-rate will definitely appeal to readers of Enjoy the music!
Trova musicians have always been important because they have their roots in pre-revolutionary Cuba, and on this album Trio Palabras performs works by some of these founding members of Trova and puts "fresh arrangements and emotional performances that speak directly to the heart", on this album in the category of Cancionística. Trio Palabras has been around for about two decades, with frequent appearances on Cuban national television and radio shows. They have never been heard outside Cuba, and so this is their debut international release.
Since Muxia Music is "dedicated to producing culturally significant acoustic music in high definition", not only does this album feature some fantastic interpretations of the Trova founders, but as I mentioned, will appeal to audiophiles in a big way. This record was recorded at 24-bit/192kHz using two mastering-grade HAPI interfaces from Merging Technologies fitted with AD8DP microphone preamp/AD converters. They located one HAPI in the "live room" close to the musicians, this way it would keep the length of the microphone cables as short as possible. The multi-track was mixed on a Neva 8816 console, and then the digital to analog mastering and lacquer cutting was done by Chris Bellman at Bernie Grundman Mastering.
Editor's Addition By Steven R. Rochlin
Their upcoming Lo Que Dice Mi Cantar release on record label Muxia Music was played for members of the press during RMAF 2018 and the sound is simply stunningly realistic (as you'd expect from Impex Records). As the company's first original music release, it was recoded in Cuba on high-end digital gear and expected release date is sometime in 2019 (maybe late 2018?). This is not typical yawner 'tourist music' (bah!), this is authentic Cuban music that has either never been recorded, or only on ancient / historic offerings (read: old / low quality). When it is released, do yourself a favor and buy it. The music, and sound quality, is truly inspiring!
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